Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Evil Eyes in Al-Hassa

Let’s play a guessing game. Imagine you’re a Hasawi and try to guess what may be the single underlying cause of the following events.
1. Due to mystically sinister reasons, a large zit came into existence between my eyes which is neither coverable by make-up, nor my burga.
2. A predisposition to rashes was not the principal cause of a rash.
3. A car accident is not purely a car accident caused by the insanity and ineptitude of the majority of this country’s male drivers.
What is the causal theme between all of these distressing events? They could have all been caused by (imagine ominous and sinister sounding music here)…


THE EYE! (Dum Dum Duhhhhhhhhhhhhm sounding music here).



On Friday, we went for our usual visit to the Family’s (in-laws) house to eat lunch after Jumaat prayer. One of my daughters has several mosquito bites from leaving her window open in her room. What did my mother-in-law tell me to do for those bites? “Put Vicks”, she said assertively. My husband and I snickered silently behind her back remembering my last blog post. Then, she noticed the ghastly rash that my oldest daughter has creeping up her face. It just started up a few days ago, seemingly out of the blue. Two out of my three children have inherited my ultra-sensitive skin. I have to be so careful whenever using new skin products or perfumes to patch-test them first. Failure to do so has landed me with a face full of hives several times during my life. Upon expertly examining the offending eruptions on her grandchild’s face from several angles my mother-in-law concluded , “someone gave her an eye.” She then proceeded to treat my daughter with some special incense, holding it under her chin and reciting the name of God several times among other incantations and advised her to come over the next day to have the procedure repeated again. In addition, she sagely advised my daughter to always braid her long straight silky hair, as opposed to leaving it open and flowing at school, to avoid someone giving her hair an Eye. If that should happen, she may fall victim to spontaneous hair kinking or something dire of that nature. After all, her cousin H had a flawless complexion all her life up until someone gave her (gasp in terror-filled anticipation here for effect) THE EYE. Someone had the audacity to complement her on her skin and shortly thereafter, she fell victim to the dreaded blight of teens everywhere-the “pizza-face syndrome”. Coincidence? Hasawis think not.

During my tenure in this town, I’ve heard Eyes to be the cause of insanity, divorce, obesity, marrying a second wife, constipation, breast cancer, and car accidents among an infinite number of other things. There is not a single misfortunate event that happens in this city without someone attributing it to an EYE. Not only is this a ubiquitous mindset within the city but apparently, among Saudis we have a reputation for giving Eyes too. Before traveling with my new husband to Al-Hassa, I was advised by other Saudis that Hasawis have “strong Eyes” meaning, they have a proclivity for afflicting people Evil-Eyes. Because of this mindset, I’ve been discouraged from taking my babies with me to visit people, attend functions, or go shopping. Instead, I’ve been offered a chance to go footloose and baby-free by the In-Law Babysitting Service. Although my in-laws are lovely people and genuinely want to help me out, it’s always with the implied understanding that they’re worried someone will think my baby is cute and give their grandchild an Eye. Sometimes I give in because it’s really cool not to haul baby+accoutrements all over the place. Sometimes I insist on taking them with only to pray that the baby doesn’t come down with even a sniffle upon which to blame the Eye and my lack of parental protectiveness.
As Muslims, we believe in an “evil-eye”. It may not be exactly the same as in other cultures but the basic principle is similar: someone wishes ill-will on you while coveting something you have. It is not a hex, nor is it a curse placed upon a person, although that exists too. A person may not even be consciously aware of having afflicted someone with an Eye. However, there appears to be a gap between the Islamic understanding of an “evil-eye”, and the traditional cultural understanding. In different parts of the Muslim world, different groups attempt to ward off Eyes/curses with different methods. Thanks to widely available religious training, much of the shirk and pseudo-Islamic voodoo that occurs in other countries is slowly becoming extinct amongst Saudis with every generation of educated individuals that is produced. Saudis tend to use avoidance as a means to ward off an eye. The idea is: what’s not seen or talked about, can’t be coveted. This has lead to some unnecessary extremes. For example, upon her family’s urging, one girl at my daughter’s primary school covers her hair with a scarf to protect her from an eye while everyone else is uncovered.
I’m sure every group within this country has its own vanishing variety of hocus pocus intended to ward off or rid oneself of the Eye. Some people hang a passage from the Quran from the review mirror of their car or around their neck as an engraved necklace. I’ve seen little blue eyes inlayed in jewelry. A sister residing in Canada wrote me of her native Tunisia and described the wide assortment of amulets, magicians, and soothsayers. There’s one problem with this…they’re ALL wrong. All though the Quran can ward off an Eye, it has to be in your heart, not around your neck.
Now, it had been my intention to provide some pearls of Islamic wisdom but there’s a big problem with this, I’m ignorant. At least as an Islamic scholar I’m ignorant. I know what I’m not supposed to do but I don’t have exact info on what I AM supposed to do to ward off an Eye, just a general idea or two. I know to recite ayat Al-Kursi to protect myself from an Eye and to wash or drink from the water that an Eye-giver has washed in to remove a legitimate Eye. I’m waiting for my friend to get back to me with actual Ahadith from her Imam husband. I’ll update my post after she does. (updated info in comments section)


