Iraqi Jews in Diaspora and Evil Eye – يهود العراق وعين الحسود
An Evil Eye is a look or glance that is believed that is capable to cause harm and injury, or bad luck to whom it is directed for purposes of dislike or envy. Evil Eye is known in Hebrew as ‘ain ha-ra’ (עין הרע), in Aramaic ‘Ena- Bisha’,(עינא בישא) in Arabic ‘ain-el-hasud’ (عين الحسود), in Turkish as 'Nazar' from Arabic نظر (Nathar), which means 'eyesight’.
People hold that a man with an evil eye experiences actual distress when others prosper, and will rejoice when others suffer. Its existence is acknowledged by modern Arabs, Jews and Christians.
Babylonian Jews holding that an Evil Eye can cause injury, serious health problems, wasting, or even death. They believe that the main victims are thought to be prominent men, beautiful women, infants and young children, because they are so often praised and commented upon by strangers, or, by childless women. If any of these mentioned by somebody with an evil eye, the listener will say: “without an evil eye” (בלי עין הרע). In Islam, it is usually to say: “God had willed it” ((ما شاء الله.
Belief in The Evil Eye in Babylonian Jews mentioned several times in Pirkei Abot (Ethics of Our Fathers). Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakai said to his students: “go out and see which is a bad way which a person should avoid? Rabbi Eliezer said: A bad eye” (Chapter 2, Mishna 14(a)).
It has also been suggested the 10th commandments in the Bible a law against bestowing the evil eye on another person: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s”.
Mentions of the Evil Eye (עין הרע) in the Bible, refer to the role that jealousy and envy play an important part: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats” (proverbs 23:6), or: “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him” (proverbs 28:22).
In the Qur’an, Sura Al-Falaq and Sura Al-Nas are also used as a means of personal protection against Evil Eye: سؤرة الفلق– قل اعود برب الفلق ومن حاسد اذا حسد(Al Falaq - Say: i seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn and from the evil of the envious when he envies). سؤرة الناس – قل اعود برب الناسومن شر الوسواس الخناس (Sura Al Nas – Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of men and from the evil of the whispering of the sinking (Shaitan).
Among Babylonian Jews, as well as in many other cultures, in order to attempt to ward off the curse of the evil eye, they use “talismans”, which is believed to have magic power to turn back harm. Oriental talismans often represent a hand with it’s five fingers spread to deflect the rays emitted by the evil eye.