Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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(800 words)

In several cultures the power attributed to the human hand made it an accepted means of driving away harmful elements and gaining protection against the evil eye. As far back as the Stone Age, paintings of open hands appear on walls in caves in the context of protection. The motif of the protective hand developed especially in Islamic lands, where it is referred to by the popular Arabic term khamsa, meaning five, or by the name “Hand of Fatima,” after Fāṭima Zahra (ca. 606–632), Prophet Muḥammad’s favorite daughter, who is regarded as a holy and exemplary figure in Islam.

It is unknown when J…

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Shalom Sabar, “Khamsa”, in: Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Consulted online on 22 March 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1878-9781_ejiw_SIM_000094>
First published online: 2010

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