Meanwhile, don’t be so paranoid my fellow Hassawis. I shalt not covet my neighbor’s Caprice. So don’t blame my Eye when you get in that fender-bender with a Qatari’s Land Cruiser because your view was obstructed by a windshield covered in the chewed-up/spit-out sunflower seed shells you tried to orally project out the window whilst speeding and simultaneously picking your nose. Not everything bad happens because someone has it out for you. Sometimes it’s just the will of God or your own stupidity and one must acknowledge that Sh** happens.
By the way, my husband- a Hasawi to the core- got a kick out of my last post. After reading it he first gave me a playful smack to the back of my head before asking me to send him the link so he could send it to his friends. Truth hurts. And yes, he owned a white Caprice. That should say everything.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

asalaamu alaikum!
on a whim i typed in stepford wife (increasingly i get the impression from my husband that thats how he wants me to be!) into google and was intrigued when i saw the entry for your blog 9 places down.i was so happy that there are sisters like you out there who are writing.and your entries are all soo funny, i cant wait to read your future upcoming topics,keep up the good work!

desertflower12 said...

The correct info on the eye:

I think it would be best to define the evil eye and understand it as the religious scholars do. Ibn Qayyim said: The origin of the evil eye is to like something, then the evil soul follows it {evil soul here means someone who has envy}, pursues it and seeks to harm it, seeking help to apply its poison by looking at the object.

Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said: What is meant by the evil eye is looking at something with admiration contaminated with envy.

The following is evidence from the Quran and Sunnah of the validity of the evil eye.
The Quran says:

"And he said: 'O my sons! Do not enter by one gate, but enter by different gates, and I cannot avail you against God at all. Verily, the decision rests only with God. In Him I put my trust and let all those that trust, put their trust in him.'" 12:67

"And verily, those who disbelieve would almost make slip with their eyes {through hatred} when they hear the reminder {the Quran}. 68:51

The Messenger of God said:

"Seek refuge with God from the evil eye, for the evil eye is real."

"The evil eye is real and if anything were to overtake the divine decree, the evil eye would do so. If you are asked to {wash to treat someone for the effects of the evil eye} then do so"

Imam Al-Nawawi said this hadith confirms that neither the evil eye nor anything else can cause harm or do any good except by the decree of God.

Abu Umaamah Sahl ibn Haneef said: Abu Sahl ibn Haneef made ghusl in the Al-Kharaar{a well}. He took off his cloak, and Aamir ibn Rabee'ah was looking at him. Sahl was very white, with beautiful skin. 'Aamir said: "I have never seen anything as beautiful as this, not even the skin of a virgin." And Sahl fell to the ground and became very sick. The messenger of God was told about his sickness, and it was said to him: "He cannot raise his head," He said:

"Do you accuse anyone with regard to him?"

They said: "Aamir ibn Rabee'ah" The messenger of God called him and rebuked him strongly, and then he said:

"Why would one of you kill his brother? Why did you not pray for blessings for him? Wash yourself for him."

So, Aamir washed his face, hands, forearms, knees and the sides of his feet, and the inside of his izar in a vessel, then it was poured over him from behind, and Sahl recovered straight away. This is the first recorded case of evil eye between to companions of the prophet that happened during the time of the prophet.

There are two groups the evil eye can be broken into. The first being deadly affects which bring rapid results and have no remedy.

Sheik Abdul Aziz Ibn baz told the story of a man in one of the villages of Riyadh, who passed by some sheep belonging to another man. He put the evil eye on them and they all died. When the owner came and saw all his sheep dead, he asked his son, "Who passed by you?" His son replied that no one had passed by the sheep except so-and-so. The owner of the sheep went to him and found him on the roof of a new building that belonged to him. He called out: "O so-and-so you passed by my sheep and did such and such. Now you will pay me back either in your body or your building. The building owner came down and the building clasped at once.

The second group is non-deadly and has three different remedies.

The first is in the form of prevention and that is to ask for blessing upon those people and things that we like. The messenger of Allah said:

"If one of you sees something that his brother has, let him pray for blessings for him.
If one of you sees something that he likes in himself or his wealth, let him pray for blessings for it, for the evil eye is real.

