Jinn (Arabic: جِنّ), also romanized as djinn or anglicized as genies, are invisible creatures in early pre-Islamic Arabia and later in Islamic culture and beliefs.[1] Like humans, they are accountable for their deeds and can be either believers (Muslims) or disbelievers (kafir), depending on whether they accept God's guidance. Since jinn are neither innately evil nor innately good, Islam acknowledged spirits from other religions and could adapt them during its expansion. Jinn are not a strictly Islamic concept; they may represent several pagan beliefs integrated into Islam.[2][a] To assert a strict monotheism and the Islamic concept of tawhid (oneness of God), Islam denies all affinities between the jinn and God, thus placing the jinn parallel to humans, also subject to God's judgment and afterlife. The Quran condemns the pre-Islamic Arabian practice of worshipping or seeking protection from them.[4]

Jinn gather to do battle with the hero Faramarz. Illustration in an illuminated manuscript of the Iranian epic Shahnameh
GroupingMythical creature
FolkloreReligion in pre-Islamic Arabia, Islamic folklore
RegionMuslim world

Although usually invisible, jinn are supposed to be composed of thin and subtle bodies (Arabic: أَجْسَام, romanizedajsām), and can change at will. They favor a cockroach, snake form, but can also choose to appear as scorpions, lizards, or as humans. They may even engage in sexual affairs with humans and produce offspring. If they are injured by someone, they usually seek revenge or possess the assailant's body, requiring exorcism. Jinn rarely meddle in human affairs, preferring to live with their own kind in tribes similar to those of pre-Islamic Arabia.

Individual jinn appear on charms and talismans. They are called upon for protection or magical aid, often under the leadership of a king. Many people who believe in jinn wear amulets to protect themselves against the assaults of the jinn, sent out by sorcerers and witches. A commonly held belief maintains that jinn cannot hurt someone who wears something with the name of God written upon it. While some Muslim scholars in the past had ambivalent attitudes towards jinn, contemporary Muslim scholarship increasingly associate jinn with idolatry.

Etymology and translation

The winged genie in the bucket and cone motif, depicting a demi-divine entity,[5] 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.

Jinn is an Arabic collective noun deriving from the Semitic root JNN (Arabic: جَنّ / جُنّ, 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'.[6] Cognates include the Arabic majnūn (مَجْنُون, 'possessed' or, generally, 'insane'), jannah (جَنَّة, 'garden', 'eden' or 'heaven'), and janīn (جَنِين, 'embryo').[7] Jinn is properly treated as a plural (however in Classical Arabic, may also appear as jānn, جَانّ), with the singular being jinnī (جِنِّيّ).[b] which the English word "genie" is derived from.

The origin of the word jinn remains uncertain.[3](p22) 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;[8](p38) however, this derivation is also disputed.[3](p25) Supporters argue that both Roman genii as well as Arabian jinn are considered to be lesser deities inhabiting local sanctuaries, trees or springs, and persons or families.[9] Aramaic ginnaya (Classical Syriac: ܓܢܝܐ) with the meaning of 'tutelary deity'[3](p24) or 'guardian' are attributed to similar functions and are another possible origin of the term jinn.

Another suggestion holds that the word is of Persian origin and appeared 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.[10][11] Wensick advocates a purely Arabic origin of the term, asserting that according to the common Semitic view psychic and bodily affections are caused by spirits. An object reacting upon such an affect would be an incarnation of said spirit. Since these spirits are covered from the sight of humans, they would have been called jinn.[12](p45)

The anglicized form genie is a borrowing of the French génie, also from the Latin genius.[13] It first appeared in 18th-century translations of the Thousand and One Nights from the French,[14] 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.[15] In Assyrian art, creatures ontologically between humans and divinities are also called genie.[16]

Though not a precise fit, descriptive analogies that have been used for these beings in Western thought include demon, spirit, "sprite", and fairy, depending on source.[17][3](p22) In turn, the Arabic translation for the Greek Nymph ('arūsa) is also used for jinn by Middle Eastern sources.[12](p43) Although the term spirit is frequently used, it has been criticised for not capturing the corporeal nature of the jinn, and that the term genie should be used instead.[18]

Pre-Islamic era

A Sinai desert cobra. Snakes are the animals most frequently associated with jinn. Black snakes are commonly believed to be evil jinn, whereas white snakes are held to be benign (Muslim) jinn.[19]

