Pr. Nil Sarı/ Turkey

Introduction

“Khamsa”(Hamsa) is an Arabic word that means "five", but also "the five fingers of the hand". Khamsa is also a popular symbol found throughout the Middle East and North Africa from antiquity to the present day. Early use of the Khamsa has been traced to ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) as well as ancient Carthage (modern-day Tunisia). The Khamsa hand relics exist in various religious cultures, i.e. Hindu, Hebrew, Christian and Muslim. While Quran law prohibits the wearing of charms and amulets, the Khamsa symbol is often depicted in and associated with Islamic cultures. The palm-shaped amulet known as the Fatima’s Hand is found throughout the Middle East and North Africa as a popular symbol of protection. The Khamsa is believed by some Muslims and others to provide defense against evil eye, illness, death or just general unluckiness, as well as to bring it’s owner happiness, luck, health, and good fortune. [1]

Fatima’s Hand relics designed for the protection of individuals or the household against disease as well as all kinds of evil are carried as a pendant, used as a stand and finial (‘alam) or created as talisman stamps. These objects also represent blessings, power and strength.

Fatima’s Hand Symbol in Islamic Culture

Why the Hand of Fatima? Fatima al Zahra is the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad and his first wife Khadija. She was married to her father’s cousin named Ali. She was the only child of the Prophet Muhammad to give him grandchildren. Shi’a Muslims believe Fatimah to be pure, completely without sin.[2]

Fatima’s Hand is deeply rooted in Islamic culture. In the Sunni culture, The Hand of Fatima- The Khamsa represents the five pillars of Islam. The five pillars of Islam are the framework of the Muslim life, e.g. the testimony of faith, prayer, giving zakat, fasting and the pilgrimage to Makkah. For the Shi’tes, the Khamsa Al-i Aba (Pence-i Al-i  Aba) symbolizes the Five People of the Cloak (Ahl al-Aba, Al-i Aba, Ahlul Bayt). The thumb represents the Prophet Muhammad, forefinger His cousin and son-in-law Ali, middle finger His daughter Fatima, ring finger His grandson Hassan, little finger His other grandson Hussein.[3]

The Hand of Mother Fatima

Hadrat Fatima, the Prophet Muhammad's daughter, the wife of Hadrat Ali, Hasan and Hussein's mother is a historical figure. In Turkish culture Hadrat Fatima has scraped from the historical personality becoming a legendary personality as the Mother Fatima, and the Mother Fatima cult emerged.[4]

Based on the common belief in the Turkish culture Mother Fatima is the pioneer (pir) of female professions. Hadrat Fatima is known especially as the Pioneer of Midwives. Midwifes during labor say, “This is not my hand, it’s the hand of our Mother Fatima.” while patting the pregnant women’s back with their hand. For Turkish women Hadrat Fatimais also the epitome of good luck and blessings. Likewise, disease is believed to be cured when touched by Fatima’s Hand.  A sick person’s back is patted saying, “This is not my hand, it’s the hand of Mother Fatima.”[5]

Because Hadrat Fatima is considered as the pioneer of midwives, in some places in Anatolia a plant used especially during birth is named “the Mother Fatima Herb” (Fatma Ana Eli Otu, Fadime Ana Otu). It’s a herb that is said to be planted by Hadrat Fatima. The cervical dilatation and effacement during deliveryis likened to the characteristics of the plant. Accordingly infusion of the herb is administered as a drink to facilitate child birth. When the pregnant woman's labor pains begin, the dry herb is thrown into a large pot with water inside. When water is absorbed, branches slowly open like a hand. With the opening of branches, the woman who will give birth is believed to make an easy delivery. At these time prayers from the Quran are read and the woman is to drink from the water in the pot. After birth, the plant is allowed to dry by hanging on a nail. Those who want to have children also hope to benefit from the talismanic effect of this plant. The herb is still used by midwives at some regions in Turkey, e.g.Sivas, Balikesir, Ankara.[6]

