THE EVOLUTION OF THE CONCEPT OF THE JINN FROM PRE-ISLAM TO ISLAM
Mentor: Irfan Shahid, Ph.D.
This dissertation studies the evolution of the concept of the jinn [spirit
beings] from pre-Islam to Islam.
It traces the changes introduced to this
concept in Islam as well as the continuation of certain themes. This interdisciplinary study relies heavily on documentation drawn from a variety of primary sources, including the works of Arab historians, geographers, poets, philosophers, and commentators on the Qur'an. It contains a wealth of stories which testify to the strong belief in the jinn during pre-Islam and Islam.
The study is oriented toward the history of religions rather than toward literature. The texts of poets and historians of both historical periods have been analyzed from the point of view of history of religion rather than from the point of view of the literary critic. Literary themes and, forms were considered only when they yielded to a better understanding of the creeds of people of both pre-Islam and Islam. In addition to its primary concentration on religion and history, the study also embraces the fields of cultural
anthropology, comparative religion, and theoretical research on the concept of religion.
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There have been very few comprehensive studies on the concept of the jinn. It is hoped that this study will open the door to future research on the concept of the iinn, especially from an Islamic point of view. Islam deepened beliefs in the jinn. It introduced the idea of spirit beings equal to humans in faith, intelligence and responsibility. For the first time, a strict monotheism such as Islam asserts that spirit beings exist, that they share our lives and dwell in a world parallel to our own. Studying the concept of the jinn in Islam therefore illuminates the originality of Islam itself as the last of the three revealed religions.
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There are not words good enough to express my sincere gratitude to the members of my dissertation committee: Dr. Irfan Shahid, my mentor; Dr. Karin Ryding, Dr. Barbara Stowasser, and Dr. Halim Barakat.
The four are Masters in their fields. Their encouragement, their support, their guidance, their patience, and their co-operation were a gift from heaven. The good parts of this work are due to their great help and to their wonderful commitment to my work. Inconsistencies and errors are mine alone.
My gratitude goes also to my loving and caring family, to my husband Munir and my daughter Kinda who often had to put up with my frequent bouts of depression and my usual absent-mindedness. The two are my beloved angels who were always beside me during the difficult moments of writing this dissertation.
Finally my thanks goes to Elizabeth Johnson for her wonderful help, for taking time from her many commitments to review my manuscript so thoroughly. Thanks to everyone. God bless you all.
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THE CHOICE OF A TOPIC
This research studies the evolution of the concept of the jinn from pre-Islam to Islam in the Arab-Muslim world. It is a topic that has been neglected in the field of Islamic studies. It is possible to find in primary sources and in some secondary sources scattered information on the jinn. Some of these sources mention the jinn incidentally as spiritual entities; other sources delve sometimes into comparisons between angels and jinn on one hand, and demons and jinn on the other hand. However, in general, none of these studies, whether on pre-Islam or on Islam, devote a comprehensive study to the concept of jinn. Jinn are confused in these studies sometimes with angels and sometimes with demons. Very few works view them as intermediary beings, neither demons nor angels. The present author hopes to fill a gap in this field and to offer as much as possible a comprehensive study in the field of the jinn.
The lack of research concerning the topic of the jinn is all the more astonishing when one realizes that the belief of Muslims in the jinn has always been very strong throughout the ages. The belief in these spiritual entities is an integral part of the Muslim religion. One cannot assert his or her Islam without asserting the existence of the jinn. Islam as a monotheism has incorporated the Hnn into its theology and transformed their existence into one of the most
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sophisticated doctrines of its kind in the history of religions. Studying the topic of the jinn therefore illuminates the particularity of Islam which, as the last of the three revealed religions, asserts that humans and jinn are equal in faith, responsibility, and rationality.
This research focuses mainly on the concept of the jinn from a religious point of view. By religion is meant the human way of participating in the unknown. Religion is conceived of as part of a wider culture and it cannot be studied and compared in isolation but only as part of and in relation to a larger whole.
The present research is not a literary study. The literature of both pre-Islam and Islam is examined from the point of view of the history of re'Igion rather than from the point of view of the literary critic. The author does not highlight literary themes and forms but rather the history of creeds. Literary themes and forms become interesting only when they can help in understanding the evolution of the belief in the jinn from pre-Islam to Islam.
Despite the fact that it aims to be comprehensive, this research is in fact limited in time. It deals with the evolution of the concept of the iinn from pre-Islam to medieval Islam. It deals only occasionally with the belief in the jinn today. The issue of belief in the jinn today deserves a study by itself in the future. It would be interesting, for example, to interview people and to investigate their beliefs in these spiritual entities.
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METHODOLOGY AND DATA
The present study investigates the concept of the jinn from different perspectives, especially in Part II. First, it relies heavily on material drawn from official Islam, that is the Qur'an, the hadlth and the exegeses of a number of commentators of the Qur'an, Second it uses what can be termed 'popular Islam' such as the Tales of the Prophets. It delves only occasionaly into an important part of popular Islam, that is, the Arabian Nights. This work is a huge one. It would be possible in the future to devote a separate study to the jinn in the Arabian Nights. Thirdly, this research views the concept of the jinn from the perspective of what can be termed 'gnostic Islam,' that is the texts of sufis and ishra'll (illuminist) philosphy such as Ibn Sina and Ikhwan al-safa',
Fourth, this research relies on the texts of of historians, analysts, geographers, lexicographers, compilers of anecdotes, and poets. This kind of material can be defined as attempting to be scientific, but still relying essentially on official Islam, that is, the Qur'an and the hadith.
Secondary sources were used mainly to illuminate the evolution of the concept of the iinn in other cultures and civilizations. The concept of spiritual entities is a universal concept present in all cultures. No deep study of a religious idea is possible without comparing it to similar ideas in other civilizations and religions. The author of this research has tried to make the research interdisicplinary by referring constantly to the fields of cultural anthropology, comparative religions, history of religions, and general analyses
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The author based her research upon a large amount of documentation gathered from primary sources. At the outset, there was no unique text dealing with the jinn. Indeed, the data on the iinn is not to be found in one or two or three sources. It is scattered, a sentence or two here, a sentence or two there, throughout a wide variety of sources.
The first step, therefore, was to collect the. material. The second was to interpret this material and then try to form some general deductions based on it.
The present study contains a large quantity of stories. By focusing on the story, one is focusing on how the human experience is connected with the invisible embodied in the jinn. Through the story, one is looking for the sacred; in the historical, one finds also the a-temporal.
When one says that one is studying the evolution of the concept of the iinn, it is important to remember that in themselves the jinn have no history. If the people of pre-Islam and Islam believe that they exist as these stories clearly show, historians cannot go to the spiritual entities in order to investigate them. All that can be established is the human conception of the jinn.
