Latest from The Economist on…the Jinn!

I’m regularly surprised by the breadth of The Economist‘s coverage of international affairs, but this time they’ve outdone themselves.  It currently has an article on  jinn!  Yes, "jinn" as in invisible beings, magic, and men who can reach across a room like Reed Richards.

Haven’t seen the current issue in the flesh as it were, but I’ve received this from multiple sources, so I’m declaring this report mutawattir.

Going In Search Of The Jinn | The Economist

Less educated Muslims remain fearful of jinn. Hardly a week passes in the Muslim world without a strange story concerning them. Often the tales are foolish and melancholy. In August, for instance, Muslims in the Kikandwa district of central Uganda grew feverish over reports of jinn haunting and raping women in the district. So when a young woman stumbled out of the forest one day, unkempt and deranged, she was denounced as a jinn. Villagers beat her almost to death. Police finished the job with six bullets at close range. The young woman called out for her children in her last moments. An investigation revealed her to be from a neighbouring district. She had spent days without food or water, searching for her missing husband. Editorials in Ugandan newspapers called on the government formally to deny the existence of jinn. 

That would be divisive. Although a few Islamic scholars have over the ages denied the existence of jinn, the consensus is that good Muslims should believe in them. Some Islamic jurists consider marriage between jinn and humans to be lawful. There is a similar provision for the inheritance of jinn property. Sex during menstruation is an invitation to jinn and can result in a woman bearing a jinn child. According to the Koran, the Prophet Muhammad preached to bands of jinn.

Wasn’t aware of the belief that sex during menses could spawn jinn.  Whether that belief ‘s a discouragement or an enticement, I don’t know, as I can imagine a lot of advantages to having a jinni child.   (Good luck disciplining such a child, though.  He could spank you, and with a hundred hands.)

Speaking of jinn in the real world, when I lived in Qatar I heard a variation on the "Nigerian" confidence scams we always hear about that could’ve sprung out of "Scooby Do".  According to my friend, an Algerian who’d lived in Qatar for many years, there had been a case of a con artist from Nigeria coming to the Gulf (Dubai, I think), embezzling and spiriting off large amounts of money while working for an Emirati bank, and then claiming in court that he had been compelled against his will to do so by a jinn who’d possessed him for a time.  According to my friend, this presented the court with an acute political and theological dilemna, as even though the judges were highly sceptical they had to officially take the claim seriously to avoid appearing to repudiate sacrosanct traditional beliefs.  The crook beat the rap, the story goes, by mounting a defense the court couldn’t publicly question.

I wonder if a court case could still proceed if you accepted the
possibility.  Perhaps the case would proceed normally except with a
different objective, namely unearthing proof of possession a opposed to

Sounds like a Muslim urban legend to me–the con, that is–but then again I wouldn’t put much of anything past Khaleeji religious scholars, especially back when the region was first starting to modernize decades ago.

Anyone heard of something like this? 

  • Irving

    I too agree with Krauthammer. Ironic, but still Saddam is dead, and I doubt he is a martyr to anyone but the hardline Baathists and Iraqi Sunnis who helped him rape and pillage the country.

  • Mezba

    If this wasn’t too tragic (especially the part about the young woman) this would be funny. Unfortunately too many such idiots in the Muslim world. We think our intellectual obligation stops once we say the kalimah.

  • Wellwisher

    Such incredible ‘possession’ stories abound all over the Islamic world, but we shouldn’t forget that possession by spirit beings is a worldwide superstition.
    A few years back in the United Kingdom, a Maulvi from the Indian Subcontinent was put behind bars when he attempted to ‘treat’ a little Muslim girl (suffering from some psychosomatic disease) whose parents thought she was possessed by a Jinn. And what was the treatment applied by the knowledgable religious divine? Stamping on the poor child. She died.
    I have come across highly educated Muslims who fear the Jinn. Many believe certain religious figures have power over the Jinn. If that were true, how come they aren’t sitting in the White House directing world affairs? Surely that wouldn’t be too much for a Jinn to accomplish. But then again, maybe Bush has control over more powerful Jinn. We’ll never know.
    The self-styled ‘Ulama of our times do a great disservice to Islam, and subject Islam to ridicule, by promoting such beliefs among the people. The reason can only be sheer ignorance or an evil will to control the ignorant masses.
    If they had been more scientific and enlightened in their approach, the whole issue of Jinn would have let the attractive nature of Islam show through.
    Although it cannot be ruled out that God may have created spiritual beings of which we have little or no knowledge, it is nowhere suggested in Islam that such beings can possess human beings.
    The root word of Jinn being jan-na ‘to conceal, to hide”, the word has been applied to different things in Arabic that are hidden in one way or another.
    One form of the word is ‘Jaan’ which also means ‘snake’, for a snake remains hidden and is therefore dangerous to man.
    In a hadith, Rasoolullah s.a. told his companions not to clean themselves with bones after a call of nature, because they were the food of the Jinn. What consumes bones lying on the ground are bacteria which – again – are invisible and hidden from sight.
    The Jinn that the Holy Prophet s.a. debated with, as mentioned in surah Al-Jinn, could not have been anything but human beings. When we scan through history, the only occasion we discover is that on one occasion a group of Christians requested to debate with him out of Medina and that he should come alone. The Sahaba were against it, fearing for his safety, but he told them not to worry and went anyway. So these people remained hidden from the sight of the Muslims and were therefore called ‘Jinn’.
    Similarly, in many Quranic commandments An-Naas and Al-Jinn are mentioned together. This can only mean common people and high-placed people who remain mostly hidden from public view. All are human beings to whom Quranic commandments apply.
    From the same root, comes Janeen, a foetus, for it is hidden in the womb; majnoon, or mad, because it appears sanity has been veiled or hidden (and NOT ‘possessed by a Jinn as medieval scholars would have us believe); and even the word Jannah, garden, because thick vegetation covers and hides the ground it grows on.
    There are other meanings of the word Jinn, but all are either human beings who are hidden in one way or another, or invisible things that are readily acknowledged by science. There is of course the possibility of it applying to hidden spiritual creatures of God, but this does not seem to be clearly mentioned in the Qur’an.
    So Muslims should not be made to lose face over the issue of Jinn; on the contrary, it is a highly enlightened concept. And an amazing one to appear in the deserts of Arabia 1400 years ago.