Domestic Violence and Djinn

Domestic Violence and Djinn October 5, 2015

Trigger warning for discussion of domestic violence. The author of this piece wishes to remain anonymous.


It’s difficult to write this. There are some things that are difficult to tell anyone. They seem too outlandish to be real to anyone else. There are perspective shifts involved that you know wouldn’t be possible unless someone had lived your exact life. It makes sense only in the context of your own experience. Because of that experience, you can stand looking at bruises on your body and realize that the person responsible has sneaked into your house and taken all representations of living things and think: These are related. Now how do I make an insurance claim regarding the theft of soft furnishings and toys because djinn?

If you’re a Muslim in the diaspora, if you want to be taken seriously, you don’t go talking about djinn to non-Muslims.

I know that most non-Muslims (unless you’re a fan of Rosemary E. Guiley) and some Muslims reading this will scoff, while others will say that belief in djinn is part of our religion. I’m not interested in having that djinn debate. Whether or not you believe in the idea of djinn, the notion of possession exists as a reality in some Muslim communities today. And it can become the answer to all your mental health issues and neurodevelopmental disorders. Have an autistic child? Djinn. Depression? Bipolar? Djinn. Schizophrenia, that one’s obvious. Djinn is the answer, especially when the mental health professionals fail, and there is no one definitive diagnosis, just something undeniably “wrong.”

There are places where families send their children to psychiatric counseling in the morning and have the sheik come over at night for a ruqya. And this can be confusing both for those affected and for those around them.

I’ve been looking for answers for a while now. And most of what I have found are cases where the person, often a woman, is accused of being possessed. The coverage of this kind of case is everywhere, from trauma studies to those who use people’s belief in djinn to commit despicable crimes. And these stories are horrific, but at least in that case it is clear-cut. The victim and the abuser are clearly defined.

When a “djinn-possessed” person becomes violent, the assumption is that it isn’t really their fault. This can be the case with mentally ill people, and with autistic children and teens as well. I want to be sensitive here, but honest. I’ve found that especially with autism spectrum disorders, there’s an impulse to look at the bright side. Look at wonderful people with Aspergers who have achieved amazing things. Look at artists with an uncanny eye for detail. In the rare  domestic violence cases  highlighted in the media, it is easy for outsiders who have no experience with violent mentally ill people to assume that someone else is to blame. Anyone complaining about violent behaviour by an autistic person, or by a mentally ill person, (especially if a child) must almost by definition be an evil selfish person who has no patience.

There is a lot out there about the myth of mental illness and violence. And I support fighting against these stereotypes, but if we ignore or try to hide the fact that some mentally ill people and some autistic people can be violent, it leaves those of us having to deal with it at a loss for what to do. Often, these people are our friends and family. We don’t want them to be taken away or to be treated like criminals. We don’t want to hurt them. But when they do become violent, what are we to do?

In my case, this is compounded by the fear a brown woman has of being seen as manipulating racism to use it against her own people…and by that djinn problem. The person I am talking about has been convinced that the problem is djinn, and that now I too am possessed. It’s a strange thing to be half enraged and half sympathetic. But the real problem is that there are those who are enabling this behavior, by confirming that yes, it is djinn, yes it is magic, yes it is a curse. This doesn’t help.

As with most cases of violence, it is about control. There is no such thing as wanting something different, there is only “how things should be.” And not doing the “right thing” means that the djinns are in control. And so my house must be sanitized from the nefarious representations of living things. So one day I wake up and I realize that someone has been in my house and committed a strange djinn related burglary, and I can only laugh, because sometimes that is all you can do.

If anyone knows how I can make that insurance claim, me and my many djinns are all ears.

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