Spiritualism in Islam

When asked about fortune tellers, Muhammad replied,
... Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Communicating with spirits is frowned upon in Islam. Muslim tradition holds that some humans can communicate with spirits, particularly fire-based beings named jinn, but Muhammad forbade this practice and deemed it unreliable. This prohibition extends to other paranormal practices such as fortune-telling, astrology, palm reading, psychics and similar practices.

1 Defining Spiritualism

Merriam-Webster gives two definitions of spiritualism. The first is the belief that "spirit is a prime element of reality," and the second is that "spirits of the dead communicate to the living." The first definition fits Islam: Islam is a spiritual worldview rather than a strictly materialistic worldview. The second would be half-true in Islam: Muslims believe in spirits communicating with living humans, but those spirits are not dead people.

2 The Jinn

The jinn, together with angels and humans, are one of the three intelligent creatures created by God in Islamic belief. While humans are made from clay and angels from light, the jinn are made of fire. Jinn is an Arabic word from which the English "genie" derives, and the jinn are spirits with free will that can be either good or bad. Their spiritual nature makes them knowledgeable of the world unseen by humans, and sometimes this knowledge can be passed on to humans.

3 Muhammad's Opinion of Soothsayers

The word "soothsayer" is often used in English translation of Islamic materials, and the word refers to fortune-tellers and others who predict the future through spiritual means. In the Sahih Bukhari collection of Muhammad's sayings, book 93 number 650, Muhammad is asked about soothsayers and replies, "They are nothing." The people respond, noting that some of the predictions of soothsayers come true, and Muhammad replies that for every word a jinn is able to steal from Heaven and give to the soothsayer, 100 lies are mixed in with it. According to book 71, number 656 of the Bukhari collection, Muhammad forbade the earnings of a fortune teller.

4 The Quran on Spiritualism

The Quran does not specifically prohibit spiritualism, but makes it clear that there are things that only God knows, and it should remain that way. Surah 17, verse 36 states: "And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge." One of the great unknowns in Islam is the Day of Judgment, which is unknown even to the prophets. The Quran, Surah 7 verse 188, directs Muhammad to tell the people that he only knows what he has been told by God.

5 Not to be Confused With Spirituality

While Islam forbids spiritualism, the religion has a rich history of spirituality. Muslim mysticism, known as Sufism, seeks a direct encounter with God and has existed for more than 1,000 years. These mystics trace their spiritual lineage back to Muhammad, and they use Islamic tools such as Quranic verses to remember God and to commune with Him.

Michael Brenner has been a writer for almost 10 years for various outlets including the "Chicago Tribune," "St. Louis Post-Dispatch," other newspapers and various business websites. He holds two master's degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in the areas of interfaith relations and world religions.