Jinn or djinn (singular: jinnī, djinni, or genie; Arabic: الجن al-jinn, singular الجني al-jinnī) are supernatural creatures in Islamic mythology as well as pre-Islamic Arabian mythology. They are mentioned frequently in the Quran (the 72nd sura is titled Sūrat al-Jinn) and other Islamic texts and inhabit an unseen world in dimensions beyond the visible universe of humans. The Quran says that the jinn are made of a smokeless and "scorching fire", but are also physical in nature, being able to interfere physically with people and objects and likewise be acted upon. The jinn, humans and angels make up the three sapient creations of God. Like human beings, the jinn can be good, evil, or neutrally benevolent and hence have free will like humans and unlike angels. The shaytan jinn are the analogue of demons in Christian tradition, but the jinn are not angels and the Quran draws a clear distinction between the two creations. The Quran states in surat Al-Kahf (The Cave), Ayah 50, that Iblis (Azazel) is one of the 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 word genie in English is derived from Latin genius, meaning a sort of tutelary or guardian spirit thought to be assigned to each person at 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 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. This use was also adopted in English and has since become dominant.
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.
In the pre-Islamic era
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 Islamic theology jinn are said to be creatures with free will, made from smokeless fire by Allah as humans were made of clay, among other things. 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, Iblīs 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 "humanity and the jinn", and that prophets and messengers were sent to both communities.
They are usually invisible to humans, but humans do appear clearly to jinn, as they can possess 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 Prophet 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 jinni, also called a qarīn, 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 qarin 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 ibn al-Hajjaj, the companion Abdullah, son of Masud 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.' '
In Muslim cultures
The stories of the jinn can be found in various Muslim cultures around the world. In Sindh the concept of the Jinni was introduced during the Abbasid Era and has become a common part of the local folklore which also includes stories of both male jinn called "jinn" and female jinn called "jiniri". Folk stories of female jinn include stories such as the Jejhal Jiniri.
Other acclaimed stories of the jinn can be found in the One Thousand and One Nights story of the Fisherman and the Jinni; more than three different types of jinn are described in the story of Ma‘ruf the Cobbler; a mighty jinni helps young Aladdin in the story of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp; as Ḥasan Badr al-Dīn weeps over the grave of his father until sleep overcomes him, and he is awoken by a large group of sympathetic jinn in the Tale of ‘Alī Nūr al-Dīn and his son Badr ad-Dīn Ḥasan.
During the Rwandan genocide, both Hutus and Tutsi avoided searching in local Rwandan Muslim neighborhoods and widely believed myths that local Muslims and Mosques were protected by the power of Islamic magic and the efficacious jinn. In Cyangugu, arsonists ran away instead of destroying the mosque because they believed jinn were guarding the mosque and feared their wrath. The modern city of Deoband (Uttar Pradesh, India) is named on similar grounds. 'Deo' from Hindi, is a synonym of Jinn, while 'Band' means closed, but can be translated as captured in Hindi. The legend says that there was once a menacing jinni, and it was an elderly man who put a stop to him, by capturing him into a bottle and sealing him away forever. Another version describes that there were two, not one jinni. The bottle/s are said to be sealed away in the dungeon of a mosque situated on a hill in the city itself, which has not been opened ever since. Additionally, the premier Islamic body of Darul-Uloom, Deoband is said to have a vibrant community of civilized jinn in its midst.
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)
Ibn al-Nadim, in his Kitāb al-Fihrist, describes a book that lists seventy Jinn lead by Fuqtus, named "‘Mrd, Kywan, Shimr‘al, Firuz, Mhaqal, Zaynab, Syduk, Jndrb, Siyyar, Zanbur, al-Da’hs, Kawkab, Hamran, Dahir, Qarun, Shidad, Sa‘sa‘ah, Baktan, Harthamah, Takallum, Furuq, Hurmiz, Hamhamah, ‘Ayzar, Mazahim, Murrah, Fatrah, al-Haym, Arhbh, Khyth‘, Khyfth, Rayah, Zuhal, Zawba‘ah, Mhtukara, Hayshab, Tq‘ytan, Wqas, Qdmnh, Mufarrish, Ayra’il, Nizar, Shftil, Dywyd, Ankara, Khatufah, Tnkyush, Misalqar, Qadim, Ashja‘, Nawdar, Tythamah, ‘Usar, Thu‘ban, Naman, Nmudrky, Tyabur, Sahitun, ‘Udhafir, Mirdas, Shytub, Za‘rush, Sakhr, al-‘Aramram, Khashram, Shadhan, al-Harith, al-Hurth, ‘Udhrah (‘Adhirah)", and "Faqruf." This list also includes several Jinn appointed over each day of the week, named (in order): Danhash, Shakhba, Marbaya, ‘Abara, Mismar, Namudarki, and Bakhtash. Bayard Dodge, who translated al-Fihrist into English, notes that most of these names appear in the Testament of Solomon.
