It is mentioned on the website (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/sylvia-browne-coronavirus/) that self-described psychic, Sylvia Browne, "predicted" a 2020 outbreak of the new coronavirus. What is the response to this in light of Quran and Sunnah?
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Allāh says "Say: None in the heavens and the earth knows the ghayb (unseen) except Allāh" (Qur'ān, 27:65), and the knowledge of the unseen includes the knowledge of what will happen in the future. Only Allāh has perfect and complete knowledge of the unseen.
However, the jinns sometimes try to eavesdrop on conversations happening in the heavens, where Allāh decrees certain matters in the presence of angels. Allāh says: "And We have placed within the heaven great stars and have beautified it for the observers. And We have guarded it against every devil expelled [from the mercy of Allāh]; Except one who hears in stealth, and is then pursued by a clear burning flame." (Qur'ān, 15:16-18).
It is possible that a jinn may somehow receive a small portion of the knowledge of the future and pass it on before being chased by the flame. It is reported that some people asked the Prophet ﷺ about fortunetellers: "Some of what they talk about comes true". The Prophet ﷺ said, "That word which happens to be true is what a jinn snatches away by stealth (from the heavens) and pours it in the ears of his friend (the fortuneteller) with a sound like the cackling of a hen. The fortunetellers then mix with that word, one hundred lies" (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, ḥadīth 7561). Therefore, while no one has complete and perfect knowledge of the future except Allāh, it is possible that a small amount of knowledge which was disclosed to the angels by Allāh was overheard by an evil jinn and then passed on to a fortuneteller (mixed with many lies).
Human nature is such that even if a fortuneteller makes 25 predictions, and only one of them comes true, we tend to be fascinated by that single true prediction. As an example, Sylvia Browne made numerous incorrect predictions, but people have fixated on this one possibly true prediction about the coronavirus. Keep in mind that when a person makes countless predictions, some of them are likely to come true simply based on probability.
Only Allah knows best
Written by Shaykh Umer Khan
Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham