You Don’t Have to See It, to Believe It

// February 12th, 2008 // Blog

This MuslimMatters entry describing a recent exorcism got me thinking about the stigma attached to believing in the concept of evil spirits. Myths and legends about such beings are to be found in the folklore of communities all around the world; similarly, scepticism about their existence is also to be found globally, and perhaps more so in the technologically advanced societies of the West. Such scepticism is perhaps understandable for the atheists amongst us, but is a little worrying when it comes from Muslims, who by definition, should believe in the Qur'an completely, which makes many mention of the species of creation known as “jinn“.

Jinn are another part of God's very diverse creation, but they are not necessarily evil creatures. According to Islamic beliefs, only humans and jinn have the capacity to freely choose whether to believe or disbelieve in God and His Revelation. Thus, there are good and bad jinn, believing and disbelieving jinn; Muslim jinn, Hindu jinn, Christian jinn, Jewish jinn… God knows, maybe even Scientologist jinn! However the “biology” of jinn is very different to that of humans: whereas Adam was created from mud and clay, jinn were created from a “smokeless flame”. They are usually invisible to the human eye (though they can take visible form, including human), and are able to achieve tasks that would be considered impossible for us (at least, without the use of technology), such as travelling great distances in the blink of an eye.

Iblees (known as “Lucifer” in Christian texts) is a jinn; in fact, he was the most pious of the jinn, which lead him to be “promoted” to the company of the Angels. However, his arrogant refusal of God's command to bow down in front of Adam (peace be upon him) lead to his subsequent expulsion from Heaven onto the Earth, where he vengefully vowed to mislead the children of Adam, so that they too would be denied the everlasting presence of God in Paradise, as he had been. Iblees' followers amongst the jinn are known as the shayateen (i.e., “demons”); they are responsible for the “whispers” that tempt us toward evil, though at the end of the day, they cannot compel us into committing sin, which means we are still fully accountable for our own deeds.

Now, I can understand why this may sound a little “ga-ga” to someone who doesn't even believe in God, let alone invisible beings that walk amongst us. In addition, though I have no qualms about discussing my faith in God with my non-Muslim friends and colleagues, I have to admit that a part of me used to feel embarrassed at the mention of the spirit world. However, I eventually realized that there is nothing to be ashamed of; not only because of my conviction in the words of God, as found in the Holy Qur'an, but also because of my very “normal” belief in the unseen world of Biology.

There are so many creatures that have lived on this planet long before the arrival of mankind, that cannot be detected with the human senses, but have a very real impact on the world around us. Bacteria, protista, and viruses were all invisible to the human eye prior to the invention of the microscope. Many strains of these have devastated the human population through disease, yet no-one had a clue that they existed until very recent times; especially “recent” when you consider the full time-line of humanity's dominion on Earth. I wonder how foolish scientists sounded when they first suggested that infectious disease was caused by teeny, tiny bugs that made residence inside our bodies? But even before the scientists publicized their “wacky” theories, virulent organisms existed, and would have continued to exist even if humans had never had the good fortune to prove their existence. The same goes for the much larger organisms that live at the bottom of the deepest oceans; they too were “invisible” to us, until the invention of submarines and cameras that could withstand the pressures found at such depths.

Thus I view the existence of the Angels and Jinn in the same light as I do all the other organisms that I cannot see; and even all the other discoveries of modern Science that I cannot see, but have multiple proofs for, such as the invisible protons, neutrons and electrons that make up the yet invisible atom. Science has not officially proven the existence of Angels and Jinn, yet I still have my evidence in the form of the Qur'an, and even to some extent in those spooky unexplained events that form the basis of many a children's bedtime story.

Of course, this will not be enough for a non-Muslim, and I don't expect it to be. However, pondering over the history of Biology has helped me to lose any hesitation in speaking about such invisible creatures to non-Muslims, when it is obvious to me that our inability to detect as yet undiscovered life-forms does not necessarily equate to their non-existence, but only points to the limitations of our senses, and the advancement required in our present technology.

