The Concept of the evil eye (nazar).

<QUESTION>

I would like to know the exact position of the evil eye (nazar) in Islam. If for example you praise the looks of a child and don’t say masha Allah, does that mean that something bad will happen to the child? If somebody is doing well in our community and then things go wrong then he must have nazar! Where do we stand on these issues and what should our yaqeen be. At the moment my belief is that it was meant to happen and if you try and please the Almighty then he will protect you regardless?

<ANSWER>
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

The concept and reality of the evil eye (nazar) can be understood from the advice given by the Prophet of Allah, Sayyiduna Ya’qub (peace be upon him) to his sons when they intended to enter Egypt (misr), which Allah Almighty relates in the Qur’an in the following words:

“O my sons! Enter not all by one gate, enter you by different gates. Not that I can profit you aught against Allah (with my advice). None can command except Allah. On him do I put my trust and let all who trust put their trust on Him.” (Surah Yusuf, 67).

The above verse of the Qur’an explains the importance of being moderate with regards to the evil eye or Nazar. Many Muslims are victims of immoderation by either rejecting the concept of Nazar altogether or regarding Nazar to be the main cause behind everything. Both these types of understandings are incorrect, as it will be explained later.

The majority of the commentators of Holy Qur’an explain that the reason why Sayyiduna Ya’qub (peace be upon him) advised his sons to enter by different gates and not one gate, was that they were all young, handsome and healthy. He feared that when people will come to know that they are all brothers and sons of one father, they may become jealous, thus there is a possibility of them being affected by Nazar. (See, for example: Qurtubi, al-Jami` li Ahkam al-Qur’an, Abd Allah al-Nasafi, Madarik al-Tanzil, Tafsir al-Kabir of Imam Razi and Tafsir Abi Sa’ud).

The great exegesist of the Qur’an and faqih, Imam al-Nasafi (Allah have mercy oh him) states:

“The majority of the scholars (jumhur) are of the view that Sayyiduna Ya’qub (peace be upon him) feared upon his sons the evil eye (nazar) due to them being very handsome…thus we believe in the evil eye. The reality of Nazar is that when one looks at something beautiful and is envious, Allah Almighty creates some sort of harm in that particular thing. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) used to seek refuge with Allah for Hasan and Husain (Allah be pleased with them both) and say: “I seek refuge for you both with Allah’s Perfect words from every poisonous pest and from every evil and envious eye.” However, Abu Ali al-Juba’i (leader of the Mu’tazila sect, m) denied the effect of the evil eye, but his opinion is rejected and refuted because of what we have narrated.” (Tafsir al-Nasafi, 2/123-124).

Another great scholar, Imam al-Qurtubi (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“All the scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah are unanimous on the fact that the evil eye is true and that it can cause harm to the one whom it reaches.” ( al-Jami` li Ahkam al-Qur’an)

There are many evidences that establish the concept of Nazar in Islamic belief. I will attempt to mention only a few here:

1) The verse in Surah al-Falaq states: “I seek refuge from the envier when he envies.” (Surah al-Falaq, v. 5).

2) The Hadith (mentioned earlier) towards which Imam Nasafi (Allah have mercy on him) alluded has been recorded by many Hadith scholars including Imam al-Bukhari in his Sahih, where the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) took Allah’s refuge for Hasan and Husain from every evil eye.

3) Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “The effect of an evil eye is true” and he prohibited tattooing. (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 5408)

4) Umm Salmah (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) saw in her house a girl who had a black spot on her face. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Treat her with protective or healing words, for she is under the effect of an evil eye.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 5407)

5) Yahya related from Malik that Muhammad ibn Abi Umama ibn Sahl ibn Hunayf heard his father say, “My father, Sahl ibn Hunayf did a ghusl at al-Kharrar. He removed the jubbah he had on while Amir ibn Rabi’a was watching, and Sahl was a man with beautiful white skin. Amir said to him, “I have never seen anything like what I have seen today” Sahl fell ill on the spot, and his condition grew worse. Somebody went to the Messenger of Allah, (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and told him that Sahl was ill, and could not go with him. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) came to him, and Sahl told him what had happened with Amir. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Why does one of you kill his brother? Why did you not say, “May Allah bless you?” (ta barak Allah) The evil eye is true. Perform wudu” Amir performed wudu and the water with which he performed wudu was pored on Sahl. Sahl was cured and he went with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) and there was nothing wrong with him.” (Mu’atta of Imam Malik)

6) Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “The influence of an evil eye is a fact. If any thing would precede the destiny, it would be the influence of an evil eye. And when you are asked to take a bath (for curing purposes), then you should take a bath.” (Sahih Muslim)
These and many other narrations are clear on the fact that the concept of the evil eye (nazar) is a established fact in Islam, thus one should not reject it or consider it to be some sort of erroneous impression or imagination.

However, as mentioned earlier, one needs to be moderate with regards to this issue, for exceeding the limits set by Shariah is surely wrong.

The concept of Nazar is similar to that of mesmerism. It affects an individual in the same manner poison or harmful medicine effects and nothing more. It is not effective in itself and one must never forget that the harm of the evil eye is only by the will of Allah Almighty.

For this reason, in the story of Sayyiduna Yusuf (peace be upon him), Sayyiduna Ya’qub (peace be upon him) said: “Not that I can profit you aught against Allah (with my advice). None can command except Allah. On Him do I put my trust.”

In other words, the advice I have given you will only benefit if Allah wills, and I know it can not alter what Allah has intended. However, a human being is ordered to take the apparent means that are available to him, but my trust is in Allah Almighty.

By keeping this moderation with regards to Nazar, one would be (Insha Allah) safe from the immoderation found in many.

Warding off Nazr

Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) narrates various supplications in order to ward off the effect of the evil eye. He says:

It has been narrated in Sunan Tirmidhi, Sunan Nasa'i and Sunan Ibn Majah on the authority of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) that he said, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) use to seek refuge from the devil-jins and the evil eye of the human being until the mu’awwadhatayn (Surah al-falaq and al-Naas) were revealed. When they were revealed, he took them and left the other forms of supplications. (Sunan Tirmidhi)

It has been reported by Bazzar and Ibn Sunni on the authority of Anas (Allah bless him and give him peace) who has reported as marfu, that whoever sees something and he likes it, and says, masha Allah la hawla wa la quwwata illa billa, (Surah al-Kahaf, V. 40), it will not harm.

It has been reported by Ibn Sunni on the authority of Sahl ibn Hunayf (Allah be pleased with him) who said, “that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) when he used to fear of anything being afflicted with his eye, he used to say 'Allahuma Barik fihi' and it did not harm anything. (See: Nawawi, Kitab al-Adhkar (Book of Supplications) Pg 398).

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK