04.14.07

Friday the 13th

Posted in Belief at 10:22 am by Haider

Yesterday was Friday the 13th. And while I could’ve written this post yesterday, I wanted to ensure that I’ll survive the day before writing about how ridiculous the superstition is :P

Every Friday the 13th, I remember when my school had a basketball match with another school, and someone pointed out that it was Friday the 13th, which meant that we might lose the match out of bad luck. After a brief pause, someone (far more observant!) asked: “What makes you think we’re the team that’s gonna have the bad luck?

What’s amusing about superstitions in general is that they can act as self-fulfilling prophecies, or be the easiest explanation for unfortunate events. The fear of bad luck can lead us to act foolishly or with hesitation, resulting in negative consequences (this might explain the rise in traffic related accidents on Friday the 13th, as mentioned in the Wikipedia article).

A very common superstition in the Arab world is the belief in the evil eye. While many Muslims assert that it’s an Islamic belief, I’m not convinced. The “funniest” response I get when I express my disagreement with the belief is: “It’s in the Qur’an!

The most likely verse being referred to is in Surat Al-Falaq (the Chapter of Daybreak), where we invoke God for protection from: “the evil of the envious when he envies” (Shakir’s translation). This verse cannot be unequivocally said to refer to the evil eye. Some interpretations of this verse point out that envy becomes harmful when the envious acts on his envy. That is, envy doesn’t transmit negative waves of evilness (if you think that’s a childish, Power Rangers way of putting it, ask any person who believes in the evil eye to offer you an explanation!), but can be the motive behind evil actions.

For example, an envious colleague may try to hide an opportunity from you out of fear that you will prosper from it (even though your prosperity will not hinder his). Someone may say a hurtful comment when they notice that you are being successful, when they are not: “Don’t think you can achieve everything in life,” “Why are you so lucky?” or “Have you gained weight?” (when you actually lost weight!).

Such remarks are intended to put a cap on your achievements, either by changing your focus from accomplishment to the fear of failure, or to induce guilt in you for being successful. And when your “luck” does run out, it’s not because of the “waves of evilness” but rather the psychological effect their words had on you.

The reason why I’m strongly suspicious of the association between the evil eye and Islam is because the belief in the evil eye is part of a malevolent theology, where the good are punished for their achievements and the bad triumph by their failures and weaknesses. Those who believe in the evil eye don’t believe that it’s a phenomenon like any other, but that it’s the overriding principle of the universe. All evil stems from the intergalactic forces of the evil eye! This, in the vast majority of cases, cripples people from aspiring to achieve anything, out of fear that it will be taken away from them. It’s not simply a belief in the evil eye, but what I’d like to call the evil-eye complex.

People suffering from the evil-eye complex don’t regard the evil eye as a possibility, but rather as an inevitability. They do not think that they are prone to the evil eye, but deserve to be struck by it. They do not count their blessings, but count their worries as a result of their blessings.

Although I admit that people shouldn’t flaunt their fortunes to attract envy (many marketing campaigns regard envy as something to pursue: e.g. “be the envy of your friends”), they should not be anxious over their blessings, or fear to live because they might be noticed by others.

The evil-eye complex accuses God of siding with the wicked, which is a false impression, and one which can destroy our spirituality (how can a good person gravitate towards a deity who favours the bad?). We must re-think our understanding of God, and remove any belief from our belief system that is in conflict with God’s beautiful attributes.

God deserves that we see Him for Who He is, and the good deserve to benefit from Who He is.

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