Photo by Evalin

15 Responses to “You Don’t Have to See It, to Believe It”

  1. mummyjaan says:

    Just wondering: was it my sorry comment that prompted this post:)? I was the only ’skeptic’ there, iMuslim.

    Since coming to Ireland and having had to live alone with two little kids, I have preferred to ‘forget’ about the supernatural. Because, if I didn’t, I would find it somewhat difficult to survive, especially with my husband away for trips and calls. (Oh no, wait, hubby did actually have at least *one* odd experience in one of our many houses – that’s why we recite S. Baqara religiously every time we move and every few days – keeps the devil(s) away).

    It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the shayateen and the jinn. But I don’t dwell on it too much. It would drive me crazy

  2. mummyjaan says:

    Oh, I forgot to add, very well-written.

  3. iMuslim says:

    No, sis, it wasn’t you… apparently someone left a comment saying “do you really believe in this stuff?”, and also scepticism is something I am faced with regularly. As I said, because of it I was a tad embarrassed to talk about jinn, and the “unseen” with non-Muslims (and even some Muslims), and I wanted to think the subject through further to help myself get over that shame; kinda like blogging therapy. :)

    In fact, seeing as the comment that spurred this entry no longer seems to be there, I will amend my post.

    I remember the advice of my Tajweed teacher: we shouldn’t fear jinn to a great extent, because they cannot harm us when we are under the protection of Allah. But I suppose a certain amount of fear of the unknown is natural.

  4. mcpagal says:

    i read that entry, and was going to comment, but i thought it’d be no use since everyone was arguing away nicely as it was. I have absolutely no problem with belief in the unseen or with believing in jinn, they’re mentioned multiple times in the quran after all. As far as i know, they’re just mentioned as a form of creation, like us. And like you said, they can be bad or good, muslim or not, just like humans.

    what i have a problem with is ‘cultural’ muslims that are frightened to death of jinn, share ‘jinn stories’ to get scared,think of any mental problem as possession, and do/pay anything to prevent black magic.

    Every jinn story i’ve heard has either been so ludicrous, or narrated by someone so far away, or otherwise easily explained, that i don’t like to give them much attention. The last ones i heard were of a demonic-jinn-house/child-possession (turned out the boy involved was acting up because he didn’t like the house. he also took drugs, and later ran away to another country) – but perfectly sensible adults were jumping out of their seats whenever a door banged, and the family started praying and reciting quran fervently (that might’ve been the only good thing).

    There was also one about a woman in the mosque who everyone presumed to be possessed because her hand shook when quran was being recited. apparently her eyes also went ‘funny’. It sounded a lot like partial epilepsy or something to me, but the girls who saw this thought she was possessed and asked the woman if they could recite quran over her. The fact she said no was also used as proof of her being possessed!

    And there’s one i’ve heard off multiple people, that they wake up at night and can’t move, they feel something sitting on their chest and see some sort of weird jinn figure. Which sounds exactly like sleep paralysis to me!

    Ach, i’ve gone on too long, and with too little capital letters :P. My point is: i’m a cynic, and tend to ignore jinn stories, especially narrated by desi’s!

  5. amad says:

    would it help to know that I witnessed a few minutes of this?

    but alas, i too am a desi, and a fob too…

    -McDesi

  6. Alefyah says:

    Well written! :) I enjoyed this article a lot.

    I ofcourse believe in the Holy Quran and all that Allah Taala and informed us about.

    I also agree with McPagal. Some people just make such a big cry on this. That does not mean that possesion does not happen. Yes, there have been authentic cases. Today, however, majority people simply jump to that conclusion without logically understanding whether it is a medical issue.

    Strong faith, good deeds, recitation of the Quran and trust in Allah will inshaAllah keep us safe.

