Saudi Arabia: Does the Evil Eye Really Exist?

Whether you are an expatriate or a Saudi and have expressed admiration of a Saudi or of something he or she has or has done, the Saudi may appear discomforted and tell you to say “mash’allah.”  Why?  Because they may interpret what you have innocently said to rather be a message of being envious and “giving that individual the evil eye.”

The evil eye, you may say.  What on earth is the evil eye?  According to Wikipedia, the evil eye is a look that is superstitiously believed by many cultures to be able to cause injury or bad luck for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike. The term also refers to the power attributed to certain persons of inflicting injury or bad luck by such an envious or ill-wishing look.

The “evil eye” is also known as “ain al hasoud (عين الحسود)”

Belief in the evil eye is found in Islamic doctrine, based upon the statement of Prophet Muhammad, “The influence of an evil eye is a fact…” [Sahih Muslim, Book 26, Number 5427].[8] Authentic practices of warding off the evil eye are also commonly practiced by Muslims: rather than directly expressing appreciation of, for example, a child’s beauty, it is customary to say Masha’Allah, that is, “God has willed it,” or invoking God’s blessings upon the object or person that is being admired.[9] Aside from beliefs based upon authentic Islamic texts, a number of unsubstantiated beliefs about the evil eye are found in folk religion, typically revolving around the use of amulets or talismans as a means of protection.

When a family has had an unusual number of accidents or griefs occur it is not unusual for Saudis to say that they have been encased by the evil eye.  Some families may ask for an Islamic scholar to come to their home and “exorcise” it from the evil eye.  Other practices to “ward off the evil eye” have been to have Quranic verses inlaid on walls in rooms of the house or have images displayed which are believed to ward off the evil eye.  One can easily find beads and other trinkets in many of the markets and souks that abound in Saudi to ward off the evil eye.

If a family believes in the evil eye it is not appropriate for a non-believer to scoff, laugh or humiliate them.  This recent Arab News article illustrates the levels individuals will go to in attempts to avoid being given the evil eye whether intentionally or unintentionally.


30 Responses

  1. The evil eye exists if you believe it does. I remember when I went to India for the first time and I walked in on my MIL in the kitchen burning incense and other things in a little pile. I was told it was for protection from the evil eye. To be honest I was a bit blown away by that as I had never been exposed to something like that before. Then when I got scolded by my highly educated ( eye surgeon) SIL for not wrapping my babies bottle in a towel to prevent the evil eye I couldn’t hold my tongue another minute and said ” for goodness sake you are an educated woman. Do you HONESTLY believe in all that stuff?” The withering stare the entire family gave me on the spot told me that all of them (except my husband) took the evil eye seriously. I pretended to do so as well in case there was some weird negative coincidental thing that might happen as I didn’t want to be blamed for all eternity for attracting doom to the family…how would that look? a foreigner and a lightning rod for bad spirits..what would the neighbors say??? LOL!

  2. I recognize bad things happen, but I don’t believe someone else’s envy can make any kind of evil eye hurt me. I trust God’s protection over what anyone else can wish for me intentionally or not. Is God not stronger than they?

    But interesting info, nevertheless. Now i can understand all those mashallahs I see around the blogs.

  3. As a Muslim,I believe that it does exist. I do however think that in many Muslim societies (and indeed in partsof the Mditerranean, too) fear of evil eye is a bit too all consuming.

    Unchecked, it can lead to a great deal of suspicion of others. The answer for a Muslim is to seek protection from jealousy and the like by reciting the last three surahs from the Quran in the morning and the evening. If, after doing this, you continue to harbour paranoia about it, then you clearly are failing to put your trust in Allah’s promise.

  4. @Susanne,

    “can understand all those mashallahs”

    It’s partly to offer reassurances to others- when commenting on a photo of someone’s children alot of people are careful to use it.

    But the main reason for the Ma sha Allah is simply to remember Allah;that all blessings/situations are from Him and represents an opportunity to humble ourselves before Allah.

    Ma sha Allah is also used when describing less favourable conditions, such as, “He lost all of his money,ma sha Allah”.In this case the speaker is recognising that the situation was willed by Allah.

  5. “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.”

    As far as I’m aware,you cannot attribute evil eye to someone unless something were to occur on the spot. This unecessarily labels and stigmatises innocent people. Whatever happened to belief in Divine destiny?

