Djinn; A demon by Any Other Name
by the author of Anatomy of a Ghost; A Guide to Analyzing the Dead
In researching paranormal topics recently I’ve come across several rather oblique references to an ancient race called the djinn. It has been suggested by some that the djinn, or jinn, might be the beings responsible for all manner of paranormal activity
from shadow people sightings to extraterrestrial encounters. But what were these beings?
Truth be told, in the western world the legend of the djinn has survived only marginally. The djinn or genie has been emasculated and marginalized, becoming the popular three-wish granting, magic lamp inhabiting, genie in the bottle. Television shows such as the now dated I Dream of Genie and the popular Disney film Alladin have featured friendly genies who seek to help their human counterparts with superior magical skills. Indeed, for a westerner, the thought that this ancient race both existed and was dangerous seemed preposterous. However, for those in the Middle East the belief in the djinn is quite different.
History of the Djinn
In the book entitled, The Vengeful Djinn; Unveiling the Hidden Agendas of Genies, authors Imbrogno and Guiley are quick to point out the Middle Eastern cultures take a very different view of this ancient race of beings. In many households even to say the word djinn is forbidden for fear of retribution and harm. For Muslims the djinn are closer to the western ideal of demon. The Qur’an describes the three tiers of beings as angels, djinn and humans. Angels are at the top of the pyramid as creatures of beauty and light. Created without free will, however, they follow God’s dictates without question. Djinn, on the other hand, are willful, sentient beings created from, smokeless flame of fire,” or plasma Strict interpretation of the reference suggest they were created from the “purest fire,” or created “near the fire (Wagner, Anonymous).” Humans, the weakest of the races, are said to be created from, “sounding clay (Ar-Rahman 55:15).”
The Qur’an explains that the ancient race once inhabited the Earth, establishing advanced civilizations. Then God created mankind, commanding the hosts of djinn and angels to look after his newest mewling creatures. Those of the Christian faith recall the angelic response to this dictate which ended in Satan and his fellows being cast out of heaven.
The Qur’an speaks of a similar situation happening amongst the djinn. In fact a powerful djinn by the name of Iblis was so infuriated at the idea that he refused to bend the knee, and suffered the same fate as the biblical Lucifer. For his arrogance Iblis and his followers were exiled from Earth, banished to Hell until Judgment Day when they would hopefully have mended their ways. God did grant Iblis one boon, he gave Iblis permission to tempt mankind away from the teachings of God. Note this excerpt from the Qur’an:
…We bade the angles prostrate to Adam, and they prostrate; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who prostrate.
Allah: “What prevented thee from prostrating when I commanded thee?”
Iblis: “I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay.”
Allah: “Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here. Get out, for thou art of the meanest. Be thou among those who have respite.
Iblis: “Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo? I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way. Then I will assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left. Nor wilt thou find, in most of them gratitude.”
Allah: “Get out from this, degraced and expelled. If any of them follow thee, Hell will I fill with you all. “ Al-A’Raf, 11-18
According to an Arabian story, after Iblis’ descent, his name was changed to Shaitan (adversary or enemy). Notice the similarity to the Western word for devil, Satan. Certainly the parallels between Islam and Christianity are unmistakable. Indeed, in some earlier Islamic accounts Iblis isn’t categorized as being djinn at all, but is described as a once powerful angel named Azazel. The translation for Azazel being “God strengthens.”
Azazel may actually have been borrowed from a Semitic god who protected shepherds and their flocks. Indeed the notion of the djinn predates the establishment of Islam. Ancient Persians spoke of the jainni or jaini, which were evil spirits of both genders who inhabited an invisible world, but whom were able to interact with humans. These creatures could bestow gifts such as gold or food, or they could mete out harm, disease or death. The Ancient Arabians worshiped god-like beings known as the ginnaye who were the purveyors of either pleasure or pain. Among the various ancient stories note the similarities, namely the idea of a non-human, magical spirit who offered either great fortune or demise.
King Solomon, famous in both the Christian and Muslim religions, apparently possessed the ability to control the djinn to do his will – a power given Solomon by God. With this power Solomon was able to not only call up the djinn by name, but bind them into slavery to perform his many works. In the pseudopigraphic text, The Testament of Solomon,written between the first and third centuries CE, the djinn are described as demons and Solomon is said to have “mastered and controlled all spirits of the air, on the Earth, and under the Earth (Ibid, verse1).”
Obviously many of the djinn were unhappy being held in captivity by Solomon, and made to do what amounted to slave labor. Therefore Solomon is said to have imprisoned many of them in iron laced lead bottles or sealed them in captivity with lead and talismans. Other djinn were imprisoned in magic rings with rubies or fire opals. Notice the parallel to the traditional “genie in a bottle” story. Incidentally, lead is an ancient remedy against all types of paranormal entities. The metal is believed to have the power to bind spirits or ward against evil.
