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Jinn

Jinn

Arabian spirits, perhaps animistic, but more probably strictly mythological like the Persian divs. The jinn were said to have been created out of fire and to have occupied the Earth for several thousand years before Adam. They were perverse and would not reform, although prophets were sent to reclaim them; they were eventually driven from the Earth and took refuge in the outlying islands of the sea.

One of the number named Azazeel (afterward called Iblees) was carried off as a prisoner by angels. He grew up among them and became their chief, but when he refused to prostrate himself before Adam he was degraded to the condition of a sheytân (devil), and became the father of the sheytâns.

The jinn are not immortal and, according to legend, are destined ultimately to die. They eat and drink and propagate their species, live in communities, and are ruled over by princes. They can make themselves visible or invisible, and they assume the forms of various animals, such as serpents, cats, and dogs. There are good jinn and bad jinn. They are said to frequent baths, wells, latrines, ovens, ruined houses, rivers, crossroads, and marketplaces. Like the demons of Jewish traditions, they ascend to heaven and learn the future by eavesdropping. With all their power and knowledge, however, they are liable to be reduced to obedience by means of talismans or occult arts and become obsequious servants until the spell is broken.

It is far from certain that the jinn of the East were derived from the mythology or philosophy of the West, and the practice of translating the Arabic word jinn by the Latin term genius arose more from an apparent resemblance in the names than from any identity in the nature and functions of those imaginary beings.

This similarity of name, however, must have been purely accidental, for the Arabs knew little or nothing of the Latin language. Demonnot geniusis the word they probably would have used if they had borrowed this part of their creed from the West. Jinn appears, moreover, to be a genuine Arabic word derived from a root signifying "to veil" or "to conceal"; it therefore means properly "that which is veiled and cannot be seen."

"In one sense," states Frús-àbàdí (Câmús, vol. 3, p. 611), "the word Jinn signifies any spiritual being concealed from all our senses, and, for that reason, the converse of a material being. Taken in this extensive sense, the word Jinn comprehends devils as well as angels, but there are some properties common to both angels and Jinn; some peculiar to each. Every angel is a Jinn, but every Jinn is not an angel. In another sense, this term is applied peculiarly to a particular kind of spiritual being; for such beings are of three kinds; the good, which are angels; the bad, devils; and the intermediate, comprehending both good and bad, who form the class of Jinn."

Thus Arabs acknowledged good and bad jinn, in that respect agreeing with the Greeks, but differing from the Persians. The "genii" so long familiar to European readers through the Arabian Nights are not the same beings, but rather are the divs and dévatàs of Indian romance dressed up in a foreign attire to please the tastes of readers in Persia and Arabia.

The principal differences, therefore, between the genii of the West and the jinn of the East seem to have been as follows: the genii were deities of an inferior rank, the constant companions and guardians of men, capable of giving useful or prophetic impulses, acting as mediators and messengers between the gods and men. Some were supposed to be friendly, others hostile, and many believed one of each kind was attached from birth to every mortal. The former was called Agathodemon, the latter Cacodemon.

The good genius prompted men to good, the evil to bad actions. That of each individual was as a shadow of himself. Often the genius was represented as a serpent. His age also varied. He was generally crowned with a chaplet of plane-tree leaves. His sacrifices were wholly bloodless, consisting of wine and flowers, and the person who performed the oblation was the first to taste the cup. The birthday was placed under his special care.

Roman men swore by their genius, the women by their juno. The genius of the reigning prince was an oath of extraordinary solemnity. There were local as well as individual genii, concerning whom many particulars may be found in De Idolatria liber of Dionysius Vossius (editions 1633, 1641).

The jinn, on the contrary, who seem to be the lineal descendants of the dévatés and rakshasas of Hindu mythology, were never worshiped by the Arabs nor considered as anything but agents of the Deity. Since the establishment of Islam, indeed, they have been described as invisible spirits, and the feats and deformities that figure into romance are as little believed by Easterners as the tales of King Arthur's Round Table are by Westerners.

