Saudi jurists debate role of magic in crime
A heated debate over committing crimes while under magical influence ensued during the proceedings of a corruption trial that involved several employees in the Medina Court including one of the judges.
A statement by a man who claimed to have performed a roqia (Islamic exorcism) on the suspected judge ignited the controversy. The ‘exorcist’ told the Saudi newspaper Okaz that the judge was possessed by a jinni and was under his influence while taking bribes to cover up for illegal possession of land and real estate.
For legal advisor Saleh al-Khedr, being possessed by a jinni or an evil spirit does not absolve the culprit of blame.
“Human beings are responsible for their actions,” he told AlArabiya.net. “Claiming to be possessed is just an excuse to evade punishment.”
Khedr called upon judges not to include magic in the proceedings of the case even if the suspect insisted or the ‘exorcists’ testified that the suspect was possessed.
“Even if several scholars testified to attending the exorcism, the judge should not make magic a legal argument.”
The exorcist who allegedly forced the evil spirit out of the judge’s body said the process was carried out in the presence of members of the Medina branch of Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
Lawyer Mohamed al-Aseeb argued that possession by evil spirits cannot be considered an excuse since it is not mentioned in the sharia (Islamic law) upon which the Saudi law is founded.
“Islamic law only acknowledges tangible proof,” he told AlArabiya.net. “When the judge claims the jinnis made him commit the crime and that he has witnesses, can he or they prove it?”
Aseeb added that the judge was not the only one involved in the corruption case, which shows it is an organized crime and makes the argument of magic very unlikely.
“It is an entire network of people and there might be other parties that are still unknown. The judge only wanted to get away with his crime through inventing an excuse that some might accept.”
Possible, yet hard to prove
Meanwhile, several jurists argue that it is possible that an evil spirits makes people unable to control their actions, yet it is hard to prove.
Dr. Ibrahim al-Balawi, a lawyer, stated that the judge should consider this possibility if the culprit admitted to being under a spell while committing the crime.
“However, it is very hard to prove that and the court only acknowledges clear and tangible evidence,” he told AlArabiya.net. “But the judge should not ignore it and further investigations have to be carried out.”
Balawi added that there are specialists who are capable of detecting if a person is possessed and they can be consulted in these cases to verify the defendant’s allegations.
Lawyer Badr al-Basees agreed with Balawi and stressed that magic and its effect on people are mentioned in the Quran.
“There is no doubt that magic exists,” he told AlArabiya.net. “It is only proving it that is a challenge.”
The defendant, Basees added, should come up with evidence like the testimony of several trustworthy witnesses who give a detailed account of how the crime was committed under the influence of magic.
“If this is proved, then the defendant should be penalized like drunkards and drug addicts who are also unable to control their actions.”
Basees explained that the case is new to the Saudi society and that is why there are no fixed rules for dealing with it.
“As far as I know, this case is unprecedented and that is why it has been the subject of heated debate.”
Lawyer Abdullah Ragab recounted the story of a similar case which proved that allegations of falling under a spell are usually false.
“I had a personal experience with a man who claimed he was robbed by magic then his allegations proved to be false,” he told AlArabiya.net.
Ragab said that a client claimed that someone stole 2.4 million riyals from him by magic and demanded that he gets back the money with interest. Investigations revealed that the client voluntarily gave his money to that man who promised him tempting profit.
“I believe that if somebody has magical powers, he would obtain what he wants without manipulation.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).