by Virginia Carraway Stark
In the Arab world three things are commonly held to influence many aspects of life: envy, magic and genies. Even stronger than magic and genies seems to be the evil eye. “The evil eye broke a stone in half” is a common proverb that means that the evil eye, or the power of envy can have strong physical effects, even stronger than the stones themselves! Envy worries many people in the Arabian world and many times this superstition will cause them to even think twice before buying something new for fear that it will cause envy and conceivably hurt them or their loved ones in unforeseen ways.
People strive to protect themselves from the evil eye by saying verses from the Qur’an and by saying specialized prayers. They will also wear blue beads and the symbol of the palm of a hand to deflect or attract away the gaze of the evil eye. These beliefs in blue protection and the hand are not unique to the United Arabs Emirate or even to the Arab world, they are however extremely prevalent. Other superstitious talisman are used to protect themselves such as raising their hand palm held outward in the face or direction of someone who shows signs of envy or other negative traits.
Envy, magic and genies are accepted as a reality, although how much power they have is believed to be different by different people. Some people in the UAE and in other Arab countries live their entire lives allowing superstition to dictate many aspects of their lives.
Sacrifice of animals and the use of bloody hand prints are other more extreme tactics that are used to protect large purchases such as cars. This seems extreme to a Western standpoint but seem to be an accepted aspect of life in Arab countries as a necessary and wise precaution.
Another extreme precaution is to give children names that are laughable or shameful. Naming a child, ‘Shahhat’ which translates to ‘beggar’ is one of many names that parents use to show people and spirits that a child isn’t worth having envy towards and thus protects them. There are many stories about children being dressed in rags or left dirty to further protect them when blue beads and hamsa hands aren’t enough. This practice is even done by affluent and royal families in the past.
Certain things are seen as omens while other things are just taboo. For example: it invites misfortune to touch a needle and thread after dark. You must also never clean the house except in the afternoon and if you discover your shoes are crossed or flipped over then it is a sign of conflict or even some disaster befalling no just the owner of the shoes but the entire household. The United Arab Emirates has a strong belief in religion but it has as strong of a belief in superstition and is a serious subject that walks hand in hand with magic and genii.