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Visualization/Imagination And Islam


Question

I have a question about how visualization relates to Islam.

I first frequently came across the term visualization in modern Witchcraft books. In these books they define visualization as seeing anything in the mind's eye that does not exist in (sensory) reality. In other words, visualization is imagination. In these books they usually refer of the use of visualization to imagine yourself or a symbol in such a way as to magically produce a certain future result. But their definitions were not confined to that.

What I found disconcerting was that these books assert that any imagining or visualizing is a magical act. If I simply think in images, like I usually do and suspect many others do as well, then that is magic according to these Witchcraft texts. If a secular architect imagines his future design plans, that is visualization and magic. If I read a book, which usually uses a lot of visual cues to tell the story and imagine the scenes in my mind that is considered magical.

However, one can see here the use of visualization independent of any knowledge of witchcraft. Also I know of the use of visualization in secular psychology and in "self-help success" books also independent of the context of witchcraft.

My question is, should a Muslim not use imagery in one's thinking, since it is considered witchcraft? Or should a Muslim regard the witches' assertion that all visualization is magical as a much too broad and inappropriate generalization, and that imagining is lawful as long as it is not done in the context of polytheism or with evil intentions? Should Muslims consider using one's imagination with one's regular God-given psychological abilities as not magical in any unlawful sense?

Do you know of any specific verses in the Qur'an or the Hadith that deal with imagination as acceptable or not acceptable?

If you could also send me a brief Reply, a yes or no to the lawfulness of imagining, and a few brief comments and conditions if necessary, very soon, that would be much appreciated, since my thinking depends on this question. Thank you for your time and research on this subject.

Are there even perhaps legitimate Islamic texts that discuss using imagery-invoking poetry and using imagery during prayer or pious meditation as legitimate tools for devotion to God? Do you know of any specific verses in the Qur'an that deal with imagination as acceptable or not acceptable?

Thanks for your help, and please feel free to pass this inquiry to any imams that can help.



Question from United States of America
Answer

Although I am not an expert in 'magic', but I am aware of the fact that imagination alone has never been considered as magic by anyone. Magic may or may not have to do something with manipulating the imagination of someone else, but indeed imagining a face, a scene or an event, unless such imagination is accompanied by the techniques of magic, has nothing to do with magic.

Imagination is such an integral part of the human race, that if imagination alone is considered as magic, all those who possess thinking minds shall join the list of magicians.

The Encyclopedia Britannica, in its brief account of 'magic' states:

Ritual performance or activity believed to influence human or natural events through access to an external mystical force beyond the ordinary human sphere.

I would, therefore, not agree with the cited definition of the term 'magic'. Unfortunately, due to my lack of knowledge of the related field, I am only in a position to refute the quoted definition and that too not on any technical grounds but based on common sense and human experience. I am, however, not in a position to positively define magic.

You ask:

Are there even perhaps legitimate Islamic texts that discuss using imagery-invoking poetry and using imagery during prayer or pious meditation as legitimate tools for devotion to God? Do you know of any specific verses in the Qur'an that deal with imagination as acceptable or not acceptable?

All good literature including the Qur'an invoke different images in the mind of their readers and listeners. For instance, if one were to read the Qur'anic account of the Day of Judgment, the punishment of Hellfire or the life in Paradise, one is most likely to create images in his mind about these accounts. However, imagining a physical god is against the teachings of Islam.

9th December 1999


Answer published by Moiz Amjad