Conjuration In The Modern Age? [Archives:2000/10/Culture]

March 6 2000

Imad A. Al-Saqqaf,
Yemen Times,
Are there still people in the 21st century who do not believe in scientific facts and ignore what has been achieved in science in its various domains? If not what, then, makes people turn their faces away from the science of medicine and opt for charlatans to seek help in different complicated matters? Some seek cure for themselves or their relatives, others for their animals and others even visit the graves of their dead relatives with the hope of getting some supernatural balm. This is why many tombs have become hearthstones for many people who celebrate the birthday or death day of those departed souls. Such people do not only ignore science of medicine but also their religious commandments. Instead of praying to Allah for redressal, they, instead, seek the help of the dead.
Some people firmly believe that souls of well-known people, usually of religious leaders, visit them in their sleep and give guidance on different complex matters. Such stories are believed by many people who blindly carry out what is said to be instructed by those souls.
Other people believe that they can reach a state of transcendental trance while worshipping Allah in the midst of beats of tambourine while shaking their bodies. To prove that they are in a state of transcendental meditation, they do monstrous things such as stabbing their bodies with sharp daggers or swords. Others claim that they can forecast what is in store for people and unfold their past history. So if a person loses something, such people can tell him/her where he/she can find what has been lost.
Such practices and beliefs adversely affect people’s belief in Allah. They are practiced openly, and sometimes clandestinely.
Some people practice magic claiming that it is an endowment by Allah, and that they can do it through reading some verses from the Holy Qur’an. Those people even claim that they can cure many kinds of diseases. It seems as if they are specialized in the field of medicine. All kinds of diseases are believed to be cured by such quacks by a touch or a blow of breath.
One wonders how those practices have spread, what helps them go on from generation to generation and where they are taught.
To find answers to such questions we decided to meet some of those people. In our first attempt we drove about 57 kilometers towards the west of Taiz, passing through Al-Nashamah from where we hired a guide to take us to Mrs. Nafhah, one such soothsayer. As we reached Nafhah’s house in Al-Mawasit in the governorate of Taiz, we found a lot of people gathering at the house waiting for their turn to see her. We requested her family to allow us to meet her to know more about the history of conjuration, how she learned it and her ways of treatment. Unfortunately, she said that she did not want to meet any journalists nor she wanted her photos or words to appear in newspapers. We tried to make her family persuade her but to no avail.
We did not like to go back empty-handed, so we turned to the people gathering there and had the following conversation with them.
We first met 25-year Aanis Yassin from Adeem Al-Hujariah. Taiz.
“Mrs. Nafhah enjoys a good reputation. She has been able to gain the respect of many people in a remarkably short time. Personally I have come to see her because I am sick. I have lost control on one of my arms because I mistakenly wore my sister’s ring! I can move only one arm. This is the reason behind what has happened, (he takes out from his pocket a silver ring decorated with a red pearl.) Some genies dwell inside this ring. Those genies were brought by the Sayyed, (a person who is believed to have control over genies is called Sayyed in Yemen) who asked patients to bring him rings in order to imprison genies inside. By this patients and genies become friends and genies never harm them patient any more. Moreover, imprisoned genies become servants so that whenever people need them to help they appear and do what is asked for. The ring belongs to my sister. She is a Sayyedah ( feminine of Sayyed,) too.

I believe in destiny. I believe in Nafha’s way of treatment, too. I know many people who have been treated by her. They are healthy now. When a patient comes to her she asks about his/her complaints. She does not forecast what is in store nor she recalls the past. Usually, she puts her hand on the patient’s forehead. In the other hand she wears a ring and makes it face down. Then she starts reciting some verses from the Holy Qur’an. Possessed patients soon begin shaking on the ground. Others who are not possessed are not affected. Patients are usually prescribed with honey, black cumin and a certain kind of herbs.
I believe that Nafha has refused to meet you because she meets only the patients.
She can write and read. I do not know how she has come to know all of this. Sure, it is an endowment by Allah. I have been to many doctors but to no avail. Here, I find benefit.
You can not meet my sister, too. She is holding a meeting with genies in her room. She can not go out. She has control over genies. They do whatever she wants, whenever she wants and how she wants.”
We then met another person accompanying his wife. He refused to give his full name or to be photographed. His wife suffers from a bad stomach pain. He said that she had been to many physicians but they could not help and so he decided to try Nafha’s treatment because he had heard a lot about her efficiency.
Here are people who have got fed up with doctors and their medicine and have decided to search for more effective cure, no matter how long the distance is or how impassable the roads are.
In such a poor village, it was very painful to see women carrying 20-litter cans of water on their heads to reach their houses at the top of mountains piercing the sky. Even more painful were those looks of people gathering around us with great expectations in their eyes. I could read the miseries in their eyes which seemed to be soliciting us to give a picture of their status to the government.
Ironically, in the village itself some who do not approve of Nafha’s work. Abdul Rahman Mahyoob is one of them. “Man should believe in Allah. There may be some patients who recover after coming here, but they should believe that it is Allah who helped them recover. It is true that, many people visit this woman, but as far as I am concerned, I have never visited her nor anyone of my family members has done it. We believe in Allah. We believe in science of medicine, too. Those who believe her should read the Holy Qur’an and look for the right ways to recover.
One wonders how and when this woman learned what she is practicing. For the better part of her life she was unmarried and got married only a few years ago. Once, before she was married, she fell ill. Her family took her to Hagdah, a district about 15 kilometers to the West of Taiz, to a Sayyed who treats his patients in the same way. Nafhaa went there as a patient and came back as a Sayyadah! I am sure that she deceives people. If she believes in what she does, why then she refrained from meeting you.”Businessman Ahmad Mahmoud Al-Tamimi claimed to have visited many Assyad (pl. of Sayyad). He said that such people were very persuasive. “They have a great ability to convince people by their persuasive and pliant words,” he commented. “On the other hand they are very intelligent and clever, otherwise, they will not be able to allure and convince people of their claimed abilities,” Al-Tamimi concluded.
Has the state of our medical services something to do with proliferation of such activities? Isn’t the deplorable state of medical aid responsible for people turning their faces away from the science of medicine? The answer to those questions is: “may be.” to be continue