The exact origins of belief in jinn are not entirely clear.[20](pp 1–10) Belief in jinn in the pre-Islamic Arab religion is testified not only by the Quran, but also by pre-Islamic literature in the seventh century.[21](p54) 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;[20](p 1–10) others hold that they were originally pagan nature deities who gradually became marginalized as other deities took greater importance.[20](pp 1–10)

Fear and veneration


Jinn were already worshipped by many Arabs during the Pre-Islamic period.[8](p 34)[21](p54) Julius Wellhausen observed that jinn were often thought to "inhabit or haunt desolate, dark and dingy places in the desert".[22] For that reason, they were held responsible for various diseases and mental illnesses.[8](p 122)[20](pp 1–10) Emilie Savage-Smith asserts that malicious jinn and good gods were distinct in pre-Islamic Arabia, but admits that such distinction is not absolute.[12](p39) In the regions north to the Hejaz, Palmyra and Baalbek, the terms jinni and ilah (deity) were often used interchangeably.[23] Julius Wellhausen likewise agrees that in pre-Islamic Arabia it was assumed there are at least some friendly and helpful beings among the jinn. He distinguishes between a god and a jinni, not on the basis of morality, but on the basis of worship; the jinn are worshipped in private while the gods are worshipped in public.[12](p39)

Al-Jahiz credits the pre-Islamic Arabs with believing that the society of jinn constitutes several tribes and groups, analogous to pre-Islamic Arabian culture. Jinn could also protect, marry, kidnap, possess, and kill people.[24][25](p 424) Despite being invisible, jinn are considered to have bodies (ajsām), as described by Zakariya al-Qazwini, they are among animals, along with humans, burdened beasts (like horses), cattles, wild beasts, birds, and reptiles.[26](p135) Jinn are further known as shapeshifters, often assuming the form of an animal, favoring the form of a snake. Other chthonic animals regarded as forms of jinn include scorpions and lizards. Both scorpions and serpents have been venerated in the ancient Near East.

When they shift into a human form however, they are said to stay partly animal and are not fully human.[3](p164)[8](p164) Although the power of jinn usually exceed those of humans, it is conceivable a man could kill a jinni in single combat, but they are feared for attacking without being seen.[27] Some sources even speak of killed jinn leaving behind a carcass similar to either a serpent or a scorpion.[8](pp91–93)

Poetry and Soothsaying


Despite that they were often feared or inspired awe, the jinn were also pictured to befriend humans or have romantic feelings for them. According to common Arabian belief, soothsayers, pre-Islamic philosophers, and poets were inspired by the jinn.[8](p 34)[20](pp 1–10)

The Arabian poet al-Aʿshā (d. after 3/625) is said to got his inspiration for his poetry by a friend named Misḥal ("daʿawtu khalīlī Misḥalan") and further calls him his jinni-brother ("akhī ʾl-jinnī").[28] Similarly, the poet Thābit (d. 54/674) who later converted to Islam and became known as "the poet of the prophet", referred to his jinni-friend as his "sharp-sighted brother from the jinn" ("wa-akhī min al-jinn al-baṣīr").[28] The relationship between jinn and humans can also be romantic in nature. According to one famous Arabian story, the jinni Manzur fell in love with a human woman called Habbah. He is supposed to have taught her the arts of healing.[29]

The mutual relationship between jinn and humans is different than that of a jinni and a soothsayer (kāhin). The soothsayer is presented as someone who is totally controlled by the jinni entering. The soothsayer was consulted to reveal hidden information or settle disputes, as it was believed, the jinn speaking through them reveal hidden knowledge.[30]




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,[20](p21) exclusively in Meccan surahs.[31] The Quran assumes that the audience is familiar with the subject without elaborating on the jinn much further.[32] According to the Quran 51:56-56, Muhammad was sent as a prophet to both human and jinn communities, and prophets and messengers were sent to both communities.[33][34][35]

