The Evil Eye


A part of Islâmic traditional belief is the concept of a type of glance capable of causing harm to those upon whom it befalls.[1] Ibn ‘Abbaas reported that the Prophet () said,

“The effect of the evil eye (al-‘ayn) is real,[2] for if there were anything which could overtake destiny, it would have been [the effect of] the evil eye.”[3]

The word an-nafs is synonymous with al-‘ayn.[4] The evil eye is included in the study of possession because, like magic, its effects most likely take place through the agency of jinn, and it is a type of demonic possession requiring treatment. Ibn al-Qayyim referred to the role of spirits pertaining to the evil eye, “Due to the close connection with the eye its [i.e., the evil eye’s] effect is attributed to it, but the eye is not the perpetrator. The effect is caused by the spirits.” The evil eye is a form of jealousy (hasad). Ibn al-Qayyim said:

Every possessor of the evil eye is jealous, but not every jealous person possesses the evil eye. Since the category of jealousy is general and the evil eye is specific, seeking refuge from jealousy includes seeking refuge from the evil eye. This is the reason why the Qur’ânic text addresses the jealous and not specifically the evil eye:

“Say, ‘I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn, from the evil of what He has created…and from the evil of the jealous one who is envious.’” Qur’aan, 113:1, 2 and 5[5]

According to Ibn al-Qayyim, there are two types of evil eye: the human evil eye and the jinnee evil eye. He said: 

            It is authentically reported from Umm Salamah that the Prophet () saw a girl in her house whose face had become dark[6] and said,

“Recite over her incantations, for she has [the effect of] the glance (an-nazrah).”[7]

Al-Husayn ibn Mas’ood al-Farraa’[8] said, “an-Nazrah is from the jinn. He said that she had an evil eye caused by the glance of a jinnee, which is more penetrating than the point of a spear.”[9]



According to Islâmic understanding, it can be concluded that the spirit-possession of humans may take a variety of different forms. Possession is not defined by any one set of symptoms. Possession may be partial, affecting only certain parts of the body, or it may be complete, affecting the whole body-thereby resulting in convulsive disorders like epilepsy and hystero-epilepsy. However, it should be recognized that in some cases the origin of these disorders may be purely biological. They may also include the various categories of what have been termed by modern science as “mental illness” like hypochondria cal neurosis, schizophrenia and other dissociative disorders.[10]



[1] See Dictionary of Islam, p. 112.

[2] This portion is also narrated by Aboo Hurayrah and collected by al-Bukhaaree (Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 7, p. 427, no. 636) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, p. 1192, no. 5426.)

[3] Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, p. 1192, no. 5427.

[4] At-Tibb an-Nabawee, p. 168.

[5] Ibid., p. 167.

[6] The Arabic term used here is suf‘ah, which is defined in an-Nihaayah, vol. 2, p. 374 as “changing towards black.”

[7] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 7, p. 426, no. 635.

[8] He is most commonly known as the title al-Baghawee. Al-Husayn ibn Mas‘ood al-Farraa’ al-Baghawee (1044-1117 CE), from a town in Khuraasaan between Heraat and Marw called Baghaa, became a leading scholar in jurisprudence, hadeeth science and tafseer. His best known published works are Sharh as-Sunnah, a 14 volume collection of the Sunnah, and Anwaar at-Tanzeel wa Asraar at-Ta’weel, a 4 volume exegesis of the Qur’aan. (Al-A‘laam, vol. 2, p. 259).

[9] At-Tibb an-Nabawee, p. 164.

[10] See Prof. ‘Alee Muhammad Mutaawi‘ M.D., Madaakhil ilaa at-Tibb al-Islaamee, p. 201, quoted by the author in an article for Risaalah al-Imaam, no. 5, 1986.

Main Page