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On the Evil Eye, Hadith Authenticity and Confirmation Bias

I’ve always read protection from evil eye, al fatiha and 4kuls over my daughter before she sleeps every night. But every time I post her picture on Instagram and it’s only in stories so it’s not up very long, she soon starts vomiting and more difficult than usual. I don’t understand tho, I’ve read protection over her every night and everyone uploads their children’s pictures and they’re perfectly fine. What am i doing wrong? She’s perfectly pleasant otherwise.

Further to my question about the evil eye, someone recommended to wear gold and diamonds as a cure as women are prone to being frail and weak. It sounded ridiculous to me. Is there any merit to that suggestion?

I have never liked the concept of the evil eye because of how superstitious it sounds, the fact that it is not mentioned in the Quran, and the fact that it attributes supernatural causation to other than God, which feels almost pagan to me. But I spent a whole day studying the hadith narrations on the evil eye and their authenticity. There are a number of “authentic” narrations that mention it, but there are various shades of authenticity that would be invisible to a non-specialist, and the quality of these narrations does not enable them to prove the existence of the evil eye beyond doubt according to the methodology of the scholars of uṣūl al-fiqh (legal theory) like Imam al-Ghazali, which is the methodology I prefer (as opposed to the methodology of traditionalist hadith scholars, who consider something proven if they can find a single authentic narration about it).

We have “authentic” narrations from Companions like Abdullah ibn Umar in Sahih al-Bukhari that say women are a “bad omen”, i.e. just seeing a woman would cause a bad thing to happen in your life. And then we also have authentic narrations that refute them:

Two men from Banu Aamir came to Aisha and told her that Abu Hurayra narrates that the Prophet said, “Bad omen is in a house, a woman and a horse." She was enraged, full of anger and said; "By the One Who Revealed the Quran to Muhammad, God’s Messenger did not say that, what he said was that in the days of pre-Islamic ignorance people used to see bad omen in these things.” (Musnad Ahmad 24841, authenticated by al-Albani)

We have to be extremely careful in reading hadith and not take out particular hadith narrations from Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim and run away with them as some Muslims do. Even such highly respected Companions like Ibn Umar and Abu Hurayra were capable of (unknowingly) completely corrupting the meaning of something the Prophet said, so we have to take all of the relevant evidence into account. Of course, not every Muslim can be a scholar and study these matters for themselves, so they can rely on the opinions of scholars they respect for most things, except when a scholar’s opinion sounds absurd and unreasonable, in which case they can get the opinions of other scholars to find out more.

Much deeper study will be required to conclusively show that the evil eye is a false and fabricated concept, so at the moment I consider the issue mawqūf (in abeyance), meaning that I neither say it is true nor false until further study. But in my mind and thinking I continue to ignore it as I have always done.

As for the issue of your daughter suffering those symptoms, I cannot say it is not the evil eye because, like I said, it is not proven to be false. But it could also be confirmation bias, which is a well-attested fact of human thinking. If you keep thinking about the evil eye when you upload pictures of your daughter, and if a quarter of the time something bad happens afterwards, you might blame it on the evil eye even though three quarters of the time nothing bad happens. When we are looking for supernatural causes for what happens around us, we tend to find all the evidence we want and ignore the evidence that goes against it.

If you were to keep a diary in which you make a note every time you upload a picture, writing whether something bad happened afterwards or not, you may find out that something bad only happens 10% of the time, nowhere sufficient to prove that it is caused by uploading pictures of your daughter.

There are superstitious people who think the color of their clothing affects what happens to them throughout the day, and just like people who keep track of the evil eye, they too find ample “evidence” that the color of what they wear is causing all kinds of things to happen to them. But if they too were to keep a diary, they will likely find out that what happens to them has no relationship with what they are wearing, it is something that they think is happening because of confirmation bias, because they are only giving weight to the evidence that confirms their beliefs and ignoring the evidence that goes against it.

I have not heard anything about it being recommended to wear gold and diamonds for frailness. It is probably just a folk belief.

And God knows best.

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