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Taweez in the traditions of the modern Egypt


The word ‘taweez’ is usually used in Islam for protective amulets, charms and writing consisting of oblique inscriptions to ward off the Jinns and to bring the assistance of God. The tradition oftaweez can be traced back to the ancient peoples in the Levant, Mesopotamia, Africa and Asia from whom Arabs borrowed this concept.Taweez is believed to have originated even before Islam and is one of many miscellaneous traditions.

Taweez is written Islamic talismans to bring security and safety in one’s life that date back years ago. It is believed to guard a person against all their misfortunes and worries of life. It has always been part of Islamic traditions carried on by Egyptian people since ancient times. Taweez is the key to blessing and divine protection for Muslims. It protects them from sickness, disappointments, calamities, accidents, anger and jealousy among other evils that threaten their lives. Islamic Taweez because of the widespread Muslim population in Egypt, it spread as well into Egyptian society as a tradition and in other, non-Muslim regions of Egypt, it was largely preserved as superstition.

They were considered effective because their words were shrouded in mystery, with letters that could not be read, numbers denoting various angelic names as well as signs from Arabic script. Most Egyptians consider them a continuation of the Islamic mysticism in Sufism and believe that such writing brings miracles.

The process of reciting the taweez is not an easy task. The letters and numbers, mixed in with a mixture of Arabic and Persian words and symbols, are written on parchment or paper while wearing special clothes including the headdress. The person then places his/her hand on the writing while repeating certain verses of the Quran. In the course of the next few years, taweez became increasingly popular among Muslims and non-Muslims alike in Europe, North America and Asia. The book “The Mystical Taweez” (1896) by Abdullah ibn Arabi provided instructions for writing the taweez on parchment or paper.

Taweez is not restricted only within the Muslim tradition. Islamic taweez have their roots in common religion and society. People from different geographies, from different faiths and from different times owned taweez in their lives as a personal object of protection and support against the mystical or superstitious forces around them. Today the Muslim world has significantly changed. Taweez is a relic from the old days and not as popular nowadays. In Egypt today people are following Islamic taweez rituals less often and faiths like Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism are gaining acceptance.

Some argue about taweez being a sign of immorality and misconduct. This could not be more wrong as no one will ever make that decision unless they need more protection than they already have, so it may suggest something happened to them which makes them feel the need for talismans like this but never.

Recently, taweez appeared as a major phenomenon in the streets of Egypt where they were even boosted online by social media accounts that affiliated themselves with religious revivalist movements. One such account is Al-Zarqawist, which maintains a Facebook page with more than 20 thousand followers. Nada Bakri, the director at the Middle East Forum for Research and Strategic Studies, told AswatMasriya that taweez represent religions’ interests in Egypt’s culture and society: “The power of Islam behind these taweez is that it can’t be challenged or questioned and it wins over the hearts of people who sometimes may not understand its nature.”Many Egyptians believe in the power of taweez, especially when they are made by authentic ulama such as tribal sheikhs, while others buy them from traditional marketplaces and street vendors. A large number of these practitioners follow a single imam and believe that what is written in the taweez is pure truth.

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