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In Islam and pre-Islamic Arabian folklore, a jinn (also genie, djinn, from Arabic جني jinnī) is a supernatural creature which possesses free will. Genies are mentioned in the Qur'an, wherein a whole Sura is named after them (Al-Jinn). They can be either good or evil. In some cases, evil genies are said to lead humans astray. In Islam, Satan, known in Arabic as Iblis, is the iconic genie that refused to bow down to Adam when ordered to by Allah.[1]

Etymology and definitions

Genie is the English transliteration of the Arabic term jinn. The first recorded use of the word Genie in the English language was in 1655 as geny, with the Latin meaning (see Genius (mythology)). The French translators of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights later used the word génie as a translation of jinni because it was similar to the Arabic word both in sound and in meaning; this meaning was also picked up in English and has since become dominant. The plural, according to Sir Richard Francis Burton, is Jann. The French génie, in turn, came from the Latin genius, which meant a sort of tutelary or guardian spirit thought to be assigned to each person at their birth. The Latin word predates the Arabic word jinni in this context, and may have been introduced in the Arabian civilization through the Nabataeans. The root, and its concept of being "hidden" or "concealed", comes from and the Arabic word 'Jánna' which means "to hide" or "to conceal" (This is not to be confused with the Arabic word 'Jannah', which means 'paradise'), and the Semitic root "JNN".[2][3][4]

Arabic lexicons, such as William Lane's lexicon provide the rendered meaning of jinn not only for spirits, but also for anything concealed through time, status and even physical darkness.[5]

In other cultures, as in the Mythology Guanche (Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain), also existed the belief in beings that qualify as geniuses, such as the so-called Gods paredros or maxios (domestic spirits and nature), the Tibicenas (evil genius) and also demon Guayota (aboriginal god of evil) that, like the Arabic Iblis, is sometimes identified with a genius. The Guanches were of Berber origin in northern Africa which further strengthens this hypothesis.

Jinn in the pre-Islamic era

Amongst archaeologists dealing with ancient Middle Eastern cultures, any spirit lesser than angels is often referred to as a djinn, especially when describing stone carvings or other forms of art.

The pre-Islamic Zoroastrian culture of ancient Persia believed in jaini/jahi, evil female spirits thought to spread diseases to people.

Inscriptions found in Northwestern Arabia seem to indicate the worship of djinn, or at least their tributary status. For instance, an inscription from Beth Fasi'el near Palmyra pays tribute to the "Ginnaye", the "good and rewarding gods"[6] providing a sharp resemblance to the Latin Genius and Juno: The Guardian Spirits.

Types of djinn include the Shaitan, the Ghul, the Marid, the Ifrit and the Jinn. According to the information in The Arabian Nights, Ifrit seem to be the strongest form of djinn, followed by Marid, and then the rest of the djinn forms.

Jinn in the Bible

In several verses in Old Arabic and Old Persian Bible translations, the words: Jinn(جن) Jaann(الجان) Majnoon(مجنون) and Iblees(ابلیس) are mentioned as translations of familiar spirit or אוב(obe) for Jaann and the devil or δαιμόνιον daimonion for Iblees.

In Cornelius Van Allen Van Dyck's Arabic translation of the Bible these words are mentioned in Lev 19:31, Lev 20:6, 1Sa 28:3, 1Sa 28:7, 1Sa 28:9, 1Ch 10:13, Mat 4:1, Mat 12:22, Luk 4:5, Luk 8:12, Joh 8:44 and other verses as well.

Jinn in Islam

In Islamic theology jinn are said to be creatures with free will, made from 'smokeless fire' by Allah in the same way humans were made of earth.[7] According to the Qur'an, Djinn have free will, and Iblis used this freedom in front of Allah by refusing to bow to Adam when Allah told Iblis to do so. By disobeying Allah, he was thrown out of Paradise and called “Shaitan”. Djinn are frequently mentioned in the Qur'an, Sura 72 of the Qur'an (named Al-Jinn is entirely about them. Another Sura (Al-Nas) mentions Djinn in the last verse.[8] The Qur'an also mentions that Muhammad was sent as a prophet to both “humanity and the Djinn”.[9][10]

Similar to humans, jinns have free will allowing them to follow any religion they choose. Jinns have significantly lower intelligence than humans but are physically stronger. They are usually invisible to humans and humans do not appear clear to them. However, non-Muslim jinn often harass and even possess humans (Muslim jinn are forbidden from doing so), for various reasons, such as infatuation (with a girl), revenge, or because of a deal made with a practitioner of black magic. Jinns have the power to travel large distances extremely quickly and live in remote areas, mountains, seas, trees, and the air, in their own communities. Like humans, jinns will also be judged on The Day of Judgment and will be sent to Heaven or Hell according to their deeds.[11] Since humans usually cannot see them and humans do not appear clear to them, the human "world" and that of the jinn is considered separate, and only practitioners of "black magic" contact them deliberately. Ibn Taymiyyah's Essay on the Jinn describes Jinn in detail.[12] Of course, as it is written that Solomon caused Djinn to serve him and could call upon their services, it is not always true that black magic is necessary. Assuredly, it is also written that the Djinn may be found by very holy men, fakirs, and sufis or any who might be granted wisdom in Barakah.