To see how this human conception of the jinn evolved from pre-Islam to Islam, the author applied the same outline to both historical periods. The same structure is carried from pre-Islam to Islam. In doing so, the author hopes to show the progress of this human conception of the jinn, its metamorphosis from pre-Islam to Islam, and the persistance of some themes in Islam.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preliminary Chapter 1
1. Introduction.......... 1
2. The search for a definition in primary sources 2
Lexicographers. Historians. Geographers. Encycopedists. Qur'an comentators. Philosophers and Sufis. Contemporary definitions.
3. The question of borrowing..................................................... 8
4. A glance at the religions of the area.... 9
The spiritual beings of Mesopotamia, in Persia, in ancient Judaism.
5. The Palmyrene clue 15
The Aramiac hypothesis. The Arabic hypothesis. The Latin hypothesis.
6. Summary 25
7. Endnotes.. 28
THE J.INN IN PRE-ISLAM 30
Chapter One: Introduction to the jinn in pre-Islam 31
1. Definition 31
2. Sources 32
3. Arabia as a geographic unit 36
4. The cult of ancestors 37
5. The worship of stones 38
6. The worship of idols 40
7. The worship of stars 44
8. Christianity and Judaism in pagan Arabia 45
9. Diversity within paganism..................................................... 47
10. Endnotes 51
Chapter Two: Place of the jinn in pre-Islam 54
1. Place as the dwelling of the supernatural 54
2. Wilderness as a favourite place for the jinn 56
3. Ancient civilizations as alternate places for the jinn 59
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4. Imaginary places: 'Abgar 61
5. The jinn dwell everywhere 61
6. Summary 62
7. Endnotes 64
Chapter Three: Kinds of the.i.inn in pre-Islam 6S
1. Ghul 6S
2. sr Hih 67
3. Shiqg 69
4. Shay tan 70
5. Summary 71
The Blurring of genders: the question of androgyny. The blurring of species: the question of hybrid creatures.
7. Endnotes 7 S
Chapter Four: Nature of the Hnn in pre-Islam 76
1. Relation of jinn to angels 76
Difficulty of the topic. Belief in angels in pre-Islam. Angels and goddesses. Angels, jinn. and Allah. Angels and humans.
2. Relation of Jinn to animals 83
Introduction Spiritual entities and animal power in the ancient Near
East. The Jinn as serpents. The Jinn as other animals.
3. Summary................................................................................ 94
4. Endnotes 97
Chapter Five: Interaction of jinn with humans in pre-Islam 99
1. Power of the iinn.................................................................... 101
2. Organisation of the jinn.......................................................... 103
3. Acts of violence: Wars and kidnaping 106
4. Stories of love and marriage 108
5. Intrusion of the jinn against the body and the mind 109
Against the body. Against the mind. Healing body and mind.
6. Sacrifices offered to the jinn in pre-Islam 119
7. Summary 121
8. Endnotes. 123
Chapter Six: Special interaction of the jinn with humans 126
1. Interaction of jinn with seers 126
Divination in the J&hiliyah . Position and role of a Kfihin or
Kahinah, Divination and question of gender. Close encounters.
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2. Interaction of jinn with poets 137
The question of inspiration. Relation of the poet to his own jinnl or Jinniyah
3. Poetry of the jinn.................................................................... 143
4. Summary: Inspiration and Divination................................... 145
5. Endnotes 150
THE JINN IN ISLAM 153
Chapter Onetlntroductlon to Islam 154
1. Definition 154
2. Sources 156
3. The transition from the Jahi11yah to Islam 159
4. The cultures that participated in the formation of Islam 161
Christian and Jewish influence. Persian influence. Hellenistic
influence. Competition between two cultures. Indian influence.
Sabians and Muslim theology.
5. Islam between particularism and universalism..................... 176
6. Continuity and change in the concept of jinn. 180
Complexity of the Muslim concept of jinn. Persistence of the
belief in the jinn.
7. Endnotes 182
Chapter two: Place of jinn in Islam 185
1. Jinn of seas and islands 186
2. The place of Nusaybine 190
3. Different dwellings for Muslim fun and heretic iinn 194
4. The filthy and macabre places 195
5. Place as fantasy: The city of Brass 195
6. Summary............................................................................... 197
7. Endnotes 199
Chapter three: Kinds of jinn in Islam 200
1. Al-nasnas 201
2. GhiH 204
3. 'lfrit 206
4. Marid............... 207
5. Jinn and hinn 209
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6. Shaydin 210
7. Summary 213
8. Endnotes 217
Chapter Four: Nature of the iinn in Islam 218
1. Introduction 218
2. Relation of jinn to angels 219
linn and angels in Islamic cosmogony. The role of angels in Islam.
The case of .llili.s.. Similarities and differences between jinn and
3. The elements which compose the jinn...................... 245
4. The animal nature of the jinn 248 Iblls (Satan) and the serpent. linn as serpents in Islam . linn as
dogs. linn as animals in general.
S. Summary 269
6. Endnotes........................... 275
Chapter Five: Interaction of jjnn with humans in Islam 278
1. Introduction 278
2. Similarities and differences between humans and jinn from
an Islamic point of view 285
Muslim jinn and Muslim humans worship God. Prophets sent for
both humans and jinn. linn and humans on the Day of Judgrnennt.
3. The concept of the jinn as qarin and qarina........................... 290
4. Violence between jinn and humans: Wars and kidnapings.... 296 A historical hatred between humans and iinn, Quarrels and wars
between jinn and humans. Islam forbids the killing of Muslim linn.
S. Marriages between jinn and humans in Islam 300
6. Stories of possesion and madness........ 305
7. The question of sacrifices offered to the jinn in Islam 307
8. The procedures of exorcisms 310
The use of the Qur'an as protection. Exorcisms in the hadith.
9. Summary..... 320
10. Endnotes 322
Chapter Six: Special interactions of Iinn with humans in Islam 325
1. Introduction 325
2. Interaction of jinn and prophets 237
Muhammad, Idris (Enoch). The call of Christ to jinn and humans.
3. Interaction of jinn and sufis 345
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Introduction. The world of jinn as described by al-Jlli; Abd al Qadir al-Jilani and the.linn. Ibn' Arabi. Other sufis.
4. Interaction of jinn and poets 351
Poets and poetry in the Qur'an Muslim poets and their iinn,
Muslim jinn compose poetry.
5. Summary 359
6. Endnotes 361
General conclusion 364
1. The jinn in Pre-Islam, Spirits of Nature or Totems? 364 Relation of jinn to idols and divinities. The jinn within the theory
of Animism and Totemism. which theory to choose?
