Ruqyah: Inside the World of Islamic Exorcism

The practise of exorcism is often linked to Catholicism, at least in the West, where books, movies and mainstream culture abound with stories of clergymen helping people, who believe they are possessed, liberate themselves from demons and other evil spiritual entities.

According to a Vatican-approved English translation of the document Exorcisms and Related Supplications, exorcism "is a specific form of prayer that the church uses against the power of the devil."

Little is known about the ruqyah, or the practise of exorcism in Islam. But the removal of jinns is widespread in the U.K.

Ruqyah involves reciting formulas to expel the jinns. The exorcist recites verses of the Holy Quran and hadiths, a collection of sayings from the Prophet Mohammed.

Imam Ayoub is thought to have performed spiritual healing on thousands of people, who visit him at the Masjid Mohammed Mosque in Burngreave,Sheffield, every week.

Visitors, who need to book in advance, seek the help of the imam for problems ranging from evil possessions to intimacy issues between couples.

Imam Ayoub also helps people thought to have been victims of black magic, which is traditionally conceived as the use of magic rituals for evil and selfish purposes.

"We help a variety of people each week and the numbers are never the same," he told Newsweek. "They must also come to an appointment once or twice weekly.

Imam Ayoub's services are extended to all members of society without "differentiating between religions."

"We help them by reciting Qur'an over them and giving them a treatment plan to follow," he explained.

"They must use holy oil applied on the body morning and evening and listening to the ruqyah, Quranic recitation, morning and evening."

Those who seek Imam Ayoub's help display symptoms including "headaches, insomnia, mood swings and neck and shoulder pain." They may also discover bruises on their bodies without being able to explain what has caused them.

Imam Ayoub
Imam Ayoub is thought to have performed spiritual healing on thousands of people, who visit him at the Masjid Mohammed Mosque in Burngreave,Sheffield. Imam Ayoub

The topics of Islamic exorcism made headlines in Britain in 2015, following the killing of Zakariyya Islam, a Muslim exorcist who was stabbed to death at the Ruqya Center in East London.

Speaking about the service provided at the center, a co-worked of the victim described Ruqyah as "something similar to what you would call clairvoyance."

"We recite directly from the Quran and it's the words that are very soothing," he told local media at the time.

"Everything that is damaging around you gets destroyed but lots of people don't believe or they don't understand.

"People with mental health issues—all we have to do is speak to them—not even physical contact—we just say the words.

"It's like yoga. We do the recitations from the Quran for about 30-40 minutes and people feel better."

Imam Ayoub believes that Ruqyah is an underreported topic in the U.K. and he wants to change the narrative and misconception surrounding exorcism.

"We are trying to show a positive side of Islam and its healing processes," he explained.