Throughout the Quran, humans and jinn (al-ins wa-l-jinn) appear frequently as a pair, designating their equal status in regards of their creation and rejecting that jinn share divinity with the Creator.[36](p181)[5] The term ins derives from anisa, which means "to be familiar with", and refers to recognisable familiar human beings. In contrast, the term jinn refers to foreign, invisible, or unknown anthropomorphic beings, which are nonetheless subject to the same considerations as the former.[9](p101) They were both created to worship God (51:56).[37][36](p182) Because they are supposed to worship God from free will, they are both able for good and evil deeds (7:179, 55:56).[37][36](p182) They are, like humans, rational beings formed of nations (7:38).[37][36](p182)

Surah al-jinn is about the revelation to jinn.[8](p64) The same Surah mentions righteous jinn on one hand, and malicious jinn on the other.[36](p181) The jinn can neither harm nor benefit humans, for they are occupied with looking after themselves and their own place in the cosmos.[36](p185) This is in notable contrast to demons and devils in the Judeo-Christian tradition.[36](p181, 185) The Quran does not condemn the jinn as a source of harm, but by mistaking them for beings deserving cultic veneration (72:6).[37][12](p41)[36](p185) Jinn and humans are blamed for ascribing divine attributes to another creature (i.e. jinn); jinn to themselves and humans to the jinn.[12](p41)[9](p102)

In the Quranic account, despite their similarities, there are important differences between the two species. Whereas humans are made from "clay" or "dirt", jinn were created from "smokeless fire" (Quran 15:27, Quran 55:15),[36](p182) which is possibly the reason why they are credited with some extraordinary abilities, such as invisibility, transformation, and ascending into the air like devils (Quran 72:8).[36](p182) Despite some superhuman powers, the jinn occupy no fundamentally different position in the Quran than humans. Like humans, the jinn have no knowledge of the future.[36](p182) Like humanity, jinn face epistemic limitations regarding "the hidden/occult", have to rely on God's messengers, and face eschatological judgement.[36](p182)[38][37]


Kashan, Iran, late 12th–13th century mina’i-fritware bowl. The scene in this bowl can be understood as depicting the enthroned (Second) Sulaymān with messengers to either side, crowned human headed winged jinn.[39]
The Singer Ibrahim and the jinn. Ibrahim has been imprisoned by his master Muhammad al-Amin and visited by a jinn in guise of an old man. The jinn offers him food and drink and is so impressed by Ibrahim's voice that he convinces Muhammad to free him.[40]

In Quranic interpretation, the term jinn can be used in two different ways:[41](p12)[9]

  1. a specific invisible being, offspring of abu Jann considered to be, along with humans, thaqalān (accountable for their deeds), created out of "fire and air" (Arabic: مَارِجٍ مِن نَّار, mārijin min nār).[42]
  2. any object that cannot be detected by human sensory organs, including angels, devils, and the (spiritual) interior of human beings.[42][43][c]

Belief in jinn is not included among the six articles of Islamic faith, as belief in angels is. Nonetheless, many Muslim scholars, including the Hanbalī scholar ibn Taymiyya and the Ẓāhirī scholar ibn Hazm, believe they are essential to the Islamic faith since they are mentioned in the Quran.[3](p33) It is generally accepted by the majority of Muslim scholars that jinn can possess individuals. This is considered to be part of the doctrines (aqidah) of the "people of the Sunnah" (ahl as-sunnah wal-jammah'a) in the tradition of Ash'ari.[46](p 68) The Atharī scholars ibn Taimiyya and ibn Qayyim agree on this matter.[46] From among the Sunni schools of theology, only the Māturīdīs seems to debate possession. Al-Rustughfanī deemed jinn-possession impossible.[47]

Al-Māturīdī focuses on the dynamics between jinn and humans based on Quran 72:6. He states that seeking refuge among the jinn increases fear and anxiety, however, not because of the jinn, but due to the psychological dependence of the individual towards external powers. By that, he refers to seeking refuge among the jinn as a form of širk, due to the reliance on a created thing instead of God.[41](p23)

Although jinn frequently appear in hagiographic Sufi literature and their existence is never doubted, they do not play any major role in Sufi cosmology. Because of their similarities to humans, they function neither as a model to follow (like angels) nor tempters of the lower self (like Satan) and mostly feature in poetic anecdotes.[48]



The jinn are obligated to follow the divine law (sharīʿa), as derived from the Quran by Muslim jurists (faqīh). Thus, the jinn are considered, along with humans, to be mukallāf. Believers among the jinn are called "Muslim jinn" (muslimū l-jinn).[49]

Since both creations must perform the required prayers (salah), Muslim jurists debated if one is allowed to perform the prayer behind a jinni. Shibli cites two Hanbalite scholars who regard this as permissible without hesitation. Since Muhammad was sent to jinn and humans, both are mukallāf and subject to the command to pray.[d]

Because humans and jinn are capable of procreation, Muslim jurists dealt with the issue of permissibility of intercourse between these two types of creatures. Some Ḥadīths, though considered fabricated (mawḍūʻ) by some muhaddith (hadith scholars), pushed the necessity for an explanation:[50]

"The Hour will come when the children of jinn will become many among you."

