GENII Arabic jinn جن and jann جان
Muhammad was a sincere believer in the existence of good and evil genii, and has left a record of his belief in the LXXIInd chapter of his Quran, entitled the Suratu ‘l-Jinn. It opens thus: –
“SAY, It hath been revealed to me that a company of JINN listened and said – Verily, we have heard a marvelous discourse (Qur’an);
It guideth to the truth; wherefore we believed in it, and we will not henceforth join any being with our Lord;
And He, – may the majesty of our Lord be exalted! – hath taken no spouse neither hath he any offspring.”
“But the foolish among us hath spoken of God that which is unjust:
And we verily though that no one amongst men or jinn would have utered a lie against God.
There are indeed people among men who have sought for refuge unto people among jinn: but they only increased their folly;
And they thought as ye think, that God would not raise any form the dead.
And the Heavens did we essay, but found them filled with a mighty garrison, and with flaming darts;
And we sat on some of the seats to listen, but whoever listeneth findeth an amush ready for him of flaming darts.”
The following exhaustive account of the Muslim belief on the subject is taken from the writings of the late Mr. Lane (the learned author of the Modern Egyptians and of Note on the Arabian Nights), but slightly altered to meet the requirements of the present work.
According to a traction from the Prophet, this species consists of five orders, namely, Jann (who are the least powerful of all), Jinn, Shaitans (or devils), ‘Ifrits, and Marids. The last, it is added, are the most powerful; and the Jann are transformed Jinn, like as certain apes and swine were transformed to men. It must, however, be remarked that the terms Jinn and Jann are generally used indiscriminately as names of the whole species, whether good or bad, and that the former term is the more common. Also, that Shaitan is commonly used to signify and evil genius. An ‘Ifrit is a powerful evil genius; a Marid, as evil genius of the most powerful class. The Jinn (but generally speaking, evil ones) are called by the Persian Deves, the most powerful evil Jinn, Narahs (which signifies “males”, though they are said to be males and females); the good Jinn, Piris, though this term is commonly applied to females. In a tradition from the Prophet, it is said, “The Jann were created of a smokeless fire.” The word which signifies “a smokeless fire” has been misunderstood by some as meaning “the flame of fire.” Al-Jauhari (in the Sihah) renders it rightly; and says that of this fire was the Shaitan or Iblis created. Al-Jann is sometimes used as a name for Iblis, as in the following verse of the Qur’an (Surah xv, 27): “And the Jann [the father of the Jinn i.e. Iblis] we had created before [i.e. before the creation of Adam] of the fire of the Samum [i.e.Jann also signifies "a serpent," as in other passages of the Qur'an, and is used in the same book as synonymous with Jinn. In the last sense it is generally believed to be used in the tradition quoted in the commencement of this paragraph. There are several apparently contradictory traditions from the Prophet, which are reconciled by what has been above stated; in one it is said that Iblis was the father of all the Jann and Shaitain; Jann being here synonymous with Jinn; in another, that Jann was the father of all the Jinn, here Jann being used as a name for Iblis.
"It is held," says al-Qazwini, "that the Jinn are aerial animals, with transparent bodied which can assume various forms. People differ in opinion respecting these beings; some consider the Jinn and Shaitans as unruly men, but these persons are of the Mu'tazilahs [ a sect of Muslim freethinkers], and some hold that God, whose name be exalted, created the angels of the light of the fire, and the Jinn of its flame [but this is at variance with the general opinion], and the Sahitans of its smoke [which is also at variance with the common opinion]; and that [all] these kinds of beings are [usually] invisible to men, but that they assume what forms they please, and when their for becomes condensed they are visible.” This last remark illustrates several descriptions of genii in the Arabian Nights, where the form of the monster is at first undefined, or like an enormous pillar, and then gradually assumes a human shape and less gigantic size.
It is said that God created the Jann [or Jinn] two thousand years before Adam [or according to some writers, much earlier], and that there are believers and infidels and every sect among them, as among men. Some say that a prophet named Yusuf was sent to the Jinn; others that they had only preachers or admonishers; others, again, that seventy apostles were sent, before Muhammad, to Jinn and men conjointly. It is commonly believed that the preadmite Jinn were governed by forty (or, according to some, seventy-two) kings, to each of whom the Arab writers give the name of Sulaiman (or Solomon); and that they derive their appellation from the last of these, who was called Jann ibn Jann and who, some say, built the Pyramids of Egypt.
