Who are they and what Islam says about them

God’s creation is full of unseen wonders. Take micro-organisms which we cannot see with the naked eye, but which play a very important role in cleansing the earth of corpses, sewage and faeces by acting upon them, breaking them down into simpler compounds, decomposing them and reducing them to nutrients that add to the fertility of the soil, helping plants to grow and animal life to thrive on them.

Have you ever wondered that all living things are really made up of materials borrowed temporarily from the environment, and when they die, the function of returning these back to the environment is done by these unseen decomposers? Indeed there are scientists today who believe that life forms are scattered all over the universe and that some of it reaches earth through comets and asteroids. They call their theory panspermia, a Greek word meaning ‘seeds everywhere’. The Qur’an clearly tells us that humans are not the only intelligent beings in the universe and that there are many life forms scattered across space:

And among His Signs is the Creation of the heavens and the earth, and the living things He has scattered through them. And He has power to gather them together when He Wills

(The Consultation:29)

One such creation of God are the Jinn, who like men, are sapient creatures having some measure of free will. Although they cannot be perceived by our senses such as sight, they have some influence on our physical world as we can see from their effects on scientifically inexplicable phenomena such as possessions, poltergeists and premonitions. Such influences can only be explained through a belief in the Jinn and Islam explains this best.

Besides, many cultures all over the world know of a belief in strange spirits that influence the world we live in, among them the Abaasy of the Yakuts, Boggarts of the English, Coblynaus of the Welsh, Daemons of the Greeks, Duwendos of the Filipinos, Jumbee of the Carribeans, Kallikantzaros of the Balkans, Lutins of the French, Rabisu of the Babylonians, Shedim of the Hebrews, Spriggans of the Cornish, Wirricows of the Scots and Yokai of the Japanese.

 These invisible creatures are known by Muslims by the Arabic term Jinn, which literally means ‘one hidden from sight’, deriving as it does from the Arabic root jn used in both the active and passive sense ‘to hide’ or ‘be hidden’, a sense that also occurs in such words like majnoon ‘madman’ (‘one whose intellect is hidden’) and janeen ’embryo, foetus’ (‘hidden inside the womb’). Interestingly the Latin word genius meant a sort of spirit like the jinn from which its offshoot French derived its genie, which some English writers use in place of Jinn like in their translations of Arabian tales like Aladin and the Magic Lamp.

A Creation Before Man

The Jinn we are told were created before man walked the earth, from smokeless fire, perhaps from stellar or interstellar combustions or the hot cores of collapsing star-forming nebulae that took place in the early days of creation following the Big Bang:

We Created man from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape. And the Jinn race We created before, from the fire of a scorching wind

(The Rocky Tract:26)

He Created man from sounding clay like pottery, and He Created jinns from fire free of smoke

(The Most Merciful:14-15)

It is interesting that the Holy Book should mention jinn being created before men, and that too from smokeless fire, for we know today that as nebulae collapse, their dense, hot cores form and begin gathering dust which can become planets, asteroids or comets. So the earthly elements as found in clay for instance are decidedly of later origin than the stars we see in the nightly skies, thus agreeing with the Qur’anic story of the creation of jinn from fire taking place before the creation of man from clay. Thus the Jinn may well be pre-biotic organisms having their origin from fire or its heat.  The Jinn, like humans exist because God created them to serve Him:

I Created not jinns and humans, except that they should serve Me

(The Scattering Winds:56)

O Assembly of jinns and men! Did there not come to you Messengers from amongst you, relating to you My Signs?

