Arab and Muslim history can be a pretty interesting topic when it comes to exploring superstitions and talismans especially in the Middle East. In the Arab countries, many people are easily swayed by superstitions, beliefs and myths.
In Gulf countries, there are clear takes on cultural superstitions with put options for drinks such as beer which must be ordered before dark, eating hot food with right hand, and cracking open the cans with the tops of two fingers. There are several superstitions on how to order in Saudi Arabia, including drinking out of a stranger’s cup, not eating anything until one has said “thank you” when offered food and drink.
Ibn Battuta describes how women living in Morocco would wear red as it was believed this “protects against diseases”. Morocco is also the birthplace of many superstitions, talismans and amulets:
* Lace in your wrists and ankles brings good luck
* Wash your hands to nullify the evil eye
* Drinking water from a bucket helps with rheumatism
* Cover mirrors with cloth to give privacy while taking a bath
Despite making up almost 90% percent of Saudi Arabia’s population, Bedouin families living in the remotest parts of the desert still carry black-and-red amulets around their necks in a desperate attempt to protect them from the malevolent sand snakes. History tells us that people earn power from wearing animal fur, curing silver coins and even wearing belts that are made from camel skin! Whatever the beliefs, traditions or mysticism is true remains unknown to this day.
In terms of history, there are quite a few superstitions that are easily found in China and Tunisia. One popular concept for these two countries is that wearing something black when traveling to China or wearing something red or green when entering a Tunisian home or religious shrine can ward off bad luck. This superstition stands even in present time as some Muslims actually travel with colored scarves when they go on vacation to Xiamen in China.
Mystical amulets and taweez are common practices in the Arab countries among both Muslims and non-Muslims. These practices stem from ancient superstitions as well as religious myths and traditions. You will see taweez at gift shops or talismans being sold in the markets.
Taweez are small religious amulets used by practitioners of Islam such as Sufis who reach through deep and sometimes cruel Dhikr while invoking divine assistance or experiencing trance-like states. Their use dates back to at least the 13th century, and they remain in use as a spiritual device among the Sufi community today. The taweez is often worn around the neck or carried in the pocket. Taweez can vary in size and shape, but they typically have an inscription on them, sometimes written by a famous Sufi master. The inscription can include a name of God or the Prophet Muhammad, as well as words of prayer and invocations to increase spiritual progress or invoke divine support. Having a taweez has been an underlying mainstay in Arab culture since the pre-Islamic period. Nevertheless, there is some belief that wearing taweez can provide not only general protection, but also with unexplainable acts such as car accidents or pregnancy.
Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Morocco manufacture and sell handmade talismans with various power-filled inscriptions to offer them abroad. It is no wonder then that some of these amulets became popular both at home and outside of it. The most well-known talisman in the Arab world is “Al-Zaitounah”. This amulet is used as a protective talisman and has powers to ward off the evil eye. It was created in 1920 by an Egyptian woman, named Aisha Zindan, in Cairo.