The hamsa (also called a hamesh, Hand of Fatima, Hand of Miriam, or Hand of God) is an ancient Middle Eastern symbol for protection from the evil eye.
You woke up to a flat tire in the morning. You spilled a steaming hot coffee on your leg on your morning drive to work. A large tree branch fell on you as you took a stroll on a sidewalk. Most people would chalk these events up to mere coincidence or simply a bout of bad luck. But a trip across the ocean to the Middle East reveals that it is a whole other ball game.
Often labeled â€˜fatalistsâ€™ by the heavily biased western media itâ€™s true that most Muslims in the Middle East,as well as the rest of the world, put their lives wholeheartedly in the hands of God. However, for Arab Muslims there is an equally intense belief in the â€˜evil eyeâ€™ and a plethora of preventative measures to ward it off, depending on the culture. In a nutshell, the evil eye basically means that someone covets something that you have and thus taints it. Soon after you, or the aforementioned item, typically faces some sort of calamity. Itâ€™s not uncommon for every ill to befall someone to be intensely scrutinized to find the exact moment that the evil eye contaminated it.
For this reason, amulets of various sorts adorn objects that would otherwise be left â€˜unprotectedâ€™. Itâ€™s not uncommon to see brand new, or even passably nice, sports cars with decals in Arabic that read, â€œIn the name of Godâ€ or â€œPraise Godâ€. Other places for the amulets to reside include the front doors of apartments and mansions, sometimes in every room of the house. Even newborn babies often are adorned with a small gold brooch on their night suits with the words â€œIn the Name of Godâ€ before they are brought out to visitors. The concept is to basically ensure that someone recognizes the gift the person possesses as coming from God before they can desire it.
To the person unfamiliar with Islam, it might seem like a whole lot of hocus-pocus. But the evil eye is a reality that is mentioned in the Holy Quran and something that the Prophet Muhammad (s) himself was very well acquainted with. The recommendation from the Sunnah of Muhammad (s) is to recite certain verses from the Holy Quran and to pray for sincere protection from God Almighty. For many Muslims, just the thought of the evil eye is enough to send a cold shudder right down the spine.
As a result, some clever opportunists have seized the opportunity to make a profit off the fear and suffering of others. In most of the Gulf countries there exists some people, who by all appearances are extremely religious, who claim to be specialists in treating the effects of the evil eye. Many offer their services albeit for a price. Most charge cash money for reciting verses of the Holy Quran over the afflicted person while others will recite the Quran for free so long as the person purchases one of their homemade homeopathic remedies. Since the belief in the evil eye is so widespread, and the people seeking to profit from it even wider, authorities can not do much to eradicate the supposed remedy which is often much more evil than the cause.