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Jinn: The Origins of Genies

Written by Zavier Colon

Cryptid of the Week: Week 2

Welcome dear reader to the second edition of Cryptid of The Week. This is the section where I choose one new Cryptid every week and write about them. For those who might be confused as to what a Cryptid is; allow me to explain. Cryptids are usually animals, creatures, plants, or other forms of Eukaryotes that have been claimed to have been seen or existed but have yet to be proved by scientific means. There are Cryptids all over the world from multiple cultures and once a week I choose one that I find interesting to write about or one that is suggested to me either in the comments or by email.

 

This week’s Cryptid is the Jinn. Jinn or “Genie,” a more modern translation, originated from the French translation of Arabian entertainment in the 18th century. They are beings capable of immense power and able to bend the very fabric of reality. There are various versions of the Jinn within Arabic and Muslim culture, each having varying descriptions, with some Jinn having animal-like features and others looking strikingly human. They have varying abilities depending on what kind of spirit they were, be it earth, wind, water, etc… however, the true origins of the mythos are unknown. There are stories and texts about Jinn dating back hundreds of years before the prophet Muhammad wrote the Quran in the 7th century.

Jinn have been prominent figures in Arabic culture for centuries,  having a heavy influence on Arabic poetry. They were said to be the very source of magic that mages would use being called upon to help with the use of a spell. The idea of a genie in a lamp comes from the idea that magicians or sorcerers who wished to use more powerful spells than simply summoning a Jinn and asking for help, would instead try to trap them in an object with a magic seal. This object could range from any manner of thing from a vase to a bottle, a box, or even a lamp. The sorcerer would then use them as a sort of power source to drain their powers from them to use even stronger magic. It was an Arabic belief that Jinn could communicate with humans of their choosing often appearing before them from what the Arabians called the parallel world where they lived and engaging in conversation. Then depending on the Jinn, they could decide to reward the human, punish them, or even befriend them. The most common group of people that Jinn would appear before were poets. One of the most famous examples is Kuthayyir ‘Azzah, “One day […] a man on horseback came toward me until he was next to me. I looked at him. He was bizarre, a man-made out of brass […]. He said to me, “Recite some poetry!” Then he recited poetry to me. I said: “Who are you?” He said, “I am your double from the jinn!” That is how I started reciting poetry” (Ettachfini). Kuthayyir ‘Azzah (660 AD – 723 AD) was like many other Arabic poets who claimed to have been friends with a Jinn or even multiple. They would claim to have been inspired by the Jinn whom they believed to be spirits of wind, fire, water, fear, earth, life, etc… or even having verses of their poetry be attributed to them. Jinn were a major influence in the world of Arabic poetry and culture.

Jinn were introduced in Muslim culture in the very first rendition of the Quran. With Jinn being such an integral part of Arabic culture as well as a major part of their belief system, the addition of Jinn to the Quran allowed Muhammad to convert the people over to his faith more easily. The Quran explains that the Jinn are one of Allah’s creations but not like animals or plants but on the same level of importance as humans. They are considered to be one of Allah’s 3 major creations. Angels, Humans, and Jinn. All 3 were created by Allah, When his Lord said to him, “Submit (i.e. be a Muslim)!” He said I have submitted myself (as a Muslim) to the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)” (The Qur’an,1:132). According to the Quran Angels were made of pure light, Humans molded from clay, and Jinn formed from smokeless fire. While having been given power near that of an Angel the Jinn were also akin to humans in the fact that they too had free will. They had the ability to choose whatever it was they wanted to do or see with the powers to do just that. The Quran also offered an explanation to the Jinn’s parallel world stating that they had the ability to travel between earth and heaven freely which neither angels nor humans could do. Humans could only travel to heaven after death and Angels only when Allah sent them on a mission. With the ability of free will comes disobedience. Much like how not all humans follow Allah, there were also Jinn who disobeyed their creator and refused to follow him. The most notorious of them is Iblis, “At the creation of man, God ordered all his angels to bow down in obedience before Adam. Iblīs refused, claiming he was a nobler being since he was created of fire, while man came only of clay. For this exhibition of pride and disobedience, God threw Iblīs out of heaven” (Britannica). Iblis after being cast from heaven was renamed Shayṭān serving as the devil in Islamic mythology much like Christianity’s Satan. He temps Eve to eat fruit from the tree of immortality much like Satan tricked Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. He will eventually gain a following of other rebellious Jinn and continue to try and tempt and trick humans up until the present.

The thing that I found the most intriguing about the Jinn is how they are a major part of the world’s second-largest religion. I never knew that the Muslim devil was a Jinn and not an Angel since in Muslim theology Angels are incapable of sin, but Jinn have free will, so they are. According to Muslim teachings, the Quran is not up to interpretation like how some Christians believe the Bible is. This means that today 1.6 Billion people believe in the existence of Jinn.

 

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Iblīs.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2 Apr. 2014, www.britannica.com/topic/Iblis.

Ettachfini, Leila. “What Are Jinn: The Arab Spirits Who Can Eat, Sleep, Have Sex, and Die.” Vice, 31 Oct. 2018, www.vice.com/en_us/article/9k7ekv/what-are-jinn-arab-spirits.

Photo credit:Ottoman master Mehmed Siyah Kalem

 

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Zavier Colon

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