The hamsa (Arabic: خمسة khamsah, also romanized khamsa, meaning lit. “five”) is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and commonly used in jewelry and wall hangings. Depicting the open right hand, an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many societies throughout history, the hamsa is believed to provide defense against the evil eye (bad eye). The symbol predates Christianity and Islam. In Islam, it is also known as the hand of Fatima, so named to commemorate Muhammad’s daughter Fatima Zahra (c. 605 or 615 – 633). Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary, for the Virgin Mary. Jews refer to it as the hand of Miriam in remembrance of the biblical Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron.
In Turkish this sign is called: ‘pence-i al-i aba’, with ‘pence’ meaning ‘hand’ or ‘five’, referring to the household of the Islamic Prophet Muhammed. The household of Muhammed is enumerated as those five people the prophet hold a cloth over them, they are:
- Fatima-tül Zehra
- Ali-el Mürteza
- Hasan-ül Mücteba
- Hüseyin-i Desht-i Kerbela
Hand of Fatima known as good luck symbol and protect from bad eyes. Also Khamsa is an Arabic word that literally means “five”, but also “the five fingers of the hand same as symbol.
The Hand (Khamsa), particularly the open right hand, is a sign of protection that also represents blessings, power, and strength, and is seen as potent in deflecting the evil eye. One of the most common components of gold and silver jewellery in the region, historically and traditionally, it was most commonly carved in jet or formed from silver, a metal believed to represent purity and hold magical properties. It is also painted in red (sometimes using the blood of a sacrificed animal) on the walls of houses for protection, or painted or hung on the doorways of rooms, such as those of an expectant mother or new baby. The hand can be depicted with the fingers spread apart to ward off evil, or as closed together to bring good luck. Highly stylized versions may be difficult to recognize as hands, and can consist of five circles representing the fingers, situated around a central circle representing the palm. It symbolizes the Five Pillars of Islam for Sunnis, and the Five People of the Cloak for Shi’ites.
Used to protect against evil eye, a malicious stare believed to be able to cause illness, death, or just general unluckiness, hamsas often contain an eye symbol. Depictions of the hand, the eye, or the number five in Arabic (and Berber) tradition are related to warding off the evil eye, as exemplified in the saying khamsa fi ainek (“five in your eye”). Raising one’s right hand with the palm showing and the fingers slightly apart is part of this curse meant “to blind the aggressor.” Another formula uttered against the evil eye in Arabic, but without hand gestures, is khamsa wa-khamis (“five and Thursday”). As the fifth day of the week, Thursday is considered a good day for magic rites and pilgrimages to the tombs of revered saints to counteract the effects of the evil eye.
The number five in Islam is connected to the open hand, the pentagram of the five senses, marriage, the Five Pillars of Islam, the five daily prayers, and the hand of Fatima. Sufi staffs or poles are often topped with a khamsa. Among Shiites, the fingers of the hand of Fatima also represent the ‘five holy persons’ of Muhammed’s family: Muhammed, Fatima, Ali, Hassan, and Hussein. Ali’s name or those of all of The Twelve Imams are sometimes engraved on metal Hands of Fatima. Hamsas can also include a heart, a hexagram, or the word Allah inscribed in the palm of the hand.
Due to its significance in both Arabic and Berber culture, the hamsa is one of the national symbols of Algeria and appears in its emblem. It is also the most popular among the different amulets(such as the Eye and the Hirz—a silver box containing verses of the Quran) for warding off the evil eye in Egypt. Egyptian women who live in baladi (“traditional”) urban quarters often makekhamaysa which are amulets made up of five (khamsa) objects to attach to their children’s hair or black aprons. The five objects can be made of peppers, hands, circles, or stars hanging from hooks.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, the widespread use of the talisman by Jews from Islamic countries was considered a sign of ‘Easternness’, looked down upon in the EurocentricAshkenazi cultural milieu that dominated.
Wish you good luck!