  6. Belief in the “evil eye” is an oxy moron in my opinion. The evil eye is supposed to be a direct result of someone “spreading evil” by saying something with jealousy or evil intent…but then…nothing can happen without Gods will….so is God the “evil eye” in all this?

    Sounds like it.

  7. Well, I don’t if it exist, or not, I personally don’t believe in it, you just can’t lock yourself in the house for fear you might beeee hit by the evil eye…

  8. I don’t know*

  9. In the Hispanic culture the evil eye exists also. It is called “mal de ojo” and I remember mom telling me stories when she was a child there was this elderly lady who would “admire” something you had and then it would either die or get sick (if a person) or if an object you would lose it, or a plant it would die. My brother bought me a Virgin Mary with baby Jesus protector from Turkey which reminds me of medieval tapestries. A row of tiny metal crosses adorn the bottom and off of that hands one of those blue symbols. It hands in my kitchen.

  10. I would like to add that in Turkey, it is consider rude to compliment someones new born baby as it will bring bad luck, th envy eye.
    I have tons of the ‘evil eye’ dislpays and have grown to like it very much….

  11. @Oby,

    “Then when I got scolded by my highly educated ( eye surgeon) SIL”

    We have scientific proof. Who would know better about Evil Eyes than an eye surgeon. The evil eye exists!!!!

  12. The evil eye is a pagan idea that just leads to irrational paranoia. It paralyzes social progress, and is not worthy of anyone who believes in one almighty God. In poorer societies, there is not a supernatural power, but the drastic inequities create people jealous of any good that comes to another and people that go out of their way to see others’ happiness reduced, as if it is some sort of zero sum game. Is that really worthy of God?

  13. The protection from evil eye is not some amulets and displays as many overly superstitious Muslims believe. As Prophet sallahAllahu Alayhi Wa sallam taught us, we must seek protection from Allah, and ones affected should recite the last 3 Surahs of Quran and ask Allah for protection.

    Evil eye exists where such things are believed in and practiced widely. Here in US, I feel very safe from it and never care for someone’s evil eye harming me. However, in Middle East, Northern Africa and Asia, it’s widely practiced idea. There are people (mostly women) who practice witchcraft and spells. While most are sham, some are very legit and can seriously harm the victim. I was very seriously affected once without knowledge. I didnt even believe in such stuff, but repeated visits to doctors didn’t help. When my grandma did “ruqiya” on me (reciting certain verces from Quran) I felt instant relief. There are envious people, more in certain cultures than other places, who are willing to go to any extent to harm others.

  14. @Tanya,

    I think there are extremely envious peple everywhere and that they exist as much amongst the poor as they do the rich.
    It’s a character defecit.

  15. ok, should have said that the other way round.

  16. I know that it is irrational to believe in the evil eye but when you are brought up with it and “things happen” it is hard to let go.

    Let me put it this way. When I was born my mother was given a golden bracelet for me to wear. It had the black hand of Fatima dangling off of it. My mom still has it and I bought one for my daughter. Though I am highly educated a part of me still bends to superstition.

  17. I think evry culture has this in some form or th other..
    we have the “nazar” or “dhrishti”.. same evil eye 🙂
    Inspite of my not so young age ,my grandmom still does the removal of evil eye precaution around us , especially my son and daughter!!!!
    we have no choice but to bear it 🙂

    When my son got into MIT not a word passed my parents or grandparents lips and here i was bragging to all and sundry , till i got a call one fine day and my mom said she would skin me alive if i told one more soul about my son. anyone enquiring back home about my daughters aspirations is met with a blank stare and a ” whatever hapens happens – we don’t know” dialouge.

    I don’t think there is anything like that, but i will do whatever i’m told as long as it makes my elders happy i guess.

  18. I personally find it to be just a superstition.
    Plus there’s only that one Hadith and no mention in the Quran. Also it seems illogical as to why someones feeling could cause something concretely to happen to another person. How is that possible, if everything happens with Gods will, then wouldnt that be same as saying evil eye is coming from God? How can a person have such powers?hmm..

    Anyways I know of some people who the evil eye has effected, or their belief in the evil eye has made their lives very hard.
    One young girl I know won’t leave the house in fear of being struck by evil eye. She quit university because she was the top student and started to get so paranoid of jealousy she could not bare going there. She hides under layers of black to hide her beauty and says maashallah in almost every sentence..She is totally paranoid!
    This poor girl has become mentally ill and depressed and takes large amounts of psychiatric medicines which to me seems like don’t have much of an effect on her..Needless to say she believes this has all been caused by the evil eye, so the cycle continues..