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Jinn

Jinn (Arab., junna, ‘be mad, furious, possessed’). Fiery spirits in Islam (Qurʾān 55. 15), particularly associated with the desert. A person who dies in a state of great sin may be changed into a jinnī in the period of the barzakh.

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jinn

jinn in Arabian and Muslim mythology, an intelligent spirit of lower rank than the angels, able to appear in human and animal forms and to possess humans, and having supernatural powers.

The name influenced the adoption from French of genie.

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jinn

jinn (one of) an order of spirits in Muslim demonology. XVII (dgen). — Arab. jinn, coll. of jinnī GENIE(also jinnee XIX).

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jinn

jinnagin, akin, begin, Berlin, bin, Boleyn, Bryn, chin, chin-chin, Corinne, din, fin, Finn, Flynn, gaijin, gin, Glyn, grin, Gwyn, herein, Ho Chi Minh, in, inn, Jin, jinn, kin, Kweilin, linn, Lynn, mandolin, mandoline, Min, no-win, pin, Pinyin, quin, shin, sin, skin, spin, therein, thin, Tientsin, tin, Tonkin, Turin, twin, underpin, Vietminh, violin, wherein, whin, whipper-in, win, within, Wynne, yin •weigh-in • lutein • lie-in • Samhain •Bowen, Cohen, Owen, throw-in •heroin, heroine •benzoin •bruin, ruin, shoo-in •Bedouin • Islwyn •genuine, Menuhin •cabin, Scriabin •Portakabin • sin bin • swingbin •bobbin, dobbin, robin •haemoglobin (US hemoglobin) •Reuben • dubbin • dustbin • Jacobin •kitchen, lichen •Cochin • urchin

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Jinn

Jinn

Jinn (singular jânn in the Qur'an, but jinni is used as well. In English, the form genie has more common usage) are beings made from fire, nâr, interpreted by some as smokeless fire or a mixture of fire with other elements. They are presented in contradistinction to humans who are made of clay, and angels whose provenance is unclear in the Qur'an but are made of light according to later exegesis. The qur'anic depiction of jinn is characterized by unresolved ambiguities. Although sharply reduced in power and no longer considered omnipotent, by incorporating jinn in the scheme of creation and by naming a chapter for them (Qur'an Sura 72), the qur'anic account gave them a new lease of life and rendered permissible their very prominent configuration in the Muslim imaginaire. Jinn are represented as exemplifying the compromised faith of pre-Islamic Arabs and impious Muslims, who treated them as omnipotent divinities, sought refuge with them, and coveted their intercession on their behalf when confronted by unfortunate events.

The ability of the jinn to copulate with humans—they are almost satyr-like in their sexual appetite in some popular anecdotes—is recognized in the Qur'an, where the maidens of paradise are described as untouched by humans or jinn. Marriage with jinn was forbidden by most classical exegetes, both Sunni and Shi'i, on the grounds that God has commanded humans to marry with their own kind. Jurists were particularly concerned with the genus of the offspring: Should they be classified as human or jinn? Exhortations by the jurists notwithstanding, al-Nadim (d. CE 991) mentions in his bibliographical encyclopedia, sixteen titles on "The Names of the Humans in Love with the Jinn and the Jinn in Love with the Humans." The neurological disorder epilepsy (sara') was frequently associated with jinn, considered the manifestation of a romantic liaison with humans. Because marriage with them was prohibited, a woman in love with a jinni experienced seizures, which were expressions of the jinni's love. The association of physical ailments with supernatural entities was common in ancient Middle East.

The theme of jinn as representing a spiritual and political entity, approximating although distinct from humans, is pursued in one of the epistles of the celebrated tenth century compilation attributed to the Ikhwan al-Safa', a philosophical and literary circle of the time. The jinn live in a kingdom ruled by Biwarasp, the just king. Biwarasp is called upon by humans to judge on their behalf in the matter of animals versus humans. Claiming that the right to rule over animals was sanctioned to them by both scripture as well as reason, the descendants of Adam asked for the king of the jinn to return rebellious animals to their lawful masters. The authors of the epistles used the dialogue between humans and animals through the mediation of the just jinn as a foil for presenting their views on justice, tyranny, the true spirit of human interpretation, and the calculus of reason versus revelation. The story in the Epistles of the Ikhwan al-Safa' demonstrated the superiority of ethical norms over sectarian, political, this-worldly, divisive, and legalistic interpretations of God's unitarian message of love and peace, which go beyond superficial differences to apply universally to his entire creation. Biwarasp ruled that humans were nobler than jinn and animals only because God chose one of them as his Messenger. In their rule, however, humans were bound by the example of Muhammad—his justice and aversion to tyranny.