Characteristics of the Djinn
If we follow the description in the Quran, the djinn are flameless smoke. In other words ethereal beings to our human clay form. While we are all bones and sharp angles, these creatures are amorphous, thus able to fit into any crevice or container because they possess no material matter. While in their natural state they are plasma, it appears that they can control their shape and appearance, melding it into forms appearing both solid and recognizable to humans. Thus it has been speculated by those in the paranormal community that they may be the beings responsible for strange sightings of scaled reptilian creatures, or shadow figures and perhaps even the modern version of the humanoid-like alien - vis a vis big eyes, bald head and tiny demeanor. It is speculated that they may take on whatever form they desire to achieve whatever ends they seek. If they are seeking information they may choose to appear as “aliens.” If they choose to frighten they might appear as scaled, speaking reptiles. If they wish to deceive someone they may even appear in an angelic state, or take on the appearance of a deceased loved one. (According to the Qur’an, however, the djinn are never allowed to appear as Allah himself. This ability they do not possess.) Consider the possibilities of an entity that can shape-shift at will and the ramifications are both astounding and appalling.
Where Djinn Live?
It is written that these creatures live in remote areas to avoid interactions with humans. According to Islamic writings, the djinn prefer to live in caves or in remote recesses of the desert. Popular belief also suggest they reside incemeteries[RS1] or ruins. Apparently immune to filth, some speculate that many choose to live in garbage dumps where they feed off the remainders of human garbage (Wagner). There are also stories that place djinn communities at the bottom of the ocean. Being non-corporeal it appears that they do not require the same things to survive as human beings, such as air or possibly food.
However, another possible explanation is that they do not reside on the Earth at all, but in another dimension that is close to ours and affords them access via portals between the two worlds. As crazy as this may sound, in recent years Quantum Physicists have been working on several theories they propose help explain the anomalies of the universe. One of the predominant theories is String Theory which proposes that our universe is only one of many, and that alternate universes are all around us and may interact with ours when conditions are correct. Not a scientist myself, forgive me a quick (and undoubtedly flawed) layman’s explanation of string theory.
Physicists have speculated that it is possible that other dimensions not only exist, but exist in close proximity to our own. The different universes are on thin, string-like constructs with all strings attached to a main structure called a brane. I envision the cosmos as being like a giant spider web. Consider if you will the intricacy of a spider web, in which each gossamer string is a separate entity, resonating on its own plane of existence. The strings don’t touch or interact with the other strings on the web. But consider a thunderstorm blows in, and the strings that were separate are now blown either into close proximity with one another or worse yet become stuck together in certain spots on the web. Where the strings come in close contact may become what spiritualists and mystics have described as portals, gateways to another universe or dimension or time. If the Qur’an passage about Iblis’s descent is considered, it may be that the djinn, having lost favor with God, were banished out of Eden (Earth) to another place (or dimension). Considering Iblis’s anger with God and his banishment, one might suggest that the djinn seek out portals in order to enter our world with a view of eventually ousting humanity and reclaiming residency in what was their home far before it was our own.
Belief that the djinn are angling toward reclaiming their homeland is apparently the belief of many in the Middle East, people who tend to take the threat of the djinn quite seriously. Philip Imbrogno who actually studied the djinn in Saudi Arabia, relates his experiences speaking with locals in Fins. Imbrogno notes that he was surprised that the people he met were willing to speak with him about the subject, though they warned him repeatedly that it was dangerous to investigate the djinn. In his words, speaking of the djinn “would invite their attention. They would definitely investigate my intentions. The townspeople were convinced that the djinn were returning to our world and one day, if appropriate action was not taken, the djinn might rule human beings (Guiley, Imbrogno, 2012).”
The Qur’an encourages trepidation in dealing with the djinn, especially those who followed Shaitan (Iblis, Satan).
It is only Shaitan that suggests to you the fear of his supporters and friends so fear them not, but fear me. If you are believers. And let not Shaitan hinder you, verily, he (Shaitan, Iblis) to you is a plain enemy. Az-Zukhruf 43.62, Qur’an
The Qur’an indicates that evil humans are not the only inhabitants of hell, but that the real estate is also shared by the djinn who have fallen out of favor. Imbrogno suggests that the western idea of demons, or dangerous, non-human entities may be djinn with a different name, as certainly the bible speaks of such entities under such titles as demons, wizards and spirits.
Creatures of Free Will
That is not to say that all djinn are evil. They are not human, nor have ever been human. With their superior powers undoubtedly they find human beings as weak and easily manipulated. However, according to the Qur’an, the djinn were a race created with free will, as humans were, but angels were not. This means that the djinn can form their own ideas, worship as they will, change their minds and make their own decisions. Many of the djinn elect to follow the teachings of Allah. They may also follow other religions such as Christianity or Judaism (Wagner). Iblis or Shaitan declined to bend the knee to the humans, but not all of the djinn followed him. Thus not all of the djinn can be interpreted as being active enemies of the human race.
