LAHORE " Even in this modern era of science and technology, fortune-telling is a fad for people who are obsessed with knowing about their future. One can see many fortune-tellers sitting-on-roadside while others working in well-maintained offices having clients from all strata of the society. Foreseeing the future, in our society is not merely an art or profession, but has become a booming business to make money and fool others. Newspapers and TV channels often accommodate advertisements featuring an "internationally acclaimed" fortune-teller, who will give you accurate predictions about your life. Even if you don't watch TV or read newspapers, banners and posters on roadsides catch your attention. Fortune-tellers offer their abilities in astrology, palmistry, numerology, tarots and dice according to their client's requirement. Interestingly, all of them claim to be 'the only real' ones. MM Qadria, a female soothsayer, said almost 90 per cent of fortune-tellers were fraud. "They not only pretend to be professionals, but also commit heinous crimes with their female clients. Majority of my predictions so far have been spot-on. Showbiz and political celebrities are also my clients besides people from all sections of life," she averred while professing to be a genuine one. When quizzed about names of celebrities, she refused asserting that it was a matter of confidentiality. Although the profession is viewed as disreputable, yet it is the public, which generates its popularity and acts as a catalyst for its growth. This fake business is proliferating rapidly in all societies, and its major reasons include ignorance, helplessness and weak faith of people. Those who turn to fortune-tellers for advice are mainly emotionally insecure or have financial or social problems. M. Nawaz Jhangvi, a palmist and numerologist, gave an insight why people visit his office. "People come to me, mostly women, to learn about their marriage proposals, child birth, exam results, business, career opportunities and much more. Most of them are less educated and want to hear good things. I am no one to change anyone's fate but I just give them an idea of what might happen," he said. Some fortune-tellers believe that due to the absence of any proper institution for teaching the knowledge of fortune-telling, it is being exploited as a means of minting money. So, people learn it either through books or from any professional willing to share his knowledge. In order to understand the phenomena of fortune-telling as a whole, it is imperative to know what Islam teaches us in this regard. Fortune-tellers, when asked about their practices in the context of Islam, generally defend themselves by saying that it is wrong to assume that such practices are prohibited in Islam as one can easily find the concept of Zodiacal signs discussed in Surah Al-Buruj. They also assert that the knowledge of 'Namal' (dice) was revealed upon Hazrat Danial, hence, it is not forbidden to practice the art of fortune-telling. Dr Mufti Ghulam Sarwar Qadri, an eminent Islamic scholar, rejected the claims of such fortune-tellers, "Islam strictly proscribes fortune-telling as Ilm-Ghaib only belongs to Allah therefore people must solely trust in Him and should ask for help in the form of dua and Istikhaara." He quoted a verse of Surat al-anaam, "With Him are the keys to the unseen and none knows it except Him alone." (6:59) However, people from all walks of life are seen stopping over at such places to find a "ray of light". Some people pay their initial visit just for fun but if coincidentally, any prediction is proved true, it makes them a committed client. Asif, a businessman, explained that because the predictions made in his first visit turned out to be accurate, he now consults his fortune-teller before coming to any important decision. Hibba-tul-Waheed, a student of Mass Communication, ICS, shared a different view, "Most of their job is based on guess work. People usually remember those few predictions that coincidentally come true while forgetting the many which don't." The fact of the matter is that had this fortune-telling been really beneficial, all fortune-tellers would have done something to secure their future instead of sitting on footpaths. Keeping this in mind, one should rest assure that fortune-tellers cannot give you anything, except good words. The of the hour is that in order to eradicate this social menace, government must take a serious countrywide action against the fake soothsayers. Their advertisements including wall-chalking should be banned while people must also play their part by co-operating with the government and police to identify such fake fortune-tellers and stop them from fooling the fools. "Aysha Nisar, Khadija Fatima, Faizah Sadaat