Every person is assigned a special jinn to them, also called a qareen, the jinns that whisper into your soul and tell you to give into your evil desires. The Prophet Muhammad's jinn turned into a Muslim jinn, on the recitation of the Qur'an, as the jinn found it very beautiful.[13][14][15] However, the notion of a qareen is not universally accepted amongst all Muslims.[16]

Classifications and characteristics

The social organization of the jinn community resembles that of humans - such as they have kings, courts of law, weddings, and mourning rituals.[17] The Prophet Muhammad reportedly divided 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.[18] Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud (d. 652), who was accompanying the prophet when the jinn came to hear his recitation of the Qur'an, described them as creatures of different forms; some resembling vultures and snakes, others tall black men in white garbs.[19] They may even appear as dragons, onagers, or a number of other animals.[20] In addition to their animal forms, the jinn occasionally assume human form to mislead and destroy their human victims. One such jinni who had assumed the form of a beautiful woman was identified because of her beastly feet by her human victim, who killed her by throwing a rope around her neck and dragging her behind his camel.[21] This type of jinn is called mardāzmā, (tester of men) among the Baluch people.[22] The prophet is also said to have told the jinn that they 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.[23]

Islamic concept of King Solomon and jinn

Main article Islamic view of Solomon
See also Biblical narratives and the Qur'an

The Qur'an states that King Solomon (Sulayman) is said to have compelled the jinn into his service and given them dominion over 25 parasangs of his realm.[24] In his court, the jinn stood behind the learned humans, who in turn, sat behind the prophets. Solomon's wife, the Queen of Sheba, was reportedly born of the marriage between a jinni and a human. However, it is not clear whether it was her mother or father who was a jinni. Those authorities who believe that her mother was a jinni further tell us that her name was Rayḥāna. It was this connection of her with the jinn that made people apprehensive about Solomon's marriage to her. They feared that if their master Solomon married a half-jinni, they would be forced to remain in the service of the offspring of that marriage forever. Thus, to make Solomon fall out of love with her, they told him that she was insane, and that her feet were hairy and resembled those of a donkey.[25] The jinn remained in the service of Solomon, who had placed them in bondage, and had ordered their king, Zūba’a, to perform a number of tasks throughout his life. Upon Solomon's death, however, Zūbaa went to the places where his subjects were toiling, and called out to them to stop working. They happily obeyed, and one of them carved a message in stone, enumerating what they had built during their servitude.[26]

Jinn in later Arabic fiction

The evil "Ifrit" are called “the seed of Iblis” in One Thousand and One Nights.

The Spirit of the Lamp in the story of Aladdin, a familiar djinn to the Western world, was such a jinni, having been bound to an oil lamp. Ways of summoning jinn were told in The Thousand and One Nights: by writing the name of God in Hebrew characters on a knife and drawing a diagram, with strange symbols and incantations around it.

The jinn's power of possession was also addressed in the fictional Nights. It is said that by taking seven hairs out of the tail of a cat that was all black except for a white spot on the end of its tail, and then burning the hairs in a small closed room with the possessed filling their nose with the scent, this would release them from the spell of the jinn inside them.


  1. Qur'an 7:11–12
  2. "GaN - Garden," Ancient Hebrew Lexicon.
  3. Arnold Yasin Mol. "Jinn As Found In The Quran"
  4. The World of the Jinn
  5. Edward William Lane’s Arabic Lexicon
  6. Hoyland, R. G., Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam.
  7. Qur'an 55:14–15
  8. Qur'an 116:4–4
  9. Qur'an 51:56–56
  10. Ṭabarī, Toḥfat al-ḡārāeb, I, pp. 68; Abu’l-Fotūḥ Rāzī, Rawż al-jenān wa rawḥ al-janān. pp. 193, 341
  11. Tafsīr; Baḵš-ī az tafsīr-ī kohan, p. 181; Loeffler, p. 46
  12. Ibn Taymiyah,Al-Furqaan Bayna Awliyaa ar-Rahmaan wa Awliyaa ash-Shaytaan
  13. Qur'an 72:1–2
  14. Qur'an 15:18–18
  15. Sahih Muslim, No. 2714
  16. Is it permissible to pray that my qareen becomes Muslim
  17. Ṭūsī, p. 484; Fozūnī, p. 527
  18. Fozūnī, p. 526
  19. Fozūnī, pp. 525-26
  20. Kolaynī, I, p. 396; Solṭān-Moḥammad, p. 62
  21. Fozūnī, p. 527
  22. Mīhandūst, p. 44
  23. Abu’l-Fotūḥ, XVII, pp. 280-81
  24. Qur'an 27:17–17
  25. Abu’l-Fotūḥ, 15, 21-22, 29-32, 40-42, 45, 47-50, XVI; Ṭūsī, pp. 486, 495
  26. Qur'an 34:14–14


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External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Jinn. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.