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Pseudoscience is a term used to describe a claim, belief, or practice presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to the scientific method. -- Wikipedia

There's a host of pseudosciences (Wikipedia has a list of topics characterized as pseudoscience). Some topics are considered defunct, e.g., phrenology, whereas others are borderline science, e.g. chiropractic. Most are seemingly harmless, but some are dangerous, e.g. ear candling resulting in ear injuries. There's also a risk that a patient may abstain from evidence-based medical treatments opting for alternative treatments instead.

Question: Is pseudoscience generally forbidden or discouraged?

I presume the answer would vary from topic to topic: Some pseudosciences involve fortune telling and astrology which are haram (jointly listed as major sin #46 in Major Sins by Imam Shamsu ed-Deen Dhahabi), e.g., palm reading.

I wish to ask about the topic in general: maybe it's best just to stay away from pseudoscience as a whole (perhaps engaging in pseudoscience would lead to fortune telling, etc.). It may be that pseudoscience as a whole is forbidden.

Googling pseudoscience haram was not helpful, mostly returning Islam-critical webpages.

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    I'm not sure islam has a stance on this, I imagine it would be the same as for actual science: reject it in as far as it contains conclusions that contradict islamic doctrine, and anything else is halal (but not fardh) to affirm or reject. Don't have any references, but that's what I would expect. – G. Bach Nov 17 '16 at 3:11
  • @G.Bach scholars doesn't reject every conclusion contradict doctrine , but they search a interpretation goes with the Islamic believes . see this islam.stackexchange.com/questions/36160/is-thunder-an-angel/… the point is that the science is changing every day ,even main definitions change ! and there is some point science is still far from understand it or giving it an explication !!! that's my opinion from my readings ! :) – Mustapha Elbazi Nov 17 '16 at 7:00
  • Imam al-Ghazali has distinguished between necessary knowledge (fard, fard kifyah) and a discussion of sciences which are considered as good sciences and whether and which circumstances they could be considered good in his Ihya' ghazali.org/site/ihya.htm (Book of Knowledge Section II and III). Alhamdulliah maths are fard kifyah ;) – Medi1Saif Nov 17 '16 at 11:01
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In Islam science is classified in a couple of categories fard 'ayn (obligatory for everybody) this is any knowledge one needs to know to be able to be a good Muslim and in the daily life from acts of worship to what is permissible and what is haram for example in trading if one is working in this business...

There's also fard al-Kifayah (obligatory on the Ummah) any knowledge which must be known at least by a few Muslims, so that the Ummah wouldn't rely on the knowledge of non-Muslims to use it.

And most if not all scholars say the most preferred kind of knowledge is that which is related to religious knowledge (see also Why Knowledge is often related with religion?). (See also in Ihya' 'Ulum ad-Dyn of imam al-Gahzaly)

And the most preferred one is learning the Qur'an and teaching it.

So far I have not come to the topic of pseudoscience, but from the intro above you may conclude that all knowledge which has benefit for the Ummah is important and encouraged, based on verses like (20:114):

... and say, "My Lord, increase me in knowledge.

Examples of pseudosciences which are rather encouraged

Among these knowledge types which are highly encouraged there are Medicine and what ever is connected to the topic of healing.

Therefore you will find that alternative Medicine is highly practiced and common in Muslim societies for example cupping is referred to in the sunnah, ibn Qayyim al-Jawziya ابن قيم الجوزية is one of the authors of books entitled the prophetic medicine الطب النبوي, there you may find ahadith on the use and healing with black seeds (see Did Muhammad say that black seeds can cure any disease?), olive oil (see What are the benefits of using olive oil in Islam?), honey (which is also quoted in the quran 16:68-69) etc

The prophet also said:

... Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age. (Sunan abi Dawood)

I've even read that ibn Sina used music as a treatment (this certainly is not a scholarly evidence for it being halal). I'd say that healing by Qur'an as non-Muslims would call ruqyah is one of the so called beneficial pseudo sciences.

Examples of pseudosciences which are not encouraged

On the other hand astrology is haram based on the hadith in sunan abi Dawod, while astronomy as far as it helps calculating prayer times etc. is allowed, while psychology (according this fatwa in Arabic on islamweb #132439) is rather frowned upon due to the non-Muslim basis of the actual teachings, even if by default it has an acceptance in Islam and should only be dealt with by Muslims who are strong in their believes. As a side note -as both are not pseudosciences- philosophy and man made laws are haram to study according the same fatwa. Also numerology is not considered as beneficial according islamweb #106263.

So basically one could conclude that any knowledge which has clear benefits for Muslims (humans in general one could say) are strongly encouraged, while anything which is rather useless or causes harm is rather prohibited.

