By Glenn M. Stewart
One of the most fascinating cultural aspects of local attitudes I encountered during my time in Arabia was that of the relationship that existed between human beings and the Jinn.
In Islamic cosmology, there are three kinds of beings: humans created from earth, Jinn created from fire and angels created from air. I always joked that the Arabs didn’t have enough familiarity with water to have had a race of beings created from that element.
The Jinn live in the world alongside mankind and are usually not seen by us. However, they are capable of manifesting themselves to humans and can interact with us in all ways if they so choose. That includes having sexual relations.
Some Jinn are malevolent, some are neutral and some are benign. They are divided into tribes and have their own rulers and kings. They can also follow any religion: some are pagans and some are Muslims, some Christian and there are even Jewish Jinn.
The Qur’an was revealed to both mankind and Jinn, and it is well established that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preached to both men and Jinn and converted a number of Jinn to Islam. The Jinn will also be judged on the Day of Judgment for their acts, and disbelievers amongst them will be sent to hell just as the good amongst them will go to heaven.
What fascinated me about the relationship between men and Jinn in the contemporary world was how real it still was. Everyone I met in the Arabian Peninsula had a story to tell about the Jinn. I met a number of educated people who claimed not to believe in them, but when you scratched the surface and probed, every one of them had a story involving some kind of interaction with the Jinn.
In my opinion, the Arabs used the Jinn as a means of explaining causality of phenomena they didn’t understand, or as a means of excusing behavior they didn’t wish to understand or take responsibility for.
A good example of the former is contained in St John Philby’s book Arabia Of The Wahabis. A Bedouin woman went deaf in one ear. This was the result of her having poured hot coffee onto the ground one day: unwittingly she had poured the coffee into the ear of a sleeping Jinni, a male, who was lying on the ground and in retaliation the Jinni made her deaf in one ear.
In respect of excusing behavior or avoiding responsibility, I encountered numerous examples of this. I knew a Saudi man who was in love with an English girl and various incidents kept occurring around their relationship: he crashed his car with her in it one night and on another occasion, when they were having a fight, an ashtray flew across the room. After some examination it turned out that he was possessed by a female Jinni, a Jinnah, and that the Jinnah was jealous of the English girl and was the source of all the trouble. If you are a man, one way you can be sure that you are possessed by a jealous Jinnah is that she will send severed heads to you in a dream. They will usually come in sevens.
Another Bahraini I knew was concerned that his wife might have been having an affair as she would frequently disappear for a couple of hours in the afternoons. After some time, he discovered that she was having sexual intercourse with a Jinni so there wasn’t anything that could be done to prevent this. Interestingly, this particular Jinni was Jewish. I heard a number of stories involving sex between Jinn and humans. These involved both sexes. It is well known that nocturnal emissions are caused by a Jinnah having sex with a young man.
Jinn occasionally did random things that did not make sense to the people affected. For example, the sister of one of my Bahraini employees was possessed by a Jinni from time-to-time when it would make demands on the other people in the household: one time it wanted a blue chicken and on another occasion it wanted a gold bracelet.
Jinn also affected commercial business. There was a businessman in Bahrain named Syed Luti who had a couple of buildings around town that were always empty. I don’t know why people had it in for him, but I was told that the reason that no one would rent in his buildings was because they were inhabited by Jinn. During the Gulf War in 1990 his apartment building overlooking the Andalus roundabout was rented to US military personnel: the locals told me that the Jinn in the building must have been Christian Jinn and therefore didn’t mind having the US soldiers living amongst them.
Not only locals were able to interact with the Jinn, but foreigners could as well. An English friend of mine who was living in Ras Ruman, a Shi’a part of Manama, was visited one evening by a group of men from the neighborhood who came by to demand to know what he was doing there. He invited them in for drinks and told them he was a Jinni. He then left the room and started throwing his voice and manipulating the lighting in the flat. They all fled. An hour or so later the police showed up on his doorstep and said that they had received a complaint that he was practicing witchcraft.
On one occasion, I was accused of having influence over the Jinn. I was in a business meeting to discuss investments in Lebanon. My boss had recently met with Rafik Harriri, the then Lebanese Prime Minister, who was soliciting investors for the country. My boss felt it was premature to invest and that there needed to be a more stable peace. I said that there could be no comprehensive peace until Hafez Al Asad died. I repeated this assertion again later in the meeting. Asad died that afternoon and I was told that clearly a Jinni had heard me.
Of all the countries in the Arabian Peninsula, Oman seemed to have the most Jinn. Everywhere I went my guides would point out places where the Jinn lived. In one of the old forts I asked the guard if there were any Jinn there. He said possibly under the ground, but that there were no Jinn in the fort as his father, who had also been a guard there, was buried under the threshold and kept them out.
As it pertains to the contemporary political situation in the Middle East, it is worth considering whether the belief in the Jinn will interfere with the process. Many people I have spoken to in the region think as much. A number of Arabs I know, for example, believe that the Afghans, in particular, are pretty much universally possessed by malevolent Jinn and that therein lies the root cause of the never ending turbulence in that part of the world. So we have to ask ourselves, is it possible for the United States and the other western powers truly to influence the course of events there when we are fighting an enemy that does not physically manifest itself to us and has fully possessed the hearts and minds of the people?
To learn more about the Jinn, you should read Ibn Taymiyyah’s essay on the Jinn, titled in Arabic Al Furqan bayna awliya’ Al-Rahman wa awliya’ Al-Shaytan. Ibn Taymiyyah was a leading Hanbali scholar who lived from 1263-1328CE. His essay has been translated into English by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips and is published by Tawheed Publications in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
At the end of this book, there is a refutation of those who deny demonic possession by the late Shaikh Abdul Aziz ibn Abdullah Bin Baz, one of the leading clerics in Sa’udi Arabia who once famously remarked that it was impossible for the Americans to have landed on the moon as everyone knows the moon is guarded by angels and they would not have allowed non-Muslims to go there.
This essay is highly instructive on more than one level. I have posted it on my website for your information.
Glenn M. Stewart is a renowned expert on Middle Eastern affairs and business. a graduate of Oxford University, Glenn M.Stewart holds an advanced degree in Islamic History and Arabic and lived in the Middle East for 27 years. A successful entrepreneur and businessman, Stewart has a unique insight into this critical and important area of the world.
If you would like to see my other writing, please visit www.glennmstewart.com