Signs and Symbols

What is the meaning of the hand symbol?

Silhouettes of a five-fingered open hand appear often as a motif in jewelry and on staffs that function as standards in some Shi’a religious rituals. Called “the five,” the symbol reminds devotees of the five principal members of the Prophet’s family: Muhammad, Fatima, Ali, Hasan, and Husayn. Many Shi’a mosques display the hand as a finial on both domes and minarets in mosques of classical design. Sometimes the hand was hoisted atop a staff as a battle standard, emblazoned with prayers to Ali on the fingers and the names of all twelve Imams encircling the palm. As a symbol used by Muslims in various parts of the world, the hand functions as a talismanic magical device, a symbol of control or power associated with Muhammad’s daughter Fatima.


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