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Jinn (Ghoul) gathering for combat in a Persian poem, featuring their characteristic hoofs

Jinn (Arabic: ‎, jinn) - also romanized as djinn or anglicized as genie (with the broader meaning of spirit or demon, depending on source)[1][2] - are supernatural creatures in early pre-Islamic Arabian and later Islamic mythology and theology.[3] Like humans, they are created with fitra, neither born as believers nor as unbelievers, but their attitude depends on whether they accept God's guidance.[3] Since jinn are neither innately evil nor innately good, Islam acknowledged spirits from other religions, and was able to adapt spirits from other religions during its expansion. Jinn are not a strictly Islamic concept; they may represent several pagan beliefs integrated into Islam.[4][a]

In an Islamic context, the term jinn is used for both a collective designation for any supernatural creature and also to refer to a specific type of supernatural creature.[2] Therefore, jinn are often mentioned together with devils (shayn). Both devils and jinn feature in folklore and are held responsible for misfortune, possession and diseases. However, the jinn are sometimes supportive and benevolent. They are mentioned frequently in magical works throughout the Islamic world, to be summoned and bound to a sorcerer, but also in zoological treatises as animals with a subtle body.


Jinn is an Arabic collective noun deriving from the Semitic root JNN (Arabic: ? / ?‎, jann), whose primary meaning is 'to hide' or 'to adapt'. Some authors interpret the word to mean, literally, 'beings that are concealed from the senses'.[5] Cognates include the Arabic majn?n (‎, 'possessed' or, generally, 'insane'), jannah (‎, 'garden', 'eden' or 'heaven'), and jan?n (‎, 'embryo').[6] Jinn is properly treated as a plural (however in Classical Arabic, may also appear as j?nn, ‎), with the singular being jinn? (?‎). [b]

The origin of the word jinn remains uncertain.[2] Some scholars relate the Arabic term jinn to the Latin genius - a guardian spirit of people and places in Roman religion - as a result of syncretism during the reign of the Roman empire under Tiberius and Augustus;[7] however, this derivation is also disputed.[2] Another suggestion holds that jinn may be derived from Aramaic ginnaya (Classical Syriac: ?‎) with the meaning of 'tutelary deity'[2] or 'guardian'. Others claim a Persian origin of the word, in the form of the Avestic Jaini, a wicked (female) spirit. Jaini were among various creatures in the possibly even pre-Zoroastrian mythology of peoples of Iran.[8][9]

The anglicized form genie is a borrowing of the French génie, also from the Latin genius. It first appeared[10] in 18th-century translations of the Thousand and One Nights from the French,[11] where it had been used owing to its rough similarity in sound and sense and further applies to benevolent intermediary spirits, in contrast to the malevolent spirits called 'demon' and 'heavenly angels', in literature.[12] In Assyrian art, creatures ontologically between humans and divinities are also called genie.[13]

Pre-Islamic era

The winged genie in the bucket and cone motif, depicting a demi-divine entity,[14] probably a forerunner of the pre-Islamic tutelary deities, who became the jinn in Islam. Relief from the north wall of the Palace of king Sargon II at Dur Sharrukin, 713-716 BCE.

The exact origins of belief in jinn are not entirely clear.[15] Some scholars of the Middle East hold that they originated as malevolent spirits residing in deserts and unclean places, who often took the forms of animals;[15] others hold that they were originally pagan nature deities who gradually became marginalized as other deities took greater importance.[15] Still, jinn had been worshipped by many Arabs during the Pre-Islamic period,[7] though, unlike gods, jinn were not regarded as immortal.

Although their mortality ranks them lower than gods, it seems that the veneration of jinn had played more importance in the everyday life of pre-Islamic Arabs than the gods themselves. According to common Arabian belief, soothsayers, pre-Islamic philosophers, and poets were inspired by the jinn.[7][15] Their culture and society were analogous to that pre-Islamic Arabian culture, with tribal leaders, protected their allies and avenge murder for any member of their tribe or allies. Although the powers of jinn exceed those of humans, it is conceivable a man could kill a jinni in single combat. Jinn were thought to shift into different shapes, but were feared especially in their invisible form, since then they could attack without being seen.[16] Jinn were also feared because they had been thought to be responsible for various diseases and mental illnesses.[7][15] Julius Wellhausen observed that such spirits were thought to inhabit desolate, dingy, and dark places and that they were feared.[17] One had to protect oneself from them, but they were not the objects of a true cult.[17]

Some scholars argue that angels and devils were introduced by the Prophet Muhammad to Arabia and did not exist among the jinn. On the other hand, Amira el-Zein[7] argues that angels were known to the pagan Arabs, but the term jinn was used for all kinds of supernatural entities among various religions and cults; thus, Zoroastrian, Christian, and Jewish angels and devils were conflated with 'jinn'.[7] Al-Jahiz credits the pre-Islamic Arabs with believing that the society of jinn constitutes several tribes and groups and some natural events were attributed to them, such as storms. They also thought jinn could protect, marry, kidnap, possess and kill people.[18]

Islamic beliefs

In scripture

The 72nd chapter of the Qur'an entitled Al-Jinn (The Jinn), as well as the heading and introductory bismillah of the next chapter entitled al-Muzzammil (The Enshrouded One)

Jinn are mentioned approximately 29 times in the Quran.[15] In Islamic tradition, Muhammad was sent as a prophet to both human and jinn communities, and that prophets and messengers were sent to both communities.[19][20][21] Traditionally Quran 72, named after them (Al-Jinn), is held to tell about the revelation to jinn and several stories mention one of Muhammad's followers accompanied him, witnessing the revelation to the jinn.[7]

In the story of Solomon they appear as nature spirits comparable to Talmudic shedim.[22] Solomon was gifted by God to talk to animals and spirits. God granted him authority over the rebellious jinn and devils forcing them to build the First Temple. In other instances, the Quran tells about Pagan Arabs, calling jinn for help, instead of God. The Quran reduced the status of jinn from that of tutelary deities to that of minor spirits, usually paralleling humans.[14]

In this regard, the jinn appear often paired with humans. To assert a strict monotheism and the Islamic concept of Tauhid, all affinities between the jinn and God were denied, thus jinn were placed parallel to humans, also subject to God's judgment and afterlife.