2. Conclusion on jinn in Islam 376
The incomprehension of the Orientalists. Jinn and humans in
parallel worlds. Jinn as metaphores in Islam.
3. Endnotes................................................................................. 384
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THE SEARCH FOR AN ORIGIN OF THE JINN
The aim of this first chapter is to explore the origin of the word 'jinn' and to trace the historical evolution of the concept. It is a search into "that which breaks through the surface of language to grasp the potency of meaning" (Amsler 1989:20). Where did this word come from? Is it an Arabic word or is
it a loan word that entered the Arabic language at a certain point in time? This search is necessary in order to clarify the general scope of this research project which is the historical development of the notion of jinn from its origin in pre-Islamic times to its evolution and metamorphosis under Islam.
It is necessary in this search to ascertain all the historical facts available
with regard to the place and time of the rise of the term 'jinn.' But at the same time, given the complexities and heterogeneity of the information on the origin of the word, it is also advisable to move away from positivist attitudes to probabilistic explanation. According to Malkiel:
Creative etymology presupposes, on the part of its practitioner, a desire to transcend the domain of the obvious and the highly probable and to operate in the hazardous realm of the increasingly conjectural (1968:177).
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The search into the origins of this word and its multiple definitions stans naturally with the primary sources which offer a rich corpus of information on the jinn.
Arab lexicographers, geographers, historians, encyclopedists,
philosophers, and commentators on the Qur'an have all looked into the meaning of 'iinn,' Much of the material encountered in the primary sources is repetitive, since there is a general trend for one author to copy another. But one still encounters in these sources the most pertinent definitions and analyses of the word 'linn.'
2. THE SEARCH FOR A DEFINITION IN THE PRIMARY SOURCES
The exploration begins in the primary sources with the lexicographers, since "etymology is after all a lexical subdivision" (Ibid. :127).
In Lisan al-'arab (The Language of the Arabs), Ibn Manzfir (d.711/1311), one of the most prolific Arab lexicographers, provides ample information concerning the meaning of the root j.n.n.: "It means "to be veiled, to be covered." The phrase "ajannahu al-Iayl" (which is the form IV causative derivation) means "the night covered him," janin is "the buried." al-janan is "the heart hidden by the chest." Then Ibn Manziir comes to the noun "jinn" which he defines as follows: "The jinn have been given this name because they are veiled from human sight" (n.d. vol. 13: 92).
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Ibn Manzflr adds this information:
"Jan is the father of the iinn, The jinn are his progeny. The jinn are also called 'iinnah" (Ibid.:96-97). Ibn Manzflr also gives this rather curious definition of the jinn: "Jinn are the metamorphosis of the iilll"(Ibid. vol. 3:55). This definition was not encountered in any other Arab lexicographer's work.
Turning to another lexicographer, Ibn Faris (d. 359/969), in his Mu'jam maqaYls al-Iughah (Dictionary of the Patterns of the Language) can be found a more detailed and sophisticated analysis concerning the root "i.n.n." Ibn Faris writes, "whenever the letter 'iim' and the letter 'nun' occur together, they always express the same meaning: 'to be veiled" (n.d. vol. 1 :421-20). Ibn Faris provides several examples to illustrate this concept of veiling. His examples are somewhat more speculative than those of Ibn Manzflr. For example, jannah (paradise) is that place where Muslims go after this life. It is a place hidden from them for the moment. Junun is madness, because it covers reason" (Ibid.).
In the work of another lexicographer, al-Zamakhshari (d. 538/1143), one notes, in Asas al-balaghah, (The Basis of Rhetoric) supplementary details concerning the word 'jinn.' Thus, nakhlah majnfinah means "a tall palm tree" (1955:66).
In Tftj al-'arfis (The Crown of the Bride) of al-Zabidi (d. 790/1205) one reads that: "The words jinn, iinna. and.iful are all synonymous" (1969. vol. 9:165).
Is the definition of jinn in the works of Arab historians different from that of Arab lexicographers? The latter, of course, mention the jinn as veiled creatures. But some of them link the meaning of "jannah" to the jinn. Thus, al-Tabari (d. 1173 A.D.) asserts that these creatures are called jinn because
they are khuzzan al-jannah (the guardians of paradise) (1960. vol. 1:81). The same interpretation is given by another historian, Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1373) who also suggests that the meaning of jinn is derived from jannah (paradise) (1982. vol. 1 :5). The same interpretation is given again in al-Kamil fi al-tarikh
(The Perfect in History) (1965. vol. 1 :24) of Ibn al-Athir (d. 294/906).
The historian and geographer Mas'fidi (d. 584/1188) defines the jinn in these terms: "linn are pure souls which tell of things to come" (1965. vol. 2:150-52). Thus, Mas'fidi links the term 'jinn' with divination.
In 'Aja'ib al-makhlfiqat (Wonders of the Creatures), al-Qazwini (d. 1208/1793) describes the jinn as follows: "The jinn are fiery transparent animals capable of taking different shapes" (n.d.:255). In hayat al-hayawan al-kubra (The Great Life of Animals), al-Damiri (d. 694/1295), provides supplementary details: "The iinn are ajsam (bodies) composed of air, intelligent, imperceptible to our senses, capable of appearing under diverse forms and carrying out heavy labors" (n.d. vol. 1: 203).
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Two examples from the encyclopedists provide insights into the
definition of the word 'jinn.' One definition is from al-Mawsu'ah
(Encyclopedia) of al-Tahanawi (d. 1158/1745). In it, the author defines the jinn as follows:
The jinn are 'arwah mujarradah (disembodied souls) that are able to act upon elements. It is also possible to call angels jinn because jinn is a word which means invisible beings who are veiled from human sight (1969. vol. 2:553).
Another encyclopedist of Turkish origin, lash Kubri Zadeh (b. 1495 A.D.), like the historian Mas'fldi, links the jinn to the act of divination. He
wrote "divination is how human souls communicate with the souls of the iinn''
(1968. Vol 1:364).
2.5. Qur'an commentators
In the Qur'an, the word "jinn" occurs often either in conjunction with the word 'ins' (human), or in opposition to it. In both cases, jinn are described in the Holy Book as intelligent, reasoning, and invisible.