The following account of the preadamite Jinn is given by al-Qazwini: –
“It is related in histories that a race of Jinn in ancient times, before the creation of Adam, inhabited the earth, and covered it, the land and the sea, and the plains are the mountains; and the favors of God were multiplied upon them, and they had government, and prophecy, and relgion and law; but they transgressed and offended, and opposed their prophets, and made wickedness to abound in the earth; whereupon God, whose name be exalted, sent against them an army of angel, who took possession of the earth, and drove away the Jinn to the regions of the islands, and made many of them prisoners; and of those who were made prisoners was ‘Azazil (afterward called Iblis, from his despair), and a slaughter was made among them. At that time, ‘Azazilwas young; he grew up among the angels [and probably for that reason was called one of them], and became learned in their knowledge, and assumed the government of them; and his days were prolonged until he became their chief; and thus it continued for a long time, until the affair between him and Adam happened, as God, whose name be exalted, hath said, ‘When we said unto the Angels, Worship ye Adam, and [all] worshiped except Iblis [who] was [one] of the Jinn.’ (Surah l. 49).”
Iblis, we are told by another authority, was sent as a governor upon the earth, and judged among the Jinn a thousand years, after which he ascended into heaven, and remained employed in worship until the creation of Adam. The name of Iblis was originally, according to some, ‘Azazil (as before mentioned), and according to other, al-Haris; his patronymic is Abu Munnah or Abu ‘l-Ghimr. It is disputed whether he was of the angels or of the Jinn. There are three opinions on this point: (1) That he was of the angels, from a tradition from Ibn ‘Abbas; (2) That he was of the Shaitans (or evil Jinn), as it is said in the Qur’an, “Except Iblis [who] was [one] of the Jinn”; this was the opinion of al-Hasanu ‘l-Basrf, and is that commonly held; (3) That he was neither of the angels nor of the Jinn, but created alone of fire. Ibn ‘Abbas founds his opinion on the same text from which al-Hasanu ‘l-Basri derives his: “When we said unto the angels, worship ye Adam, and [all] worshiped him except Iblis, [who] was [one] of the Jinn” (before quoted); which he explains by saying that the most noble and honorable among the angels are called “the Jinn”, because thay are veiled from the eyes of the other angels on account of their superiority; and Iblis was one of these Jinn. He adds, that he had the government of the lowest heaven and of the earth, and was called the Ta’us (lit. “Peacock”) of the angels; and that there was not a spot in the lowest heaven but he had prostrated himself upon it; but when the Jinn rebelled upon the earth, God sent a troop of angels, who drove them to the islands and mountains; and Iblis being elated with pride, and refusing to prostrate himself before Adam, God transformed him into a Shaitan. But this reasoning is opposed by other verses, in which Iblis is represented as saying, “Thou hast created me of fire, and has created him [Adam] of earth.” It is therefore argued, “If he were created originally form fire, how was he created of light? For the angels were [all] created of light.” The former verse may be explained by the tradition that Iblis, having been taken captive, was exalted among the angels; or, perhaps, there is an ellipsis after the word “Angels”; for it might be inferred that the command given to the Angels was also (and a fortiori) to be obeyed by the Jinn.
According to a tradition, Iblis and all the Shaitans are distinguished from the other Jinn by a longer existence. “The Shaitans”, it is added, “are the children of Iblis, and die not but with him; whereas the [other] Jinn die before him, though they may live many centuries. But this is not altogether accordant with the popular belief; Iblis and many other evil Jinn are to survive mankind, but they are to die before the general resurrection, as also even the angels, the last of whom will be the Angel of Death, ‘Izrail. Yet not all the evil Jinn are to live thus long. Many of them are killed by shooting stars, hurled at them from heaven; wherefore, the Arabs, when they see a shooting star (shihab) often exclaim, ‘May God transfix the enemy of the faith!’ Many also are killed by other Jinn, and some even by men. The fire of which the Jinn is created circulates in his veins, in place of blood; therefore, when he receives a mortal wound, this fire, issuing from his veins generally consumes him to ashes.