The jinn are also mentioned in collections of canonical hadiths. According to the reports of the hadiths, the jinn eat like humans, but instead of fresh food, they prefer rotten flesh and bones.[7][23] One hadith divides them into three groups, with one type of jinn flying through the air; another that are snakes and dogs; and a third that moves from place to place like human.[24] This account parallels the jinn to humans, similar to the Quran, as another hadith divides humans into three groups, with one kind which is like four-legged beast, who are said to remain ignorant of God's message; a second one which is under the protection of God; and a last one with the body of a human, but the soul of a devil (shaitan).[25]


Belief in jinn is not included among the six articles of Islamic faith, as belief in angels is, however many Muslim scholars believe it essential to the Islamic faith.[26][27] Many scholars regard their existence and ability to enter human bodies as part of the aqida (theological doctrines) in the tradition of Ashari.[28] In Quranic interpretation, the term jinn can be used in two different ways:

  1. as invisible entities, noted in surah Ar-Rahman in the Qur'an, who roamed the earth before Adam, created by God out of "fire and air"[29][30] (Arabic: ? ‎, m?rijin min n?r). They are believed to resemble humans in that they eat and drink, have children and die, and are subject to judgment, being sent to either heaven or hell according to their deeds;[7] however, they were also much faster and stronger than humans.[31] Along with humans, they are hold accountable for their deeds (thaqal?n)[32] These jinn are distinct from the angelic tribe noted in surah Al-Kahf called Al-jinn, named after Jannah ('The Gardens'), heavenly creatures created out of the fires of sam?m (Arabic: ‎, 'poisonous fire') - in contrast to the genus of jinn, created out of mixture of fire - who waged war against the genus of jinn and regarded as able to sin, unlike their light-created counterpart.[33][34]
  2. as the opposite of al-Ins (something in shape) referring to any object that cannot be detected by human sensory organs, including angels, devils and the interior of human beings. Accordingly, every devil and every angel is also a jinn, but not every jinn is an angel or a devil.[32][35][36][37][38] Al-Jahiz categorizes the jinn in his work Kitab al-Hayawan as follows: "If he is pure, clean, untouched by any defilement, being entirely good, he is an angel, if he is faithless, dishonest, hostile, wicked, he is devil, if he succeeds in supporting an edifice, lifting a heavy weight and listening at the doors of Heaven he is a marid and if he more than this, he is an ifrit."[39]

Related to common traditions, the angels were created on Wednesday, the jinn on Thursday, and humans on Friday, though not in succession, but rather, more than 1000 years later, respectively.[2] The community of the jinn race were like those of humans, but then corruption and injustice among them increased and all warnings sent by God were ignored. Consequently, God sent his angels to battle the infidel jinn. Just a few survived, and were ousted to far islands or to the mountains. With the revelation of Islam, the jinn were given a new chance to access salvation.[24][40][41] However, because of their prior creation, the jinn would attribute themselves to a superiority over humans and envy them for their place and rank on earth.[2] The different jinn known in Islamic folklore are disregarded among most mufassirs - authors of tafsir - Tabari being an exception (though he is not specific about them, probably due to lack of theological significance). Since Tabari is one of the earliest commentators, the several jinn have been known, since the earliest stages of Islam.[42]

Belief in jinn

The cave chamber Majlis al Jinn, believed to be a gathering place of the jinn in Omani lore

Classical era

Although the Quran reduced the status of jinn from that of tutelary deities to merely spirits, placed parallel to humans, subject to God's judgment and the process of life, death and afterlife, they were not consequently equated with devils.[7]

Spread from Arabia

When Islam spread outside of Arabia, belief in the jinn was assimilated with local belief about spirits and deities from Iran, Africa, Turkey and India.[43]

Early Persian translations of the Quran identified the jinn either with peris or divs[24] depending on their moral behavior. However, such identifications of jinn with spirits of another culture are not universal. Some of the pre-Islamic spirits remained. Peris and divs are frequently attested as distinct from jinn among Persian Muslim lore[2] (as well as Turkish Muslim lore),[44] but since both div as well as jinn are associated with demonic and the ability to transform themselves, they overlap sometimes.[45]

In Sindh, the concept of the jinni was introduced when Islam became acceptable. Since then, jinn have become a common part of local folklore, also including stories of both male jinn called jinn and female jinn called Jiniri. Folk stories of female jinn include stories such as the Jejhal Jiniri. While, due to the cultural influence, the concept of jinn may vary, all share some common features. The jinn are believed to live in societies resembling those of humans, practicing religion (including Islam, Christianity and Judaism), having emotions, needing to eat and drink, and can procreate and raise families. Additionally, they fear iron, generally appear in desolate or abandoned places, and are stronger and faster than humans.[24] Since the jinn share the earth with humans, Muslims are often cautious not to accidentally hurt an innocent jinn by uttering "destur" (permission), before sprinkling hot water.[24][46][15] Generally, jinn are thought to eat bones and prefer rotten flesh over fresh flesh.[47]

