It is believed in popular culture that looking at something beautiful with admiration or envy can attract the evil eye and cause harm. Precautions are taken to ward off this.
13 Aralık 2023 Çarşamba

In the past, among the expressions taught to children to keep saying, there was also "Mashallah." It was encouraged for children to say this when they saw something beautiful or liked something. If they didn't say it on their own, adults around them would often remind them by saying it out loud.

Other expressions taught to children included: Saying "Bismillah" (in the name of Allah) when starting something, "Inshallah" (Allah willing) when making a promise, "Alhamdulillah" (Thanks Allah) when sneezing, "Yarhamukallah" (Allah have mercy) in response to someone else's sneeze, "Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un" (To Allah we belong, and to him is our return) in the face of adversity, and saying "I hope it's good" to someone who had a dream.

Some people believe that when someone looks at a living or non-living thing with admiration or envy, it can cause harm. It is said that the thing has been affected by the "evil eye" or "nazar değdi" in Turkish (means “touched by evil eye”. The influence of the evil eye is acknowledged in Islamic culture.

Believers are advised in hadiths to say "mashallah" (what Allah wishes will happen), "barakallah" (Allah bless), or "hafazanallah" (Allah protect you) when they see something beautiful in order to ward off the evil eye and its effects.

Religious scholars are believed to be able to benefit people and purify souls through their gaze, while some individuals, intentionally or unintentionally, may cause harm with their gaze. Even without malicious intent, some people, when they see something they like, admire, or even envy, may inadvertently cause harm. They might even unintentionally bring harm upon themselves.

The evil eye is believed to occur in two ways: either through the electromagnetic rays in one's eyes directly causing harm, or through envy setting a trap, thus allowing the harmful effects of the evil eye to reach their target.

The evil eye charm of mythology
The evil eye charm of mythology - Medusa mosaic believed to turn those who gaze into her eyes into stone in the ancient city of Cibyra (Kibyra)


The polytheists had found a member of the Banu Asad tribe to harm the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This person, after starving himself through meditation for several days, would, for example, look at a camel and, by his gaze, cause it to fall. The Prophet Muhammad was protected from the effect of this person's eyes. The last verse of Surah Al-Qalam, with the translation "The disbelievers would almost knock you down to the ground with their eyes," informs about this incident.

According to the Quranic narrative, when the sons of the Prophet Yaqub (Jacob) were going to Egypt, he advised them to enter the city through separate gates so that the evil eye would not afflict them. This was because they were strong and handsome.

The hadith states: "The evil eye causes the camel to enter the cooking pot and a person to be placed in the grave." The Prophet Muhammad sought refuge in Allah from the harm of the evil eye and said, "If there were anything that could overtake the divine decree, it would be the evil eye."

When he saw a girl with a yellowish face, he said, "She has been affected by the evil eye; perform ruqyah (recite protective verses)." For the evil eye, he recommended to recite the last 2 surahs of the Quran (Al-Mu'awwidhatayn) and also the following supplications: "A`udhu bi kalimatillahi al-tammati min kulli shaytaanin wa hammatin wa min kulli `aynin lammah" (I seek refuge in Allah with all his words from the evil of the devil, harmful animals and the evil eye) and “Bismillahi alladhi la yadurru ma’ ismihi shai’un fil-ardi wa-laa fil-samaa’i wa huwa al-Samee’u al-‘Aleem.”(In the name of Allah, nothing on earth or in the sky can harm when the name of Allah is commemorated.)

One of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad , Sahl ibn Hunayf, was very handsome. One day, while bathing by the water, Amir bin Rabi`ah passed by, marveled at the beauty of his body, and said, "Such a beautiful physique is not even found in a young girl." Immediately after these words, Sahl fell to the ground. They took him to the Prophet and narrated the incident. The Prophet said, "When you see something you like in your brother, say Mashallah." Then, he ordered that the water with which Amir had performed ablution be poured over Sahl's head for healing.