  19. People who believe in evil eyes are not alone.
    After this article arabs use 5 billions dollars a year on
    witchcraft and sorcery.

  20. I am Muslim so yes I do believe in. But as a Muslim we do things like read Quran, etc. We believe things like lighting things or doing this and that is bidah and something that is not allowed nor something that works.

  21. Rahda, your example is precisely what I find irrational about it! If my kid got into MIT, I would definitely be sharing. Not bragging, cause I wouldn’t want to make other people feel bad, but good news is too good to keep to one’s self. I just find it a really sad way to go through life – thinking that good things should be kept secret and people will take them all away from you. It just exudes negativity.

    My husband’s parents didn’t tell anyone we were getting married til after it happened. That just seems like the wierdest thing I have ever heard of! The months before a wedding are usually filled with happy preparations and celebrations among friends. Instead, they were too worried about getting the evil eye. Talk about a way to ruin one of the happiest times of our life!

  22. I believe in “Be careful what you wish for”. In other words, our thoughts/prayers/wishes can have an affect on what happens, but also somewhat of a karma thing. So if we wish good things on others and have a positive outlook on life, others will pick up on it and treat us accordingly. Likewise, if we wish bad things on others and have a negative outlook people will pick up on it and treat us accordingly.

  23. @Strange One,

    Isn’t that pretty much what the book “The Secret” is all about?

  24. AB,
    Honestly, I’ve never read that before. Maybe I should check it out! 😀

  25. Of course, I should also point out that our actions (and sometimes the actions of others) are what, IMO, have the largest affect on the outcome of our lives. By the karma thing I meant more that people tend to like being around positive people rather than negative people. Also, if we think we will fail, then sometimes, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it’s what we expect to happen and this could cause us, for example, to not work as hard towards the goal. Whereas if we expect to do well, then we will most likely not view the effort and work involved as being as difficult and therefore are more likely to put in the work needed to achieve our goals without as much of the worrying. Worry can change the focus from the goal and work needed to thinking about how one might fail, which may cause one to give up, freeze, or not work as hard towards the goal. I hope this makes sense.

  26. When I first started selling evil eyes as an online business over 10 years ago, I thought it was just a simple superstition. I had seen a ton of evil eyes when I visited my husband’s home country of Turkey and started to understand the larger scope of the concept. Over the years I have learned a lot about the evil eye and can say that the people who believe in the evil eye can be separated into two main categories. Some see it as a simple superstition and wear evil eye jewelry or use other evil eye amulets to protect themselves much like they would go around a ladder than underneath(better be safe than sorry frame of mind I guess). I have had several customers though that have a very strong belief in the evil eye and will use amulets or jewelry to protect themselves but they feel only certain rituals or prayers can get rid of the effects of the evil eye. The latter group is sometimes very religious but other times it seems that their belief in the evil eye concept is stronger than their belief in their religion. Regardless of where you fit in, it is impossible to deny the impact it has on several cultures.

  27. I believe the evil eye is a level of consciousness of fear.
    A layer of illusion around the soul.

    The fear’s are very real to those that get trapped, as our shadow mind can cause us to surround ourselves in negative thought.

    My Webpages explain the seven layers of illusion around our soul.

    I am recently writing one on the conscious level’s where all these fear’s and thought frames of illness’s are contained.

    On the evil eye of balor.

    As I faced and passed this illusion 15 years ago.
    The worst living and sleeping nightmares ive passed.

    I hope its ok if I use your site as a link on it as I only know the spirit side, the history to those seeking is useful on your site.

    My Webpages
    The Second Coming

  28. look for non believers of islam or watever god bless may allah lead you to the right path and make you find your way ❤ xx

  29. I used to think the evil eye is only a superstition and irrational in the 21st century, before these unusual things all happened in my house when a relative of my husband visited us. The moment she entered the dining room all the lights in the dining room stopped working. She then admired a big murano vase I have, and the following day the vase broke without anyone touching it. In addition, I have covered her kids with a blanket and when the next day I placed it in the washing machine for cleaning, the machine stopped literally working.
    What to call all these coincidences if not an evil wicked eye?? All was working fine for years in our house before she came. If I try to pursuade myself this is not her wicked eye, what to call it then all happening within 24 hours?
    Faith only protects us from these bad spirited people.

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