However, they are non-human entities, which may mean that their needs and the needs of the human race may run counter to one another. Consider the farmer with a herd of sheep, and another vying for pastureland with his herd of cows. Cows graze on grass that is above ground, while sheep strip the grass, roots and all. They all need grass, but when the sheep are done with the pastureland there’s nothing left for the cows. For two different creatures vying for the same land humans and the djinn may find themselves in a similar crisis for resources.
Obviously an automatic belief in genies may be hard for westerners. However, nearly every civilization believes in some type of non-human spirit. For those in the U.S. it nearly always falls to angels or demons. In the British Isles fairies are believed to be prevalent. In Native American lore it is often the trickster who is described. Guiley and Imbrogno in their book The Vengeful Djinn, make a painstakingly clear argument from accounts of angels, demons, fairies and djinn that all have strikingly similar characteristics. Guiley and Imbrogno also make a strong case for a non-human entity that is both uninterested in human progress and seems to relish foiling humans whenever possible – the Trickster Spirit.
The Trickster Spirit
The Trickster spirit is an archetypal character found in many cultures. For the Greeks, the God Hermes was a creature of deceit and lies. For the Norse the god Loki was the god of Chaos, able to change shape and gender at will. Native American tribes speak of the sneaky Coyote as the fire-stealing god of braggadocio. All tales of Trickster are similar in nature. These spirits work outside the laws of order. They infinitely enjoy chaos, especially the chaos they themselves create. They can create and destroy with equal aplomb. A sense of humor runs throughout; Tricksters love jokes played upon themselves and others. It doesn’t matter because inevitably Trickster has the last laugh at the expense of the victim. Tricksters love to stymy humans, playing both sides against another. They lie without abandon, change their stories often, and shift sides of a disagreement thus foiling both sides. They love the pleasures of the flesh especially sexual promiscuity. They appear to have the ability to shape shift taking on different forms and even different genders. These spirits make no distinction between good and evil, and they’re not really concerned with questions of the soul. Mostly they love to have fun, fun found at the expense of destroying those with whom they toy.
A similar Trickster tradition runs through descriptions of the djinn especially when interacting with humans. Described as being more amoral than evil, the djinn can be quite dangerous when interacting with humans, using whatever tools they have to hand. Undoubtedly they feel when dealing with humans that the ends justify the means. Being created of amorphous smoke, it is believed that they can travel at great speeds, be invisible to humans or show themselves in various guises; camels, snakes or dogs being preferred shapes. They have inhuman powers; able to lift heavy objects with ease. They can shape dreams by whispering temptations into the ears of the sleeper. They also possess the ability to place themselves within a dream thus controlling them. They may even masquerade as a messenger of god. While they enjoy foiling the weak willed, they take even greater pride in destroying the righteous.
Perhaps the most troubling, it is believed that the djinn are able to possess humans, entering the body easily as they are made from smoke. A djinn may occupy a body for a brief time in order to accomplish something, or they may attempt to take up permanent residency. Muslim religious leaders are schooled in exorcism rituals in order to oust unwanted guests.
Classes of Djinn
There are thought to be different classes of djinn, with variations within cultures. In the Western tradition are the ghouls which are grave yard inhabiting creatures who seek to suck the blood from their victims – blood perhaps symbolic of the life force of a person. The hinn are the weakest of the djinn, closely related to animals, and usually appearing as dogs. These may account for the black dog sightings.
Guiley and Imbrogno classify the djinn by colors, the different colors signifying their abilities and their likely behavior.
Obviously the youngest of the djinn have the least developed powers and exhibit the most erratic behaviors, just as adolescents in the human population often display immaturity. The djinn advance in levels with age and increased ability, but advancement is not a given, it must be earned. Just as a person in a profession advances from an entry level position to an advanced position in management, so do djinn. A position at the top is not a foregone conclusion in any case, it is earned with the gathering of knowledge, the use of skills and the maturity of temperament.
Typically the young of the tribe, green djinn can still be extremely old by human standards. A green djinn that does not master the skills necessary to manipulate their powers may remain a green and not advance. The youngsters among the djinn are usually the most interested in the human population, and are the most easily summoned. They might also appear in a pleasing form such as a dog or lovely woman. If angered or feeling vindictive, they may appear in a hideous form to scare the caller. Summoning a djinn, especially one that does not wish to interact, is not a wise maneuver, as they can be dangerous.
Adolescent djinn like to cause mischief and play pranks. They do possess the ability to change shapes but this may be limited by their level of acquired knowledge or mastery of skills.