(The Cattle:130)

Evil Jinn

There are both good and evil jinn. Satan himself or Iblees as he is known in the Qur’an is of the jinn.  The Holy Book calls evil doers Hizb-ash-Shaytaan ‘The Party of Satan’ and constantly warns man not to be misled by Satan and his cohorts:

O Children of Adam ! Let not Satan deceive you as he got your parents (i.e. Adam and Eve) out of paradise, stripping them of their raiments to show them their private parts. Verily he and his tribe see you from where you cannot see them. Verily, we made the devils protectors for those who believe not

(The Heights:27)

One day will He gather them all together, (and say): O ye assembly of Jinns! Much (toll) did ye take of men”. Their friends among men will say: “Our Lord! We profited from each other but we reached our term which you appointed for us”. He will say: “The Fire be your dwelling place. You will dwell therein forever, except as God Wills

(The Cattle:128)

Likewise did we make for every Messenger an enemy – evil ones among men and jinns, inspiring each other with flowery discourses by way of deception

(The Cattle:112)

Thus it is the Jinn led by Satan that prompt men to do evil by whispering evil thoughts into their minds. Such jinns assigned to each person to mislead him or her are known as the Qareens. As the Prophet informed us: “There is not one of you who does not have a jinn appointed to be his constant companion”. The people asked him: “And you too, O Messenger of God?” He said: “Me too, but God has helped me and he has submitted, so that he only helps me to do good” (Saheeh Muslim). However, not all Jinn are evil. In the Qur’an we find the Jinn saying of themselves:

There are among us some that are righteous and some the contrary. We follow divergent paths

(The Jinn:11)

Kinds of Jinn

There are various types of jinn. Some, according to the Prophet, have wings and fly through the air (Tabarani). That the jinn could also assume human form is brought out by a narration from the Prophet’s companion Abu Hurayrah which tells of a jinn digging into some food given in charity during the holy month of Ramadan (Saheeh Al-Bukhari).  In olden times some Jinns were employed to serve men in the cause of God. The Qur’an tells how before Solomon were marshalled his hosts – of Jinns and men and birds, all kept in order and ranks (The Ants:17) and of Jinns who worked for him, making arches, basins and cauldrons (Sheba:12-13).

The unseen realm of the Jinn is vast. They dwell in or under the ground of this earth, in the vault of the sky and in outer space. In the Qur’an we read of God saying of the Jinn: We have (from of old) adorned the lowest heaven with lamps, and We have made such (lamps) (as) missiles to drive away the evil ones (The Dominion:5). This shows that Jinns could find their way to outer space. Not just that, many may well live in outer space or in other planets, which may explain why there are many humans today who claim to have encountered extra-terrestrials or looked up to the heavens to see flying saucers.

What best explains how the Dogon people of Mali who until recently lived a primitive lifestyle had myths embedded with advanced astronomical knowledge, knowledge which they could not have acquired by themselves, and which modern astronomy only recently discovered? What explains how they became privy to such lore that speaks of heavenly bodies invisible to the naked eye, of Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s four moons and of the far distant star Sirius and its invisible companion, Po Tolo, a much smaller, incredibly heavy white star which circles Sirius every fifty years, and which modern-day astronomers have discovered to be true using only the most sophisticated instruments which they call Sirius-B, a white dwarf of very high density, a single cubic metre of which could weigh several thousand tonnes and which tallies with the tribe’s claim that it is composed of a super-dense metal heavier than all the iron on Earth. The Dogon say they were taught thus by the Nommo, one of the first groups of spirits created by their Supreme God Amma, awful-looking beings who arrived in a vessel along with fire and thunder. So I ask you, could not these Nommo have been extra-terrestrial Jinns who passed on their knowledge of the heavens to this primitive tribe for some favour?

 The terrestrial types of Jinn mostly live in pits or ruins and unclean places like toilets, dunghills, garbage dumps and graveyards. The Prophet prohibited his followers from urinating into a hole, and the reason given by a follower was that they were the habitats of the jinn (Aboo Dawood). Whenever the Prophet went to answer a call of nature he would recite: “O God, I seek refuge with You from the evil ones, male and female”(Saheeh Muslim). The words he used for these evil spirits khubuth for the males and khabaa’ith for the females mean dirty or evil ones among the Jinn. The inexplicable bark of a dog or braying of a donkey at night are also said to indicate the presence of these evil spirits. The Prophet warned his followers: “Anyone who hears the barking of a dog or the braying of a donkey (at night) should seek refuge with God from the Accursed Satan. They see what you do not see” (Adab Al Mufrad).

