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A few Islamic body language gestures.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:45 am    Post subject: A few Islamic body language gestures. Reply with quote

We have been listing a lot of Islamic terms.

However something we have neglected to mention are some body language gestures.

We will often see the gestures on TV. But we over look them when listening to what people are saying. However the gestures often say more about the person’s true meaning than the words that are spoken.

As we find more on predominantly Islamic gestures we need to post them.

I am copying the following (with a few modifications to make it more of a civilian format) from:



(Looking at watch) - Looking at a watch or clock during the meeting or conversation suggests to your host or guest that you consider them unworthy of your time.

“It’s my Obligation” - The gesture of placing the right hand or its forefinger on the tip of the nose, on the right lower eyelid, on top of the head, on the mustache or beard has the meaning of "it’s in front of me, I see it or it’s on my head to accomplish."

”Come Here” - Right hand out, palm down, with fingers brought toward oneself repeatedly in a clawing motion, is the sign for calling someone to come.

”I’m thinking” - Grasping the chin with the thumb side of the right fist is a sign of wisdom or maturity.

“Slow down” - By holding the fingers in a pear shaped configuration with the tips pointing up at about waist level and moving the hand slightly up and down signals "wait a little bit" or "be careful. " This gesture can be observed extensively when driving in the crowded streets of the Arab cities. In such a locale, it may be accompanied by curses from an anxious taxi driver or a pedestrian trying to cross the street.

”Thank You” - Placing the palm of the right hand on the chest, bowing the head a little and closing one’s eyes connotates "Thank You" (in the name of Allah).

“No” – A quick snap of the head upwards with an accompanying click of the tongue connotates: "No", "Unlikely", or "What you say is false.“

“I wish evil upon you” - Biting the right forefinger, which has been placed sideways in the mouth, may be a threat or an expression of regret. In Western culture the "A-OK" sign is a positive gesture. However in the Arab world, if the gesture is shaken at another person it symbolizes the sign of the evil eye. An Arab may use the sign in conjunction with verbal curses.

”I wish you harm” -Hitting the right fist into the open palm of the left hand indicates obscenity or contempt.

”You’re lying” - Placing a half closed hand in front of the stomach, and then turning it slightly connotes that the person to whom the gesture is made is a liar.

”I insult you” - Placing the tips of the left fingers and thumb together so that the hand faces right, then placing the tip of the right forefinger directly on the left fingertips indicates an obscenity or insult directed at one’s birth or parentage.

”You are unimportant” - Showing soles while sitting is considered rude. and symbolic of “you being beneath my feet”. Sit instead with soles toward or on ground to be polite. Also maintain eye contact; lack of eye contact strongly conveys “you are unimportant” as well.

Warning! Gestures indicating obscenities or insults should not be used by non-Arabs. Arab gestures of this type have varying degrees of intensity. Depending upon the circumstances and country, incorrect usage could lead to serious offenses.

Some Interesting Points (or a least I thought it was interesting):

Islamic Headdress

Checkered headdresses relate to type and government and participation in the Hajj.

· Red and white checkered headdress – Generally of Jordanian origin. Wearer has made Hajj and comes from a country with a Monarch.

· Black and white checkered headdress – The pattern is historically of Palestinian origin. Black and grey represent Presidential rule and completion of the Hajj.

· Shi’a- black turbans associated with Shi’a clergy who are somehow connected to the Prophet Muhammed or Ali Ibn Abi Talib the cousin of the Prophet who was the 4th Khalif of Islam and leader of the Shi’a sect. Those who wear white turbans are associated with the lower echelons of the Shi’a hierarchy.

Basic Greetings:

· Shake Hands with right hand only and at the beginning and end of any visit. Shake hands longer but less firmly than in the West. Left hand grasps elbow.

· Close friends or colleagues hug and kiss both cheeks upon greeting. During the Hajj (pilgrimage), people may kiss only on the shoulders as a gesture of friendship and greeting. Touching noses together three times when greeting is a Bedouin gesture of friendship and respect.

· Placing a hand on your heart along with a slight bow is a sign of respect. This is usually done during greeting.



§ The love of talk stems from the rich nomadic oral tradition of greeting travelers and exchanging information.
§ Low literacy rates increase the importance of verbal communication.
§ Arabs love poetry and creative speech. They are fond of bestowing flowery blessings and colorful swearing.
§ When speaking with Arabs keep in mind that they believe that words have power. Arabs shun speaking about unpleasantries out of fear that negative speech compels negative results. Also, they will use euphemisms when discussing the plight of others. For instance, say a mutual acquaintance is ill and near death. Should you inquire about recent news he will likely respond, “he is well, but a little tired.” In any important situation check the facts after being briefed by an Arab because he may be sugar coating a bitter pill.


§ Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims, consider the Arabic Language holy as the Qur’an is written in Arabic. The written word has special meaning to them and is respected by the literate and the illiterate alike.
§ Arabs consider advanced education a remarkable achievement and greatly respect scholars and learned men and women.
§ Avoid using newspapers in “unclean” ways as many Arabic newspapers usually have some reference to Allah and some Arabs could be insulted in how the printed name of Allah is treated.

Xenophobia: Be prepared for some distrust of foreigners. Historically, Middle Easterners perceive foreigners in the Middle East as invaders or exploiters.

Bartering: Expect Bartering- Expect an Arab to ask for what he wants rather than merely what he needs. Work towards a satisfactory medium.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have seen several of those gestures when Muslims are being interviewed, usually while the other person is talking.

I never realized the gestures had potential meanings behind them, I always just thought the people were doing things out of nervousness of being on TV.


Looking at the watch. (You are not worth my time)
Biting the forefinger (I wish evil upon you)

But now that I think about it I have seen several of the gestures by many of the less “polished” Islamic speakers.

It would seem that they are saying one thing but gesturing another.
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