Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Psychics, astrologer and magicians, oh my!

One day I was reading something, I don’t recall if it was an article in a magazine or something from an internet forum, about yet another so-called “psychic” in the US who made a bunch of vague waffling predictions on some crime - predictions which turned out to be wrong (not that something minor like that will stop them from continuing their career as a psychic I’m sure). And it dawned on me . . .

I had yet to see any ad or storefront for a psychic/astrologer/palm reader etc in Qatar.

That struck me as odd as the capital, Doha, has at least 400,000 people in it, many of whom are from India where astrology is rampant. A lot of people here are also pretty well off financially - the kind of people psychics and fortune-tellers love to try to get as clients. Yet I couldn’t recall any advertising for fortune-telling services.

So I skimmed the newspaper classifieds, then the yellow pages, to find them. You know what - I found none. Not one. So I did a cursory google search on “astrology Doha”, “astrology Qatar”, “psychic Qatar” and so on. While I could find a few astrology and similar websites I couldn’t find a practitioner who was actually in the country (although I did find a Reiki healer). Apparently there either aren’t any fortune tellers advertising their trade here, or they are fairly discreet about it.

Care to guess why? That’s because under Islam fortune telling is forbidden. I had to do some internet searching on this but apparently sections of the Qur’an address this, like surah 27:65 which states Say: None in the heavens and the earth knows the unseen except Allah, nor can they perceive when they shall be resurrected, which many Muslims interpret to mean that since only God knows that which is unseen, you can’t know the future since it implies that you know the mind of God. So under Islamic thinking psychics, astrologers, and other assorted fortune tellers generally fall into one of three categories:

1) con artists;
2) deluded; or
3) practicing sorcery (a big no-no in Islam)

I guess this tends to discourage Arabs who were thinking of becoming a “psychic detective”. In some ways this is a North American skeptic’s dream - a country where tarot card readers, psychics and other assorted woos do not operate because it‘s against the law! Wow!

Now, I don’t buy for a minute that no one here in Qatar is practicing fortune-telling. A lot of people here aren’t Muslim and I’m sure that there are some astrologers working underground amongst the Indian community. You can also get satellite TV here, including the standard fare of psychic nonsense from the West including ads for psychic phone lines. But wouldn’t it be nice if the West would start taking psychic scam artists more seriously and start cracking down?

Sadly I’m not sure if this is really a plus about Qatar that I’m comfortable with. Is cracking down on fortune-telling due to religious reasons really a win for critical thinking? I think it would be a lot better if these laws were enacted because the populace knew that psychics didn’t really predict the future, maybe even going so far as to force anyone claiming to be a psychic to undergo controlled testing to prove their claims. Stopping psychics because they are ‘practicing sorcery’ just lends credence to the notion that sorcery is real, hardly an ideal solution from my point of view.

Anyway, I think I’ll try to do a bit more digging on this, to see just what the laws in Qatar are in relation to fortune-telling. A recent arrest for practicing sorcery looks like it was on fraud charges rather than sorcery, which is encouraging (story here:, but there may be fortune-telling laws on the books. Once I find out more I’ll post it up.


Anonymous said...

Too bad they don't outlaw accountants in Qatar. All accountants are money launderers, frauds and out-of-work magicians like James Randi. The things they do with numbers should be considered "sorcery" - a sham, or the Devil's work, for sure. Too add big numbers and make equations should be forbidden at once. Then to go along with that ice cold rhetoric, forbid all forms of thinking, and leave it up to fate and Allah. No room to breathe. Then outsource all predictive technologies as well, like meteorology, to China. Some people just don't know what the blazes they are talking about.

Glen McKay said...

I'm sorry to hear that you have such misgivings about accounting but I think you may be muddling a variety of issues, including development of financial products, with accounting. Accounting is primarily a system to present financial information in a consistent and understandable manner, to allow users to assess a company or entity. Without it, there would be no way for people to assess the financial health of the company, nor compare it to others. It is necessary, and even Islamic financial firms have accounting standards ( I'm not sure what equations you are referring to as accounting uses very few of them, you may be thinking of financial modeling but that is different than accounting.

Attempts to paint accounting or accountants in the same light as psychics is woefully misguided.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently in Qatar on holiday, and was just looking for a fortune teller. Disappointed I can't fine one:( Christina

TITANIA said...

I wanna learn the telekinesis. But I need a teacher

Kirsten Durward said...

I know this in old post but I just stumbled across it when I was researching something. It's funny you know, Islaam banning fortune telling, basically so did Christianity, burning people at the stake for being witches, often when they were healers or naturalists. But the thing is, I grew up in the gulf and there were plenty of old ladies throwing stones, or reading shells. I had one of the best readings of my life from a shell reader in the Sudan (also a Shariah state) 6 years ago. She told me (through a translator) things she couldn't possibly have known about my life, I was there when she read for two other friends and it was remarkable.. I read the cards for a couple of Sudanese friends and soon they were bringing friends and relatives around for it. They loved it and actively sought it out. It's a social thing, not fortune telling but like a discussion of the energy that surrounds you. You unpack the possibiliies of life. Sadly misunderstood by many :)

Glen McKay said...

Yes despite religious condemnation fortune-telling and similar things exist in Muslim countries. Tolerance I think depends on the school of Islam, Hanbalis (Saudi, Qatar) are more strict about this than other Muslim schools. In more relaxed countries such as Turkey psychics/fortune tellers appear to operate freely.