 The jinn eat and drink as men do. Once some believing Jinn asked the Prophet about their food and he said: “You can have every bone on which the name of God has been mentioned that comes into your possession as meat, and all the droppings as food for your animals”. On another occasion a deputation of jinns came to the Prophet and said: “O Muhammad, forbid your community from cleansing yourselves (after calls of nature) with bone or dung or charcoal, for in them has God provided sustenance for us”. So the Prophet forbade his followers to do so (Abu Dawood). Thus it is quite possible that the action of microbes on dead or decaying matter that break them up is in fact the work of the jinn, using the medium of micro-organisms to consume whatever nutrients they can to nourish themselves. Who knows, maybe these microbes are the very saliva of the jinn transferring matter into energy for the consumption of the Jinn. Who knows, even bacteria whom we cannot see with the naked eye and in this sense answer to the name of jinn or ‘hidden ones’ may well be a diminutive, less advanced class of these creatures. They are after all invisible organisms that feed on rotting bones and dung just as the Prophet said of the Jinn.

Proof of their Existence

Proof of the existence of Jinn could be seen in the effects they have on the world around us- mysteries which even modern science is unable to explain. Why is it that we have clairvoyants and crystal gazers in our midst even in this scientific age. Yes, the jinn are alive and well, resorting to many things to influence our world. One such is divination which some misguided folk resort to, to unveil the future or learn about unknown things like where the dead reside. These are just what the evil jinn look for to trap and sway the minds of men. Palmistry, crystal gazing and tarot cards are some of the media through which these evil jinn express themselves to create mischief in our world and lead us away from God.

 The Qur’an gives us an idea of how the Jinn gather information of the fates of things to come so that they could pass it on to their friends among the soothsayers.  In Soorah Al Jinn or the Chapter of the Jinn, the Jinn admit:

And we pried into the secrets of heaven, but we found it filled with stern guards and flaming fires. We used indeed to sit there in (hidden) stations, to (steal) a hearing, but any who listens now will find a flaming fire watching him in ambush

(The Jinn: 8-9)

The Prophet went on to add:

They (the Jinn) would pass the information back down until it reaches the lips of a magician or fortune-teller Sometimes a meteor would overtake them before they could pass it on. If they passed it on before being struck, they would add to it a hundred lies

(Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Here we are told that the jinn used to eavesdrop on the conversations of the angels in heaven as regards the fates of men and pass it on to their fortune-telling friends. However the Jinn no longer enjoyed this privilege in gathering heavenly news and passing it onto men without facing chastisement in the form of asteroids or shooting stars.

And We have guarded it (the heavens) from every accursed devil. But any that  is able to snatch a hearing is pursued by a brightly burning flame

(The Rocky Tract:17-18)

In the days before the advent of the Prophet fortune-tellers tended to be accurate in their predictions.  However with his advent the heavens were intensely guarded intensely by the angels and any Jinn who tried to listen was attacked by meteors or shooting stars.Whatever information they steal they convey to the soothsayers, who mix it with lies to do the devil’s bidding and cause mischief. It once happened that some folk asked the Prophet about fortune-tellers. He told them:“They are nothing”. They said: “But, Messenger of God, they speak about things which are true!” The Prophet, responded “That is a word which Satan steals and then he mumbles it into the ear of his protégé with a sound like the clucking of a chicken. Then they mix a hundred lies with it’” (Adab Al Mufrad). The Prophet warned us against resorting to such fortune-tellers in no uncertain terms: “The prayer of one who approaches a fortune-teller and asks him about anything, will not be accepted for forty days or nights” (Saheeh Muslim).