Especially Morocco has many possession traditions, including exorcism rituals,[48] despite the fact, jinn's ability to possess humans is not mentioned in canonical Islamic scriptures directly. Jinn can not enter a person whenever the jinn wants, rather the victim must be predisposed for possession in a state of dha'iyfah (Arabic: , "weakness"). Feelings of insecurity, mental instability, unhappy love and depression (being "tired from the soul") are forms of dha'iyfah.[49]

Javanese Muslims hold similar believes about the jinn as inhabiting lonely and haunted places and might possess or scare people, who trampled their homes or accidentally killed a related jinn when the jinn assumed animal shape. In some cases, the jinn might even take revenge by inflicting physical damage. Further it is acknowledged that jinn can be both belevolent and malevolent. The benevolent being called jinn Islam, who are pious and faithful, and the latter called jinn kafir. The evil jinn follow the influence of the devils (shayatin). The good jinn might even help a Muslim to do hard work and produce magical acts.[50]

In Artas (Bethlehem) oral beliefs, the jinn form societies beneath the ground. Envying humans, they frequently ascend to the surface, causing sickness to children, snatching food and taking revenge when humans mistreat them. Some jinn are nevertheless benevolent towards humans, teaching humans a moral lesson.[51]

In Mughal or Urdu cultures, Jinn often appear to be obese characters and refer to their masters as "Aqa."

In later Albanian lore, jinn (Xhindi) live either on earth or under the surface and may possess people who have insulted them, for example if their children are trodden upon or hot water thrown on them.[52]

The concept of Jinn was also prevalent in Ottoman society and much about their beliefs is yet to be known.

In Turkic lore, jinn (Turkish: Cin) are often mentioned alongside in, another demonic entity, sharing many characteristics with the jinn and only mentioned along with them.[53] Turkish sources describe jinn as creatures who can cause illnesses, mental disorders and sleep paralysis. Because it is their heartbeat that makes them invisible, they will leave a corpse behind when killed.[54]


The black king of the djinns, Al-Malik al-Aswad, from the late 14th-century Book of Wonders

The composition and existence of jinn is the subject of various debates during the Middle Ages. According to Al-Shafi'i (founder of Shafi'i schools), the invisibility of jinn is so certain that anyone who thinks they have seen one is ineligible to give legal testimony - unless they are a Prophet.[55]

According to Ashari, the existence of jinn can not be proven, because arguments concerning the existence of jinn are beyond human comprehension. Adepts of Ash?ari theology explained jinn are invisible to humans, because they lack the appropriate sense organs to envision them.[7]

Sceptics argued, doubting the existence of jinn, if jinn exist, their bodies must either be ethereal or made of solid material; if they were composed of the former, they would not able to do hard work, like carrying heavy stones. If they were composed of the latter, they would be visible to any human with functional eyes.[2] Therefore, sceptics refused to believe in a literal reading on jinn in Islamic sacred texts, preferring to view them as "unruly men" or metaphorical.[24]

On the other hand, advocates of belief in jinn assert that God's creation can exceed the human mind; thus, jinn are beyond human understanding. Since they are mentioned in Islamic texts, scholars such as Ibn Taimiyya and Ibn Hazm prohibit the denial of jinn. They also refer to spirits and devils among the Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews to "prove" their existence.[2]

Ibn Taymiyya believed the jinn to be generally "ignorant, untruthful, oppressive, and treacherous". He held that the jinn account for much of the "magic" that is perceived by humans, cooperating with magicians to lift items in the air, delivering hidden truths to fortune tellers, and mimicking the voices of deceased humans during seances.[56]

Other critics, such as Jahiz and Mas'udi, related sightings of jinn to psychological causes. According to Mas'udi, the jinn as described by traditional scholars, are not a priori false, but improbable. Jahiz states in his Kit?b al-Hayaw?n that loneliness induces humans to mind-games and wishful thinking, causing wasw?s (Arabic: ‎, 'devilish whisperings in the mind', traditionally thought to be caused by Satan). If he is afraid, he may see things that are not real. These alleged appearances are told to other generations in bedtime stories and poems, and with children of the next generation growing up with such stories, when they are afraid or lonely, they remember these stories, encouraging their imaginations and causing another alleged sighting of jinn. However, Jahiz is less critical about jinn and devils than Mas'udi, stating human fantasy at least encourage people to imagine such creatures.[2]

The Futt al-Makkiyyah, attributed to the famous Sufi Shaikh Ibn Arabi, reconciles a literal existence of jinn with the imaginal, describing the appearance of jinn as a reflection of the observer and the place they are found. They differ from the angels, which due to their closeness to heaven reflect the spheres of the divine, mainly in their distance to the earth and the heavens, stating:

"Only this much is different: The spirits of the jinn are lower spirits, while the spirits of angels are heavenly spirits".[57]

The jinn share, due to their intermediary abode both angelic and human traits. Because jinn are closer to the material realm, it would be easier for human to contact a jinn than an angel.[7]

In folk literature

The jinn can be found in various stories of the One Thousand and One Nights, including in:

In some stories, the jinn are credited with the ability of instantaneous travel (from China to Morocco in a single instant); in others, they need to fly from one place to another, though quite fast (from Baghdad to Cairo in a few hours).

