Hamsas have enchanted me for years now. I’m wearing one around my neck now, in fact. I find meaning in the hamsa for a multitude of reasons.
Hamsas are typically meant to be used as protection against the evil eye, a concept which is often foreign to Westerners but which has been around in some variation for millenia. Likewise, the hamsa as an amulet has been in use just as long. It, along with the concept of the evil eye and a couple of other evil eye amulets, has been widely accepted in Judaism, early Christianity, and Islam, as well as other non Abrahamic faiths. It is present in almost every culture, especially Eastern ones. The ancient nature of this symbol to me represents a connection to my ancestors and to my adopted Islamic faith. It reminds me of how much Jews, Christians, and Muslims have in common with each other and with other humans.
I personally do believe in the power of the evil eye. The idea that the way that humans regard each other, and the intentions that we have, can and do affect each other’s lives, is a belief inherent to humanity, and one which instinctively resonates with me. The hamsa, therefore, serves as a conduit for Allah’s protection and blessing. I believe in the idea of such a conduit.
Because this symbol is indigenous to a plethora of cultures, races, and faiths, it doesn’t seem right to me to say that Westerners or members of any other given group shouldn’t use the hamsa. However, it is notably offensive to those of us who treasure it for those ignorant of its meaning to use it as a fashion statement or to seem “exotic” or cultured in the eyes of their white, Western peers. The hamsa is a symbol of faith and tradition. It isn’t just one more accessory. By all means, read up on the meaning and use it reverently. But don’t buy an overpriced cell phone case with it, or a $130 microscopic hamsa as a statement of wealth and fetishization of “Eastern religions.” For many of us, the hamsa connects us to those who have gone before, and protects us from the gaze of those who would wish us harm. Please don’t cheapen it.