HAMSA, THE HAND OF FATIMA
The symbolism of the Hand of Fatima/Miriam — or Hamsa — is very old, due to the primitive cults of both the Sumerians and the Babylonians, in the form of Inanna and then Ishtar, a derivation of the first, both goddesses linked to fertility, beauty and love in their carnal and erotic expression.
Called “hamsa” or “khamsa”, this amulet in the shape of an open palm is considered a powerful protection against evil, evil eye, jealousy and bad thoughts throughout North Africa and in part of the Middle East.
The word “Hamsa” (or khamsa) means five, number which in Muslim and Jewish religion possess a sacred value: five are the revered books of the Torah; the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “Heh”, one of the blessed names of God, reminds the word itself; for the Sunnis it represents the five pillars of faith, while the Shiites recognize in it the authority of the five men with turbans, religious figures sent directly by the Prophet.
The definition of “Hand of Fatima” was assumed to commemorate Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, married to Ali, grandson of her father. She has been recognized source of many miracles: the story goes that when she went to pray in the desert, her faith was so strong and powerful that could make it rain, making bloom in the desert sand a great multitude of beautiful flowers.
Legend has it that one evening Fatima was preparing dinner when her husband, whom she was madly in love with, came home bringing a concubine (the religion of Islam allows polygamy, and the man can marry up to four times). Deeply distressed by the arrival of this woman, Fatima did not notice that she had dropped the wooden spoon she was cooking the semolina with and continued to stir with her hand, without feeling physical pain, because the sorrow she felt in her heart was so strong to prevent her to feel her burning hand. Only when her husband came into the kitchen and asked her what she was doing, she shook herself and became suddenly aware of the burn and of the sharp pain. Ali took care of her, but then told her that he would spend the night with the new bride.
Fatima accepted the will of her husband, but when he went in the room with the concubine she watched them secretly through a crack in the wooden planks of the wall. It is said that when she saw Ali kissing his new wife, a tear came out from the eyes of Fatima and fell on Ali’s shoulder making him understand how deep her love was, thus convincing him to give up the new concubine.
From this legend, young Arab and Islamic women draw the important symbolism that accompanies the pendant dedicated to Fatima: the women who wear it will receive the gift of patience, which will bring them joy, luck and wealth.
Many are the cultures in which this symbol is worn or gifted, not only as a lucky charm, but also to remind the wearer that faith in God is expressed through all five senses.
Often the rich decorations on the pendant are completed with the design of a central eye, for some meaning God’s eye that watches over the faithful, for others a powerful talisman that drives the evil eye away.
It is said that this jewel in order to give joy, peace and prosperity, can be worn either with the fingertips pointing down or with the fingertips pointing upwards. Actually, the Hand of Fatima worn with the tip upwards is considered a powerful talisman and it means that it is protecting us from negative influences, jealousy or evil eye.
The pendant, created in silver only (the metal of the Prophet), is realized in two ways: the most popular presents the open hand with three fingers and two thumbs symmetrically on either side, while the other hand is represented with all five fingers open.
Legend has it that, in remembrance of the tears of Fatima that made her husband repent, the five fingers refer, in shape, to that sacred tear.
RELATED ORIENTAL SYMBOLS
The Eight Symbols of Good Omen of Tibetan Buddhism