Those in League with the Jinn

 History bears ample testimony to the influence of men who were in league with the jinn. Take the case of Rasputin who gained such a hold on the Russian Royals through his reputation for working miracles, and which only became stronger when the heir to the throne Prince Alexai took ill and he sent a telegram assuring the Romanovs that The little one will not die! Sure enough the little one did not die then and there, but his family and he did when the Communists took over and massacred them all in cold blood a while afterwards. Had it not been for Rasputin the course of history might have been different with the Romanovs still ruling Russia and keeping atheism at bay.

Like palmistry, crystal gazing was another form through which the Jinn expressed themselves, not only in gypsy communities in Europe, but also in the Middle East. A well known Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah who lived in the 13th century has in his treatise on the Friends of God and the Friends of Satan, Awliya Ar-Rahmaan wa Awliya Ash-Shaytaan left us a record of some mystics who said that the jinn showed them something shiny like water and glass in which images or pictures of whatever they sought information would appear and they in turn would inform people about it.

It is also possible that Fortune-tellers may operate through the Qareen, the Jinn companions assigned to each and every one of us who throughout our lives who whisper to us to give in our baser desires and so mislead us from the path of God.  Since the Qareen are with humans all their life, they are aware of all that has happened to their assigned person from cradle to the grave.  Thus by making contact with the Qareen, the fortune-teller is able to convince his or her client that he knows about the past of that particular person and can easily make out his or her future as well.

Possessing Bodies, Corrupting Minds

 Another proof of the existence of the jinn is their ability to take possession of people’s bodies. The Bible speaks of many cases of possessed people being brought to Jesus who drove out the evil spirits away from their bodies by a word (Matthew 8:16). We also hear of how some demons who had taken possession of a Gerasene man were driven out by him. When Jesus asked: “What is your name?”, he replied: “Legion!” for many were the demons that had entered him. They eventually entered a herd of swine that then rushed into a lake where they drowned (Luke 8:26-33). When the Pharisees heard that Jesus could drive out demons, they said: “This man drives out demons only by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons”. But Jesus said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:24-26).

The Arabs of the Prophet’s day were also aware of demoniacal possession and in fact thought that insane people were actually possessed, hence the term for madman majnūn was taken to mean ‘one possessed by the jinn’. Such possession and exorcism to get rid of such possession even took place in the Prophet’s time. On one occasion he beat an insane and apparently possessed boy while shouting “Get out, enemy of God! Enemy of God get out!” after which the boy was cured of the possession (Ahmad).

Ibn Taymiyyah, a leading scholar of Islam once read out a verse from the Qur’an: Afahasibtum annama khalaqnakum abathan wa’annakum ilayna la turjaoon (Did you think that We Created you in jest, and that You would not be brought back to Us?) in the ear of a person afflicted with epilepsy. The spirit that possessed him answered by saying “indeed” extending her voice (mocking the Qur’an). He then took a stick and beat the sick person with it while the she-devil said “I love this person”. The Shaykh said “But he does not love you”. She said “I want to accompany him to perform the pilgrimage” whereupon he said “He does not want to go to pilgrimage with you”. She said “I will leave him in your honour” and he said “No, but as an obedience to God and His Messenger”. She said “Then I will leave him alone”. The patient then woke up and started looking around, inquiring “What brought me to the presence of the Shaykh?”. They asked him “What about the beating you took ?”. He said “Why would the Shaykh beat me while I have not done anything wrong?”. He had no idea that he had been beaten. To this day, possession of humans by devils take place in many parts of the world, including in the West, a phenomenon reflected in films like The Exorcist.