    At the same time, avoid thinking of the jinn (the bad ones) and watching horor movies. I get conscious when I watch some silly witch movie.. so from now on.. no horors for me.

  7. iMuslim says:

    I also tend to ignore Jinn stories that don’t have a sound “chain of narration”, just cos usually they have been blown up like a bad case of Chinese Whispers. In the example I linked to above on MM, that’s not an issue, cos it’s a first hand account, and I do trust Umm Reem (I don’t see why she would lie, plus Amad wouldn’t let her post such an entry on MM if it wasn’t accurate).

    I did mention in the comments section that this sort of thing seems to happen far more often in Pakistan/India, than here. According to Umm Reem, it could be because so many people actually rely on black magic out there, and there is evidence for that with all the “charms” etc, you can see tied to trees and in graveyards. I find the mentality of people who are prepared to use such “spells” more disturbing than the spells themselves. Perhaps they don’t realise it is kufr, but as this magic is the black kind, it says a lot about how low these people have become.

    I’ve never really had a jinn “complex”, and I think it’s cos I was never told jinn stories growing up; plenty of ghost stories, but not jinn. So the fear is not deeply embedded into my psyche like it is with lots of other Muslims I know. Plus ever since I learnt that adkhar keeps you safe, I really don’t see what the fuss is about. :)

  8. lucy says:

    I am a cynic, not just of spirits and God but almost everything that i cannot touch or see for myself. I have a long and probably not very well thought out theory about Santa Claus and how children are taught he exists and believe it until an adult tells them he doesn’t exist. If you are never told spirits do not exist and you have this view compounded by others in a ‘senior’ position as you grow it becomes entrenched in your mind as truth.

  9. mcpagal says:

    Amad: it actually did help that it was posted on MM not somewhere else (i trust you guys :D ), but sometimes these things can cause more harm than good – i don’t think jinn possession or black magic is anything to get overly worried about. People can get so worried about jinn etc they do all their dhikr etc to avoid getting affected by these things, instead of for the sake of Allah. Or they turn to bidah and stuff mentioned above out of fear. So why spread the stories?

    iMuslims, I think I was in the same situ, my close family don’t really have a jinn-complex, but it’s from my wider family, and friends, i realised how much some people are into all this. At the Islamic class i go to, one of the teachers uses recorded speeches of a learned woman in pakistan to base her lessons off. She came to an ayah mentioning jinn, and started talking about how you can tell if a snake that’s entered your house is actually a jinn and stuff like that, and then there was a big clamour of questions about all things jinn, and it worried me that we spent longer on that than on the tafsir we were meant to be covering.

    Another story: a friend of mine was telling me that when her brother went on hajj, he saw a jinn. She said that he came across a group of men beating it up – he described it as looking like a hunchbacked figure wearing a black burka. But then, how did all those people know it was a jinn, not just a poor hunchbacked woman, they were beating up?

  10. mcpagal says:

    Ooops… I mean iMuslim singular! There’s only one after all ;P

  11. mummyjaan says:

    McPagal, you hit the nail right on the head.

    In the Sub-continent, these beliefs are so widespread that every misfortune, small or big is blamed on: hasad/nazar, black magic and jinn possessions. God’s will hovers somewhere very distant, and is the last possibility. Indeed, in such places, far from boosting the eeman, these stories drain it.

    Anyway, Umm Reem’s story didn’t fit into that category, but my one doubt remains: if ‘Seeta’ told so many lies, how was one to know that the ‘truthful’ stories she later on told were actually the truth.

    (iMuslim, do you want to hear about my brush with the supernatural, aka “why mummyjaan is a scaredy-cat”?)

  12. Jehanzeb says:

    Salaam : ) I found your wonderful blog via Unique Muslimah’s blog. I enjoyed reading this article a lot. I’m not a biology major, but whenever I’m studying in my biology classes, I find myself saying “Subhann’Allah” most of the time! It is really amazing how organisms function and how universally connected all created beings are, not just spiritually, but biologically as well.

