Disclaimer: this post is not meant to explore the evil eye in and of itself, nor is it meant to provide any type of legal rulings or scholarly opinions regarding it. Instead, it’s simply meant to be a reflection and reminder to us all.
Although most of us have heard of the evil eye and maybe even stories of people being afflicted by it, we seem to act like it does not exist. Or maybe we have forgotten. It’s funny – discussion surrounding the evil eye tends to involve either intense fear mongering, or mythical folklore mumbo jumbo. Yet, the Prophet ﷺ (peace and blessings be upon him) so eloquently explained the evil eye – something very enormous and quite scary – in the simplest of ways: It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amir bin Rabi’ah, from his father, that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
Although most of us have heard of the evil eye and maybe even stories of people being afflicted by it, we seem to act like it does not exist. Or maybe we have forgotten. It’s funny – discussion surrounding the evil eye tends to involve either intense fear mongering, or mythical folklore mumbo jumbo. Yet, the Prophet ﷺ (peace and blessings be upon him) so eloquently explained the evil eye – something very enormous and quite scary – in the simplest of ways: It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amir bin Rabi’ah, from his father, that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “The evil eye is real.” (Sahih Darussalam) It’s real, and there’s no denying that. Yet we live and act like it’s not. For example, social media in particular has given people a glimpse through the windows of our lives. In a beautiful way, we are able to share pieces of ourselves with those close to us and that we care deeply for. But many of us abuse this privilege. We use social media as (primarily) a leverage for showing off the best sides of ourselves. Our families, vacations, new purchases, promotions, religiosity, social lives – you name it. If it’s going to make us look good, we share it. Sometimes with the world. I’ve recently been doing research and readings on modern day narcissism, voyeurism, social media, and the links to our mental well-being. Studies have shown that platforms like Facebook can lead to people feeling depressed or sad about themselves.
A reason for this is because many people go through what’s been dubbed as Facebook Envy. Replace “Facebook” with any popular social media outlet, and we’ve got our hands on a problem that is very, very real. I’m sure we’ve all felt a twinge of jealousy while scrolling through our newsfeeds and comparing the success of others to our mundane, boring, unaccomplished lives (which, by the way, are complete exaggerations). Let me say that jealousy is normal. It’s a human emotion that we shouldn’t hold on to but instead, observe and eventually let pass. However, problems occur when we cling to this jealousy and allow it to fester. When it plants its roots into our minds and branches off into feelings of envy. A good litmus test for whether or not you are feeling envious is to ask yourself this: “Would I feel happy/satisfied if [insert person’s name] lost [insert thing you are envious of]?” If you answer yes, then something is severely wrong with your thought process, outlook on life and your heart. It may sound harsh, but it’s true. So how does this relate to the evil eye? Simple: we put ourselves out there in ways that may promote envious feelings in others. Is it 100% our fault? Of course not. Someone who is a firm believer in the qadr (predestination, divine will) of Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), and who is grateful for their own blessings won’t harbor ill feelings towards what they perceive to be your amazing life. But, we certainly play a big role. Ask yourself: “how do I present myself to others”?
Let’s use social media as an example:
- Do you use social media to brag, show off, or make yourself feel better?
- Is there a (large) gap between your online persona and your real-life one?
- Do you compete for the most shares, likes, views, etc?
- Does being popular make you feel better about yourself?
- When people don’t give you the attention that you are looking for, do you feel worse about yourself?
If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, then I recommend looking inwards and reassessing your intention whenever you share things with others online. This applies to real life as well. Unless the person is extremely close to you (e.g. family member, good friend), don’t make it a point to indulge in your ego. Here’s why:
- Imagine if a person who can’t have children is constantly bombarded by pictures of your beautiful babies.
- Imagine if a person who can’t get married or who’s had trouble finding a spouse is confronted with constant updates on your “perfect” relationship and/or wedding (or engagement) photos and posts.
- Imagine how a person who wanted that job position or material possession you’ve just attained will feel when you rub it in their faces.
- Imagine if someone with low self-esteem and self-perception comes across your beautiful personal photos or “selfies”, and the enormous amount of validation they receive from others.
My beloved Sisters and Brothers, don’t you see how any of the above could contribute to the evil eye? We know this, and yet, we indulge our egos. We paint perfect pictures of ourselves to others and we OVERSHARE with those who truly have no business knowing. And even amongst our families and friends, there may be people who hide ill feelings towards our achievements, beauty, families, and lifestyles behind their smiles. And the sad part is that most of the time, people envy what we know isn’t completely real – it’s just a facade. We know that our lives aren’t as glamorous or beautiful as we paint it to be, and yet we still project these images into the minds of others. In our modern times, people not only become envious of our lives, but also of what they perceive to be our lives. I should note that if Allah (swt) wills for the evil eye to afflict you, then it will. And there is nothing you can do to stop it. BUT we should try to take precautions to limit the possibilities. For many, this will be hard because we live in such a narcissistic and self-serving society today. There is a deep need within many of us to be validated and accepted by others – even people we don’t know. To wage war on the evil eye now means to wage war on our egos. To not feel compelled to brag, over-share, or make ourselves look good to others. Personally, realizing the reality and the effects of the evil eye is a big part of the reason why I try to be as honest as possible through my writing. I would never want people to get the wrong impression of me – like I’m some great, intuitive, “deep” person or something. I try to highlight my struggles and relate to others to show that I’m NOT perfect. I struggle a LOT with my faith as well as my personal and social lives. My life isn’t glamorous and I would never want anyone to wrongly perceive that it is. Just because I like to speak/write about Allah and my religion, people sometimes mistake that I’m more religious than I know myself to be. It’s not true, believe me. By being a bit more honest about ourselves, we can adjust the way that others perceive us. We can knock ourselves off that pedestal they may have placed us on and show them that sometimes, the grass isn’t really greener on the other side. In fact it may be the same, or even dead and gone.
Another thing we can do, Sisters and Brothers, is to be very careful and selective with who we share personal information and/or photos with. Again, this will be difficult, especially for those of us who are public figures or who have a public following. Still, this is something that I feel needs to be done as a safeguard against the evil eye. Social media, especially, needs to go back to being about friends and family as opposed to acquaintances, distant relatives and plain old strangers. I’m not saying we should become hermits, all I’m saying is what the Prophet ﷺ said: the evil eye is real. And my dear Sisters and Brothers, we truly need to start treating it as such. And Allah (swt) knows best.