— Suyuti, Laqt al-marjân, 38.[50]

"Among you are those who are expatriated (mugharrabûn);" and this, he explained, meant "crossed with jinn."

— Suyuti, Laqt al-marjân, 28.[50]

Although there are recorded cases between human-jinn relationships[e] most Muslim jurists agree that such a relationship is not permissible.[51] Even those scholars who allowed such relationships, still considered them undesirable (makruh).[50] Offspring of human-jinn relationships are nonetheless, usually considered to be gifted and talented people with special abilities.[25]


Examples of the Jinn of the Air depicted on Seljuk 13th century tilework from Kubad Abad.

The jinn (also known as: Albanian: Xhindi, Turkish: Cin, Belarusian: Чорт) were adopted by later Islamic culture, since the Quran affirms their existence.[52] Although depictions are categorized into little tradition (folklore) and greater tradition (official Islam) for research purposes, both depictions are largely the same.[f]

The Quran does not consider foreign mythological beings to be devils, but entities erroneously ascribed divine power to. Therefore, jinn were considered a third class of invisible beings, often neutral or morally ambiguous, not consequently equated with devils.[8](p52) Islam allowed to integrate local beliefs about spirits and deities from Iran, Africa, Turkey and India, into a monotheistic framework without demonizing them.[53] An example of this can be seen in the writings of Syed Sultan who treated Shiva and Parvati as "created beings" and casts the Suras and Asuras into the roles of the jinn in Islamic haggadic tradition.[54] Besides local deities, the existence of purely malevolent spirits is also acknowleged. Thus, jinn exist alongside other mythological entities, such as demons (Dēw) and fairies (parī).[55]

The moral attitude of the jinn is usually associated with their religion. Good jinn are usually considered Muslim jinn or jinn Islam, whereas unbelieving jinn were tempted by the devils (shayatin) and are called kāfir jinn or jinn kāfir.[56] Besides Islam, they could also practise Christianity and Judaism.[57] Good jinn might teach people moral lessons and might be benevolent,[58] or aid spiritual persons, such as shamans (kam) in Central Asia, or spiritual healers in Senegal.[59][60]

Most of the time, jinn are believed not to interfere with humans and live mostly in desolate or abandoned places.[61][62] This is, for example, evident from the Turkish phrase İn Cin top oynuyor.[63] It is only when they are angered or disturbed, for example, if their children are trodden upon or hot water is thrown on them,[64] that they take revenge on humans. For this reason, Muslims utter "destur" (permission), before doing something which might accidentally hurt jinn, such as sprinkling hot water on public grounds or into bushes, so present jinn are advised to leave the place.[61][65][20](p149)

Angered or straightforwardly evil mannered jinn, could hurt people by inflicting physical damage, causing illness, or taking control over a human's body.[57] A human, however, cannot be controlled by jinn at any time. The individual needs to be in a state of dha'iyfah (Arabic: ضَعِيفَة, "(mental) weakness"). Feelings of insecurity, mental instability, unhappy love and depression (being "tired from the soul") are forms of dha'iyfah.[66] In that case, it is believed that an exorcism is required to save the person from the assaulting jinni.[67] To protect oneself from jinn, many Muslims wear amulets with the name of God graved on. Jinn are also said to be scared of iron[20](pp 128, 250) and wolves.[68](p 34)[20](p 95)

Modern and post-modern era


Post-modern literature and movies

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

Jinn feature in the magical realism genre, introduced into Turkish literature by Latife Tekin (1983),[69] who uses magical elements known from pre-Islamic and Islamic Anatolian lore. Since the 1980s, this genre has become prominent in Turkish literature. The story by Tekin deals with folkloric and religious belief in a rationalized society.[70]