The herb Mother Fatima’s Hand, also known as the leaf of Maryam, is Anastatica hierochuntica L. It’s a small grey Asiatic and African desert plant bearing minute white flowers. This plant is in the shape of a human hand and has fingerlike branches on its ends. When dry the herb contracts and branches curl inwardly, closing in spiral shape and expands when it finds a water source. After the water is run out it returns once more to its previous position. The fact that after staying still and dry for years, the herb opens back to life when it finds a water source led to the belief in various regions of the world that it’s talismanic.[7]

 

The herb “Mother Fatimah’s Hand” (Fatma Ana Eli Otu) kept in a Turkish midwife’s bag. (Aybala-Nejat Yentürk Collection)

Fatima’s Hand Artifacts inThe Haluk Perk Collection

There are 49 pieces of Fatima’s Hand relics in the Haluk Perk collection. These objects are made of openwork silver, silver and copper alloy, brass and bronze. 21 of the artifacts were designed as a stand or finial (ʿalam). Some are possibly decorative features used in buildings. The height of these relics vary between 22cm and 52 cm with their handles. Some of the handles are broken. The height of the hands without a handle varies from 13 to 30 cm in length. Stands at processional standard in the form of Fatima’s Hand for use in a ceremony are religious objects inscribed with Arabic calligraphy.

16 pieces created as pendants and one necklace mold arealso keptin the Haluk Perk collection. Additionally, there are 11 Fatima’s Hand stamp seals and many stamp prints in the collection. The stamps are a small human hand size. These artifacts were collected from the Turanian and Iranian region. The works belong to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Though Khamsas often contain an evil eye symbol, it’s not found on the Fatima’s Hand artifacts of the Haluk Perk collection.

In these pierced artworks, the palm of the hand, the fingers, the top of the hand and the arm are all inscribed with calligraphy. For example, in a work, on the palm Ya Rabb, on the arm Allah and Ya Muhammad are inscribed. Examples of Fatima’s Hand artifacts from the Haluk Perk collection represent the Ahl al-Aba. Each of the five fingers of the hand shaped to form a finial, a stand or a stamp have an individual signification. Names of the Five People of the Cloak are engraved in a circle or octagonal form on the artifacts. In a work, Allah, Muhammad, Ali and Hasan, Hussein, Fatimah are inscribed in circlesformed on the right and left hands’ palms. Another example is a hand shape processed on a mold where Ya Ali is inscribed on the palm. As a result of Shiite influence some consider Ali’s Hand (Pence-i Ali) as the Khamsa. Still, on some other stamps the names of the four caliphs, the prophets, sheikhs of sects and the twelve Imams are inscribed on the palm.

 

Each of the five fingersof the hand shaped to form a stamp represents separately the Prophet Muhammad, his daughter Fatimah,his cousin and son-in-law Ali, his two grandsons Hassan and Hussein, The Five in number.

Hadrat Fatima’s Hand at the top of brass artifact shaped as a pomegranate. In the Alevi - Bektashi literature there is the belief that the smell of pomegranate represents Hadrat Fatima.

With handleit’s26.4 cm high; without handleit’s height is 18.3 cm. and width is 8.2 cm.

Ya Ali is inscribed on the palm of the hand shaped on a brass mold (2.7 cm in diameter).

Some Khams relics are designed as fingers open, others closed. Particularly the open right hand symbolizes Fatima’s Hand. A hand with cut finger represents the bloodshed in Karbala. In the palm of a Fatima’s Hand artifact, in the center“O Husseinthe oppressed”(Ya Hussein-i Mazlum) is inscribed and there’s an illustration of a tomb, probably of Hussein ibn Ali; and around it Surah As-Saff, verse 13 is inscribed.[8]

 

Brass Khams with cut finger representing the bloodshed in Karbala. The relic is 14.5 cm. in height and 11 cm.in width. There’s an illustration of a tomb on the palm of the hand and around it Surah As-Saff, verse 13 is inscribed.

In addition to the inscriptions directly related with Hadrat Fatima and the Ahl al- Bayt, a number of Khams artifacts are inscribed with verses from the Surahs in the Qur'an, e.g. Surah Al-Fatiha(The Opening), Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow), Surah Al-Isra (The Journey by Night), Surah Ya-Sin, Surah Al-Hadid(Iron), Surah As-Saff(The Row), Surah Al-Qalam (The Pen), Surah Al-Kafırun (The Disbelievers),Surah Al-Ikhlas (Purity),and Surah Al-Falaq (The Dawn). Qur'anic verses credited with curative powers are inscribed on the fingers and the palm of Fatima’s Hand relics.

