Ruqyah (plural: ruqa) derives from the past-tense verb raqa. It consists of words said or written in the form of Dhikr for the purpose of protection or cure. It is sometimes accompanied with other actions, such as blowing or wiping over the thing to which it is applied.
A synonym for ruqyah in Arabic is "ta'with" and "tawithah", from which derives the description "al-Muawwidhat" (the protecting ones) for the last three surahs of the Quran, and "al-Muawwidhatan" (the two protecting ones) for the last two suras only (cited below).
People from most cultures and religions use various forms of ruqa. They are usually referred to in English as spells, charms, incantations, and so on. Most of those ruqa contain magic, shirk, senseless words, lies, etc. Because of this, the Prophet (Peace and Blessing upon Him) prohibited using ruqa at first. Ibn Masud (RA) reported that the Prophet (Peace and Blessing upon Him) said: Indeed, ruqa, amulets, and tiwala*, are all acts of shirk. Recorded by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and others. Verified to be authentic by al-Albani in as-Sahihah 331.
Later on, he (Peace and Blessing upon Him) allowed people to use only the ruqa that he approved, or that did not contain shirk. Jabir Bin 'Abdillah (RA) reported that Allah's Messenger (Peace and Blessing upon Him) prohibited ruqa. Then, some people from the tribe of 'Umr Bin Hazam came to him and said, "We have a ruqyah that we used to use for scorpion and snake stings; but you have now prohibited using ruqa." And they showed it to him. He (Peace and Blessing upon Him) said:
I do not see anything wrong in it. Anyone among you who can benefit his brother should do so. Muslim
As indicated in the Quran, (the magicians can never be successful) (Taha 20:69), nor (can they benefit anyone) (al-Baqarah 2:102). Because of all of this, and from the rule established earlier that Allah did not make our cure in anything that He prohibited, we clearly conclude that it is not permissible at all to seek a ruqyah from a magician.
Conditions for a Permissible Ruqyah
There are some important conditions that must be satisfied in a ruqyah to make it permissible. They were summarized by Ibn Hajar (AR):
"There is a consensus among the 'ulama that ruqa are permissible when they satisfy three conditions:
1 - To be with Allah's words or His names and attributes
2 - To be in Arabic or of an intelligible meaning
3 - And to believe that they do not have effect by themselves but by Allah. Fath ul Bari 10/240
Following conditions are discussed below:
1. Must Be with Allah's Words, Names, or Attributes
As we will see below, all forms of ruqa reported in the Sunnah satisfy this condition. They either consist of specific portions of the Quran, such as Surah al-Fatiha or Ayat ul-Kursiy, or contain a praise of Allah and an invocation of His help and protection.
2. Must Be with Clearly Understood Words
This is an important condition that must be satisfied in order to eliminate any magic factors from the ruqyah.
3. Believing That the True Benefit Is from Allah
Similar to our earlier discussion of medicines, one must always believe that the true and ultimate protector is Allah ('Azza wa Jalla) alone, and that ruqa and medications are means that He created and He controls as He wills. Thus trust must be put in Him and not in the means that He created. Allah ('Azza wa Jalla) commands His Messenger (Peace and Blessing upon Him):
So seek refuge with Allah (only); verily, it is He who is all-Hearer, all-Seer. (Al Ghafir 40:56).