Contrary to the neutral to positive depiction of jinn in Tekin's novels, since 2004 jinn have become a common trope in Middle Eastern horror movies.[71] The presentation of jinn usually combines Quranic with oral and cultural beliefs about jinn.[72] 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.[72] The popularity of jinn as a choice of monster can best be explained by their affirmation in the Quran.[73] They are still a popular trope today. A study from 2020 shows that jinn are still the favorite Horror element among teenagers.[74] Jinn further feature in Iranian horror movies.[75]

Prevalence of belief


Though discouraged by some teachings of modern Islam, cultural beliefs about jinn remain popular among Muslim societies and their understanding of cosmology and anthropology.[76] Affirmation on the existence of jinn as sapient creatures living along with humans is still widespread in the Middle Eastern world and West Africa.[77][78] Mental illnesses are still often attributed to jinn possession.[78] In modern Iran, (evil) jinn are often substituted by devils.[79] Similarly, in many modern tales, the term jinn is used for div (demon), causing a shift in meaning.[80] Nonetheless, belief in jinn remains popular.[81]

According to a survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center in 2012:[82]

Country % of Muslims who affirm a belief in the existence of jinn
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central Asia

The amount of Muslims believing in jinn from Bosnia and Herzegovina is higher than the general European average (30%), although only 21% believe in sorcery and 13% would wear talisman for protection against jinn; 12% support offerings and appeal given to the jinn.[83]

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).[84] The study found that as many as 48% of those who experience sleep paralysis in Egypt believe it to be an assault by the jinn.[84] 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 (ṣalāh) to get rid of these assaults by jinn.[84] Sleep paralysis is generally associated with great fear in Egypt, especially if believed to be supernatural in origin.[85]

Similarly, European patients with a Muslim background often attribute mental illnesses to jinn.[86] Most common attributations to jinn are symptoms of hallucination and psychotic symptoms, but can also include mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Capgras syndrome, and epilepsy.[86] It has been noted that not all Muslims who believe in jinn, believe they can possess people. Furthermore, belief in possession is not limited to Muslims.[87] Contrary to the assumption that higher education is proportional to disenchantment, belief in jinn-possession may remain intact even after medical graduation.[88]

Visual art

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

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.

Architectural representation

Takht-i Marmar, the marble throne supported by jinn and divs (demons), Gulistan Palace, Teheran, created for Fath Ali Shah (r. 1797–1833)

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.[89](p408)

Alongside these depictions of the jinn found at the Aleppo Citadel, depictions of the jinn can be found in the Rūm Seljuk palace. There are a phenomenal range of creatures that can be found on the eight-pointed tiles of the Seal of Sulaymān device.[89](p390) Among these were the jinn, that belonged among Solomon's army and as Solomon claimed to have control over the jinn, so did the Rūm Seljuk sultan that claimed to be the Sulaymān of his time.[89](p393) 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.[89](p399) 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.[89](p399) 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 Aja'ib al-Makhluqat by Zakariya al-Qazwini, written in the 13th century.[90]

In the Kitāb al-Bulhān

The red king of the djinn, Al-Ahmar. One of the Seven jinn-kings in the late 14th-century Book of Wonders.

In the Book of Wonders compiled in the 14th century by Abd al-Hasan al-Isfahani, there are illustrations of various supernatural beings (demons, ʿafārīt,[91] jinn, the evil eye, devils, lilith, celestial spirits, etc.).[92][93](p27)

Each celestial spirits is referred to as a "King of the Jinn", represented alongside his spiritual helpers and alongside the corresponding talismanic symbols.[93](p27) For instance, the 'Red King of Tuesday' was depicted in the Book of Wonders as a sinister form astride a lion. In the same illustration, he holds a severed head and a sword, because the 'Red King of Tuesday' was aligned with Mars, the god of war.[93](p27) Alongside that, there were illustrations of the 'Gold King' and the 'White King'.[93](p27)

Aside from the seven 'Kings of the Jinn', the Book of Wonders included an illustration of Huma (Arabic: حمى), 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.[93](p28)

Talismanic representation

Image of a talisman (Tawiz), supposed to ward off jinn, evil eye, sorcery, and demons.

