الجن - The Jinn


The jinn, or genies, are spiritual creatures mentioned in the Qur’ān and other Islamic texts who inhabit an unseen world in dimensions beyond the visible universe of humans.
Together, the jinn, humans and angels make up the three sapient creations of God.
The Qur’an mentions that the jinn are made of a 'smokeless fire', but also physical in nature, being able to interact physically with people and objects, and likewise be acted upon.
Like human beings, the jinn can also be good, evil, or neutrally benevolent and hence have freewill like humans and unlike angels.
The jinn are mentioned frequently in the Qurʾan, and the 72nd surah is titled Sūrat al-Jinn.

Etymology and Definitions

Jinn is a noun of the collective number in Arabic literally meaning "hidden from sight", and it derives from the Arabic root j-n-n (pronounced: jann/ junn جَنّ / جُنّ) meaning "to hide" or "be hidden".
Other words derived from this root are majnūn 'mad' (literally, 'one whose intellect is hidden'), junūn 'madness', and janīn 'embryo, fetus' ('hidden inside the womb').
The Arabic root j-n-n means 'to hide, conceal'.
A word for garden or Paradise, جنّة jannah, is a cognate of the Hebrew word גן gan 'garden', derived from the same Semitic root.
In arid climates, gardens have to be protected against desertification by the use of walls; this is the same concept as in the word "paradise" from pairi-daêza, an Avestan word for garden that literally means 'having walls built around'.
Thus the protection of a garden behind walls implies its being hidden from the outside.
Arabic lexicons such as Edward William Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon define jinn not only as spirits, but also anything concealed through time, status, and even physical darkness.
The word genie in English is derived from Latin genius, meant a sort of tutelary or guardian spirit thought to be assigned to each person at their birth.
English borrowed the French descendant of this word, génie; its earliest written attestation in English, in 1655, is a plural spelled "genyes."
The French translators of  كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة  (The Book of One Thousand and One Nights) used génie as a translation of jinnī because it was similar to the Arabic word in sound and in meaning.

The work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, South Asia and North Africa. The tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore and literature. In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Caliphate era, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hazār Afsān (Persian: هزار افسان‎, lit. A Thousand Tales) which in turn relied partly on Indian elements.

In Arabic, the word jinn is in the collective number, translated in English as plural (e.g., "several genies"); jinnī is in the singulative number, used to refer to one individual, which is translated by the singular in English (e.g., "one genie"), therefore, the word jinn in English writing is treated as a plural.

Jinn in the Pre-Islamic Era

Among archaeologists dealing with ancient Middle Eastern cultures, the spirits made after the angels and before mankind are often referred to as a jinni, especially when describing stone carvings or other forms of art.
Inscriptions found in Northwestern Arabia seem to indicate the worship of jinn, or at least their tributary status, hundreds of years before Islam.
For instance, an inscription from Beth Fasi'el near Palmyra pays tribute to the "jinnaye", the "good and rewarding gods".
In the following verse, the Qurʾan rejects the worship of jinn and stresses that only God should be worshipped:

"Yet, they join the jinn as partners in worship with Allah, though He has created them (the jinn), and they attribute falsely without knowledge sons and daughters to Him. Be He glorified and exalted above (all) that they attribute to Him." (Quran 6:100)

In 'One Thousand and One Nights', there are depicted several types of jinn that coexist and interact with humans: shayṭān, the ghūl, the marīd, the ‘ifrīt, and the angels.
The 'One Thousand and One Nights' seems to present ifrits as the most massive and strongest forms of jinn, and marids are a type of jinn associated with seas and oceans.


Ifrit—also spelled, efreet, efrite, ifreet, afreet, afrite, and afrit (Arabic: ʻIfrīt: عفريت, pl ʻAfārīt: عفاريت) —are supernatural creatures in Arabic and Islamic folklore.
They are in a class of infernal Jinn noted for their strength and cunning.
An ifrit is an enormous winged creature of fire, either male or female, who lives underground and frequents ruins.
Ifrits live in a society structured along ancient Arab tribal lines, complete with kings, tribes, and clans. They generally marry one another, but they can also marry humans.
While ordinary weapons and forces have no power over them, they are susceptible to magic, which humans can use to kill them or to capture and enslave them.
As with the jinn, an ifrit may be either a believer or an unbeliever, good or evil, but he is most often depicted as a wicked and ruthless being.
Traditionally, Arab philologists derive it from عفر afara "to rub with dust".
Western philologists, such as Johann Jakob Hess and Karl Vollers, attribute the word to Middle Persian afritan which corresponds to Modern Persian آفريدن ("to create").
An Ifrit is mentioned in the Qur'an, Sura An-Naml (27:39-40):

'An ifrit (strong one) from the jinn said: "I will bring it to you before you rise from your place. And verily, I am indeed strong, and trustworthy for such work." One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture said: "I will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!" Then when Solomon saw it placed before him, he said: "This is by the Grace of my Lord - to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for (the good of) his ownself; and whoever is ungrateful, (he is ungrateful only for the loss of his ownself). Certainly my Lord is Rich (Free of all needs), Bountiful.'

Stories of ifrits were highly prevalent in Egyptian culture up until the Second World War.
British soldiers visiting the pyramids reported that they had been warned by the locals of ifrits living in the desert in the form of a dog which would lead them astray until they became lost.
At this time Ifrits were also said to have the power to turn humans into animals themselves.

