photo taken at La Alhambra, Spain
This ancient symbol predates organized religion as we know it. It hearkens back to ancient Mesopotamia and Carthage and though became predominant in both Islam and Judaism, it is seen across many of world religious and non-religious alike. It is a good luck symbol, a totem of peace and pays special respect to femininity. It goes by many names and the number five comes up across many belief systems giving the fingers of the hand multiple meanings.
In Judaism it is referred to as Miriam's Hand. Miriam was the sister of Moses and the number five reflects the first five books of the Torah. (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy)
In Islam it is referred to as the Hand of Fatima, who was Muhammad's daughter. The five fingers represent the five pillars of Islam. (To profess your Faith, Pray, Give Alms, To Fast & To undertake a Pilgrimage to Mecca)
In Christianity it is referred to as Mary's Hand. Five is also the number of Grace, and multiplied by itself is grace upon grace. It also is reflected that there are ten commandments, the first five related to our relationship with God and the second five with our relationship with others.
In Hinduism the five fingers each represents a different elemental energy or Chakra. (The Solar Plexus Chakra, The Heart Chakra, The Throat Chakra, The Root Chakra and The Sacral Chakra)
In Buddhism there are two different hand symbols (Mudras) one facing up and the other facing down, each with different powerful meanings. The five fingers also have two meanings: the five colors (white, yellow, red, blue and green), and the five directions (East, West, Central, South and North).
It is interesting to me that this ancient symbol reflects the similarities in the roots of all religions. Tolerance should be a motto for all, and not fear tainting whole groups of people based on a few fundamentalists (who can be found across any religion) that interpret religion only as a means to gain power over others and control them. It seems that regardless of personal religious affiliations or spiritual belief systems that we can learn from an all encompassing symbol that stresses peace and similarity versus differences.