Modern and post-modern era

Modernist approach

Ahmadi interpret jinn not as supernatural beings, but as powerful men whose influence is felt even though they keep their distance from the common people. According to M.T. Ahmad, references to jinn could also mean microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.[63] Others try to reconcile the traditional perspective on jinn, with modern sciences. F. Gülen, leader of Hizmet movement, had put forward the idea, that jinn may be the cause of schizophrenia and cancer and that the Quranic references to jinn on "smokeless fire" could for that matter mean "energy".[64]

Others, while not accepting connections between illness and jinn, believe in their existence, due to their occurrences in the Quran.[65] Many modernists tend to reject the belief in jinn as a superstition that holds Islamic society back.[] References to jinn in the Quran are interpreted in their ambiguous meaning of something invisible, and might be forces or simply angels.[66]

Otherwise the importance of belief in jinn to Islamic belief in contemporary Muslim society was underscored by the judgment of apostasy by an Egyptian Sharia court in 1995 against liberal theologian Nasr Abu Zayd.[67] Zayd was declared an unbeliever of Islam for - among other things - arguing that the reason for the presence of jinn in the Quran was that they (jinn) were part of Arab culture at the time of the Quran's revelation, rather than that they were part of God's creation.[27] Death threats led to Zayd leaving Egypt several weeks later.[c]


Contemporary Salafi tenets of Islam reject modern interpretations of jinn and adhere to literalism, arguing the threat of jinn and their ability to possess humans can be proven by Quran and Sunnah.[69] However, many Salafis differ from their understanding of jinn from earlier accounts. Fatwas issued by Salafi scholars often repeatedly refer to a selection of Quran verses and hadith quotes, without reference to certain traditions and individual experience. Some argue that many traditions and beliefs among Muslims are excluded from Salafi theological discourse and downplays embedded Muslim beliefs as local lore, such as symptoms of jinn possession.[d]

Further, there is no distinction made between devils and the jinn, indifferent spirits, as Salafi scholars Umar Sulaiman Al-Ashqar stated,[71] that devils are actually simply unbelieving jinn. Al-Munajjid[55] further asserts that reciting various Quranic verses and adhkaar (devotional acts involving the repetition of short sentences glorifying God) "prescribed in Sharia" [Islamic law] can protect against jinn,[55] associating Islamic healing rituals common across Islamic culture with shirk (polytheism).[72] For that reason, Saudi Arabia, following the Wahhabism tradition of Salafism, imposes a death penalty for dealing with jinn to prevent sorcery and witchcraft.[73][74] Though discouraged by some teachings of modern Islam, cultural beliefs about jinn remained popular among Muslim societies and their understanding of cosmology and anthropology.[45]

Affirmation on the existence of jinn as sapient creatures living along with humans is still widespread in the Middle Eastern world and mental illnesses are still often attributed to jinn possession.[75]

Prevalence of belief

According to a survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center in 2012, at least 86% in Morocco, 84% in Bangladesh, 63% in Turkey, 55% in Iraq, 53% in Indonesia, 47% in Thailand and 15% elsewhere in Central Asia, Muslims affirm the existence of jinn. The low rate in Central Asia might be influenced by Soviet religious oppression.[76]

Sleep paralysis is understood as a "jinn attack" by many sleep paralysis sufferers in Egypt as discovered by a Cambridge neuroscience study Jalal, Simons-Rudolph, Jalal, & Hinton (2013).[77] The study found that as many as 48 percent of those who experience sleep paralysis in Egypt believe it to be an assault by the jinn.[77] Almost all of these sleep paralysis sufferers (95%) would recite verses from the Quran during sleep paralysis to prevent future "jinn attacks". In addition, some (9%) would increase their daily Islamic prayer (salah) to get rid of these assaults by jinn.[77] Sleep paralysis is generally associated with great fear in Egypt, especially if believed to be supernatural in origin.[78]

However, despite belief in jinn being prevalent in Iran's folklore especially among the stronger believers of Islam, some phenomena such as sleep paralysis were traditionally attributed to other supernatural beings; in the case of sleep paralysis, it was bakhtak (night hag). But at least in some areas of Iran, an epileptic seizure was thought to be a jinn attack or jinn possession, and people would try to exorcise the jinn by citing the name of Allah and using iron blades to draw protective circles around the victim.[79]

Telling jinn stories and supposed encounter recounts were a common pastime of people, similar to telling ghost stories in western cultures, until a couple of decades ago when these stories drastically fell out of fashion with the increasing penetration of digital entertainments and modern recording equipment which undermined their credibility.

Post-modern literature and movies

Jinn feature in the magical realism genre, introduced into Turkish literature by Tekin (1983),[80] who uses magical elements known from pre-Islamic and Islamic Anatolian lore which, since the 1980s, has become prominent in Turkish literature. The story combined parts of folkloric and religious beliefs with a rationalized society. The protagonist is a girl who befriends inanimate objects and several spirits, such as jinn and peri. While the existence of jinn is generally accepted by the people within the novel, when her family moves from rural Anatolia into the city, the jinn do not appear anymore.