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.[8](p80) 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.[8](p82) 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.[94]

Magical practises


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

Jinn might be invoked, along with demons and devils, for means of sorcery, incantation, protection, or divination.[95][96] Soothsayers (kāhin) are credited with the ability to ask jinn about things of the past, since their lives are believed to last longer than that of humans.[97](p73)

Common beliefs regarding sorcery and commanding jinn are attested in ibn al-Nadim's Kitāb al-Fihrist.[98](p141) Since he locates such practises not as a branch of science or philosophy, but rather in a chapter about stories and fables, the author might not have believed in the efficiency on sorcery himself.[98](p141) He reports that the art of commanding jinn and demons is traced back to Solomon and Jamshid. The first who would have practised a lawful method of incantation is supposed to be Abū Naṣr Aḥmad b. Hilāl.[98](p142) Ibn Nadim explains lawful and unlawful subjugating of jinn and demons as distinct: While the former controls the jinn by the power of God's divine names, the latter pleases demons and devils by prohibited offerings and sinful acts.[98](p141–142) Al-Jāḥiẓ is another author who tells about another man allegedly controlling jinn and demons: In the Umayyad period, ibn Hilāl is said to have the power to summon demons and jinn.[98](p142) He further claimed to have married a daughter of Satan and begotten a child.[98](p143)

There is evidence that subjugation of spirits, jinn, and demons, was also cultivated by various Islamic authorities. Al-Ṭabasī, who was considered a reliable muḥadīth (scholar of ḥadīth) and pious ascetic, wrote an extensive treatise (al-Shāmil fī al-baḥr al-kāmil) on subjugating demons and jinn.[98](p145) According to Zakariya al-Qazwini, it was well known that jinn obeyed al-Ṭabasī. He gives an example, that al-Ṭabasī demonstrated the jinn to the famous scholar Ghazālī, who saw them as shadows on the wall.[98](p145) He professes that jinn only obey when the individual turns away from the temptations of creation and devoting oneself towards God.[98](p146) The al-Shāmil gives detailed instructions for preparations of various incantations. Unlike, for example in the writings of al-Razi, the al-Shāmil has no direct link to Hellenistic or Hermetic magic or philosophy.[98](p148) Magic was also used in the Ottoman Empire as evident from the Talismanic shirts of Murad III.[99]

Related to the occult traditions in Islamic culture is the belief in the "Seven kings of the Week", also known as rūḥāiya ulia (higher spirits; angels) and rūḥāiya sufula (lower spirits; demons). These beings are, for example, invoked for the preparation of Magic squares.[100][20](p87) This belief is attested by the Book of Wonders.[93] It contains artistic depictions of several supernatural beings (demons, jinn, the evil eye, fever (Huma, Arabic: حمى), devils, lilith, etc.).[92][93] Some of these beings indicate that the work connects Hebrew, Christian, and Islamic magical traditions.[93] The original work is attributed to al-Bakhi, who founded a system of astrological magic based on Neo-Platonic thought.[93] Although many pages are damaged, it is possible to reconstruct their meanings from Ottoman copies.[93] Each king is depicted with helpers and associated talismanic symbols.[93]

Comparative mythology

The sheyd אַשְמְדּאָי (Ašmodai) in bird-like form, with typical rooster feet, as depicted in Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae 1775

In Comparative mythology, scholars discuss the relationship between Islamic notions of jinn and earlier Jewish and Christian ideas of supernatural beings or preternatural creatures, especially those of angels, spirits, and demons. One question has concerned the degree to Quranic jinn might be compared to fallen angels in Christian traditions, although issues with this view are that jinn are not identified as "angels" and that descriptions of angels do not involve their flying up the sky to eavesdrop on heavenly secrets (unlike jinn who do so in Surah 72).[101] Patricia Crone notes that, like jinn, the demons of the Testament of Solomon ascend to the firmament and eavesdrop on heavenly secrets; as did demons of Zoroastrian cosmology, who in addition encounter a heavenly defense systems (as did Islamic jinn).[101] Similar statements are also found in the Talmud (Berakhot 18b) and the 8th-century Scolion of Theodore bar Konai.[102]