One of the most intriguing definitions of the jinn can be found in the
diverse interpretations of the Qur'an. Thus al-Baydawi (d. 1286 A.D.) states in his TafsIr (Exegesis) that:
Jinn are bodies which are intelligent, reasoning ( 'aqilah), invisible, in which fire prevails more than air. It is also alleged that they are a category of pure spirits. Others allege that they are human souls
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separated from their bodies (1974. vol. 2:553).1
Two other commentators of the Qur'an link the definition of the jinn to their interaction with humans. Thus, "Abd al-Karim al-Qishari (b. 986 A.D.) states that: "al-Nas (people) is a word which refers to both jinn and humans" (1971. vol. 6:356) while Sayyid Qutb who wrote in the late fifties adds: "Jinn are beings which have the ability to live on this earth with humans. But we do not know how" (n.d. vol. 6:118). As for al-Ahlsi (d. 1924) he repeats in his monumental exegesis of the Qur'an the well-known definition of the jinn:
"Jinn belong to this category of beings that cannot be seen" (n.d. vol. 7:26).
2.6. Philosophers and Sufis
Muslim philosophy speaks little of the jinn. It is known that the Mu'tazilites refused to admit the existence of the iinn, AI- Tahanawi in his Mawsu'ah (Encyclopedia) already mentioned, explains in detail how the Mu'tazilites denied the existence of the jinn (1969. vol. 2:262). In general, it is rather difficult to find a text which defines the jinn in Muslim philosophy, other than the falsafah ishraqiyyah (philosophy of illuminism) of which Avicenna (d. 428/1037) was the main representative.2
It is possible to find a definition of the term 'jinn' in the esoteric thinking of the Ikhwan aI-sara (Brethren of Purity) who, in their letters, offer this definition: "Jinn are bodies in which the elements of air and fire prevail" (1964:188).
Sufis dealt in depth the question of the jinn, especially the great sufi Ibn' Arabi (d. 1240) who, in his monumental work, al-Futuhat al-makkiyyah (Meccan
Transfigurations) analyses their nature, and provides this rather curious definition of them: "The jinn have the ability of speech like humans, despite the fact that they are made of only fire and air" (n.d. vol. 3:491).3
2.7. Contemporary definitions
Do the historians, commentators and writers of today in the Arab world add new insights and original points of view in their new definitions of the jinn? The fact is their definitions are hardly different from those of their predecessors, except for the rather dualistic approach offered by some of them. In general, they merely repeat the old patterns. A few examples suffice to demonstrate this. The contemporary author Dawud Dawfid for example, writes: "Jinn are evil spirits" (1981 :376), while Salah al-' Ali adds this remark:
"Jinn is not a proper name. It is a species" (1964:6).
Riyad 'Abdallah writes: "Jinn are intermediate beings. That means that they share some features with angels and others with humans" (1985:31). Another contemporary writer, 'Umar al-Ashqar, gives this rather perplexing definition of the jinn:
Jinn are entities that people encounter without knowing that they are iinn. These entities can be souls, creatures from the invisible world or men from space (1985:11).4
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In general, it seems that there is, from old Arabic sources to modem ones, difficulty in defining the concept of iinn. There are, of course some shared features that keep reappearing in these definitions: invisible, airy, fiery,
intelligent, powerful. However, in general, the authors seem rather uncertain
about their definitions, acknowledging the lack of clarity in such a topic and the mystery that envelops it. It is this vagueness that led the historian Jawad 'Ali to make the following comment on the topic of the jinn:
Till now, no researcher has given us a clear definition of the jinn. Some researchers believe that this term refers to the name of an old Arab deity, while others think that it is a loan word of foreign origin (1970. vol. 6: 707).
3. THE QUESTION OF BORROWING
With this comment, Jawad 'Ali raises many questions about issues of clarity and borrowing. Noticeably, the primary sources never deal with this last issue. Rather, they all seem to agree on its Arabic origin. It is the Western sources which deal with this question in depth. But it is also noticeable that
Western sources offer no new definition of the iinn, In Lane's Lexicon one
reads a repetition of Arab definitions of the jinn (1863. vol. 1 :462). In general, these sources limit themselves to what was mentioned in the primary references. An exception is to be found in The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam,
where one reads:
Jinn are the inhabitants of the subtle world, some of whom are 'non-central' beings like the non-human creatures of this world, whilst others are 'central' beings, like men, jinn with free will,
endowed with the Intellect and capable of grasping Reality, and thus capable of being saved (1989:210).
Some Western writers try to explain the origin of the term jinn in a more 'scientific' way like the English anthropologist W. R. Smith, who wrote:
The jinn, like demons and their kind, serve conveniently to explain whatever is not due to 'natural' causes, or that has a supernatural origin, and cannot be associated with any of the known gods or spirits (1927:538).5
Hence, if one turns to Western sources, it is not in the hope of finding new definitions of the word 'iinn.' It is rather to find an answer to the question raised by Jawad 'All: is the word an Arabic one or not? Was the Arabian concept of jinn influenced by other similar concepts in the area or not?
4. A GLANCE AT THE RELIGIONS OF THE AREA
Before answering the question as to whether or not iinn is an Arabic
term, one should recall a prominent historical fact true since time immemorial
in the Near East, namely that this region has never been a closed one. The Arabs were not as isolated as has been commonly supposed. Trade and invasion had a direct bearing on the life and thought of the Arab people. In
general, it is even possible to assert that religion and commerce were always
closely connected in all the Semitic lands. The Arabs were not secluded from the cultural influences of Western Asia, nor were they entirely cut off from the
political and social life of their neighbors in the Near East.6
Since Arabia has never been effectively isolated, it is useful for one to examine the religions of its neighbors, especially their concept of spiritual
beings, to ascertain any possible source for the word 'jinn,' or at least to
discover any potential influence from outside Arabia which may have shaped the concept of jinn. In a way, it is following the rather unclear historical evolution and formation of the word 'jinn' as a concept and as a representation
of some kind of spiritual beings.
4.1. The spiritual beings of Mesopotamia
Could the Arabian concept of the jinn have been influenced by the angelology and the demonology of Babylon and Assur? This area between the Tigris and the Euphrates was among the most prolific in spiritual beings. There were legions, thousands of them, in the Mesopotamian pantheon: grotesque goblins, spirits blessed and unblessed, demons with claws, vampires, witches, ghosts and guardian spirits.
Does the Arabian concept of the jinn owe anything to these diverse spiritual beings? Some historians of religions seem to think so, though what they assert is not clearly explained. Lewis Spencer seems to think so. He comments as follows on the diverse entities of Babylon:
These malign influences were probably the prototypes of the Arabian jinn, to whom they have many points of resemblance. Many of these Assyrian spirits were half human and half supernatural, and some of them were supposed to contract unions with human beings like the Arabian jinn (1921: 276).
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Spencer does not offer much of a clue as to how, when, and why the Arabian concept of the jinn had been effectively influenced by the Mesopotamian representation of spiritual beings.
