All praise is due to Allaah. May He send salutations upon His Messenger Muhammad and exalt his mention.
The Scholar of Islaam, Ibn Muflih al-Hanbali said: “In al-Musnad, al-Saheehayn and elsewhere it is narrated that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “No Haammah and no Safar.” (Muslim.) Others add the words, “No Naw’ and no ghoul.””
Haammah (plural of Haam which is an owl): The pre-Islamic Arabs, or people of Jaahiliyyah, used to think that when someone died and was buried, an owl (Hammah) would come out of his grave. The Arabs used to think that the bones of the deceased turned into owls which flew about. They also used to think that if someone was murdered, an owl would come out of his head and would keep repeating: “Give me a drink, give me a drink,” until the slain person was avenged and his murdered was killed.
Safar: It was said that the people of Jaahiliyyah used to have superstitions concerning the month of Safar, therefore the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “No Safar”. It was said that the Arabs used to believe that there was a snake in the stomach which would harm a person when he had intercourse, and that this was contagious, so the Wise Lawgiver negated this. Maalik said: “the people of the Jaahiliyyah would regard Safar as not being sacred one year and as sacred the next year.”
Naw’: (plural of An-Anwaa’ which is a star which sets at the rising of another): this refers to twenty eight lunar mansions or phases, as in the Qur’aanic verse which translates as: “And the moon - We have determined for it phases …” (Yaa Seen: 39).
Every thirteen nights, one of these stars sets in the west at dawn, and another rises in the east, so that by the end of each year they all will have come and gone. The Arabs used to believe that when one set and the next one rose, there would be rain, which they attributed this to these stars, so they would say, “We have rain because of such and such naw’ (star which sets at the rising of another).”
It is called Naw’ because when the star which is setting sets in the west, the one which is rising appears (Naa’a) in the east, i.e., it rises and emerges. And it was said that naw’ means setting, which is the opposite of emerging.
As for the case of those who believe that rain came only by the will of Allaah and say: “We have rain at the time of such and such Naw’” meaning that Allaah usually causes rain to come at this time – there is some dispute as to whether saying this is Haraam or Makrooh.
Ghoul: (plural of Gheelaan which is a kind of jinn or devil): The Arabs used to think that ghouls lived in the wilderness and would appear to people and that they could take on different shapes and colours. They also believed that they would make people lose their way, seeking to kill them. The Wise Lawgiver rejected and refuted this concept totally.
It was said that this statement was not denying the existence of ghouls, but rather, it was a denial of the Arabs’ belief that they could change shape and colour and make people lose their way, hence the meaning of “No ghoul” is that they cannot make people lose their way. This is confirmed by Hadeeth, “There is no ghoul but there is sa’aali.” (Muslim and others). ‘Sa’aali’ is a magician from among the jinn, who base their magic on confusion and illusion… Al-Khallaal narrated from Taawoos, a famous Islamic scholar, that a man accompanied him (Tawoos) and they heard the crowing of a crow, so the man remarked “Good, good.” Taawoos said to him: “What good can there be in this, and what evil? - Get away from me!”
Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allaah have mercy upon him, said: “Some scholars said that the Hadeeth: “No healthy person should be exposed to a sick person” was abrogated by the words: “There is no ‘adwa (contagion).” This is incorrect. This is an example where what is negated is different from that which is affirmed. What the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam denied when he said “There is no contagion and no Safar” was the belief of the polytheists which was based on their beliefs of shirk”
With regard to the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam prohibiting healthy people to mix with sick ones, there are two interpretations:
(1) The fear that people may attribute what Allaah has decreed to ‘adwa (contagion), which may confuse those who hear of this and make them believe in ‘adwa. There is no contradiction between the two reports.
(2) That this refers to exposing the sick person to the healthy person, which may be the means by which Allaah creates disease, so the exposure is the cause, but Allaah may divert its effects by means of other causes which oppose it or prevent the effect of the sickness. This is pure Tawheed, or monotheism, unlike that which the people of shirk believe in.
This is similar to the denial of intercession on the Day of Resurrection mentioned in the Qur’aanic verse which translates as: “... A Day in which there is no exchange [i.e., ransom] and no friendship and no intercession.” (Al-Baqarah: 254)
This does not contradict the unambiguous Mutawaatir Ahaadeeth which state that there will be intercession on the Day of Resurrection, because what Allaah is denying here is the kind of intercession that was known among the mushrikeen, where an intercessor would come forward and intercede without having been given permission by Allaah. The intercession which is affirmed by Allaah and His Messenger is that which comes after His permission is given, as stated in the verses which translate as: “…Who is he that can intercede with Him except by His Permission?…” (Al-Baqarah: 255) “… And they cannot intercede except on behalf of one whom He approves” (Al-Anbiyaa’: 28) “And Intercession does not benefit with Him except for one whom He permits.” (Saba’: 23).