They are characterized as being playful and friendly, but may also be vengeful and cruel. Just as every adolescent is different, so are the young among the djinn. They may enter our world to interact simply out of curiosity. They can shape shift, and in a material form they can imbibe foods. They are reportedly fond of sweet foods such as fruits and ice cream. In human form they can also drink alcohol and smoke tobacco and may form a fondness for such things. However, despite their fondness of things of the flesh, food does not sustain them. Djinn require energy in a purer form, that which they can only acquire from living things.
It is an Islamic belief that the green djinn often reside in holes in the ground. Therefore they suggest you be careful of throwing trash into a hole or worse yet entering a hole. It is believed that the djinn may hold wayward visitors, or only release them upon condition.
The Marid, Nekratael, Afreet or blue djinn are the oldest and most powerful of the djinn, with power just below that of an angel. Most are believed to be family or clan leaders, and with expanded responsibility they tend to take very little interest in the human race. Being thus powerful they are extremely dangerous. According to the Qur’an, most of the blue djinn were ordered to leave the Earth for another realm after the conflict with Adam. A small number of blue djinn may have escaped the extraction and may reside in hiding. According to Persian legend, if one meets a single old man alone in the desert, one should be very wary. It is believed that a lone traveler in the desert is a blue djinni in disguise. In rare circumstances the blue djinn can be summoned. Seeking favors from the older of the race may be fraught with danger, as their help may turn out harming the seeker. However, the older of the djinn population isn’t as given to temperamental outbursts or flights of fancy as are the younger of the population.
The Red djinn are followers of Iblis and sworn enemies to the human race. Having turned their back on the word of God, they actively seek out evil. They do not follow the teachings of Islam. Most were powerful blue djinn before siding with Iblis. They are also labeled ghouls, Shaitan, Shayteen or Ifrit. Dangerous in the extreme, they are the collectors of human souls, which they use to make themselves stronger. They are responsible for hauntings, illnesses and acts of possession, and often appear in a frightening reptilian form. Many modern Islamic clerics believe it is the red djinn who are responsible for alien sightings and other types of frightening paranormal phenomenon. Dealings with a red djinn can be deadly. They are eager to answer questions and grant wishes, but the price for such services may literally be your soul.
Known only as the Shamir, dealings between the Black djinn and the human race are very rare. It appears that the black djinn may be the rulers, and as such are simply too busy to deal with human beings. . There may be several of them as the heads of clans, or there may only be one that serves as a King over the blues and green djinn. It is written that King Solomon possessed one black djinn, who ruled the other djinn in Soloman’s army. The black djinn issued orders and meted out punishment as necessary.
The Yellow djinn class is a mysterious group who appear to prefer isolation, both from the realm of man and other djinn. Imbrogno and Guiley admit that while they found some evidence, this was an elusive group of powerful, but busy, middle-aged, djinn. Most are family or clan leaders who have little or no interest in the world of man. Most yellows are known as Juzam, or the angrier as Efreeti.
The djinn are family oriented. Offspring are fairly rare, but family units are believed to be tight. Families are bound into clans with clans bound into kingdoms. It is unknown whether there are several kingdoms or only one kingdom with one single ruler ruling over all but the rebels of the group. Red djinn who follow Shaitan are without the kingdom of the djinn.
A Djinn by any other Name
For many Muslims the djinn aren’t a possibility but a certainty. They believe in the existence of these creatures that we in the west have heard very little. However, just about every culture believes in some type of elemental spirit, a creature that is not nor has ever been human. In the British Isles many vehemently believe in the existence of the Fey. The Native Americans were also firm believers in non-human spirits. In our own culture is a sub group of stoic individuals that firmly believe in extra-terrestrials. Consider also the strange stories that occasionally surface. The Mothman of West Virginia, the New Jersey Devil and Big Foot.
Imbrogno and Guiley make painstaking comparisons between elemental spirits and the djinn and the similarities are strong. No matter what one calls elementals they might all be of the same ilk, perhaps just another djinn in disguise. The authors close by suggesting that paranormal investigators take heed. What may appear as a wacky encounter too odd to categorize may simply be the pranks of this ancient and undoubtedly misunderstood race of creatures.
Anonymous. “Djinn What Are They?” Paranormal Encounters. Retrieved June 3, 2014 from www.paranormal-encounters.com/wp/djinn-what-are-they/
Guiley, R.E., Imbrogno, P.J. (2012) The Vengeful Djinn; Unveiling the Hidden Agendas of Genies. Llewellen Publications. Woodbury, MN.
Imbrogno, P.J. “Who or What are the Djinn?” Retrieved June 3, 2014 from www.llewellyn.com/jounal/article/2182.
Wagner, S. “All About the Djinn” Retrieved June 3, 2014 from paranormal.about.com/demonsandexorcism/a/aa060506.htm