Nevertheless, the jinn are, as part of the Islamic religion, still accepted by people in the urban setting, as part of reality, however, they play no importance anymore for the modern life. The existence of jinn is accepted throughout the novel. However, when the novel transitions to the city, they just do not bear any importance, probably depicting a transition point in which modernization substitutes traditions within the Anatolian immigrants.[81]

In modern Middle Eastern horror movies, jinn are frequently the choice of monster. In Turkish horror, jinn have been popular since 2004.[82] Out of 89 films, 59 have direct references to jinn as the antagonist, 12 use other sorts of demons, while other types of horror, such as the impending apocalypse, hauntings, or ghosts, constitute only 14 films.[83] The presentation of jinn usually combines Quranic with oral and cultural beliefs about jinn.[83] Despite belittling the popular understanding of jinn by increasing influence of reformists, jinn appear similarly in Iranian horror movies.[84]

Jinn and devils

Both Islamic and non-Islamic scholarship generally distinguishes between angels, jinn, and devils as three different types of spiritual entities in Islamic traditions.[7][2]

The lines between devils and jinn are often blurred. Especially in folklore, jinn share many characteristics usually associated with devils, as both are held responsible for mental illness, diseases and possession. However, such traits do not appear within the Quran or canonical hadiths. The Quran emphasizes comparison between humans and jinn as taqalan ('accountable ones', in that they have free-will and will be judged according to their deeds).[85][2] Since the devils are exclusively evil, they are not among taqalan, thus like angels, their destiny is prescribed.[7] The jinn share many characteristics with humans, whereas devils lack.[42] Folklore differentiates both types of creatures as well.

Field researches in 2001-2002, among Sunni Muslims in Syria, recorded many oral-tales about jinn. Tales about Satan (Ibl?s) and his lesser devils (shayn) barely appeared, in contrast to tales about jinn, who featured frequently in everyday stories. It seems the devils are primarily associated with their role within Islamic scriptures, as abstract forces tempting Muslims into everything disapproved by society, while jinn can be encountered by humans in lonely places.[86] This fits the general notion that the devils whisper into the heart (qalb) of humans, but do not possess them physically.[87]

Since the term shaitan is also used as an epithet to describe the taqalan (humans and jinn), naming malevolent jinn also as shayn in some sources, it is sometimes difficult to hold them apart.[15][2] Satan and his hosts of devils (shayatin) generally appear in traditions associated with Jewish and Christian narratives, while jinn represent entities of polytheistic background.[e]



Jinn are not supernatural in the sense of being purely spiritual and transcendent to nature; while they are believed to be invisible (or often invisible) they also eat, drink, sleep, breed with the opposite sex, with offspring that resemble their parents. Intercourse is not limited to the jinn alone, but also possible between human and jinn. However, the practice is despised (makruh) in Islamic law. It is disputed whether or not such intercourse can result in offspring.

They are "natural" in the classical philosophical sense by consisting of an element, undergoing change, and being bound in time and space.[88] They resemble spirits or devils in the sense of evading sensible perception, but are not of immaterial nature as Rniyya are.[89] Thus they interact in a tactile manner with people and objects. In scientific treatises the jinn are included and depicted as animals (hayawan) with a subtle body.[90] The Qanoon-e-Islam, written 1832 by Sharif Ja'far, writing about jinn-belief in India, states that their body constitutes 90% of spirit and 10% of flesh.[91] They resemble humans in many regards, their subtle matter being the only main difference. But it is this very nature that enables them to change their shape, move quickly, fly, and entering human bodies, cause epilepsy, and illness, hence the temptation for humans to make them allies by means of magical practices.[92]

Unlike the jinn in later European understanding, jinn are not depicted as magical creatures.[15]


A Sinai desert cobra. Snakes are the animals most frequently associated with jinn. Black snakes are commonly considered as evil jinn, while white snakes as Muslim jinn.[93]

The appearance of jinn can be divided into three major categories:[2]

Zoomorphic manifestation

Jinn are assumed to be able to appear in shapes of various animals such as cats, owls and onagers (wild ass).[2]

Serpents are the animals most associated with jinn; in Islamic tradition, many narratives concern a serpent who was actually a jinni.[2] The term jann refers to both a snake and jinn.[specify] The connection between jinn and serpents are strong enough that those who believe in jinn fear killing a serpent, believing that a jinn might avenge the murder. Other chthonic animals regarded as usual forms of jinn include scorpions and lizards, perhaps among others. Both scorpions and serpents have been venerated in the ancient Near East. Some sources even speak of killed jinn leaving behind a carcass similar to either a serpent or a scorpion.[7]

Dogs are another animal often associated with jinn, especially black dogs. (Piebald dogs are rather identified with hinn, however.) Associations between dogs and jinn prevailed in Arabic literature, but lost its meaning in Persian scriptures.[2] With that being said, except for in the 'udhrut from Yemeni folklore, the jinn cannot appear in the form of wolves, who are thought of as the natural predator of the jinn and blocks their ability to vanish.[2]

Gazelles, foxes, and ostriches are also associated with jinn, though not necessarily thought to be the embodiment of jinn but rather their mounts or hosts (i.e. mythical vehicle).[7]

In form of storms and shadows

The jinn are also related to the wind, and may even appear in mists or sandstorms.[94]

Zubayr ibn al-Awam, who is held to have accompanied Muhammad during his lecture to the jinn, is said to view the jinn as shadowy ghosts with no individual structure.[7] According to a narration, Ghazali asked ?abas?, who is famous for jinn-incantations, to reveal the jinn to him. Accordingly, Tabasi showed him the jinn, seeing them like they were "a shadow on the wall." After Ghazali requested to speak to them, ?abas? stated that for now he could not see more.[95]

Although sandstorms are believed to be caused by jinn, others, such as Abu Yahya Zakariya' ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini and Ghazali attribute them to natural causes.[2] Otherwise sandstorms are thought to be caused by a battle between different groups of jinn.

