Superstitions in Arab Culture Posted by aziza on Jul 21, 2009 in Culture
Superstitions (الخرافات) play a significant role in Arabic culture. Most people believe in the power of envy (الحسد), magic (السحر), genies (الجن), etc. to affect them and inflict harm upon them. It is not uncommon to hear someone saying that they are ill or that their kids are ill because they have been envied or affected by the evil eye. It is less common to find people saying that they have been suffering from magic, but it exists. You often find people who try to tell the future by reading cards, or tracing marks in their coffee cups or on their palms. It can be a very profitable business for some!
I do not know why superstitions are so influential in people’s lives in the Arab world. It could be due to the importance of traditions in people’s lives. Most of the ideas about these matters are inherited from previous generations. You find numerous stories from the past and proverbs that mention the power of envy, e.g. (العين كسرت الحجر نصفين), which means “the evil eye broke a stone in half”, which shows the material power of the evil eye and its capabilities of inflicting harm. In addition, there are so many stories that deal with these topics, for example in the Arabian Nights (ألف ليلة وليلة) Superstitions can have very negative effects on people’s lives, as it often spoils simple pleasures for them. For instance, if someone buys something new or has a happy occasion, they sometimes worry that it may bring them envy.
There are some defense mechanisms that people often use to protect themselves from the power of envy, magic, etc. The most common thing for Muslim is reading verses of the Qur’an and saying certain prayers. There are other mechanisms such as wearing a blue bead to attract the evil eye or a palm shape in a necklace, for example. I think that most Arab people, regardless of their background and education, believe in envy and magic. I do not believe much in the power of these things to cause harm, however I believe that they do exist and that they can affect some people in certain occasions.
These topics are often covered in media. I remember a play by Mohammed Sobhi, a famous Egyptian comedian actor and theatrical director, called (الهمجي) “the uncivilized”, which criticized certain aspects Egyptian life, including Envy. I hope you enjoy part of it in the link below:
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