A collection of late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century magico-medical manuscripts from Ocaña, Spain describes a different set of Jinn (termed "Tayaliq") again under Fuqtus (here named "Fayqayțūš"), blaming them for various ailments. The jinn listed include M.h.m.s., Mūn.s, N.qīq, M.y.d, Y.d.b.h., 'a.q.l., al-Gūl, Māŷ.z, Rū'ā, 'amdayāni, L.țūš, al-Dwlāt, Aluwf, D.n.h.š, N.zhūš (son of the king D.n.h.š'), al-Dābā (AKA al-Wāh.na), M.s.rf, Zwb.g.h., H.ŷā, 'w.ya, 'abaqardāti Ālāsqām, al-Z.b.d.h., al-Qūt, al-Sy.syān, Qalnamāta, F'aŷayān, Ș'aya, al-Rwāh, al-Q.r.șa, Rūnīmah, al-Janāmin, Hšhš, Lhyf, Samhal, Biqasmayni, Ŷ.n.d', Țlyābān, S.f.r., H.mūdī, N.f.s., Hūrtā, al-Rāhiy'a, al-D.rbān, al-Jațāf Majrūf, al-W.swās, 'Umm Mildām, al-Zūa, al-N.bāh, al-Mūl', al-W.swās (the greater), al-J.nas al-Șgār, al-H.m.qā, H.s.n, al-Māsūr, Bulum, Šājiyā, B.rdūn, Bazid al M.ŷusīn, M.'rūz, M.līla al-Nāq.da, Mrwyā, al-Fāliy, al-Wāțq, al-As'ārī al-Yahūdī, L.w.q., al-M.rīj, 'āmir abū al-Šayșfān (father of al-Ŷabālī), Alhlya Alzāhira, Q.d.sā, Ŝ.r.hī, M.g.š.g.s., and 'a.rā.
In other cultures
In Guanche mythology from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, there existed the belief in beings that are similar to genies[improper synthesis?], such as the maxios or dioses paredros ('attendant gods', domestic and nature spirits) and tibicenas (evil genies), as well as the demon Guayota (aboriginal god of evil) that, like the Arabic Iblīs, is sometimes identified with a genie.
In the Bible
The word or concept of jinn as such does not occur in the original Hebrew text of the Bible, but the Arabic word jinn is often used in several old Arabic translations. In Isaiah 6, the seraphim (lit. "burning/fiery ones") appear to the prophet Isaiah, with their six wings being used to cover, or hide, their body, face and feet.
In several verses in those Arabic translations, the words jinn (جن), jann (الجان al-jānn), majnoon (مجنون Majnūn), and Iblīs (إبلیس) are mentioned as translations of "familiar spirit" or אוב (Job) for jann and "the devil" or δαιμόνιον (daimónion) for Iblīs.
Several passages from the New Testament refer to Jesus casting out evil spirits (or demons) from those that were demon-possessed. According to Islamic tradition, these evil spirits are strikingly similar to the jinn creatures mentioned in the Qur'an and Hadith literature. Among the similarities of these creatures is their ability to take possession of human beings.
In Van Dyck's Arabic translation of the Bible, these words are mentioned in Leviticus 19:31, Lev 20:6, 1 Samuel 28:3, 1 Sa 28:9, 1 Sa 28:7, 1 Chronicles 10:13, Gospel of Matthew 4:1, Mat 12:22, Gospel of Luke 4:5, Luk 8:12, Gospel of John 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.
In popular culture
- The Caliph's House and In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah, describes his family's experiences in moving from London to a supposedly jinn-inhabited home in Morocco.
- The Golem and the Jinni  is Helene Wecker's 2013 historical fiction/fantasy novel about a woman made of clay (golem) and a jinni who meet under curious circumstances in 1899 New York City.
- The X-Files: Season 7, Episode 21, "Je Souhaite" (original title) Two brothers have a less than helpful genie who grants their wishes with disastrous consequences. Mulder comes into possession of the same genie, and his wishes garner similar results.
- In a subplot in Neil Gaiman's novel, American Gods, a salesman discontented with his life has a sexual encounter with a jinni (specifically, an ‘ifrit) who is working as a taxi driver in New York.
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is and What Should Never Be", the protagonist, Dean Winchester, is attacked by a jinni and it grants him his wish. They also make an appearance later in the season 6 episode "Exile on Main St".
- In the popular online MMORPG AdventureQuest Worlds, the Middle Eastern-themed zone the Sandsea Desert features a Djinni Chaos Lord named Tibicenas, as well as a Djinni realm which the player can explore.
- In Clash of the Titans the Djinn are ancient desert sorcerers who extended their longevity by replacing damaged body parts with "charwood and black magic", also rendering them immune to certain other forms of magic.
- In Wishmaster an evil Djinn is released from a museum exhibit.
- I Dream of Jeannie is a 1960s television show starring Larry Hagman & Barbara Eden as a beautiful but incorrigible genie rescued by an Air Force pilot, Major Anthony Nelson (Hagman) who constantly gets him into trouble with her magic.
- In the video game series Golden Sun players use four types of Djinn representing the four traditional elements Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind to battle monsters.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Genies.|
Hungarian stamp representing a jinni from the One Thousand and One Nights.
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|Look up genie in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Jinn.|
- Etymology of genie
- Visions of the Jinn – a Muslim scholar’s experience with Jinn
- Sūrat al-Jinn from the Qur’ān
- Jinn (جن)