The venomous glance, not alien to our society, is the evil eye (Nazr). It is centered on the belief that jealousy or praise can inflict misfortune. It is this very fear that causes many of us to go to great lengths for shielding ourselves and our children from its wrath. But how real is the threat of the evil eye? Is it an old wives’ tale? Superstition?
Belief in the evil eye is ancient. Reference to the evil eye is found on Babylonian clay tablets, the writings of Greeks and Romans, and in the Bible and Talmud. In Arabic, the evil eye is known as Al Ayn or Ayn Hasooda, but in Turkish – Nazar. In the United States and England, the evil eye is usually referred to as ‘overlooking.’
The concept of the evil eye is an established fact in Islam, thus, one should neither reject it nor consider it to be an erroneous impression or figment of imagination.
Abd Allah ibn Abbas (rta) reports that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The influence of an evil eye is a fact. If anything would precede the destiny, it would be the influence of an evil eye. And when you are asked to take a bath (for curing purposes), then you should take a bath.” (Muslim)
The concept and reality of the evil eye (Nazar) in Islam can also be understood from the advice given by Prophet Yaqub (as) to his sons, when they intended to enter Egypt: “O my sons! Do not enter by one gate, but enter by different gates, and I cannot avail you against Allah at all. Verily, the decision rests only with Allah. In Him, I put my trust and let all those that trust, put their trust in Him.” (Yusuf 12:67)
The majority of commentators of the Holy Quran explain that the reason, why Prophet Yaqub (as) advised his sons to enter by different gates and not one, was that they were all young, handsome, and healthy. He feared that when people would come to know that they all were brothers and sons of one father, they may become jealous; hence, there was the possibility of them being affected by Nazar.
The reality of Nazar is such that when one looks at something beautiful and is envious, Allah (swt) creates some sort of harm in that particular thing.
Measures to ward off the evil eye vary from culture to culture. For protecting the offspring, common in our society is the lining of black Kohl around the child’s eyes or putting a black spot on the child’s body. Peasant mothers spit in the faces of their children or dirty them with soil, in order to diminish the effects of the evil eye or flattery. Popular, however, is making the children wear black threads, beads, amulets, talismans, and charms.
The use of protective amulets and charms is forbidden in Islam, because it is considered a form of Shirk (idolatry). As long as one, who wears a charm, believes that it will avert evil and bring good fortune, he has given this charm the power to cancel what Allah (swt) has already destined. Eventually, he will depend on it instead of Allah (swt).
Instead, Islam teaches Muslims to seek refuge and protection with Allah (swt) from the evils of envy. Besides the phrase Masha’aAllah wa la Kuwata illa Billah (whatever Allah wishes, and there is no power except with Allah), which protects from the envy of others, there are various supplications for warding off the effects of the evil eye.
Abu Said Al-Khudri (rta) said: “The Messenger of Allah used to seek refuge from the devil-Jins and the evil eye of the human being until the Muawwadhatayn (Al-Falaq and Al-Naas) were revealed. When they were revealed, he took them and left the other forms of supplications.” (Tirmidhi)
It has been reported by Ibn Sunni on the authority of Sahl ibn Hunayf who said: “The Messenger of Allah, when he used to fear of anything being afflicted with his eye, he used to say ‘Allah uma Barik fihi,’ and it did not harm anything.” (Nawawi)
Ibn Abbaas (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) used to seek refuge with Allah for Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn (rta). He said: ‘Your father [i.e., Ibrahim (as)] used to seek refuge with Allah (swt) for Ismail and Ishaq (rta) with these words: Aodhu bi kalimat Allah Al-tammah min kulli shaytanin wa hammah wa min kulli ‘aynin lammah (I seek refuge in the perfect words of Allah from every devil and every poisonous reptile, and from every bad eye).'”(Bukhari)
In the event of affliction by the evil eye, one should use the treatments recommended in Shariah. One of them is Ruqyah (spiritual healing). It consists of words said or written in the form of Dua or Dhikr for the purpose of protection or cure. It is sometimes accompanied with other actions, such as blowing or wiping over the thing to which it is applied.
The Prophet (sa) said: “There is no Ruqyah except in the case of the evil eye or fever.” (Tirmidhi) Jibreel used to do Ruqyah for the Prophet (sa) and say: “Bismillahi arqeeka min kulli shayin yudheeka, min sharri kulli nafsin aw aynin hasid Allah u yashfeek, bismillahi arqeek (in the name of Allah I perform Ruqyah for you, from everything that is harming you, from the evil of every soul or envious eye; may Allah heal you, in the name of Allah I perform Ruqyah for you).”
Secondly, if it is known or suspected that a person has been afflicted by the evil eye; it was narrated that Aisha (rta) said: “The man, who casts the evil eye, would be commanded to do Wudhu, and then the man, who was affected, would wash himself with (the water).” (Abu Dawood)
Prevention is better than cure. The evil eye is like an arrow, which comes from the soul of the one, who feels envy, towards the one, who is envied – sometimes it hits him and sometimes not. If the target is exposed and unprotected, it will be affected, but if the target is cautious and armed, the arrow will have no effect and may even come back on the one, who struck it. These are some of the Duas and treatments, which offer protection – by Allah’s (swt) leave – from the evil eye and from destructive envy (Hasad). We ask Allah (swt) for His protection. Allah (swt) knows best.