Latest from The Economist on…the Jinn!

Latest from The Economist on…the Jinn! January 6, 2007

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? 

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