The Jinn, it has been already shown, are peaceable. They also eat and drink, and propagate their species, sometimes in conjunction with human beings; in which latter case, the offspring partakes of the nature of both parents. In all these respects they differ from the angels. Among the evil Jinn are distinguished the five sons of their chief Iblis; namely, Tir, who brings about calamities, losses, and injuries; al-A’war, who encourages debauchery; Sut, who suggests lies; Dasimn who causes hatred between man and wife; and Zalambur, who presides over places of traffic.
The most common forms and habitations or places of resort of the Jinn must now be described. The following traditions from the Prophet are to the purpose:-
The Jinn are of various shapes, having the forms of serpents, scorpions, lions, and wolves, jackal, &C. The Jinn are of three kind – one on the land, one on the sea, and one in the air. The Jinn consist of forty troops, each troop consisting of six hundred thousand. The Jinn are of three kinds – one have wings and fly; another are snakes and dogs; and the third move about from place to place like men. Domestic snakes are asserted to be Jinn on the same authority.
The Prophet ordered his followers to kill serpents and scorpions if they intruded at prayers; but on other occasions, he seems to have required first to admonish them to depart, and then, if they remained, to kill them. The Doctors, however, differ in opinion whether all kinds of snakes or serpents should be admonished first; or whether any should; for the Prophet, say they, took a covenant of the Jinn [probably after the above-mentioned command], that they should not enter the houses of the faithful; therefore, it is argued, it they enter, they break their covenant, and it becomes lawful to kill them without previous admonishment. Yet it is related that ‘Ayishah, one of the Prophet’s wives, having killed a serpent in her chamber, was alarmed by a dream, and fearing that it might have been a Muslim Jinni, as it did not enter her chamber, when she was undressed, gave in alms, as an expiation, twelve dirhams (about 300 pounds) the price of the blood of a Muslim.
The Jinn are said to appear to mankind most commonly in the shapes of serpents, dogs, cats or human beings. In the last case they are sometimes of the stature of men, and sometimes of a size enormously gigantic. If good, they are generally resplendently handsome; it evil, horribly hideous. They become invisible at please (by a rapid extension or rarefaction of the particles which compose them), or suddenly disappear in the earth or air, or through a solid wall. Many Muslims in the present day profess to have seen and held intercourse with them.
The Zaubarah, which is a whirlwind that raises the sand or dust in the form of a pillar of prodigious height, often seen sweeping across the deserts and fields, is believed to be caused by the flight of an evil genii. To defend themselves from a Jinn thus “riding in the whirlwind,” the Arabs often exclaim “Iron! Iron!” (Hadid! Hadid!), or “Iron! Thou unlucky!” (Hadid! Ya Mashum!) as the Jinn are supposed to have a great dread of that metal; or they exclaim, “God is most great!” (Allahu akbar!). A similar superstition prevails with respect to the waterspout at sea.
It is believed that the chief abode of the Jinn is in the mountains of Qaf, which are supposed to encompass the whole of our earth. But they are also believed to pervade the solid body of our earth, and the firmament and to choose as their principal places of resort, or of occasional abode, baths, wells, the latrina, ovens, ruined houses, market places, the junctures of roads, the sea, and rivers.
The Arabs, therefore, when they pour water &c on the ground, or enter a bath, or let down a bucket into a well, or visit the latrina, and on various other occasions, say “Permission!” or “Permission, ye blessed!” (Izn, or Izn ya Mubarrakun). The evil spirits (or evil genii), it is said, had liberty to enter any of the seven heavens till the birth of Jesus, when they were excluded from three of them. On the birth of Muhammad, they were forbidden the other four. They continue, however, to ascent to the confines of the lowest heaven, and there listening to the conversation of the angels respecting things decreed by God, obtain knowledge of futurity, which they sometimes impart to men, who by means of talismans or certain invocations make them to serve the purposes of magical performances.
What the Prophet said of Iblis in the following tradition applies also to the evil Jinn over whom he presides: His chief abode [among men] is the bath; his chief places of resort are the markets and junctures of roads; his food is whatever is killed without the name of God being pronounced over it; his drink, whatever is intoxicating; his Mu’azzin, the mizmar (musical pipe) ie any musical instrument); his Qur’an, poetry; his written character, the marks made in geomancy; his speech, falsehood; his snares are women.
