Hand of Fatima

From Academic Kids

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Khamsa_pendant.jpg
Hand of Fatima used as a pendant

The symbol or design known in Islamic societies as the Hand of Fatima and in Jewish lore as the Hand of Miriam, or in both as "Khamsa", from the Arabic words for "five", serves as an ancient talismanic way of averting the evil eye, or more generally of providing a "protecting hand" or "Hand of God". It appears, often in stylised form, as a hand with three fingers raised, and sometimes with two thumbs arranged symmetrically. The symbol is used in amulets, charms, jewelry, door entrances, cars, and other places to ward the evil eye.

Tradition in Islamic cultures associates the symbol with Fatima Zahra, daughter of the prophet Muhammad.

It is not a symbol that is condoned by the religion of Islam, but rather a cultural fixture. Some sources assert that its origin predates Islam. The name Fatima's hands or hand of Fatima, is a Western name for this object; in the societies where the symbol is actually common it is referred to using other names, such as khamsa (five) خمسة و خميسة in Egypt, and "hamsa" in Western sources. In Israel and in Jewish culture globally it is most commonly known as "hamsa" or "chamsa", without any Islamic heritage connotations, thus enforcing the notion that it is primarily cultural rather than religious in origin. Some sources link the significance of the five fingers to the five books of the Torah, the Jewish name for the Old Testament scriptures, or to the Five Pillars of Islam, the core principles of Islamic faith, though this significance may have been attributed after the fact to a symbol that quite possibly pre-dated both religions.

In recent years some activists for Middle East peace have chosen to wear the hamsa as a symbol of the similarities of origins and tradition between the Islamic and Jewish faiths.

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