To ward off the evil eye, rue is burned, and the smoke is used to fumigate the house. Additionally, rue can be strung on a thread and hung up in the house
To ward off the evil eye, rue is burned, and the smoke is used to fumigate the house. Additionally, rue can be strung on a thread and hung up in the house

Skewers to the Evil Eyes

The evil eye affects children, women, and the sick the most, causing harm to crops and animals. It is capable of various consequences, such as a baby falling ill and dying, a mother's milk drying up, a well drying out, crops being spoiled, a building collapsing, an animal falling ill, its milk drying up, and clothes fading.

One wants to protect their loved ones from the evil eye, saying, "Don't go to the market, they may cast an evil eye on you." When things go wrong, one suspects the evil eye, saying, "Did I catch someone's eye, or did you forget? You're not coming, oh!" In the common language of Turkish people, saying "Elem tere fiş/Kem gözlere şiş (Skewers to the evil eyes)" is a custom. In Arabic, "Elem tara fi eyyi shey" roughly means, "Haven't you seen anything like this?" In Anatolia, most child deaths were explained as "caused by the evil eye".

According to the memoirs of Aşçı Dede, a Mawlawi dervish, during the final exams at Istanbul Süleymaniye junior high school in 1841, the headmaster, İmamzade, said, "The children of Sultanahmed School couldn't study as much as you. Therefore, to avoid the evil eye, I will ask the following question last; be careful not to answer." The students replied, "No, sir, we will answer." He cautioned them, saying, "Oh, children, you don't know. The accuracy of the evil eye exists; don't do it."

My great uncle, Hıfzı Efendi, recited the Quran so skillfully in the memorization society organized by his father, Molla Şeker, including the 143rd verse of the Nisa Surah, known as the "hafız çatlatan" (literally, 'Quran memorizer cracking') due to its complexity with many "madd" letters, that the teachers intentionally tried to confuse him to protect him from the evil eye.

People tend to fear the evil eye more from those with blue and green eyes. This is a superstition. Sultan Mehmed V, despite having blue eyes and the palace residents fearing the evil eye from him, was also cautious about the evil eye. When the physician James Israel, who examined him, said in German, "You have never looked at His Majesty's glory. What is this condition?" Sultan became curious. Head Chamberlain Lutfi Bey evaded by saying, "He admired the imperial body." The Sultan said, "Tell him to say Mashallah."

A child's photograph from Niğde, 1937, with ash and soot applied to the face to ward off the evil eye
A child's photograph from Niğde, 1937, with ash and soot applied to the face to ward off the evil eye

Slumber of Envy

The old folks used to be very afraid of the evil eye. The hermit Salih Efendi used to say, "Don't even praise the cat in your house in front of others." The poet says: "Do not openly reveal your happiness. For the slumber of envy is light but grave."

Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad advised Muadh ibn Jabal, saying, "Seek to meet your needs with discretion, for every possessor of blessings is envied." (Reported by Tabarani, Beyhaki, Ibn Nuaym, Ibn Adiy, Uqayli)

The palace attendants assigned to watch for fires at the Bayezid Tower used to host iftar meals in the tower. During one iftar, when 90-year-old Enderuni Memiş Efendi climbed the tower, Raşid Efendi, the chief of the shipyard firefighters with blue eyes, remarked, "Oh, Memiş Efendi, did you climb the tower again this year?" Due to his fear of the evil eye, Memiş Efendi replied, "The tower masters pulled me up with a bread basket," and he never went to a tower iftar again.

The imam of the Yeraltı Mosque, Hafız Ali Efendi of Üsküdar, was over 90 years old and still lively. When asked about his age, he would say, "I won't tell; it might take away the blessings." There was also the teacher Abdüllatif Topçu, the grandson of Sheikh Osman Fevzi Efendi of Erzincan. He was close to 90 and quite vigorous. When I delicately asked him about his age, fearing the evil eye, he replied, "The unknown is better."

There have been discussions about whether the compensation for the death caused by the evil eye should be the responsibility of the person who cast the evil eye. Some scholars, including Qadi Iyad, Nawawi, and Ibn Abidin, suggest that individuals known to have caused harm with their gaze should be isolated from the public, similar to those with leprosy, and the government should cover their livelihood expenses.

The most common method of protection from the evil eye is the amulet, known as
The most common method of protection from the evil eye is the amulet, known as "muska" in Turkish. Besides the verse specifically addressing the evil eye, other verses containing protective meanings are written on it. The amulet is then wrapped in seven layers of rubber cloth, covered with leather, or encased in a silver container for added protection.