That particular genii presided over particular places, was the opinion of the early Arabs. It is siad in the Qur’an (Surah xxii. 6), “And there were certain men who sought refuge with certain of the Jinn.” In the commentary of the Jalalan, I find the following remark on these words: – “When they halted on their journey, in a place of fear, each man said, ‘I seek refuge with the lord of this place, from the mischief of his foolish ones!” In illustration of this, I may insert the following tradition, translated from al-Qazwini – “It is related by a certain narrator of traditions, that he descended into a valley with his sheep, and a wolf carried off a ewe from among them; and he arose and raised his voice, and cried “O inhabitant of the valley! Whereupon he heard a voice saying, ‘O wolf, restore to him his sheep! And the wolf, restore to him his sheep! And the wolf came with ewe, and left her, and departed.” The same opinion is held by the modern Arabs, though probably they do not use such an invocation.
A similar superstition, a relic of ancient Egyptian credulity, still prevails among the people of Cairo. It is believed that each quarter of this city has its peculiar guardian genius, or Agathodaenion, which has the form of a serpent.
It has already been mentioned that some of the Jinn are Muslims, and others infidels. The good acquit themselves of the imperative duties of religion, namely, prayers, alms-giving, fasting during the month of Ramazan, and pilgrimage to Makkah and Mount Arafat, but in the performance of these duties they are generally invisible to human beings.
No man, it is said, ever obtained such absolute power over the Jinn as Sulaiman ibn Daud (Solomon the son of David). This he did by virtue of a most wonderful talisman which is said to have come down to him from heaven. It was a sealing ring, upon which was engraved “the most great name” of God [AL ISMU 'L-A'ZAM], and was partly composed of brass and partly of iron. With the brass he stamped his written commands to the good Jinn; with the iron (for a reason before mentioned) those of the evil Jinn, or devils. Over both orders he had unlimited power, as well as over the birds and the winds, and as is generally said, the wild beasts. His wazir, Asaf the son of Barkhiyah, is also said to have been acquainted with “the most great name”, by uttering which the greatest miracles may be performed, even that of raising the dead. By virtue of this name, engraved on his ring, Sulaiman compelled the Jinn to assist in building the temple of Jerusalem, and in various other works. Many of the evil genii he converted to the true faith, and many others of this class, who remained obstinate in infidelity, he confined in prisons. He is said to have been monarch of the whole earth. Hence, perhaps, the name of Sulaiman is given to the universal monarchy of the preadamite Jinn; unless the story of his own universal dominion originated from confounding him with those kings of the Jinn.
The injuries related to have been inflicted upon human beings by evil genii are of various kinds. Genii are said to have often carried off beautiful women, whom they have forcibly kept as their wives or concubines. Malicious or disturbed genii are asserted often to station themselves on the roofs or at the windows of house, and to throw down bricks and stones on persons passing by. When they take possession of an uninhabited house, they seldom fail to persecute terribly any person who goes to reside in it. They are also very apt to pilfer provisions &c. Many learned and devote persons, to secure their property from such depredations, repeat the words “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful!” On locking the doors of their houses, rooms, and on covering the bread-basket, or anything containing food. During the month of Ramazan, the evil genii are believed to be confined in prison; and, therefore, on the last night of that month, with the same view, women sometimes repeat the words above mentioned, and sprinkle salt upon the floors of the apartments of their houses.
To complete this sketch of Arabian mythology, an account must be added of several creatures generally believed to be of inferior orders of the Jinn. One of these is the Ghul, which is commonly regarded as a kind of Shaitan, or evil genii, that eats men and is also described by some as a Jinn, or an enchanter, who assumes various forms. The Ghuls are said to appear in the forms of various animals, and of human beings, and in many monstrous shapes; to haunt burial grounds and other sequestered spots; to feed upon dead human bodies; and to kill and devour any human creature who has the misfortune to fall in their way; whence the term “Ghul” is applied to any cannibal.