    I believe it’s important for all of us to acknowledge the realm of science, because as we say in our prayers every day — Alhamdullilah Rabil ‘ala meen, Praise be to God, the Lord of all the Worlds. Worlds – plural. There are always going to be unseen mysteries and we all experience them every day. They could exist in a coincidence, in a dream, or even in a THOUGHT, which is still vaguely understood. How do we explain such feelings and occurrences? How do we explain those moments where we’ll be thinking of a friend and then all of a sudden, that friend calls you! Coincidence or is there some Beauty behind it?

    I tell people that if they want to be awed by the God’s Beauty, they just need to look at what’s in front of them, and if that’s not enough, they should take a look at the Universe and all the millions of stars and planets that exist out there. I think beings such as Angels and Jinn may be beyond our human comprehension, but regardless, I believe it is important for us to be mindful of God’s Unseen Presence. If we’re not mindful of Him, then what kind of life will we be living? We’ll be trapped in this transient world. We need to establish a balance — it leads to a happier and healthier way of life. It takes Faith : )

  13. Faraz says:

    This was a great piece masha-Allah.

    I’ve tried describing these things in the same way before, stressing on how little we know about the physical world itself, let alone the hidden and spiritual world. One brother once mentioned to me, upon swiping his access card in front of an RFID reader to open the gate to his parking lot, that we accept the “hidden” in so much of the world already, why is it that we are hesitant to speak about that “ghaib” which Allah has assured us of? Infra-red, RFID, high-frequency waves carrying voice and data across the world – how many of those concepts would have been dismissed as complete fantasy just one hundred years ago, and yet it has become so commonplace today? And who knows what else we’ll discover in the next hundred, if we last that long?

    I’ve witnessed a couple of such incidents that defied all logic that I had to believe there was some unseen force involved in some capacity. Nothing I’m willing to share, but fairly amazing events, and not necessarily jinn-related. I have also seen, however, a few people who others suspected of being overtaken by jinns. Interestingly, they were all in India. But in at least a couple of those cases, it turned out to be due to a long history of drug abuse that did not go well with prescribed medication those individuals were taking. There were qualified doctors to assess the situation, and that was their conclusion.

    Then there’s the case of one of our friends, about whom many of us are suspecting is actually a Muslim jinn. Very strange fellow, that one. No other explanation seems to work regarding his enigmatic nature. I can write loads about him, but this comment is long already.

    Again, nice post masha-Allah. :)

  14. iMuslim says:

    Lucy: If you were truly a cynic, then you wouldn’t believe in atoms, or dark matter, or black holes… none of which can be seen, or touched, but have evidence for their existence. That is my point with the entry: as a Muslim, I have evidence for the existence of Angels and Jinn – fair enough, I don’t expect you to trust my evidence, but the fact that so much of scientific theory and discovery is based on indirect detection, means that I should not be so ashamed to talk about things that cannot be directly sensed.

    McP: *dons Chistopher Lambert’s extremely dodgy Scottish accent* There can be only one!
    I’m a bit worried about that hunchbacked figure. Why didn’t they simply recite ayat-ul-kursi to get rid of it? Hmm, let me guess: they did, but it didn’t work (cos it wasn’t a jinn). And where adkar fails, mob violence is bound to succeed! *rolls eyes*

    MJ: I’d love to hear the story. Wait! Let me build a campfire, and stock up on some halal marshmallows, so we can set the right “mood”. ;)

    Jehanzeb: Jazakallah for gracing my blog with another beautiful and thoughtful comment! I can’t possibly follow it on with my clumsy prose, so I’ll just agree with it, and leave it at that. :)

    Faraz: I want to hear more about those “incidents that defied all logic”, and the friendly Muslim jinn – does his name happen to be Casper?

  15. Sumera says:

    Jinn possession are as rare as are black sheep.

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