Other historians of religions think, like Spencer, that the Arabian concept of the iinn was indeed shaped by Mesopotamian representations. Campbell Thompson, for example, acknowledges that there is a considerable Mesopotamian influence on the Arabian jinn: "In addition to the Assyrian demons known by distinctive names, there are the 'Seven Spirits' which combine in their persons almost all the traditional Eastern ideas of the jinn,
aghwftl. and "afariit" (1908:57).
Further, Thompson adds: "The jinn and kindred spirits of the Arabs have the characteristics of the various demons of Assyrian times" (lbid.:58).
Here again, as in Spencer's assertions, one is still in need of more
clarification as to how and when the Arabian concept of the iinn was shaped.
Historians of the area tell us of continuous incursions and invasions of
Assyrian troops into Arabia. They mention raids and wars between both people as did the historian of religions, Javier Teixidor, who wrote:
The Assyrian incursion into Arab territory continued through the reigns of Senharib (704-681 B.C.) and Esarhaddou (680-669 B.C.). The annals of Esarhadou in fact mention this important event:
"From Adumatu, the stronghold of the Arabs which Senharib, king of Assyria, my own father, had conquered and from where he has taken as booty its possessions, its images as well as the priestess queen of the Arabs, and brought (all these) to Assyria, the king of the Arabs, came with heavy gifts to Nineveh, the town (where I
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exercise) my rulers hip. He implored me to return his images and I had mercy upon him" (1977:91).
From the current information available on Assyrian and Arab relations, it seems possible that there were religious and cultural exchanges between the two civilizations. Historians of Near Eastern religions seem to imply that the
Mesopotamian religion influenced all other religions in the area, especially the concept of spiritual beings in angel 0 logy and demonology. The Babylonians cultivated one of the most elaborate and intricate systems of ancient magic known to mankind.7
4.2. Spiritual beings in Persia
Was the concept of the jinn influenced somewhat by Persia? It is worth mentioning at this point that there is, in general, more material on the ancient Semitic heritage in the area than there is on Persia, though the religion of Persia played an important role in shaping some cultural ideas in the Arabian Peninsula.
Mazdean Persia was the place par excellence of angelology and demonology. In some centers, like Hira in Mesopotamia (around the fourth century A.D.), Mazdaism was known. Albert Hourani, the historian of the Arabs mentions this fact:
It is the product of a long tradition, in which not only tribal gatherings and market towns, but the courts of Arab dynasties on the fringes of the great empires played a part, in particular that of Hira on the Euphrates, open as it was to Christian and Mazdean influences (1991: 12).
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How can that have any influence on the concept of jinn? Daevas is the Persian term for demons. They were present throughout in the Mazdean religion, like the corresponding Babylonian Utukkus.
Who were these daevas?
The French historian of religion
Duchesne-Guillemin asserts that they were "demons who had never been
ancient gods" (1962:134). In the same book, Duchesne-Guillemin gives
interesting examples of some Persian compound words, like favardigan, afringan where the suffix gan means 'soul.' What does favardigan mean? "It is
the day when the spirits of the dead are supposed to visit the world" (lbid.:88). As for afringan, "it refers to the prayers recited for the souls of the dead" (Ibid.:
In a small dictionary entitled Persian Loan Words in the Arabic Language, the writer' Addi Shir does not mention jinn as a Persian loan word
in Arabic. (1990:19). Interestingly enough, it is in the works of two Arab geographers, Yaqut and Mas'fidi, that one finds references to the meaning of the suffix ful. Yaqfit writes:
As for the word shahjan, it is a Persian word, it means the soul of the Shah, for ful in Persian means the soul or the psyche 'al-nafs' (1957. vol. 5: 113).
As for Mas'fldi, he asserts that: "Mahrajan is the soul of one of their
kings called Mahr" (1965. vol. 5:113).
Is there any correlation between the meaning of.mn as soul in Persian, and the Arabic concept of jinn as invisible, powerful beings, and in particular between this same meaning in Persian and some Arab and Western interpretations of the jinn as souls of the dead? Some Arab references mention the fact that throughout the history of the Arabian Peninsula there have been exchanges between Persians and Arabs. Among them is the contemporary historian' Abd al-tAziz Dfirl who asserts: "In some Arab markets we encounter Persian religious ideas, mainly Manicheism." (1961 :22).8
However, none of the references consulted, primary or secondary, assert that the word "jinn" is of Persian origin.
4.3. Spiritual beings in ancient Judaism
Had the concept of jinn been influenced by the Hebrew view on spiritual beings? To answer this, one must first recall what most historians of Near Eastern religions assert, that the Hebrew concept of spiritual beings was shaped by Mesopotamian demonology and angelology, and by the Syro-Arab cultural area. It is possible to trace some Hebrew spiritual beings back to old Mesopotamian demons and angels as Jeffrey Burton Russell points out:
"Among the most terrible Mesopotamian demons was Lilitu or Ardat Lili, the prototype of the biblical Lilith (Isaiah 34)" (1977:92).
Like Russell, Edward Langton focuses on the influence of the Mesopotomian pantheon on Jewish concepts of demons and angels:
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The demonology of the Old Testament embraces conceptions which are known to have been common to the various branches of the Semitic race. Demonic serpents (Seraphim, Se'irim or Shedrin) and various other concepts are found among the Arabs, the Babylonians, and the Assyrians, or else they very closely correspond to them. Sufficient facts have been indicated to show that it is reasonable to look to Arab demonology as the proximate source of some Jewish conceptions (1981:97).
Arab and Jewish concepts of spiritual beings have been both shaped by Mesopotamian angelology and demonology. Arabs and Jews lived together, or at least in neighboring areas. They have influenced each other's religious
views, as many historians of religions point out. The pre-Islamic poets
themselves knew much about the Old Testament.9 What is one to conclude
from these sources? None of them mention any Hebrew source for the Arabian concept of jinn. All of them insist on the Mesopotamian origin that shaped both Hebrew and Arab concepts of spiritual entities.
This study, till now, indicates that the word 'jinn' is probably not
derived from Persian or the old languages of Mesopotamia, nor is it derived from Hebrew. However, as a concept of spiritual beings, it has certainly been influenced by the diverse demonologies and angelologies of the area.
s. THE PALMY RENE CLUE
This search into the origins of the word 'iinn' has, in reality, hardly begun.
Perhaps the clue to the word, both etymologically and as a concept, lies somewhere in the Syrian desert, in Palmyra, which is called Tadmur in Arabic.
The earliest mention of it dates from the beginnings of the second millenium B.C. A quick look at the geography of the region is important for a better understanding of the history of the word jinn and helps to clarify one's understanding as to how this lexical item traveled through time.