May Allah Protect You

The belief in the evil eye and methods to ward it off have existed in various societies for thousands of years, and it has similarities across different cultures. In Western cultures, the evil eye is often explained as the person being seized by the influence of the devil or evil spirits (jinn).

In popular culture, people used both reasonable and unreasonable measures to protect themselves from the influence of the evil eye and to ward it off. One common practice was the use of talismans with verses from the Quran and prayers. These written amulets were hung in homes, on walls, and sometimes displayed with phrases like "mashallah" or "barakallah"(Allah bless)  or with specific verses to ward off the evil eye.

In the past, when constructing houses, the upper floor would be left incomplete. This space would remain as an unfinished cage-like structure where old belongings were kept, and it would slowly be completed over 5-6 years. This gradual completion was intentional to avoid drawing attention, as sudden perfection in homes was feared to attract the evil eye.

When Sayyid Abdulhakim Arvasi visited a friend's newly built house and expressed admiration, the homeowner complained, saying, "There is no well for water." In response, Sayyid Abdulhakim Arvasi remarked, "It's good that there isn't. If there were, it would be perfect. However, every perfection has its downfall."

The gravestone of Ayşe Bedriye Hanım, who passed away due to the evil eye (Daughter of Captain Hacı Osman Efendi) 1291-1875, Bursa Üftade Cemetery
The gravestone of Ayşe Bedriye Hanım, who passed away due to the evil eye (Daughter of Captain Hacı Osman Efendi) 1291-1875, Bursa Üftade Cemetery

It's Quite Ugly!

To prevent the evil eye from causing harm to crops or fruits, scholars have deemed it permissible to hang a dried animal skull in the field or garden, as it is believed to attract the evil eye. Similarly, figures such as blue beads, horseshoes, hands, fish, crescents, suns, horns, seashells, or peacock feathers hung on the house or door are considered analogous to this practice.

Since the harm is believed to come from the eye, the remedy is also sought from the eye, hence the preference for items shaped like a blue eye. To ward off the evil eye, glass or mirrors are also added, as it is believed they can deflect it.

The presence of mute individuals and dwarfs near rulers is also considered a measure to prevent the ruler from falling victim to the evil eye. Women wear gold to divert the evil eye elsewhere. Black kohl is applied to a child's face, especially between the eyebrows, as a preventive measure. In a customary practice, people spit lightly toward something they admire. When something is liked, it is conventionally criticized, with comments like "Oh, it's quite ugly."

These practices have not been considered religiously objectionable as long as one does not believe in their definite effectiveness, meaning they can change destiny – similar to how medicine is not seen as religiously problematic unless one believes it has a guaranteed effect.


The Mansion of Esed Bey in Refahiye - Besides
The Mansion of Esed Bey in Refahiye - Besides "mashallah," it bears the inscription "hafazana min sharril ibad" (O Allah, protect us from the harm of Your servants) 1321-1905

What an Ugly Thing!

To ward off the evil eye, it is a custom to adorn children with gold, blue beads, amber, and knotted bracelets. Colors like blue, red, and yellow, as well as spices like salt and pepper, are believed to have protective properties against the evil eye. For instance, a pinch of salt is thrown into the fire to ward off the evil eye. Giving gifts to someone believed to  affect by the evil eye, offering them a meal they admire, burning their clothes, or hanging garlic on the house or tree are all considered practices to counteract the evil eye.

To protect against the evil eye, it is also a tradition to melt lead. This ancient Turkish custom involves melting a certain amount of lead in a ladle by someone (usually a folk healer) whose family is skilled in this task, and the molten lead is then poured into a basin of salty water while being moved over the person's head to bring back lost happiness or well-being.

All these precautions are actually related to the mind, that is, believing in them. An incident in Kaman: A woman who believed that the evil eye had affected her field persistently insisted and had an amulet written by a religious scholar. She buried the amulet on the qibla side of her field. While everyone else's fields suffered from the evil eye, hers remained intact. Someone knowledgeable uncovered and read the amulet. It was written, "What do I care if the old hag's field is affected by the evil eye or not!"