Anthropomorphic manifestation

Though a common characteristic of the jinn is their lack of individuality, they may gain individuality by materializing in human forms,[2] such as Sakhr and several jinn known from magical writings.[2]

In their anthropomorphic shape, however, they are said to stay partly animal and are not fully human. Therefore, individual jinn are commonly depicted as monstrous and anthropomorphized creatures with body parts from different animals or human with animal traits.[2] Commonly associated with jinn in human form are the Si'lah and the Ghoul. However, since they stay partly animal, their bodies are depicted as fashioned out of two or more different species.[7] Some of them may have the hands of cats, the head of birds or wings rise from their shoulders.[2]

Visual art

Although there are very few visual representations of jinn in Islamic art, when they do appear, it is usually related to a specific event or individual jinn.

Visual representations of jinn appear in manuscripts and their existence is often implied in works of architecture by the presence of apotropaic devices like serpents, which were intended to ward off evil spirits. Lastly, King Solomon is illustrated very often with jinn as the commander of an army that included them.

The seven jinn kings

The red king of the djinns, Al-Ahmar, from the late 14th-century Book of Wonders.

In the Kitab al-Bulhan (or the Book of Surprises) compiled in the 14th century by Abd al-Hasan Al-Isfahani, there are illustrations of 'The seven jinn kings'.[96] In general, each 'King of the Jinn' was represented alongside his helpers and alongside the corresponding talismanic symbols.[96] For instance, the 'Red King of Tuesday' was depicted in the Kitab al-Bulhan as a sinister form astride a lion. In the same illustration, he holds a severed head and a sword. This was because the 'Red King of Tuesday' was aligned with Mars, the god of war.[96] Alongside that, there were illustrations of the 'Gold King' and the 'White King'.[96]

Aside from the seven 'Kings of the Jinn', the Kitab al-Bulhan included an illustration of Huma, or the 'Fever'. Huma was depicted as three-headed and as embracing the room around him, in order to capture someone and bring on a fever in them.[96]

Ornamentation of intertwined serpents above the door of the Citadel of Aleppo.

Architectural representation

In addition to these representations of jinn in vicinity to kingship, there were also architectural references to jinn throughout the Islamic world. In the Citadel of Aleppo, the entrance gate Bab al-Hayyat made reference to jinn in the stone relief carvings of serpents; likewise, the water gate at Ayyubid Harran housed two copper sculptures of jinn, serving as talismans to ward off both snakes and evil jinn in the form of snakes.[97]

Alongside these depictions of the jinn found at the Aleppo Citadel, depictions of the jinn can be found in the R?m Seljuk palace. There are a phenomenal range of creatures that can be found on the eight-pointed tiles of the Seal of Sulaym?n device.[97] Among these were the jinn, that belonged among Solomon's army and as Solomon claimed to have control over the jinn, so did the R?m Seljuk sultan that claimed to be the Sulaym?n of his time.[97] In fact, one of the most common representations of jinn are alongside or in association with King Solomon. It was thought that King Solomon had very close ties to the jinn, and even had control over many of them.[97] The concept that a great and just ruler has the ability to command jinn was one that extended far past only King Solomon- it was also thought that emperors, such as Alexander the Great, could control an army of jinn in a similar way.[97] Given this association, Jinn were often seen with Solomon in a princely or kingly context, such as the small, animal-like jinn sitting beside King Solomon on his throne illustrated in an illuminated manuscript of The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existence by Zakariyya al-Qazwini, written in the 13th century.[98]

Talismanic representation

The jinn had an indirect impact on Islamic art through the creation of talismans that were alleged to guard the bearer from the jinn and were enclosed in leather and included Qur'anic verses.[7] It was not unusual for those talismans to be inscribed with separated Arabic letters, because the separation of those letters was thought to positively affect the potency of the talisman overall.[7] An object that was inscribed with the word of Allah was thought to have the power to ward off evil from the person who obtained the object, though many of these objects also had astrological signs, depictions of prophets, or religious narratives.[99]

In witchcraft and magical literature

Zawba'a or Zoba'ah, the jinn-king of Friday

Witchcraft (Arabic: ‎, sihr, which is also used to mean 'magic, wizardry') is often associated with jinn and afarit[100] around the Middle East. Therefore, a sorcerer may summon a jinn and force him to perform orders. Summoned jinn may be sent to the chosen victim to cause demonic possession. Such summonings were done by invocation,[15] by aid of talismans or by satisfying the jinn, thus to make a contract.[101]

Jinn are also regarded as assistants of soothsayers. Soothsayers reveal information from the past and present; the jinn can be a source of this information because their lifespans exceed those of humans.[31] Another way to subjugate them is by inserting a needle to their skin or dress. Since jinn are afraid of iron, they are unable to remove it with their own power.[102]

Ibn al-Nadim, Muslim scholar of his Kit?b al-Fihrist, describes a book that lists 70 jinn led by Fuq?us (Arabic: ‎), including several jinn appointed over each day of the week.[103][15] Bayard Dodge, who translated al-Fihrist into English, notes that most of these names appear in the Testament of Solomon.[103] A collection of late 14th- or early 15th-century magico-medical manuscripts from Ocaña, Spain describes a different set of 72 jinn (termed "Tayaliq") again under Fuqtus (here named "Fayqay" or Fiqitush), blaming them for various ailments.[104][105] According to these manuscripts, each jinni was brought before King Solomon and ordered to divulge their "corruption" and "residence" while the Jinn King Fiqitush gave Solomon a recipe for curing the ailments associated with each jinni as they confessed their transgressions.[106]

