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Jinn: The Supernatural Creatures From Muslim Folklore

Jinn: The Supernatural Creatures From Muslim Folklore

Jinn means to ‘to hide’ or ‘hidden’ in Arabic. This word also romanized as ‘djinn’ or anglicized as ‘genies’ (with the more broad meaning of demons).

The jinn are described as being supernatural creatures in the Arab folklores and Islamic teachings, occupying the parallel world. Jinn, humans and angels together make up the three sentient creations of Allah. Qur’an mentions that Jinn have free will are made of smokeless flame or “scorching fire”.

Jinn In Islam

In the pre-Islamic period, and ancient Middle Eastern cultures, Jinn was referred to as any spirit lesser than angels. Inscriptions found in Northwestern Arabia, for example from Beth Fasi’el near Palmyra pays tribute to the “Jinnaye”, the “good and rewarding gods”. The types of jinn include the shaytan the ghoul the marid, the ‘ifrit, and the jinn, where ifrits seem to be the strongest form of jinn, followed by marids, and then the rest, according to Arabian Nights.

The black king of the djinns, Al-Malik al-Aswad, depicted in Kitab al-Bulhan = composite astrology/astronomy/geomancy Arabic manuscript.


According to Islam, humans were made of clay while Jinn were made of smokeless fire. They are frequently mentioned in the Qur’an, which also states that Muhammad was sent as a prophet to both “humanity and the jinn”. Usually invisible to Humans, they 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. Apparently like humans, jinn will also be judged on the Day of Judgment.

Apparently, like humans, Jinn have their kings, courts of law, weddings, and mourning rituals. Divided into three classes, those who have wings and fly in the air, those who resemble snakes and dogs, and those who travel about ceaselessly, it is also believed that the jinn occasionally assume human form to mislead and destroy their human victims. Ibn Taymiyyah, an Islamic scholar, believed the jinn were generally “ignorant, untruthful, oppressive and treacherous”. Also, they account for much of the “magic” perceived by humans such as cooperating with magicians to lift items in the air unseen. It is also believed that each person has a Qarin – the jinn that whisper to people’s souls and tell them to submit to evil desires.

‘Imam Ali Conquers Jinn’ by an unknown artist. (1568) Golestan Palace

Relationship Of King Solomon And The Genies

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.

King Solomon enthroned between grand vizier Asif (left) and king of jinns (right). A 16th-century Safavid miniature.

“…and there were jinn that worked in front of him, by the leave of his Lord,” (QurÕan 13:12)

“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 Qur’an 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 God sent a creature to crawl out of the ground and gnaw at Solomon’s staff until his body collapsed. The Qur’an 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).” Qur’an 34:14)

Jinn In Bible

In Guanche (aboriginal people of the Canary Islands) mythology from Tenerife, there existed the belief in beings that are similar to genies. There is no such word as Jinn in Judeo-Christian tradition, but several verses in those Arabic and Persian translations, have the word Jinn, mentioned.

In Van Dyck’s Arabic translation of the Bible, these words are mentioned in Lev 19:31, Lev 20:6, 1Sa 28:3, 1Sa 28:9, 1Sa 28:7, 1Ch 10:13, Mat 4:1, Mat 12:22, Luk 4:5, Luk 8:12, Joh 8:44 and other verses as well. Also, in the apocryphal book Testament of Solomon, Solomon describes particular demons whom he enslaved to help build the temple, the questions he put to them about their deeds and how they could be thwarted, and their answers, which provide a kind of self-help manual against demonic activity.

Jinn In Post-Islamic Arabic Fiction

The Spirit of the Lamp in the story of Aladdin was a jinni, bound to an oil lamp, and the ways to summon it by writing the name of God in Hebraic characters on a knife, drawing a diagram and symbols, were told in The Thousand and One Nights.

Book Illustration. Aladdin, or, The wonderful lamp. Author:Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1821-1888)

Jinn In The Occult

 In sorcery books Jinn are classified into four races after the classical elements, Earth, Air, Fire; (Ifrit) and Water; (Marid) and presumed to live in them. Because they have a free will, yet they could be compelled to do both good and evil. Knowing what to ask a spirit to perform is key, as asking a spirit to perform a chore that runs counter to its natural tendencies could possibly anger the spirit.

Genies In Western Culture

The Western interpretation of the genie is based on the Aladdin tale, which told of a genie that lived in an oil lamp and granted apparently 3 wishes to whoever freed him from the lamp by polishing it. Their classical trait is exploiting loopholes or twisting interpretations of wishes.

For example, in “The Man in the Bottle” episode of The Twilight Zone, a poor shopkeeper who finds a genie wishes to become a leader of a great nation – and is transformed into Adolf Hitler at the very end of World War II. Archaeologists have found evidence from the Middle East that there was no clear distinction between spirits inferior to angels and jinn, but the Quran rejects this practice of Jinn worship, arguing that Allah is the only one who is to be revered and worshiped.

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Jinn: The Supernatural Creatures From Muslim Folklore
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