Spiritual healers are common in every religion, and Islam is no exception. But while faith healers in other religions were criticized for fraud, Quranic healers, also called raqi, were prone to sexually abusing and exploiting their female clients.
Investigating the 'spiritual healers' sexually abusing women https://t.co/8Ck5NZEWDa
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 8, 2023
A recent report by BBC News Arabic sought to uncover this hidden world of exploitation and abuse by men working as "spiritual healers,” particularly in Morocco and Sudan, where such practices remain widespread. For the report, the BBC gathered testimonies from 85 women in these countries for over a year.
They also talked with NGOs, courts, lawyers, and women to gather and verify stories of abuse, rape, and harassment. An undercover reporter was even sent and was inappropriately touched by one of the so-called Quranic healers before leaving the scene.
One of the women they interviewed for the report was Dalal, a Moroccan woman in her late 20s. She was given a false name to secure her identity. Dalal once visited a Quranic healer in Casablanca to seek treatment for her depression.
There is nothing spirituality. These are all frauds.
— Amalendu Dhar (@AmalenduDhar65) August 8, 2023
The healer said that a "jinn lover" possessed her, then asked her to smell a specific musky smell, which turned out to be laced with a drug, before losing consciousness.
Dalal, who never had any sexual experience before, woke up with her underwear removed and realized the healer had raped her “to make the jinn leave your body.” She was extremely ashamed of what happened, and her shame only grew when she found out she was pregnant.
The common through-line I see in the religious communities I investigate for sexual abuse is this: Unquestioned authority.
You can have the nicest, best and kindest creeds in the world, but if your spiritual leader rules alone, and through fear, abuse will thrive.
— Carol Merchasin (@CarolMerchasin) August 8, 2023
When she asked the healer about the baby, he reasoned that the jinn could have impregnated her during the “healing” process. After giving birth, Dalal put the baby up for adoption and feared telling her parents or the authorities about the experience.
Another woman who was a victim of sexual abuse by a spiritual healer was Sawsan, a woman from Sudan. She approached a healer after her husband left her for his second wife, hoping she could get a medicine that would make her husband treat her better. But Sawsan did not expect the “treatment” the healer suggested.
In this country, they’re called ‘priests’.
— The spirit of Diderot (@UK_Republic) August 8, 2023
"He said he would have sex with me and use the resulting body fluids to concoct a potion I should feed to my husband," Sawsan narrated.
Sawsan left the session immediately and did not return again. But Sawsan is not alone. BBC News Arabic discovered that the healer was Sheikh Ibrahim, and three other Sudanese women they interviewed confirmed he either manipulated or forced them to have sex with him.
An undercover reporter was sent to learn more about this spiritual healer in Sudan, visiting him under the guise of seeking infertility treatment. The journalist, given the name Reem, narrated that Sheikh Ibrahim moved closer to her, inappropriately touching her in the stomach and then down to her genitals while she objected. Reem quickly left the scene, while the healer denied sexually abusing female clients in an interview with BBC.
5/10 Sheikh Ibrahim's denial of the allegations was resolute, but our evidence tells another story. Hear his side of the story and decide for yourselves in our revealing interview. pic.twitter.com/lfBEj8IZ7f
— Mamdouh Akbik (@mamdouhakbiek) August 8, 2023
With their collected testimonies and evidence, the BBC approached political authorities in Sudan and Morocco to seek their comment on the issue. Both Moroccan and Sudanese authorities were reluctant to address the issue, with the former saying that intervening legally in such matters is difficult and the latter admitting the lack of regulation causing the issue but saying that it is not a priority due to the current political situation in Sudan.