#408: Certain Numbers are Bad Luck

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. Is it true that certain numbers can affect a person’s life by them bringing good or bad luck? For example, the house, car or telephone number and others. Hope for an explanation.

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

Basically, Islam has set a strong principle that nothing could ever benefit or harm except Allah SWT. Allah SWT states:


وَإِن يَمْسَسْكَ اللَّـهُ بِضُرٍّ فَلَا كَاشِفَ لَهُ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ وَإِن يُرِدْكَ بِخَيْرٍ فَلَا رَادَّ لِفَضْلِهِ ۚ يُصِيبُ بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

“And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no repeller of His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” [1]

Ibn Kathir said: “Indeed, good, bad, benefit and harm are only owned by Allah SWT. Nothing should be believed in, except, Him in any matter. Hence, only Allah should be worshipped. There is none like Him.” [2]

Prohibition Against Believing in Bad Luck and the Encouragement of Stating Only of Good

Islam prohibits its ummah from believing that certain days, months, incidents or numbers as bad luck. Likewise, in believing certain months as bad luck and avoid holding ceremonies in such months.

All of these matters are prohibited in Islam, for it may lead to superstition or the belief that disasters are a result of a creation when in truth a creation doesn’t have any power to benefit or harm. It also damages the feelings of tawakkul (dependence) of a person towards Allah SWT. Consequently, Islam teaches us to always be optimistic and think of only the good in what is happening.

From Abdullah bin Mas’ud RA, Rasullulah PBUH said:

الطِّيَرَةُ شِرْكٌ ، الطِّيَرَةُ شِرْكٌ ، ثَلاَثًا ، وَمَا مِنَّا إِلاَّ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ يُذْهِبُهُ بِالتَّوَكُّلِ.

“Taking evil omens is polytheism (saying it three times). None of us fails to be affected by it, but God removes such influence by trust in Him.” [3]

The terminology tatayyur or tiyarah originates from the word al-tayr (الطير) which means bird. In the superstitious belief of the ignorant Arabs, when they are going to go on a journey, they’d first set free some birds. If the birds fly to the right, then it is known as sa’ih, they’d celebrate and the journey will commence. Consequently, if the birds flew to the left, it is barih, it means that it is bad luck and they’d be sad, for it means that it will be disastrous for them, hence, they’d postpone their journey. [4]

Tiyarah or tatayyur or bad luck or majal isn’t limited to the feelings of sadness or pessimism towards birds, rather, it is also related to names, speeches, places, days or certain numbers.

Rasullullah PBUH prohibits considering something as bad luck or misfortune and that causes a person to cancel his intention. An easy example would be when a person intended to go to a certain destination. As soon as he steps out of his house, he sees a lizard pass by him. He then decided to cancel his trip believing that something bad will happen to him since the lizard passing by is a bad omen when it isn’t a clear indication of any danger. He then postponed his trip to another day. This is prohibited by Rasullullah PBUH. 

From Fadhl bin Abbas, Rasullullah PBUH said:

إِنَّمَا الطِّيَرَةُ مَا أَمْضَاكَ أَوْ رَدَّكَ

“…Indeed, tiyarah is something that made you continue your step, or where you stop yourself from your intention (from what you had originally intended).” [5]

From Abdullah bin ‘Amr R.Anhuma, Rasullullah PBUH said:

مَنْ رَدَّتْهُ الطِّيَرَةُ مِنْ حَاجَةٍ فَقَدْ أَشْرَكَ

“Whoever delays something due to al-Tiayarah, he has committed shirk.” [6]

Consequently, Rasullullah instructed us to always think of good thoughts by always saying good things when some unclear or vague things happen. From Anas bin malik RA, Rasullullah PBUH said:

لَا عَدْوَى وَلَا طِيَرَةَ وَيُعْجِبُنِي الْفَأْلُ ، قَالُوا وَمَا الْفَأْلُ؟ قَالَ: كَلِمَةٌ طَيِّبَةٌ.

“No ‘Adwa nor Tiyara; but I like Fal.” They said, “What is the Fal?” He said, “A good word.” [7]

Al-Hulaimi said: “Indeed, Rasullullah PBUH likes al’fa’l (optimism) for believing in bad luck and misfortunes is unreasonable bad thoughts towards Allah SWT without any clear or certain reasons. Whereas, al-tafa’ul is thinking positively towards Him. A believer is commanded to always have good thoughts towards Allah SWT in every matter.” [8]

Al-Tibi said, “The meaning of al-fa’l is permissible and bad luck is prohibited is that if a person considers something to be good and it leads him to try to get it, then he should pursue it. If he sees the opposite (bad luck), then he should ignore it and continue to pursue it. If he doesn’t ignore it and stopped from pursuing his intention, then this is tiyarah which is used to describe bad luck.” [9]

The prohibition on al-Tiyarah is based on several matters. Among them are:

