Exorcism Contracts

by on July 29, 2012  •  In Contracts, Imams

One of my most interesting assignments involve advising an Imam who wishes to limit his liability exposure during Exorcisms.

While most popular culture images of exorcisms arose from the 1973 move called “The Exorcist” starring Linda Blair as the demonic child, interest continues with widely-disseminated stories of Catholic priests performing exorcisms.  The most famous appears to be a quite elderly priest known as Gabriele Amorth who has written two books on the subject and claims to have performed tens of thousands of exorcisms per year.  However, it appears he is not a Vatican official and does not carry out his activities under the Pope or under Vatican license.

Exorcisms in the Islamic world appear to be much less popularly known in Canada and the United States, though such exorcism services are becoming more widely available in North America.

As my Imam client explained to me, there are generally three sub-categories of “exorcism” that he is usually called upon to deal with: (1) Evil Eye; (2) Black Magic; and (3) Jinn.

Sub-categories 1 and 2 have similar equivalents in most other religions and cultures, including those in the West.

In fact, as an aside, fraudulently pretending to exercise witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration is apparently a summary conviction offence under the Criminal Code.  A 2009 victim of such a practitioner of the Dark Arts, turned out to be a lawyer, of all people. The accused witch plead guilty to fraud in 2010.

As a further aside, I, myself, had the occasion to counsel a victim of such type of fraud that went further than seeking just money.  A poor woman who had felt she was under the spell of an Evil Eye went to a Black Magic practitioner to help her get rid of it.  The practitioner was not an Imam, but another woman who had a reputation for helping women in these types of situations.  Though the practitioner did not call herself a witch, she apparently engaged in an elaborate non-Islamic ritual that purportedly involved the slaughter of a cat.  In a follow-up session, the witch sexually assaulted the victim.  The victim was not only humiliated and frightened, but she was also too intimidated to go to the police because the witch had told her that she (the victim) would be arrested for animal cruelty.  Eventually, through advising her husband, we managed to get her to go to the police and file a complaint which led to charges and arrest of this witch as well.  As far as I learned, no cats were ever actually harmed in the making of this fraud and assault.

Now, let’s get back to the main matter of this post.  With sub-category 3 above, the Muslim concept of Satan/Devil is a little different, in that he is considered to come from the race of beings known as the Jinn,  said to be composed of “smokeless fire” (energy?), and whose primary power over humans is leading them astray through whispers and temptations.

According to my Imam client (and other mainstream Imams in Canada who I have heard speak on the subject), Jinn possession causes a person to often speak and act in different voice and manner than they ordinarily would.  How they distinguish a medical condition from a spiritual problem is an art based on their education (both secular and religious) and experiences.

The main component of an Islamic “exorcism” involves recitation of the Quran in a ritual of spiritual healing.  The person who is undergoing such a ritual may react in a number of ways, including violently.  My client Imam, who does not physically touch the subject person, always ensures that the person comes with family members and/or friends who may be called upon to act if things get out of hand.

While Priests affiliated with the Vatican probably have some kind of insurance (likely the Church self-insuring itself) in the event of damages or injuries resulting from an exorcism, most Sunni Imams, who do this either for free as a community service or to earn extra income, are on their own. These Imams will have to look out for themselves as there is probably no commercial insurance available and no Canadian Islamic institutions able or willing to take the financial risk in case something goes wrong.  So, maybe as a last resort (save God), that’s where a lawyer can come in handy to help draft just the right contract.

The broad issues to be dealt with in such a contract are similar to, perhaps a combination of, those found in (a) service contracts; (b) medical consent to treatment forms, and (c) where minors are involved, the approval of guardians or parents.

The Imam should ask for all relevant disclosure while assuring confidentiality.  The subject has to generally be informed of the procedures and made aware of the consequences that could result, including nothing at all (i.e. a failure to cure).

I can put into the Imam’s contract all sorts of legalese terms to disclaim or limit liability exposure for him, but he has to ensure that the contract is read and understood by the subject and the applicable parents/guardians.  While that may require a language translator, I’ve also put a clause  into the contract to the effect that the subject person has been provided the opportunity to obtain independent legal advice.  I hope the potential “exorcisee” does in fact seek their own legal counsel as I look forward to feedback from my legal colleagues.  No experience in the occult necessary.

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Irfan is a Business and Charities lawyer as well as a Trademark Agent. He is a principal in the firm of Kutty, Syed & Mohamed based in Toronto (Scarborough), Ontario, Canada. His clients range from individual entrepreneurs, family businesses and private companies to not-for-profit organizations, charitable institutions and public companies.