Counterparts to Quranic jinn have been identified in the Book of Jubilees, where spirits created by God, associated with fire, having an identified leader (Mastema), may either aid or harm humans, and suffer a similar fate as the jinn.[103] The Shedim of the Tanakh are said to resemble jinn.[104][20](p120) Like jinn, among a class of beings of Jewish mythology/belief (jnun, shedim, etc.), there is a tradition of ritual exorcism and negotiations that differs from that of traditional Jewish cure of spirit possession associated with ghosts (Dybbuk).[105]

Jinn have also been compared to preternatural beings called gny' in inscriptions from Palmyra[106] as well as broader late antique demonologies.[107]

As with asuras in Buddhism, jinn have free will and can choose paths of good or bad moral lives.[108]

See also





  1. ^ From T. Nünlist (2015) Dämonenglaube im Islam[3](p2)
    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."[3](p2)
    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."[3](p2)[2]
  2. ^ sometimes Arabs use Jānn (Arabic: جان) term for singular, jānn also referred to jinn world – another plural, snakes / serpents and another type of jinn
  3. ^ This is, for example, evident from A'sha's saying in mention of Sulayman ibn Dawud; and He subjected from the jinn among the angels (min jinni al-mala'iki)"[44](p546) Al-Jahiz defines jinn as various spirits defined by their behaviour; a malicious and wicked jinn is called a s̲h̲ayṭān, a jinn lifting a heavy weight and listening at the doors of Heaven is a mārid, a jinn of great intelligence is called an ʿabḳarī, a jinn entirely good and pure is an angel.[45]
  4. ^ From T. Nünlist (2015) Dämonenglaube im Islam[3](p89)
    TRANSLATION: (in English)
    "Islamic jurists have also repeatedly addressed the question of whether the jinn have a religion. Shchibli notes that in this context they had a controversial discussion about whether it was permissible under Sharia law to perform the Muslim ritual prayer (salat) behind a genie. Two Hanbali sources led by Shibli affirm this permissibility without hesitation and justify their point of view by saying that not only the humans (ins) but also the jinn are "mukallaf".[3](p2)
    ORIGINAL: (in German)
    "Auch die islamischen Rechtsgelehrten haben sich wiederholt mit der Frage beschäftigt, ob die Dschinn eine Religion haben. Shchibli hält fest, dass sie in diesem Zusammenhang kontrovers diskutiert hätten, ob es schariarehtlich zulässig sei, das muslimische Ritualgebet (salat) hinter einem Dschinni zu verrichten. Zwei von Schibli angeführte hanbalitische Gewährsleute bejahen diese Zulässigkeit ohne Zögern und begründen ihren Standpunkt damit, dass nicht nur die Menschen (ins), sondern auch die Dschinn mukallaf seien."[3](p89)
  5. ^ In a study of exorcism culture in the Hadhramaut of Yemen, love was one of the most frequent cited causes of relationships between humans and jinn. Love seems to be the most frequent occasion of contact between men and jinn. A jinni meets a woman and falls in love with her, or vice versa... This possession is manifest notably when the jinni has sexual intercourse with the person he/she possesses. In that case, the individual behaves with gestures and words as if they were having sexual intercourse, although he/she is apparently alone in the room. Besides, this person seems to suddenly lose all interest for his/her environment."[50]
  6. ^ From T. Nünlist (2015) Dämonenglaube im Islam TRANSLATION: (in English)
    "The distinction made between popular and scriptural Islam or between little and great traditions proves to be problematic and only serves as a makeshift here. This comparison implicitly suggests that the representations of daemonology in written sources differ from the findings documented in ethnographic, anthropological and sociologically oriented field studies. Such a view must be rejected. The treatment of the belief in daemons in the written sources primarily consulted in the context of these studies does not differ fundamentally from the views observed in popular Islam. Popular Islam and scriptural Islam do not design separate daemonologies. This situation is explained not least by the fact that the Quran and Sunna, the two most important sources in the area of Islam for the great tradition, clearly affirm the existence of jinn."[3](p4)


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Further reading

  • Asad, Muhammad (1980). "Appendix III: On the term and concept of jinn". The Message of the Qu'rán. Gibraltar, Spain: Dar al-Andalus Limited. ISBN 1-904510-00-0.
  • Crapanzano, V. (1973). The Hamadsha: A study in Moroccan ethnopsychiatry. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Dibi, Tofik (2021). Djinn. Queer Politics and Cultures. Translated by Barr, Nicolaas P. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. ISBN 9781438481302.
  • 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. Vol. 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.