Introduction to Islam
by Dr. Zahid Aziz
Some questions, which were brought to light after this book went to press, relating to what are known as jinn, are answered in this Appendix. Please study these in conjunction with the section on Angels.
What are jinn?
The jinn mentioned in the Holy Quran are certainly not the genii of fairy tales or what people usually imagine them to be. This word indicates
“something hidden from view”,
and is used in the Quran with several different meanings referring to people or beings who are remote and not seen.
It is applied to leaders, as contrasted with the ordinary public, and to people of foreign lands. For instance, the Quran says:
“O assembly of jinn and men, did there not come to you messengers from among you….” (The Holy Quran, 6:131).
As messengers from God only came to human beings, the jinn here are also humans, and the address
“jinn and men”
is to the leaders and the ordinary people. Similarly, the Quran twice mentions some jinn as accepting its teachings (The Holy Quran, 46:29; 72:1). In the first case, a tribe of Jews is meant, and in the second some Christians are meant, being called jinn because of their remoteness.
The word jinn is also used for a type of invisible, non-physical creation who stir up the lower desires in a person’s mind. This is in contrast to the angels who draw a person’s mind to the doing of good.
So the jinn (of the second kind) and the angels pull a person’s mind in opposite directions?
Yes, if you are talking about jinn in the second sense mentioned above. The Holy Prophet has said that each human being has a jinn and an angel associated with him (or her). He was asked whether it was the same with him as well. The Holy Prophet replied:
“It is the same with me, but Allah has helped me against my jinn, so that he has submitted to God, and does not tell me to do anything but good.”
So, the angels and the jinn represent the opposite forces pulling a man to good and bad, respectively. If you overcome the urge to do wrong, then it changes into an urge to do good.
And just like angels, these jinn are not physical beings, and therefore cannot be seen or heard with the physical senses of man.
It is said that the devil was an angel who disobeyed God by refusing to submit to Adam. Is this true?
Angels have no will of their own, so the question of an angel disobeying God does not arise. The devil is described in one place in the Quran clearly as
“one of the jinn” (The Holy Quran, 18:50),
so he could not be one of the angels.
Briefly, what the Quran tells us is that God gave knowledge of all things to Adam, and then all the angels submitted to Adam, but the devil refused to do so and misled Adam and his wife. The meaning is that man, because of the knowledge that he possesses, can bring nature under his control, but he cannot control himself from wrong-doing. Therefore, God sends revelation to enable man to resist the promptings of the devil.
What does the Quran mean when it says that God created jinn from fire?
This refers to those human beings who rebel against God and goodness, following the prompting of the jinn. Due to their rebellious and arrogant nature, and due to the fact that their hearts burn with the fire of evil desires, greed and envy, they are described as having been created from fire. Similarly, man is described as having been created from “dust” because true human nature is humble and submissive to God.
So the jinn mentioned in the Quran are quite different from how they are generally imagined to be?
That is right. The Holy Quran and the Hadith do not support the popular picture of jinn as creatures who perform super-human feats, who can appear in human form and interfere in people’s affairs, or who can “possess” human beings and affect them with diseases. None of these ideas is accepted by Islamic teachings.