14 December 2019
The “Hand of Fatima” or “Khamsa”, which can be found in souks all around Morocco, be it metallic, ceramic, coloured or made from camel bone, is a very wide spread talisman. Khamsa means “five” and refers to the 5 fingers of the hand. Khamsa is an amulet which is typical of both the Islamic and Jewish religion.
For Muslims it is a symbol of faith, seriousness, patience and temperance. Legend has it that Fatima, prophet Mohamed’s daughter, became jealous because her husband had decided to take a concubine.
Upon seeing the two of them in each other’s company, Fatima was so overcome by grief that she didn’t even notice she had plunged her hand into some boiling water. She only felt the painful burns after, although the presence of another woman alongside her husband hurt even more. In the end her husband realised just how strong his love for Fatima was and decided to renounce the concubine. For Muslims the “Hand of Fatima” is a powerful amulet against the evil eye and negative influence in general.
The number five is also a reminder of the pillars of Islam which are: the testimony of faith, prayer, pilgrimage to Mecca, Zakat (support for the needy) and fasting. For Shiites the five fingers of Khamsa represent the members of the sacred family: Mohamed, Fatima, Ali, Hussein and Hassan.
In the Jewish religion the amulet is called the “Hand of Myriam”, sister of Aronne and Moses. In this case the number five is associated with the number of books of the Torah, the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deteronomy.
The origins of this symbolism are even more ancient and yet to be fully discovered. Similar symbols of protection are known to have existed in Mesopotamia and even in Buddhism, through the numerous gestures of Buddha.
Today this object is mostly decorative and mainly featured on jewellery; it can be worn with the point facing upwards or downwards. According to some the stone in the middle of Khamsa represents the eye of Allah who watches over worshippers.