A disseminated treatise on the occult, written by al-?abas?, called Sh?mil, deals with subjugating devils and jinn by incantations, charms and the combination of written and recited formulae and to obtain supernatural powers through their aid. Al-?abas? distinguished between licit and illicit magic, the latter founded on disbelief, while the first on purity.[107]

Seven kings of the Jinn are traditionally associated with days of the week.[15] They are also attested in the Book of Wonders. Although many passages are damaged, they remain in Ottoman copies. These jinn-kings (sometimes afarit instead) are invoked to legitimate spells performed by amulets.[108]

Planet Day Angel that monitors the associated 'Af?r?t

(Arabic; Hebrew equivalent)

'Af?r?t Type of madness (‎, jun?n) and parts of the body attacked Remarks
Common name Known other names
Sun Sunday Ruqya'il (‎); Raphael (?) Al-Mudhdhahab/ Al-Mudhhib/ Al-Mudhhab (‎; The Golden One) Abu 'Abdallah Sa'id the name "Al-Mudh·dhahab" refers to the jinn's skin tone.
Moon Monday Jibril (‎); Gabriel () Al-Abya? (‎; The White One) Murrah al-Abyad Abu al-Harith; Abu an-Nur Whole body the name "Al-Abya?" refers to the jinn's skin tone, however he is portrayed as a "dark black, charcoal" figure. The possible connection of this name is with another name "Ab? an-N?r" ("Father of Light"); his names are the same as whose applied to Ibl?s.
Mars Tuesday Samsama'il (‎); Samael (?) Al-A?mar (‎; The Red One) Abu Mihriz; Abu Ya'qub Head, uterus the name "Al-A?mar" refers to the jinn's skin tone.
Mercury Wednesday Mikail (?‎); Michael () B?rq?n/ Borqaan (‎; Two Thunders) Abu al-'Adja'yb; Al-Aswad Back
Jupiter Thursday Sarfya'il (‎); Zadkiel () Shamhuresh () Abu al-Walid; At-Tayyar Belly
Venus Friday 'Anya'il (?‎); Anael (?) Zawba'ah (‎; Cyclone, Whirlwind) Abu Hassan It is said the "whirlwind" (zawba'ah), to be caused by an evil jinn which travels inside it.
Saturn Saturday Kasfa'il (‎); Cassiel () Maymun (‎; Prosperous) Abu Nuh Feet His name means "monkey"[96]

During the Rwandan genocide, both Hutus and Tutsis avoided searching local Rwandan Muslim neighborhoods because they widely believed the myth that local Muslims and mosques were protected by the power of Islamic magic and the efficacious jinn.[] In the Rwandan city of Cyangugu, arsonists ran away instead of destroying the mosque because they feared the wrath of the jinn, whom they believed were guarding the mosque.[109]

Comparative mythology

Ancient Mesopotamian religion

Beliefs in entities similar to the jinn are found throughout pre-Islamic Middle Eastern cultures.[15] The ancient Sumerians believed in Pazuzu, a wind demon,[15][110] who was shown with "a rather canine face with abnormally bulging eyes, a scaly body, a snake-headed penis, the talons of a bird and usually wings."[110] The ancient Babylonians believed in utukku, a class of demons which were believed to haunt remote wildernesses, graveyards, mountains, and the sea, all locations where jinn were later thought to reside.[15] The Babylonians also believed in the Rabisu, a vampiric demon believed to leap out and attack travelers at unfrequented locations, similar to the post-Islamic gh?l,[15] a specific kind of jinn whose name is etymologically related to that of the Sumerian galla, a class of Underworld demon.[111][112]

Lamashtu, also known as Labartu, was a divine demoness said to devour human infants.[15][110] Lamassu, also known as Shedu, were guardian spirits, sometimes with evil propensities.[15][110] The Assyrians believed in the Alû, sometimes described as a wind demon residing in desolate ruins who would sneak into people's houses at night and steal their sleep.[15] In the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, entities similar to jinn were known as ginnayê,[15] an Aramaic name which may be etymologically derived from the name of the genii from Roman mythology.[15] Like jinn among modern-day Bedouin, ginnayê were thought to resemble humans.[15] They protected caravans, cattle, and villages in the desert[15] and tutelary shrines were kept in their honor.[15] They were frequently invoked in pairs.[15]


The description of jinn is almost identical with that of the shedim from Jewish mythology. As with the jinn, some of whom follow the law brought by Muhammad, some of the shedim are believed to be followers of the law of Moses and consequently good.[113] Both are said to be invisible to human eyes but are nevertheless subject to bodily desires, like procreating and the need to eat. Some Jewish sources agree with the Islamic notion that jinn inhabited the world before humans.[114][115] Asmodeus appears both as an individual of the jinn or shedim, as an antagonist of Solomon.[15]


As in Islam, the idea of spiritual entities converting to one's own religion can be found in Buddhism. According to lore, Buddha preached to Devas and Asura, spiritual entities who, like humans, are subject to the cycle of life, and who resemble the Islamic notion of jinn, who are also ontologically placed among humans in regard to eschatological destiny.[7][116]