Now, you may wonder why Jinn should take possession of people. It may be that in some instances they form an attachment to people, but in a good number of cases it is done out of malice or to mislead people to believe in others than God. If a person does become possessed by a devil, the name of God and none other has to be used to expel them.  What often happens in the West is that exorcists licensed by the churches use the formula In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost to rid one of demons, thus invoking the names of others besides God to exorcise the Jinn.  When the Jinn leave, they tend to believe that their formula has worked, little realizing that it is a ploy of the Jinn. Why, because it knows that if it listens to the exorcist, then it would have succeeded in making him believe in others other than God, not to mention the family of the victim and all those near and dear to them.

            Forbidden Contacts

Other scientifically inexplicable activities such as séances and oujia boards used to make contact with the dead, are also little doubt manipulated by the Jinn.  Those seeking to make contact with their loved ones may find the Jinn speaking to them, mimicking the voices of those near and dear to them through these séances, misleading them to believe that they are in the realm of spirits or in other words ghosts walking the earth, rather than having a place in the hereafter. Visions of ghosts and even of holy people like Jesus and the Virgin Mary which people have seen over the centuries are such tricks the Jinn resort to in order to fool them and lead them astray. Malicious Jinn may also take possession of uninhabited houses, creating disturbances and leading any humans who occupy them to believe that such houses are haunted by the ghosts of humans and not evil spirits as such.

Yet another means by which Jinn influence people is through the feats of magicians.  Since the Jinn can travel long distances in as much as a blink of an eye, they can help magicians perform some wondrous tricks. This is seen from the story of Solomon to whom the Jinn were subject though he was a Prophet and no magician. The Qur’an tells of how an Ifrit (a powerful and crafty one) among the Jinns offered to bring Solomon the Queen of Sheba’s Throne before he could rise from his Council (The Ant:39). Solomon of course did not accede to the offer of the Jinn who obviously sought to win over Solomon to his side, thereby testing his dependence on God. Of late one finds that Jewish magicians performing some incredible feats like making things appear and disappear or lifting things mysteriously before one’s very eyes and other tricks that simply cannot be explained scientifically. Such magicians have unlike wise king Solomon sold their souls to the devil. Why else would they be vested with such magical powers by the Jinn. It is they who form the church of Satan on earth, misleading innocent men and women from the true path

Turn your gaze to the heavens

So any time you turn your eyes to the heavens and see them ablaze with shooting stars, you will know what’s really going on –  the devils being chased away from the heavens by the angels. What else explains why these meteors should move about in such unpredictable fashion and even find their way to earth with such fury. That these heavenly weapons used to ward away the jinn are indeed meteors or shooting stars is suggested by the Qur’an which tells us:

It is We Who have set out the zodiacal signs in the heavens and made them fair-seeming to beholders and moreover we have guarded them from every devil stoned

(The Rocky Tract:16-17)

Now, it is well known that these space rocks contain iron as apparent from those that reach earth, which may explain why humans across space and time have held that the Jinn are afraid of iron. To give some examples, the Arabs hold that Jinn have a great dread of iron and that simply exclaiming Hadeed! Hadeed! (Iron! Iron!) could defend one from them. People may also say to avert the Jinn Hadeed ya Meshoom! (Iron, thou unlucky).  Even among the Moors, a Muslim people of Sri Lanka a newly circumcised boy was instructed to carry an iron object with him every time he left to answer a call of nature as a prophylaxis against lurking spirits while a girl who had recently menstruated was never allowed to venture outside her house without carrying an iron object to ward them off.

Even among the majority Sinhalese Buddhists of that country, the Yakku, a class of spirits like the Jinn, were believed to be afraid of iron, which was used to ward away the glances of these malicious spirits.Thus the Islamic view of Jinn been repelled by meteors is supported by folk belief even among non- Muslim peoples, suggesting that it has some factual basis.  Modern science tells us that the collapsing cores of massive stars may become so hot as to support more exotic nuclear reactions that consume helium and produce a variety of heavier elements up to iron. That iron is the last element so produced in such reactions is interesting, making it the ideal weapon for the angels to hurl at the jinn and to cause them harm as they have none of it in them.