Palmyra lies 230 kilometers from Damascus, half-way along the caravan route betwen ancient Emesa (modem Horns) and the locality of Abu Kimal on the Euphrates. It was an important commercial centre in the desert: caravans coming from the south would exchange merchandise much-sought in the north, from India and China.10
Palmyra was in fact a crossroad of peoples and cultures. The Amorites, Aramaens, the Arabs and the Romans, in that order, settled there. Palmyra retained its status as an independent city and did not come under Roman suzerainty until the early days of the Empire. In that period, Palmyrene archers were recruited for the Roman legions, and separate units were formed until the times of Trajan. Around A.D. 129, the emperor Hadrian visited the city in person.
To look thoroughly into the origin of the word jinn, one must examine the chronologies of the peoples who settled in Palmyra through the years. Little, if any, information exists on the Amorites in Palmyra. But it is possible to raise the question for the other populations who have settled successively in Palmyra. Is the origin of the word from Aramaic or is it primarily Arabic? Could it have been derived from Latin?
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5.1. The Aramaic hypothesis
Some historians of religion and archeologists such as Jean Starcky assert
In the 19th century B.C. the Arameans were already controlling Palmyra, and a thousand years later, when Palmyra had become a real city, the Aramaic language was still spoken in it. Besides, from the 6th century B.C. to approximately the 6th century A.D., that is to say throughout the Persian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods, Aramaic spread as widely through the Middle East as Arabic was to do later (1948:13).
Aramaic was the language of Oriental Christianity. It is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic; one of its forms is known as Syriac. The earliest Arabic inscriptions, in Aramaic script, can be dated to the fourth century. The Oriental Church used both Greek and Aramaic because both languages were related to the Gospels. Later on, Aramaic became the language of the Oriental Church. The question of interest here is, did the Aramaens bring the word jinn with them when they settled in Palmyra? In short, is the term jinn of Aramaic origin? Some historians of religion seem to
think so. Among them is W. F. Albright who, in his article "Islam and the Religions of the Ancient Orient," suggests that:
The word is not Arabic, but a slight modification of Aramaic "gene" 'hidden,' plural "genen" 'hidden things,' and emphatic plural "genayya," which appears as a class of deities in inscriptions from the third century A.D. at Dura and in the jabal al-sha'r northwest of Palmyra (1940:283).
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In the same article, Albright sharply criticizes Noldeke for asserting that
the word is Arabic. He gives every possible detail to convince the reader of the Aramaic origin of the word jinn. He asserts:
On Aramaic incantations bowls of about the sixth or seventh century from Babylonia, we find the 'gene' appearing in the sense of 'evil spirit.' In Syriac, the derived substantive 'genyata' (emphatic feminine plural) means 'pagan shrines' and sometimes 'female divinities' (the passage from an Aramaic 'ganya' or 'genya' feminine geenita, 'demon' to Arabic iinniy(un). Jinniyat(un) offers no difficulty whatever when one remembers that Aramaic 'gena' and Arabic 'ianna' are synonymous and that a slight morphological adaptation would therefore be normal (Ibid.:283).
Albright is not the only one to assert a possible Aramaic origin of the word jinn. Jacques Waadenburg, in his article "Changes of Belief in Spiritual Beings, Prophethood and the Rise of Islam" writes:
There is a possible borrowing from an Aramaic word used by Oriental Christians to indicate pagan gods degraded to demons. In the latter case, jinn would originally have referred to degraded deities (1984 :259).
Even the historian of religions Javier Teixidor seems to acknowledge an Aramaic origin for the word jinn:
The Arab gods of Palmyra are frequently styled '~', ginnaya (plural ginnaye), namely genii or tutelary deities. This Aramaic term is to be related to the Arabic jinn (1979:77).
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Is the origin of the word "jinn" then Aramaic? Simply to answer in the affirmative is to oversimplify the problem. For one should remember that the Arabs came to Palmyra after the Aramaens. At that time, Palmyra became a center for major Semitic groups among whom Aramaic served as a common link.
5.2. The Arabic hypothesis
If the word jinn is not of Aramaic origin, is it then exclusively of Arabic origin? It is known that the Arabs came to Palmyra after the Aramaens. It is also known that during the last four centuries of the first millennium B.C. the lands of the Near East were densely populated by Arab tribes. At a certain moment of Palmyra's history, the semi-nomadic Arab tribes, attracted by the splendor of the city, came and settled in Palmyra. They soon became the major element in it. The Arab historian al-Alusi, in his monumental work on pre-Islamic Arabia asserts that Palmyra later became the dwelling of Rabi' a, the kings of Syria (1924. vol. 1 :209).11
Like the Canaanites when they settled in Palmyra, the Arabs brought with them their own gods and many of their nomadic traditions. In Palmyra they practiced ancestral cults of their own. Thus one notes that the three goddesses of the pagan Arab mentioned in the Qur'an, al-Lat, al-Tlzza, and Manat, are also found at Palmyra under the names Allat, Azizo, and Manamat.
In 1933 and 1935, the historian and archeologist Daniel Schlumberger excavated the area northwest of Palmyra and uncovered a great number of
inscriptions that were for the most part, votive. They often mention the ginaya as tutelary deities of villages, settlements, encampments, orchards, tribes, and so forth. These ginaya are even represented at Palmyra.
Commenting on the discovery of the word ginaya found in inscriptions around Palmyra, another historian, Jean Starcky, wrote the following in an article entitled precisely "Genneas": "The term ginaya found in inscriptions around Palmyra was derived from Arabic. The Arabic origin is "jana" or
Starcky thinks that the actual Arabic word jinn even has a very old Arabian origin. He asserts that the first inscriptions about the jinn are Safaitic ones, from North Arabia. For Starcky, it is obvious that the Arabs borrowed
neither word nor concept from Aramaic sources in Palmyra. On the contrary,
they brought the jinn with them to Palmyra along with their other personal cults and gods. For Starcky, the word iinn came with the Arabs when the Syrian steppe was arabized, as a result of the Arab invasions during the second half of the first millenium B.C.12
The French orientalist Regis Blachere has a similar opinion. He also thinks that the Arabs neither borrowed their gods from Palmyra nor had been influenced by the local gods of this oasis when they settled in it. The changes introduced to the pagan religion of the early Arabs came in fact from another
II n'est pas absurde de songer a un fait inverse, consecutif a l'empietement de "l'arabisme" sur Ie domaine ararneen. Au surplus,
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quel enrichissement, quelle metamorphose Ie polydemonisrne et Ie polytheisme arabes purent-ils trouver ou subir au contact du paganisme mineo-sabeen ou palmyreen? Si Ie domaine arabe et notamment Ie Hedjaz ont ete Ie berceau d'une religion nouvelle, ce n'est certes point it ces influences qu'ils Ie doivent, mais aux courants monotheistes qui, du Yemen, de la Syrie et de la Mesopotamie, penetrerent avec lenteur, dans ce sol aride, et Ie feconderent inegalement (1952. vol. 1 :51).