Jinn, whose knowledge of the future and ability to shape human destiny have made them into favored narratological tools to foil twists and turns in the stories' plot, are also protagonists of several stories in the One Thousand and One Nights. Edward Lane (1871) and Henri Massé (1938) have studied the numerous manifestations of jinn in Arabic and Persian folklore, respectively. Jinn also feature prominently in African Muslim folklore, where among the Zao community of Upper Volta, special masquerades are held to unveil the jinn, orchestrated by the karamokos, or local religious leaders, who serve as intermediaries between the world of humans and that of jinn. In that community female jinn also frequent the sexual fantasies of young men as ephemeral beauties who are objects of arousal but disappear before any physical contact with them. Jinn as agents of sexual desire prevail in Muslim communities, although rarely. In 1984 such a case was brought before the Personal Status court in Giza (Cairo, Egypt). Suing for divorce the woman plaintiff claimed that her husband had acquired without her consent a second wife who was a jinn. On the basis of the testimonies of two witnesses who attested to feeling the jinn in her house, the court ruled in her favor. It argued that although science did not confirm the existence of jinn, the shari'a did, and therefore, because the defendant did not adequately refute the evidence of the witnesses, the plaintiff was granted a divorce.

Most later representations of jinn, including their conflation with genies in European and North American literature, are influenced by the way they are introduced in the Qur'an as powerful corporeal beings whose power was reduced as a consequence of God's revelation. In European and North American literature, jinn enjoy a colorful presence, particularly in children's fables. Robert Irwin (1995) has studied representations of jinn in a wide range of European and North American classics, including works by Charles Dickens, Henry James, Marcel Proust, and Jorge Luis Borges. Borges' semifictional encyclopedia of fantastic creatures, titled The Book of Imaginary Beings (2005), picks up on the theme of jinn as ambiguous beings. Because jinn differ from humans but are actively involved in human life, Borges explains jinn knowledge of the future to what they pick up "from the conversation of the Angels respecting things decreed by God," when they visit to the confines of the lowest heaven (pp. 112-113). They are however, and despite their subservience to God's decrees, agents of a demon called Iblis, who carry out his evil work, such as harming humans and stealing their beautiful women to become their own wives or concubines.

see also Islam.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Al-Nadim, Abu Faraj Muhammad. 1970. The Fihrist of al-Nadim, ed. and trans. Bayard Dodge, vol. II. New York: Columbia University Press.

Anonymous. 1978. The Case of the Animal versus Man before the King of the Jinn: A Tenth-Century Ecological Fable of the Pure Brethren of Basra, ed. and trans. Lenn Evan Goodman. Boston: Twayne.

Borges, Jorge Luis. 2005. The Book of Imaginary Beings, trans. Peter Sis. New York: Viking Penguin.

Bravmann, Rene A. 1977. "Gyinna-Gyinna: Making the Djinn Manifest." African Arts, 10 (3): 46-52, 87.

Edge, Ian. 1989. "Egyptian Family Law: The Tale of the Jinn." The International and Comparative Law Quarterly 38 (3): 682-685.

El-Zein, Amira. 1995. "The Evolution of the Concept of the Jinn from Pre-Islam to Islam," Ph.D. diss. Washington, DC: Georgetown University.

Irwin, Robert. 1995. The Arabian Nights: A Companion. New York: Penguin.

Lane, Edward William. 1871. An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. London: John Murray.

Massé, Henri. 1938. Croyances et coutumes Persanes suivies de contes et chansons populaires. Paris: Librairie Orientale et Américaine.

                                   Neguin Yavari

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