The Muslim scholars hold three views with regard to this incident:
The first view: The sorcery whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) was exposed to is merely a usual disease and a transient illness, this is possible in regard to the Prophets as is to any human being. It does not disprove prophethood or disturb the message or revelation. God the Exalted protected His Prophet from whatever interferes with the mission of conveying the message and from being killed, not from transient physical diseases.
This is the view of Al-Maziri
Al-Qadi Iyyad explained it saying:
In regard to what was reported that he used to think that he did a thing while he did not, it does not interfere with his delivery of the Message or the Law nor does it undermine his truthfulness due to the evident proof and consensus of his protection from this. This was merely a worldly matter that has nothing to do with his Mission or rank, and he is exposed to it as any other human being. So, it is not impossible for him to imagine unreal things, then find out what they really are. It is not reported regarding this event anything other than what he said about doing something that he really did not. It was merely imagination.
Ash-Shifa bi Ta?rif Huqouq Al-Mustafa, vol. 2, p. 113
Sorcery that affected the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a transient disease that Allah cured him from. There is nothing defective about it for all Prophets are exposed to illness as well as fainting; he (peace be upon him) fainted during his illness
Related by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih, book of ?Azan?, hadith no. 687 and by Muslim in his Sahih, book of “Salat”, hadith no. 418, fell down when his leg loosened and was bruised It is related by Anas ibn Malik that he said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) fell down from a horse, so his right side was bruised”. Related by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih, book of ?Salat?, hadith no. 378. and Muslim in his Sahih, book of ?Salat?, hadith no. 411. This is affliction by which Prophets increase in rank and degree. Most afflicted people are the Prophets; they were afflicted with killing, hurt, abuse and imprisonment, so it is not new for the Prophet (peace be upon him) to be afflicted with some sorcery from his enemies as he was bruised when someone stoned him and as animal bowels were thrown on him during his prostration Related by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih, book of ?Wudu?, hadith n., 240. and Muslim in his Sahih, book of ?Jihad and Sayr?, hadith no. 1794and other incidents. There is nothing undermining or disgraceful about it, on the contrary, it indicates their perfection and high rank before God. Bada’il-ul-Fawa’id, vol. 2, p. 192; cf. Zad-ul-Ma’ad, vol. 4. p. 124
The second view: Sorcery merely affected his externals and organs, not his heart, mind or intellect. The meaning of the verse is protection of heart and belief, not protection of the body from worldly accidents.
This is the preference of Al-Qadi Iyyad
The third view: What was reported — that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was charmed — is an unacceptable forgery. Rather, it was fabricated by the disbelievers.
This is the position of the Mu’tazalites
It is the preference of al-Jassas, the Sunni scholar, who said:
They alleged that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was charmed and sorcery worked upon him — such reports are fabricated by atheists to mock inferior people and to lead them to reject miracles of the Prophets and criticize them, and that there is no difference between miracles of Prophets and works of sorcerers and that they are the same. It is indeed strange that some combine belief in Prophets (peace be upon them) and their miracles and belief in works of sorcerers despite His saying, “And the magician thrives not (no matter) where he goes” (Holy Qur’an 20:69). So they believe the one whom God has belied and told about his forgery and incoherence of his claims.
It is possible that the Jewish woman did this — out of ignorance — thinking that it works upon bodies and targeted the Prophet (peace be upon him). So God informed His Prophet about her secret and exposed her ignorance about what she believed and imagined in order for this to be one of proofs of his prophethood, not that it has hurt and confused him. Not all reporters said that he was confused; it was merely a baseless addition.
Al-Jassas, Ahkam-ul-Qur?an, vol. 1, pp. 58-59
Their evidence is that saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was charmed, necessitates the following:
- 1. Degradation and criticism of miracles of Prophets (peace be upon them).
2. Confusion of miracles of Prophets (peace be upon them) with works of sorcerers.
3. Affirmation of the disbelievers’ claim : “Ye follow none other than a man bewitched” (Holy Qur’an 25:8). People of Saleh said to him “Thou art only one of those bewitched” (Holy Qur’an 26:153) and people of Shu’aib said the same to him.
4. Prophets are not susceptible to sorcery because it contradicts God?s protection and immunity of them.
They responded to the hadith of “Aisha” in which it is mentioned that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was charmed — that it is solely reported by Hisham ibn ‘Urwah
- His Saying: “Ye follow none other than a man bewitched” (Holy Qur’an 25:8) and “Thou art only one of those bewitched” (Holy Qur’an 26:153) is a reference to the one who is bewitched till he becomes a lunatic and loses his mind. The charmed one who is not to be followed is the one who has gone so crazy that he cannot realize what he says; that is why they accused him and said “Tutored (by others), a man possessed” (Holy Qur’an 44:14). As for the one who is bodily affected with some sort of a disease, following him is not prevented. Enemies of Prophets did not accuse them of bodily illness, rather of what prevents their followers from following them: that they were so bewitched that they could not realize what they say, just like lunatics. This is why God, the Exalted, says “See what similes they strike for thee : but they have gone astray, and never can they find a way” (Holy Qur’an 17:48).
As for their saying that bewitchment of the Prophets contradicts their divine protection, we say that as God protects, saves and keeps them, He also tests them with whatever he likes of disbelievers’ harm, for them to deserve the highest ranks of nobility and patience, and to be as examples to their followers and nations who are afflicted by people. So, when they see what happened to Prophets, they become patient and accepting, and follow the example of their Prophets.
Cf. Bada’i-ul-Fawa’id, vol. 2, pp. 192-193; Mafatih-ul-Ghaib, vol. 32, p. 172.
As for their saying that the hadith was solely reported by Hisham Ibn ‘Urwah, the answer is that their claim is rejected, for Hisham is one of the most trustworthy and knowledgeable reporters and no Imam has ever criticized him to the degree that justifies rejection of his report. Compilers of both Sahihs agreed on authenticity of this hadith and none of Hadith scholars has ever uttered a word against it. The incident is well known to scholars of Tafsir, Sunan and Hadith and to Jurists, these people are most oriented with conditions of God?s Messenger (peace be upon him) than others.
Moreover, the hadith was not solely reported by Hisham; it was also related by al-A’mash — from Yazid Ibn Hayyan from Zaid ibn Arqam — who said:
“A Jewish man charmed the Prophet (peace be upon him), he complained for some days. Gabriel (peace be upon him) came and said: a Jewish man has charmed you; he made for you a knob in such-and-such well. God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) some people to get it. Once they brought it to him, he got up actively. He (peace be upon him) never mentioned this to the Jewish man, nor expressed it”.
Related by Ibn Abi Shaiba in his Musannaf, vol. 5, p. 40. and Imam Ahmad in his Musnad, vol. 4, p. 367. and An-Nisa’i in his Sunan, book of “Tahrim-ul-Damm”, hadith n., 4080. all on authority of al-A’mash and authenticated by Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan An-Nisa’i, vol. 3, p. 98, hadith no. 4091. Cf. Bada’i-ul-Fawa’id, vol. 2, p. 191.
And only God knows best.