Schlumberger, who was credited with the discovery of the Palmyrene inscriptions, agrees with Starckey's interpretation. He asserts: "The word is Arabic. As for the Palmyrene form ginaya, it is derived from the Arabic jinn"
Moreover, many primary sources, as well the works of Orientalists like Lammens point to the fact that Mecca and Palmyra were two great centers of
exchange and trade. It is also a known fact that, throughout history, trade and religion were closely associated throughout the Semitic region.
What does all this imply? That the word jinn is of purely Arabic origin?
A great number of Orientalists seem to think so, not to mention the primary
sources which are of that general consensus and do not even hint to the
possibility of a foreign origin.
Commenting on the assertion of some orientalists that the word jinn is
not of pure Arabic origin, the French anthropologist Joseph Chelhod justifies the Arab origin of the word jinn in these terms:
Ajoutons a l'appui de l'oigine arabe de ce terme, qu'un emprunt ne se justifie et n'est vraisemblable que lorsqu'un mot similaire fait defaut dans la langue qui emprunte. Or, non seulement la racine arabe j.n.n. exprime exactement l'idee qu'on se fait des iinn puisqu'elle s'applique a ce qui est cache, derobe aux regards,
enveloppe de tenebres, mais en outre elle donne naissance a deux autres termes qui designent ces memes etres rnysterieux: les.iful:
S.15/27, S.55/15, et les iinna S.7/184; S.11/119, S.23/25, S.32/13, S.37/158. L'hypothese d'une origine arameenne semble done contestable, bien qu 'une connection entre les deux substantifs soit possible, ternoin de leur origine semitique commune (1964:130).
Shall one then acknowledge the Arab origin of the term jinn and conclude the search for its origins here? To do so would be to disregard related conceptual development. It was noted earlier on this chapter that the region in which the adventure of the word jinn was played out, has never been a closed one. What then were the possible foreign sources that enriched the concept of the Arabian jinn? The following section will address this issue.
5.3. The Latin hypothesis
The Amorites were the first inhabitants of Palmyra, followed by the Canaanites, the Aramaeans, the Arabs, and finally the Romans. In fact, at the time of the immigration of Arab tribes into the lands of the Near East (the last four centuries of the first millennium B.C.), Hellenization was taking place in Syria, and the Phoenician cities began to be reorganized as Hellenic cities. As a result of the Greek conquest of a large part of the world for many centuries, Greek flourished side by side with Hebrew and Aramaic, so that the peoples of many districts were bilingual. This simultaneous presence of two disparate cultures -Arab and Greek- blended rapidly into a new culture to which the previous local tradition gave an adequate frame as "Irfan Shahid asserts:
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The subjection of the Arabs to the processes of Romanization and Hellenization for four centuries or so naturally resulted in a considerable degree of acculturation and assimilation to Graeco-Roman civilization (1984:153).
Palmyra itself participated in that great change, for it was under Tiberius Augustus (14-38 A.D.) that Palmyra became a city tributary to the Roman
empire and given the name of Palmyra, meaning "palm tree." Under Antonius
(96-193 A.D.) and the Severan house (193-222 A.D.), Palmyra became one of
the chief cities of the East. Jean Starcky refers to the changes in these terms:
Caravans coming from Arabia, Persia, and even China would take the Palmyra road. In the Hellenistic period and up to the end of the first century of our era transit trade was in the hands of the Nabatean Arabs with Petra as its main center; but after the annexation of Nabatea to the Roman empire (106 A.D.), the Palmyrenes no longer had any rivals. Their city became a vast Greco-Roman city until the middle of the third century (1951: 135).
How did these changes affect the religion of Palmyra? Starcky writes further:
These contacts modified profoundly the creeds and beliefs of the Palmyrenes. The Occidental costume replaced the local one. The religion itself participated in that great current of spiritualism that was crossing the Mediterranean world. The civilization of Palmyra became a mixture. There was great tendency to syncretism. The Arab goddess AlHit was worshipped under the features of Athena (Ibid.: 85).13
How did these changes affect the concept of jinn in the area?
Some Western authors emphasize the great influence of Hellenism in the
area, and to point particularly to the Roman role in Palmyra. They even assert that the word jinn has a Latin origin. In The Encyclopedia of Islam D. B. MacDonald criticizes both the Arab lexicographers and those orientalists who agree with them on the Arab origin of the word jinn:
But this etymology is very difficult, and the possibility through borrowing from Latin (genius) is not entirely excluded. The expression 'naturalem deum uninscuisq loci' (Virgil, I, p. 302) exactly expresses the formal localization of the jinn (1991. vol. 2: 547).
It is in fact rare to find such assertions in Western sources. On the
contrary, it is more reasonable to assert that the word preexisted in the region long before Hellinization or Romanization started in the Near East.14 Rene
Dussaud criticizes those who ascribe the term jinn to a Latin origin:
II existe aussi une quantite de divinites mineures, une serie de "genies" ou plut~t de "ginnaye," car les deux vocables, pour sonner de meme n'ont aucun rapport etymologique. Ils se sont maintenus dans la croyance populaire sous la forme de diinn que l'Islam a rabaisses au
rang de demons (1955:90).
Once again, is this search an etymological one only, or does it encompass the foreign influences on the concept itself? Even if one does discount a Latin origin for the Arabic word jinn, the similarities that exist between the concepts of the Arab iinn and the Latin genius are striking.
Javier Teixidor gives detailed parallels between the two concepts of spiritual beings both in Latin and in Arabic. He refers at length to the Classical
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writers who acknowledged the existence of tutelary deities for persons and places:
These ginnaye were comparable to the Roman 'genii': they were deities who were titularies of persons and places believed to take care of human lives and enterprises. They protected flocks and caravans and also those who had settled or were in process of sedentarization. Shrines erected for such ginnaye occur especially in the semi-nomadic surroundings of Palmyra in places which were centers of settled life and halts for passing caravans (1977 :79).
Again, what can one conclude from these parallels? Is it possible that the Arabian concept of jinn was influenced by the Latin representation of tutelary deities in Palmyra? In fact, the further one advances in this search, the more one realizes that it is the shaping of the Arabian concept of jinn by other sources than Arabic that is of greater interest than the question of etymology.
What can one infer from the data collected at the ruins of Palmyra, and the primary sources on the jinn on the one hand, and from the Latin concept of the genius on the other, two sets of sources to keep in mind during this research? These two sources are deeply involved in the problem of providing an explicit definition of the word jinn.