  • Making people rely on something other than Allah SWT.
  • Induce fear and anxiety in a person’s heart, distressing him.
  • Open the door to superstition in society, acknowledging the ability to benefit or harming to all types of creations, when in truth they aren’t capable of such things. [10]

Examples of tatayyur in the Malay custom

Among the matters that are considered bad luck in our Malay society are:

  • Certain months are unlucky and it isn’t appropriate to hold wedding ceremonies, built a house or others.
  • Believe that certain numbers are bad luck such as the number 13.
  • The belief of kenan. Kenan lexically means behaviour or physical deformity at birth or a young age. Kenan in the Malay custom is also known as badi. It is closely related to something that the mother did when she was pregnant or the action of the father of the child that is related to another object such as a crocodile, cat, monkey, frog and other kenan.
  • Safar bathing festival is performed by some people especially those who live near the rivers or beaches. The mass bathing festival is performed with the belief that it removes sins and prevents calamities.
  • There are some people in society especially the elderly who refuse to hold wedding ceremonies or other events in the month of Safar with the belief that the bride and groom will be unhappy, will experience hardship to conceive and will get a divorce.
  • There is also a belief that a baby who is born in the month of Safar is bad luck and that a special ceremony must be held to remove the bad luck.

JAKIM’s Guideline on Matters Related to Elements that Contradict with Aqidah

Here, we include the guideline issued by JAKIM which states the matters or elements that contradict the aqidah and practice of ahl sunnah wal jama’ah. Although it is a guideline related to published materials, however, several lessons can be taken from it.

The guideline among others stated that the forms of superstitions are:

  • The belief of something or someone can be bad luck, such as a ceremony held to remove bad luck.
  • The belief of certain signs or taboos, such as postponing a journey if a lizard past him, for it is considered bad luck.

Moreover, the guideline also explained the types of publishing related to superstition that is prohibited, that is any and all publication that promotes the ‘supernatural’ attribute of certain objects. For example:

  • The belief towards certain objects such as chalcedony stone rings, old keris, and lance is special and can give certain benefits or help.
  • Superstitions regarding bad luck such as the custom of lime bath, safar bath and bathing to remove bad luck.

All publication which depicts old stories that are sourced from old beliefs, such as beliefs in bad omen, taboo and customs that contradict the teachings of Islam. For example:

  • Beliefs on taboos such as one shouldn’t look at a baby through a mirror, for the baby will then die in water.
  • A belief which states that one shouldn’t go out if he hears a crow caw because it is a sign of disaster.
  • A belief that a person’s sustenance will increase or decrease, such as the custom of worshipping the spirit of the rice and removing ancak.

All publications portray the belief of bad luck or omen and harm that might befall a person or himself. For example:

  • A publication that shows how a mother is experiencing difficulty to give birth because she violated the taboo of bathing in a river. [11]

Closing

We are absolutely prohibited from considering certain numbers as bad luck. Likewise in other similar matters. This is to prevent us from falling into shirk towards Allah SWT.

Consequently, we should always practise tawakkal and think positively towards Allah SWT even when we are facing a calamity and not blame a certain number or certain days by considering them as bad luck. Hold firm to the sovereignty of Allah and surrender all our affairs wholly to Allah SWT. Remember the statement of Allah SWT:

وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ

“And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him.” [12]

Among the wisdoms of this prohibition is to prevent a person from being a pessimist in his life, rather, we are asked to always be optimistic in our daily lives no matter what disaster we are facing.

If such thoughts cross our minds, then disregard them for there is concern that it is included in the elements of al-tiyarah. Supplicate the way we are taught by the Prophet PBUH:

اللَّهُمَّ لَا خَيْرَ إِلَّا خَيْرُكَ وَلَا طَيْرَ إِلَّا طَيْرُكَ وَلَا إِلَهَ غَيْرُكَ

“O Allah there is no portent other than Your portent, no goodness other than Your goodness, and none worthy of worship other than You.” [13]

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Surah Yunus: 107

[2] See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azhim, 7/407

[3] Narrated by Abu Daud (3910), Ibn Majah (3538) and al-Tirmizi (1614)

[4] See Miftah Dar al-Sa’adah by Ibn al-Qayyim, hlm. 584-585

[5] Narrated by Imam Ahmad (1824)

[6] Narrated by Imam Ahmad (7045)

[7] Narrated by al-Bukhari (5776) and Muslim (5934)

[8] See Fath al-Bari Syarh Sahih al-Bukhari, 10/215

[9] See Syarh al-Thibi ‘ala Mishkat al-Masabih, 9/2978

[10] See kitab Syarah Aqidah Ahlus Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah

[11] See Garis Panduan Bahan Penerbitan Bercetak Dan Audio Visual Berhubung Dengan Unsur-Unsur Yang Bercanggah Dengan Akidah Dan Amalan Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah by Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM), pg. 13-28

[12] Surah al-Talaq: 3

[13] Narrated by Imam Ahmad (7045)

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