Jinn in Islam

In Islamic theology jinn are said to be creatures with free will, made from the 'smokeless fire' by Allah as humans were made of clay.
According to the Quran, jinn have free will, and Iblīs abused this freedom in front of Allah by refusing to bow to Adam when Allah ordered angels and jinn to do so.
For disobeying Allah, he was expelled from Paradise and called "Shayṭān" (Satan).
Jinn are frequently mentioned in the Quran: Surah 72 (named Sūrat al-Jinn) is named after the jinn, and has a passage about them.
Another surah (Sūrat al-Nās) mentions jinn in the last verse.
The Qurʾan also mentions that Muhammad was sent as a prophet to both "men and the jinn," and that prophets and messengers were sent to both communities.
An appellation of Muhammad is Rasûl-üs-Sakaleyn because Muhammad met several times the jinns at night.
A masjid (mosque) (Masjid-i Jinn) was built at a future date to the memory of this phenomena.
Similar to humans, jinn have free will allowing them to do as they choose (such as follow any religion). They are usually invisible to humans, and humans do not appear clearly to them.
Jinn have the power to travel large distances at extreme speeds, and are thought to live in remote areas, mountains, seas, trees, and the air, in their own communities.
Like humans, jinn will also be judged on the 'Day of Judgment', and will be sent to Paradise or Hell according to their deeds.

Classifications and Characteristics

The social organization of the jinn community resembles that of humans; e.g., they have kings, courts of law, weddings, and mourning rituals.
A few traditions (hadith), divide jinn into three classes: those who have wings and fly in the air, those who resemble snakes and dogs, and those who travel about ceaselessly.
Other reports claim that ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mas‘ūd (d. 652), who was accompanying Muhammad when the jinn came to hear his recitation of the Quran, described them as creatures of different forms; some resembling vultures and snakes, others tall men in white garb.
They may even appear as dragons, onagers, or a number of other animals.
In addition to their animal forms, the jinn occasionally assume human form to mislead and destroy their human victims.
Certain hadiths have also claimed that the jinn may subsist on bones, which will grow flesh again as soon as they touch them, and that their animals may live on dung, which will revert to grain or grass for the use of the jinn flocks.
Ibn Taymiyyah believed the jinn were generally "ignorant, untruthful, oppressive and treacherous," thus representing the very strict interpretations adhered by the Salafi schools of thought.
Ibn Taymiyyah believes that the jinn account for much of the "magic" perceived by humans, cooperating with magicians to lift items in the air unseen, delivering hidden truths to fortune tellers, and mimicking the voices of deceased humans during seances.
In Sūrat al-Raḥmān, verse 33, God reminds jinn as well as mankind that they would possess the ability to pass beyond the furthest reaches of space only by His authority, followed by the question: "Then which of the favors of your Lord do you deny ?"
In Sūrat Al-Jinn, verses 8–10, Allah narrates concerning the jinn how they touched or "sought the limits" of the sky and found it full of stern guards and shooting stars, as a warning to man.
It goes on further to say how the jinn used to take stations in the skies to listen to divine decrees passed down through the ranks of the angels, but those who attempt to listen now (during and after the revelation of the Qurʾan) shall find fiery sentinels awaiting them.


A related belief is that every person is assigned one's own special jinnī, also called a qarīn, of the jinn and if the qarin is evil it could whisper to people's souls and tell them to submit to evil desires.
The notion of a qarīn is not universally accepted among all Muslims, but it is generally accepted that Shayṭān whispers in human minds, and he is assigned to each human being.
In a hadith recorded by Muslim, the companion Ibn Mas‘ud reported:
'The Prophet Muhammad said: 'There is not one of you who does not have a jinnī appointed to be his constant companion (qarīn).' They said, 'And you too, O Messenger of Allah?' He said, 'Me too, but Allah has helped me and he has submitted, so that he only helps me to do good.' '

Relationship of Prophet Solomon and the Jinn

According to traditions, the jinn stood behind the learned humans in Solomon's court, who in turn, sat behind the prophets.
The jinn remained in the service of Solomon, who had placed them in bondage, and had ordered them to perform a number of tasks.
"And before Solomon were marshalled his hosts,- of jinn and men and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks." (Quran 27:17)
The Qurʾan relates that Solomon died while he was leaning on his staff.
As he remained upright, propped on his staff, the jinn thought he was still alive and supervising them, so they continued to work.
They realized the truth only when Allah sent a creature to crawl out of the ground and gnaw at Solomon's staff until his body collapsed.
The Qurʾan then comments that if they had known the unseen, they would not have stayed in the humiliating torment of being enslaved.
"Then, when We decreed (Solomon's) death, nothing showed them his death except a little worm of the earth, which kept (slowly) gnawing away at his staff: so when he fell down, the jinn saw plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in the humiliating penalty (of their task)." (Qurʾan 34:14)

Difference in Perception of Jinn between East and West

There is a significant difference in how these beings are perceived in East (as jinn) and in West (as genies).
Western natives moving to Eastern countries may experience a bout of culture shock when they are confronted with the perceived presence of jinn by people who believe in them, and two good examples of the struggle to adapt to a culture which believes in jinn are 'The Caliph's House' and 'In Arabian Nights' by Tahir Shah, which describe his family's experiences in moving from London to a supposedly jinn-inhabited home in Morocco.

Protection from Jinn

Muslims believe that all protection and help only comes from Allah, as it is a central Islamic tenet to believe that there is no power nor might save God's.
These sorts of practices are widespread in the Islamic world.
The Muslim faithful believe that reciting the 'Verse of the Throne' (Qurʾan 2:255) is the most effective means of seeking protection from satanic whispers and evil creatures.

'Allah - there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of all existence.
Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep.
To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth.
Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission ?
He knows what is presently before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills.
His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not.
And He is the Most High, the Most Great.'

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