And Allah knows best.

  • "(humans in general)" - just one sentence before that you said psychology is frowned upon due to the findings and methods being secular, but it's clearly beneficial, much more so than the pseudoscience that Islam actually encourages according to your answer - which contradicts "while anything which is rather useless or causes harm is rather prohibited" because buying into pseudosciences stops you from searching for accurate explanations and thus keeps you from finding actually useful insights. – G. Bach Apr 9 '18 at 23:13
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    @G.Bach it seems you insist on interpreting wrong, I've made a small edit. – Medi1Saif Apr 10 '18 at 5:31
  • "it seems you insist on interpreting wrong" I honestly don't see how I'm misinterpreting what you wrote. – G. Bach Apr 10 '18 at 10:18
  • @G.Bach psychology is clearly not a science and there are methods which are discussed so if Muslim scholars reject some of these methods this doesn't necessarily means Islam rejects them for being secular even if the opinion on sites such as islamweb, islamway or islamqa says so. Imam al-Ghazaly with his ihya' made a call for acquisition of knowledge, as at the time most physicians ... etc.in the Muslim world were non-Muslims. It is legitimate to reach a certain level of independency in necessary and benefical knowledge. – Medi1Saif Apr 11 '18 at 5:54
  • Cupping I agree is allowed because the Prophet (SAW) allowed it, but what about a pseudo medical treatment that is not sourced from islamic knowledge like Anthroposophic medicine? Is it also encoraged as a 'medical treatment'? – The Z Apr 13 '18 at 1:35
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Think of it like this. Pseudoscience is not based on science (natural phenomenon and logic), and it is not based on divine knowledge. So, the only leftover possibilities are that it is lies or it is magic. Magic is definitely haram. And lies:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e. telling lies and can also mean believing lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of his (fasting) leaving his food and drink." (Italics my addition) (Bukhari)

and

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "I saw (in a dream), two men came to me." Then the Prophet (ﷺ) narrated the story (saying), "They said, 'The person, the one whose cheek you saw being torn away (from the mouth to the ear) was a liar and used to tell lies and the people would report those lies on his authority till they spread all over the world. So he will be punished like that till the Day of Resurrection."

This second hadith sounds awfully like pseudoscience. A person lies about something using faulty science and convinces other people until people around the world believe the nonsense. And Allah punishes this person so it is not halal.

Here is an ayah which is to show that believing lies can also be a sin:

And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart - about all those [one] will be questioned. (17:36)

Everyone will be questioned about their senses, and why they didn't use them. And why they believed in things (pseudoscience) without using the intellect Allah gave them. After all, Allah did not make them stupid.

In conclusion, pseudoscience can only be lies (if it is not supported by scripture and divine knowledge). As it can be seen from the above hadith, starting a lie is a sin that will be punished for on the Day of Judgement thus is forbidden. Likewise helping spread a lie is forbidden as it is helping in a sin. And as can be seen in the ayah above, pursuing that which you do not have knowledge is commanded against (i.e. don't leave your medical treatment and pursue pseudoscientific treatments when you have no knowledge).

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To answer this question, you must first be aware of the scientific method in question (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method ). In short, it involves:

  • Making some hypothesis about the world

  • Deducing a logical consequence of this hypothesis

  • Designing an experiment/gather some data to verify the consequence

  • Compare the results to expectations and if necessary correct your hypothesis.

If a science complies to that, it is fine, it is a pure search for the truth.

Some sciences however do not comply to this. Psychology, for instance, cannot be experimentally verified, and has been criticised a lot for it. Its description of the subcouncious cannot be verified, and is purely empirical. However, it can work. In the same case are many traditional medecins (not only from asia where it is the most developped, all continents have some ), which are empirical, and homeopathy. All of these have some statistical evidence that they work, even if they do not make specific hypothesis (or verifiable hypothesis ). This makes them useful to heal people, therefore halal.

Every kind of fortune telling is, as you said, haram.

To these, I will add every kind of pseudoscience which does not have empirical evidence on its side. It can be either directly harmful (like ear candling ), and even if it is not, it is to be considered as a lie, hence haram. This is where you can put phrenology, as well as plenty of 19 th century sciences that died since. They failed the empirical test. Some reappeared but in a very different form (like animal behaviour study, which started with concepts such as the "lion king", and now studies behaviour within a tribe in an objective manner )

How can you know if it has empirical evidence on its side? Ask someone who knows how stats work. Like a doctor. Or ask yourself exactly how the statistics were established in the first place. Statistics are easily made to tell whatever you want them to tell to the unaware reader by giving incomplete informations. Check the sources. Be critical.

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