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The evil eye an obsession for most Middle Eastern families.

Summary: JEDDAH: Some Saudi and Arab families are overly obsessed with the fear that someone will envy them or give them the evil eye. As a result, some people resort to extreme measures, such as living poorly or always pretending to be sick.

By DIANA AL-JASSEM | ARAB NEWS

Like many other cultures, the evil eye concept exists in Arab societies, with envy and hatred often considered a cause. As a result, many people believe the evil eye can cause impairment, sterility, childbirth problems, deficient breast milk, domestic problems, accidents, illnesses and unemployment.

The evil eye is also thought to affect children, adults, livestock and people's possessions. People who are young, wealthy and particularly handsome are considered more at risk.

Hala Yehya, a Saudi housewife, said the evil eye is a reality that exists in society. She doesn't care if people get angry at how she reacts when someone expresses his or her admiration at her beauty or something that she is wearing.

"I immediately ask them to say 'Masha Allah' or repeat certain phrases to drive away the evil eye. It is always difficult to deal with people who are prone to give the evil eye. Those are people I try to avoid as much as possible. Reading certain phrases of the Holy Qur'an to avoid the evil eye gives some protection but it doesn't work with some," she said.

"We've heard about traditional ways to avoid the evil eye by saying 'Masha Allah' in front of the person who is envious. Some people get angry when I act this way but I don't care because my health is more important than how they feel," Yehya said.

Hnadi Al-Hassoon, a Syrian housewife, is living a very narrow life as she does not trust her friends and always fears someone will become envious of her lifestyle and happy marriage.

"Recently, when I moved to a new apartment, a friend of mine who is well known for casting the evil eye visited me and complemented the house without saying 'Masha Allah'. Two days later and without any warning one of the rooms went on fire as a result of an electricity short circuit. Some might say it is a coincidence but no one can convince me that it was not the evil eye," she said.

Buthaina Maghrabi, a Saudi employee at the Ministry of Education and mother of three girls, believes that keeping everything secret is the perfect way to avoid the evil eye.

"My elderly daughter graduated from Effat University two years ago. People around us told us that she would get a good job and a husband in no time. My daughter's been unlucky on both counts," she said.

"Learning from this experience, I've decided to keep everything secret and not make announcements. Recently, when a man asked for my elder daughter's hand in marriage, I didn't inform anyone and will still keep it a secret until things are finalized," she added.

Nahed Abu Asal, a Jordanian housewife and mother of one, said she has always claimed her son is sick and weak since giving birth to him to ensure he doesn't get the evil eye.

In her tradition, the birth of sons is much more valued than the birth of daughters.

North African families still stick to their old traditions to avoid the evil eye, said Saaeda Boushwisha, a Moroccan mother of three.

"To avoid the evil eye we sprinkle water at places where envious people have sat in your home. They also sprinkle water on the door once an envious person leaves," said Boushwisha.

"In our tradition, to protect a newborn from the evil eye, we put a knife under his or her pillow. When I gave birth to my two sons, my mother became very obsessed and insisted I follow old traditions to avoid the evil eye. I gave birth to my third baby in Saudi Arabia and forgot what my mother did. I only read the Qur'an to protect him," he said.

Mansour bin Askar, a professor in Islamic studies at King Saud University, said the belief in the evil eye is part of Arab tradition.

"The belief in the evil eye is embedded in the folklore of all traditional Middle Eastern societies. The common Arabic name for the evil eye is 'ayn'," he said.

"Islam advises people to use various methods to protect themselves from the evil eye and to treat its symptoms. These methods of protection and cure are performed by faith healers who play a vital role in treating the evil eye," he said, adding that they sometimes work and sometimes do not.

Beliefs regarding the evil eye persist.

"Islam has clarified that the evil eye does exist and one should avoid it. Most families get angry when people complain about the evil eye, but they should not. It is mentioned in the Qur'an," he added.

Copyright: Arab News 2009 All rights reserved.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Dec 31, 2010
Words:828
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