 

 Fatima’s Hand attached in an upright position at the center of a brass Healing Bowl, 14,7 cm. in diameter, 4,3 cm. in height. Around the hand, the bars named «the forty-keys» are hanging. The bowl’s interior and exterior are completely filled with writing. Several Surahs, starting with Bismillahirrahmanirrahimare inscribed all over the bowl. In the center, five Angel's names are engraved.

The Beautiful Names of Allah (Asma al-Husna), believed to have healing power on disease, are inscribed on some of these relics. YaShafi (O The Healer), Ya Fattah(O The Opener),Ya Hakim(O The Perfectly Wise),Ya Hayy (O The Ever Living One), Ya Halim(O The Forbearing),Ya Latif(O The Subtle One),Ya Quddus (O The Pure One),Ya Rahman(O The All-Compassionate),  Ya Razzaq(O The Sustainer),Ya Zahir(O The Manifest One), Ya Batin (O The Hidden One) are inscribed on Khamsas. 

The human hand transformed into the symbolic hand motif Khamsa with spiritual inscriptions and symbols is hoped by people to increase the influence of thoughts and action. As a symbol intrinsic to Islamic Culture, the Fatima’s Hand relics ‘aesthetics in construction and the Quran verses and the names of the great Islamic personalities engraved on them reflect the power of suggestion. In terms of medicine, the Fatima’s Hand symbol is supposed to be influential on the healing process as a placebo effect on the treatment of believers.

References

 

[1]HikmetTanyu, “FatmaAnamız (FadimeAnamız) ve El ileİlgiliİnançlarÜzerineKısaBirAraştırma”.II. MilletlerarasıTürkFolklorKongresiBildirileri IV. CiltGelenek-Görenekveİnançlar,KültürveTurizmBakanlığıMilliFolklorAraştırmaDairesiYayınları, Ankara 1982, p. 479-495.

[2]MustafaUzun, “Fatıma.” Diyanet İslam Ansiklopedisi, Vol. 12.,1995, p. 223-224.

[3]Süleyman Uludağ,“Âl-i Abâ”.Diyanet İslam Ansiklopedisi, 1989,Vol. 2, p. 307.

[4]Emine Öztürk, “Hz. Fatma Kültü”.ToplumBilimleri, 2010, Vol. 4 (8), p. 127-144. Satı Kumartaşlıoğlu: “Fatma Ana ÜzerineAnlatılanEfsaneler.” AvrasyaUluslararasıAraştırmalarDergisi, Vol. 3/6, Ocak 2015, p. 106-115.

[5]Müjgan Üçer, “Anadolu Folklorunda ‘Fadime Ana’“.Türk FolkloruAraştırmalarıYıllığı,KültürBakanlığı Milli FolklorAraştırmaDairesiYayınları, Ankara 1975, p. 147-156; Müjgan Üçer: “TürkFolklorunda ‘Fadime Ana’ (II)”.Türk FolkloruAraştırmalarıI, KültürveTurizmBakanlığı Milli FolklorAraştırmaDairesiYayınları, Ankara 1981, p. 113-120.

[6]Süleyman Arısoy, “Folklor ve Doğum.” Türk Folklor Araştırmaları. Vol. 15/301, 1974, p. 7133- 7137. Mukadder Gün -Serap Şahinoğlu, “Tahtakuşlar Köyü ve Geleneksel Olarak Kullanılan “Fatma Ana Eli” (Anastatika Hierochuntica) Bitkisinin Folklorik Tıp Açısından Anlamı.” Lokman Hekim Journal, 2011, Vol. 1 /3, p. 18-21.

[7]Turhan Baytop,Türkiye’de Bitkilerle Tedavi Geçmişte ve Bugün. Nobel Tıp Kitapevleri, 1999 İstanbul, p. 225-226.

[8]el‐Muvaffak b. Ahmed Ebu’l‐Müeyyed el‐Havarizmî,Kerbela Olayı, Trans. Yusuf Eğinç, Ocak Yayıncılık, İstanbul 2010.