We can see from the above hadith that if one asks for blessings upon the things we like then no harm of the evil eye can befall another. However like all things in Islam there is a Sunnah way to go about asking for blessings and they are the following.

When one sees something in oneself then they should say "MashAllah". If they see something in someone else they should say "Tabarak Allah". These blessings are interchangeable. The Quran says:

"It was better for you to say, when you entered your garden: 'That which God wills will come to pass! There is no power but with God!" 18:39

The second are the remedies after the evil eye has happened.

If the person who put the evil on another is known, then that person should make ghusl or wudoo and save the water used when doing so. Then this water should be poured over the afflicted one. This will cancel out the evil eye and heal them. If one is asked to give the water of their wudoo or ghusl then one is obliged to do so. The prophet said:

"If you are asked to wash, then do so."

Sometimes the person who gave the evil eye is unknown or not obvious and this brings us to the third remedy which is ruqyah and dhikr. However not just ruqyah or dhikr are being used. There is a lot a bid'ah that people indulge in when it comes to this issue. One should only use the prescribed methods of the sharee'ah. The following methods are authentic ways to cure oneself of the evil eye through means of ruqyah and dhikr.

First the sick person should recite some dhikr that is intended to word of evil and offer the believer some protection. Ayat Al-kursy recited once after every prayer and before bed and the Al-Mu'awwidhaat {last three chapters of the Quran} recited three times after morning and evening prays and once in the remaining prayers. Also one can lay on their right side before sleeping and recite al-Mu'awwidhaat and Ayat Al-kursy into cupped hands and when finished wiping hands all over their body.
One should also just read Quran…no specific chapters but just go back to it and spend time reading it. It is also important to make dhikr throughout our daily routines. There are supplications that are meant to protect us and keep us remembering God. One should remember to recite them before undressing, entering the bathroom, entering or exiting ones home or transportation, pouring hot liquid down the drain. All of these things can be done as prevention or after the fact. Some really important supplications that can be used to see refuge in God for any occasion are the following:

" A'oodh bi kalimaat-illaah il-taammati min sharri ma khalaq" {I seek refuge in the perfect words of God from the evil of that which he has created}

"Bismillaahil lathee laa yadhurru ma'as mihi shay'un fil-ardhi wa laa fis-sama wa huwas samee'ul aleem" {In the name of God who, with his name nothing can cause harm in neither the earth nor the heavens, and he is the all-hearing, the all knowing.}

Wearing of any kind of amulets or verse of the Quran is forbidden. The prophet said:

"Whoever ties on an amulet has committed shirk"

Wearing amulets is shirk because one is placing their faith and trust in other then God to help them. Some Saudis will tell you that drinking from the same cup of someone you believe to have given you an evil eye is a remedy but it is not prescribed in the Quran or Sunnah. They will even go so far has to invite a number of guests,serve them all and afterwards washing all the cups that the guests drank out of keeping the water and then drinking it cause they are not sure who gave them the evil eye. Others will keep wolves hair because they think that Jinn are afraid of wolves.

One should also know that Jinn as well as humans can cause the evil eye that is why we say "bismillah"{in the name of God} before undressing and pouring hot liquid down the drain.

It is important to know that believers as well as non-believers can be inflicted with and inflict the evil eye.

To avoid committing acts of shirk one should make sure that they take cures and remedies from authentic sources and that if they themselves don't know they should ask someone who understands Islam according to the Quran and Sunnah. We should not part take in other kinds of cures because it is culture or something your family has been doing for as long as you can remember. We have a responsibility to find out what is authentic and to avoid things that are not because God will ask us on the Day of Judgment.

Unlike saudi stepford wife I don't have a close relationship with my in-laws so my exposure to Saudis is some what limited to the people I work with, my students and the few Saudi friends I have made. I have not really seen any of the superstitions in action. While I was at work today finishing up the information ssw asked me for I decided to bring up the subject of evil eye to see what the would say and sure enough each of them had a story of some friend or relative who has suffered from the evil eye. Most had some misunderstanding about the Islamic cures and had been partaking in some form of shirk or non-Sunnah manner of treatment for the evil eye. Some even became angry when I told them some of the things were in fact considered bid'ah. When asked if they thought Al-Hassa was known for giving the eye they agreed but one said that Qassim was worse.

Anonymous said...

I believe in the eye,ie it happens but wouldn't go to such lengths to *break it*. I pray to Allah for the best outcome. I once heard that by taking the person's hair who gave you the evil eye and burning it, I heard of this while in Dubai. sf