The belief that spirits can possess a person is not something new. It is also believed in various cultures, religious or atheistic. Different cultures have different ways of expelling the spirits from the possessed person. Ancient practices include trephining (drilling a hole in the skull) to release the spirit.

In Islam, the different species of spirits are collectively referred to as jinn in the Arabic language. The terminology “jinn” in Islam has a different concept from the terminology “spirits” as believed in many other cultures. Many would attach the word “evil” to “spirits” but not all jinn are evil. There are also civilised jinn who have their own system of governance and believe in religion.

Although the word “jinn” is used in Islam, it does not mean that jinn have never entered the human body before Islam. Semitic religions before Islam have their own ways of dealing with jinn. The Quran was not revealed then, so it is obvious that they did not use any Quranic verses. One of the methods in Islam that is used for the exorcism is ruqyah. Ruqyah means incantation. With the arrival of Islam, guidelines were put in place forbidding all polytheistic practices including prohibition of having polytheistic contents in incantations. In one instance, from an authentic narration, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) even approved an incantation from pre-Islamic period (meaning non-Quranic incantation) that did not have any polytheistic content. In other words, Islam defined polytheism as a boundary that must never be crossed.

There are evidences of ruqyah being used for treatment during the time of the Prophet (pbuh). One instant, from an authentic narration, is when a companion of the Prophet treated the chief of a tribe who was bitten by a snake. The companion recited a good innovative ruqyah using the Al-Fatihah. The Prophet approved the ruqyah even though the Prophet had never taught anybody to recite Al-Fatihah in ruqyah.

Unlike physical problems such as snake bites, jinn-related disorder requires a more complex therapy. Even though jinn can cause clinical illnesses, many jinn-related disorders also have an impact on the mind of the person. It will be easy to train ruqyah reciters for physical illnesses but they might not have the necessary knowledge to deal with the psychological dimension of jinn-related disorder. To become a ruqyah reciter, one can enroll in a weekend course and then on the following Monday – hey presto! he or she can call himself or herself a ruqyah reciter.

Taking short courses and calling oneself a ruqyah reciter is not a problem. The problem is when a limited set of knowledge is used to treat a complex jinn-related disorder which may involve somatic and psychological aspects. Misleading advice may knowingly or unknowingly be given which can result in greater psychological damage to the clients. Impossible-to-verify notions, such as “the sihr (black magic) is in the stomach“, “the sihr has been sent again“, etc can also unconsciously be implanted into the clients mind. This will increase the psychological burden on the clients and may even lead to the development of “false memory”. It is not surprising if we see an increase in people who became more depressed after having ruqyah from instant ruqyah reciters.

For ruqyah to be accepted as a mainstream medical treatment or therapy, a comprehensive educational and training syllabus has to formulated to create a new generation of Quranic Therapists. The training should be focussed more on the science of therapy which can encompass a wide spectrum of knowledge. In addition to required Islamic knowledge related to Islamic Medical Treatment/Therapy, knowledge such as psychotherapy, anatomy, physiology and neuroscience will enhance the quality of the therapists. This will make ruqyah only a component of the Quranic Therapy and make the person a therapist i.e. not a ruqyah reciter. With a lot to learn and a lot to research, future Quranic Therapists will be able to turn Quranic Therapy into an evidence based therapy for jinn-related disorders. This will be a far cry from instant ruqyah reciters who are not focussed on improving their therapy but are more obsessed in condemning their rivals and making unrealistic claims that can easily be dismissed.

The challenges of making Quranic Therapy part of the mainstream therapy discipline is enormous. This requires the involvement of people of various disciplines, from religious and secular education, who are willing to contribute their expertise in revolutionising the diagnosis and therapy of jinn-related disorder. One of the immediate challenges is re-educating the public. As the interest of ruqyah gets bigger, more and more people are turning to the internet for guidance. Instead of getting guidance, they may end up in getting more confused or deluded.

One can view a Facebook/website and find postings of a list of people whom the author claim to be magicians. View another Facebook/website and one can find support for the same persons who have been accused as magicians. It is not surprising to get postings of “so-called advice” which amounts to something similar to “don’t go to someone who doesn’t look like Osama bin Laden” (not actual sentence). The danger is that the public will be deluded into thinking that appearance is superior to knowledge on therapy. The “so-called advice” is similar to telling someone not to go to any doctor who does not look like Osama bin Laden. The main reason someone looks for treatment or therapy is to get well and not because of the appearance of the therapist. After all, it is possible that the one with the jinn-related disorder is the one who looks like Osama bin Laden, and the therapist looks like Jackie Chan.

Re-educating the public will result in the public looking for knowledgeable therapists where they can get more therapeutic benefit. This will increase the quality of therapy as therapists compete positively on improving their therapy. Ruqyah reciters who are stuck with a limited set of skills and knowledge will have to choose between upgrading their knowledge or be left behind.