An opinion quoted by a celebrated author respecting the Ghul is that it is a demoniacal animal, which passes a solitary existence in the deserts, resembling both man and brute; that it appears to a person traveling alone in the night and in solitary places, and being supposed by him to be itself a traveller, lures him out of his way. Another opinion state by him is this: that, when the Shaitans attempt to hear words by stealth, [from the confines of the lowest heaven], they are struck by shooting stars, and some are burnt; some falling into a sea, or rather a large river (bahr), become converted into crocodiles; and some, falling upon the land, become Ghuls. The same author adds the following tradition: “The Ghul is any Jinn that is opposed to travels, assuming various forms and appearances; and affirms that several of the Companions of the Prophet saw Ghuls in their travels; and that ‘Umar among them saw a Ghul while on a journey to Syria, before Islam, and struck it with his sword.”
It appears that “Ghul” is, properly speaking, a name that is given to a female demon of the kind above described; the male is called “Qutrud”. It is said that these beings, and the Ghaddar, or Gharra, and other similar creatures, which will presently be mentioned, are the offspring of Iblis and of a wife whom God created for him of the fire of the Samum (which here signifies, as in an instance before mentioned, ‘ a smokeless fire’), and that they sprang from an egg. A female Ghul, it is added, appears to men in the deserts, in various terms, converses with them and sometimes prostitutes herself to them.
The Si’lat, or Si’la, is another demonical creature, described by some [or rather, by most authors] as of the Jinn. It is said that it captures a man, it makes him dance, and plays with him as the cat plays with the mouse. A man of Isfahan asserted that many beings of this kind abounded in his country; that sometime the wolf would hunt one of them by night, and devour it, and that, when it had seized it, the Si’la would cry out – “Come to my help, for the wolf devoureth me!’ Or it would cry, “Who will liberate me? I have a hundred dinars, and he shall receive them!” But the people knowing that it was the cry of the Si’la, no one would liberate it; and so the wolf would eat it.
An island in the sea of China (Sin) is called “the island of Si’la”, by Arab geographers from its being said to be inhabited by the demons so named; they are described as creatures of hideous forms, supposed to be Shaitans, the offspring of human beings and Jinn, who eat men.
The Ghaddar is another creature of a similar nature, described as being found in the borders of al-Yeman, and sometimes in Tihamah, and in the upper parts of Egypt. It is said that it entices a man to it, and either tortures him in a manner not to be described, or merely terrifies him, and leaves him.
The Dalhan is also a demoniacal being, inhabiting the islands of the seas, having the form of a man, and riding on an ostrich. It eats the flesh of men whom the sea casts on the shore from wrecks. Some say that a Dalhan once attacked a ship on the sea and desired to take the crew; but they contended with it; whereupon it uttered a cry which caused them to gall on their faces and it took them.
The Shiqq is another demoniacal creature, having the form of half a human being (like a man divided longitudinally); and it is believed that the Nasnas is the offspring of a Shiqq and of a human being. The Shiqq appears to travellers; and it was a demon of this kind who killed, and was killed by ‘Alqamah, the son of Safwan, the son of Umaiyah, of whom it is well known that he was killed by a Jinn. So says al-Qazwini.
The Nasnas (above mentioned) is described as resembling half a human being; having hald a head, half a body, one arm, and one leg, with which it hops with much agility; as being found in the woods of al-Yaman, and being endowed with speech; “but God”, it is added, “is all knowing.” It is said that it is found in Hazramaut as well as al-Yaman; and that one was brought alive to al-Mutawakkil. It resembled a man in form, excepting that it had but half a face, which was in its breat, and a tail like that of a sheep. The people of Hazramaut, it is added, eat it; and its flesh is sweet. It is only generated in their country a man who went there asserted that he saw a captured Nasnas, which cried out for mercy conjuring him by God and be himself.
A race of people whose head is in the breast is described as inhabiting an island called Jabah (supposed to be Java), in the sea of Hind, or India. A kind of Nasnas is also described as inhabiting the island of Raij in the sea of China and having wings like those of the bat.
The Hatif is a being that is heard, but not seen; and is often mentioned by Arab writers. It is generally the communicator of some intelligence in the way of advice, or dirction, or warning. (See Lane’s Modern Egyptians; Lane’s Notes on Arabian Nights).
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam