Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Married life: Beware the evil eye, especially on social media

I’ve been repeatedly warned, by family and friends, to ease off on posting my daughter's adorable pictures all over social media – for fear of the evil eye.

A few Saturdays ago, Mr T and I took Baby A to a ­petting zoo on Yas Island. Baby A was in animal heaven; my fearless dictator poked at an iguana, reached for the baby chicks and ­attempted to kiss a hamster. We took pictures of her with a harmless garden snake draped around her neck, of her smooching a tortoise, petting a puppy and peeking at a parrot. And, like the dutiful daughter I am, I promptly sent all those pictures to my parents via the indispensable creation that is WhatsApp.

After my mother sent three separate messages asking if the snake was real and my father begged us to stop encouraging our daughter to kiss animals, Mr T and I received a single message that both my parents obviously agreed on: “Dear children, God bless you, but do not under any circumstances post any of these pictures on Facebook or Instagram.”

Like any God-fearing Arab parents, my mum and dad are not ambivalent to the powers of the evil eye. This is not something to be mocked; no Muslim denies the existence of the evil eye or “hasad”, as it is commonly known in Arabic. It translates to mean a sort of resentful and malevolent envy that is manifested by casting a gaze, stare or look that is envious and ill-wishing. Those who have “hasad” can cause harm or misfortune for the person whom or object that is envied. That’s right – objects are not immune and neither are animals and plants.

Understandably, my daughter’s fearlessness and her high cuteness quota make her a prime target for the evil eye. I’ve been repeatedly warned, by family and friends, to ease off on posting her adorable pictures all over social-media channels.

A few days ago, Mr T was interrupted at work by his young Emirati colleague – a woman in her early 20s – who had made the trek all the way to Mr T’s office, in an entirely separate building, only to advise him to stop posting pictures of Baby A on his Instagram account.

“You have to stop, please,” she said to him. “I used to post pictures of my niece on my Instagram – she’s just as cute as your daughter – but every time I’d post an especially gorgeous picture of her, she’d get a fever of 41°, or she’d start vomiting, or she’d trip and fall and hurt herself. There was just too much ‘hasad’ because she’s so cute. Now, I only post pics of her little hands, or her feet; definitely not a whole picture showing off how cute she is.” His colleague then proceeded to knock on every wooden surface in the cramped office.

The evil eye is not to be taken lightly. I may have scoffed at it in my youth, but the older I get and the more protective I grow of my fascinating daughter, the more accepting I am of its existence. I am not alone: cultures all around the world take measures to protect themselves – from Turkey and Afghanistan and Iran to Spain and Greece and Hawaii – using talismans, charms or religious verses and prayers. The idea of it appears in both the Old Testament and the Quran.

I have been gifted a lot of jewellery meant to protect Baby A from the evil eye. Today, my only protection against anyone envying my daughter malevolently is simply praying for her and asking God to protect her. As long as I do that before I post her impish face on Facebook and Instagram, I figure I’ve got things covered.

The writer is a freelance journalist in Abu Dhabi