Van Dyck's Arabic translation of the Old Testament uses the alternative collective plural "jann" (Arab:); translation:al-j?nn) to render the Hebrew word usually translated into English as "familiar spirit" (, Strong #0178) in several places (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6; 1 Samuel 28:3,7,9; 1 Chronicles 10:13).[117]

Some scholars evaluated whether the jinn might be compared to fallen angels in Christian traditions. Comparable to Augustine's descriptions of fallen angels as ethereal, jinn seem to be considered as the same substance. Although the concept of fallen angels is not absent in the Quran,[118] the jinn nevertheless differ in their major characteristics from that of fallen angels: While fallen angels fell from heaven, the jinn did not, but try to climb up to it in order to receive the news of the angels. Jinn are closer to daemons.[119]

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ From T. Nünlist (2015) Dämonenglaube im Islam[2] p 2
    TRANSLATION: (in English)
    "M. Dols points out that jinn-belief is not a strictly Islamic concept. It rather includes countless elements of idol-worship, as Muhammad's enemies practised in Mecca during jahilliya. According to F. Meier early Islam integrated many pagan deities into its system by degrading them to spirits. 1. In Islam, the existence of spirits that are neither angels nor necessarily devils is acknowledged. 2. Thereby Islam is able to incorporate non-biblical[,] non-Quranic ideas about mythic images, that means: a. degrading deities to spirits and therefore taking into the spiritual world. b. taking daemons, not mentioned in the sacred traditions of Islam, of uncertain origin. c. consideration of spirits to tolerate or advising to regulate them."[2]
    ORIGINAL: (in German)
    "M. Dols macht darauf aufmerksam, dass der Ginn-Glaube kein strikt islamisches Konzept ist. Er beinhaltet vielmehr zahllose Elemente einer Götzenverehrung, wie sie Muhammads Gegner zur Zeit der gahiliyya in Mekka praktizierten. Gemäß F. Meier integrierte der junge Islam bei seiner raschen Expansion viele heidnische Gottheiten in sein System, indem er sie zu Dämonen degradierte. 1. Im Islam wird die Existenz von Geistern, die weder Engel noch unbedingt Teufel sein müssen, anerkannt. 2. Damit besitzt der Islam die Möglichkeit, nicht-biblische[,] nicht koranische Vorstellungen von mythischen Vorstellungen sich einzuverleiben, d.h.: a. Götter zu Geistern zu erniedrigen und so ins islamische Geisterreich aufzunehmen. b. in der heiligen Überlieferung des Islams nicht eigens genannte Dämonen beliebiger Herkunft zu übernehmen. c. eine Berücksichtigung der Geister zu dulden oder gar zu empfehlen und sie zu regeln."[2][4]
  2. ^ sometimes Arabs use J?nn (Arabic: ‎) term for singular, j?nn also referred to jinn world - another plural, snakes / serpents and another type of jinn
  3. ^ Hostility against Nasr Abu Zayd was sufficiently strong that even a police guard guarding his residence in Cairo referred to him as an unbeliever, telling Zayd's neighbors that [the guard] was there "because of the kafir".[68]
  4. ^ The opinions of the prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer Muhammad Al-Munajjid, an important scholar in Salafism and founder of IslamQA, are repeated over several online sources, and is also cited by IslamOnline and for information about jinn, devils and angels. Similar and IslamOnline both feature the article about jinn written by Fethullah Gulen, using a similar approach to interpret the spiritual world.[70]
  5. ^ From T. Nünlist (2015) Dämonenglaube im Islam[2] p 286
    TRANSLATION: (in English)
    "Simplified, it can be stated that devils and Iblis appear in reports with Jewish background. Depictions, whose actors are referred to as jinn are generally located apart from Judeo-Christian traditions."[2]
    ORIGINAL: (in German)
    "Vereinfacht lässt sich festhalten, dass Satane und Iblis in Berichten mit jüdischem Hintergrund auftreten. Darstellungen, deren Akteure als jinn bezeichnet werden, sind in der Regel außerhalb der jüdischen-christlichen Überlieferung zu verorten."[2]


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Further reading

  • Crapanzano, V. (1973). The Hamadsha: A study in Moroccan ethnopsychiatry. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Drijvers, H.J.W. (1976). The Religion of Palmyra. Leiden, NL: Brill.
  • el-Zein, Amira (2009). Islam, Arabs, and the intelligent world of the Jinn. Contemporary Issues in the Middle East. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-3200-9.
  • El-Zein, Amira (2006). "Jinn". In Meri, J.F. (ed.). Medieval Islamic Civilization - an Encyclopedia. New York, NY & Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 420-421.
  • Goodman, L.E. (1978). The case of the animals versus man before the king of the jinn: A tenth-century ecological fable of the pure brethren of Basra. Library of Classical Arabic Literature. 3. Boston, MA: Twayne.
  • Maarouf, M. (2007). Jinn Eviction as a Discourse of Power: A multidisciplinary approach to Moroccan magical beliefs and practices. Leiden: Brill.
  • Peterson, Mark Allen (2007). "From Jinn to Genies: Intertextuality, media, and the making of global folklore". In Sherman, Sharon R.; Koven, Mikel J. (eds.). Folklore/Cinema: Popular film as vernacular culture. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press – via Utah State U. digital commons.
  • Taneja, Anand V. (2017). Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and ecological thought in the medieval ruins of Delhi. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-1-5036-0393-6.
  • Zbinden, E. (1953). Die Djinn des Islam und der altorientalische Geisterglaube [The Djinn of Islam and Ancient Eastern Spiritual Belief] (in German). Bern, CH: Haupt.

External links

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