As far as the concept of jinn is concerned, it encountered at Palmyra a similar form of spiritual beings and a similar concept of guardian spirit. The old original Arabian concept went into a series of metamorphoses through
which it changed somewhat from a Bedouin concept to a more urban one, from a purely Semitic one to a concept impregnated with Hellenism, and later with Latin representations.
As far as the etymology of the term is concerned, it is apparent from this data, both primary and secondary, that the word jinn is an old Semitic one,
either of Aramaic or Arabic origin. Moreover, as many of the sources assert, the root j.n.n. has in all Semitic languages the same meaning: 'to cover' or 'to
protect.' Be that as it may, the issue lies less in the etymology of the word than it does in the core of the concept. Whether the original form of the word were jinn. ginnaye. or ginneas has little to do with how the concept itself evolved. What this means is that the etymology does not necessarily entail a change in the concept, in the meaning, or in the creed itself. Commenting on the
phenomenon of slight changes in nomenclature from one region to another in
the Middle East, when referring to the same deity or the same spiritual entity, the French historian of religions, Rene Dussaud, remarked:
La permanence du culte et son unite, qui caracterisent Ie monde sernitique depuis la Mediterranee et la mer Rouge a I'ouest jusqu'a I 'Euphrate et Ie golfe Persique a I' est, sont parfois difficiles a saisir par suite de I' evolution des ephithetes (1955 :20).
Both primary and secondary data agree on the difficulty of giving a clear definition of the iinn. The question that should be raised here is why is this so? It is because the concept of jinn is linked with angelology and demonology,
which, in turn, are linked with the representation of the unknown in general
and the representation of the afterlife in particular. It has never been easy to delimit these two domains or to define them.
The question of definition becomes even more complicated when one considers that most of the sources cited depict the jinn as intermediary beings, not exactly demons, not exactly angels. It is much easier to deal with literature on demons or angels then it is to deal with intermediary beings between heaven and earth.If
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ENDNOTES OF PRELIMINARY CHAPTER
1. It is noticeable that the definition of al-Baydawi is similar to that of some Greek philosophers. See especially Edwyn Bevan who states that:
"Xenocrates identified daemons with discarnate human souls before and after birth" (1928:160).
2. See Henri Corbin who defined this philosophy as "belonging to the 'Orient', where 'Orient' refers not to a geographical ethnic entity but to gnosis, to that 'Orient' of the soul" (1968:49).
3. Su'ad al-Hakirn in her article "Knowledge of God in Ibn 'Arabi" mentions that: "For Ibn 'Arabi only jinn and men are endowed with mental faculties, which allow them to acquire knowledge." In Ibn 'Arabi:A Commemorative Volume. 1994:266.
4. For additional definitions in contemporary Arab writing, see especially "Abd al-Razzaq Nawfal (1964:10); see also Muhammad Mum (1967:65).
5. Edward Westermark adopts a similar attitude to that of W. R. Smith: "Jinn are spirits who seem to have been invented to explain strange and mysterious phenomena suggesting a volitional cause" (1932:10).
6. On the cultural influence of Western Asia on the religions of the early Arabs, see especially Joseph Henninger who criticizes those who think that: "The nomads' attitude concerning religions is indifferent and without originality, and that their divinities are but borrowed from superior civilizations" (1981:16).
7. See Edward Langton who classified the diverse spiritual entities of Mesopotamia as follows: "There were the Utukku, spirits of the dead, Alu, horrible apparition, half human, half animal, Ekimu, departed spirits that can not find rest and wander aimlessly" (1981: 12).
8. al-Alfisi states that: "The iinn are present in Persian folktales: the king Jimshad ruled over seven kingdoms as well as over the jinn" (1924. vol. 1:348).
9. Louis Sheikho showed how the poets of pre-Islam were in contact with Jews and Christians (1926:254-282).
10. See also Jean Starcky (1948:12).
11. On this issue, see also Philip Hitti who draws the attention to the fact that
the Arabs who settled at Palmyra spoke a "dialect of Western Aramaic not unlike the Nabataean and Egyptian Aramaic" (1943:76).
12. On the Arab influence in Palmyra, see also J. G. Fevrier (1931:209) and also J. W. Drijvers (1976:6).
13 On the Latin representation of tutelary deities, see especially Penelope Murray (1989:67); see also Jane Nitzche (1975:24).
14. See The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam: "Jinn from which the English word 'genie" (1989:210).
15. This vagueness in defining the term jinn is expressed as follows by W. R.
Smith: "Jinn, demons, daemons, gods etc., are properly used to denote different sorts of powers, agencies, etc." (1927:539).
JINN IN PRE-ISLAM
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION TO THE .IINN IN PRE-ISLAM
Before embarking on the search for the jinn in pre-Islam it is necessary to take a look at the religious and cultural components of that period. It is impossible for a researcher to try to investigate any question related to the jinn in pre-Islam without first offering a general view of the Arabian Peninsula at that point in time. One cannot relate the question of the jinn in pre-Islam to any religious creeds or cults without first describing the cultural background in which these spiritual entities evolved. Therefore, the first task is to describe the pertinent features of the cults and creeds that were common among the Arabs of that time.
According to Muslim orthodoxy, the Jahiliyah, or pre-Islam, is defined in general as the period before Islam and in particular before the Muslim conquest (rna gabl al-fath). This term, Jahillyah, can also refer to the time of heresy in the absolute. To understand pre-Islam, one should not define it as a period of ignorance in opposition to the knowledge brought by Islam, but rather as a period of intolerance as opposed to the word Islam which means submission to
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the one God. It is this definition that is given by the Arab critic Shawqi Dayf:
It should be known that the term Jahili'yah which has been given to this era does not mean ignorance as opposed to science and certainity, but it means rather ignorance as a synonym to insolence, anger and frivolity. (1977:35)
Some western authors, such as Ignace Goldziher developed this concept of ignorance in the Jahiliyah more fully:
Following the general Muslim explanation we tended to think of the Jahi1i'yah. in contrast to Islam, as the time of ignorance. This conception is wrong. When Muhammad contrasted the change brought about by his preaching with earlier times he did not seek to describe those times as times of ignorance, since in that case he would not have opposed ignorance with devotion to God and confidence in God but with aI-'ilm, (knowledge). In this book we have explained the word al-jahili'yah as 'time of barbarism' because Muhammad wanted to contrast the Islam that he preached with barbarism (1977. vol. 1: 202).
Islam tried to ban most of the pre-Islamic ideas and ideals. Muhammad exerted all his efforts to separate the Arabs from pre-Islamic religious ideas, especially from idolatry.1
The first thing one notices when turning to the study of the Jahili'yah is
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the dearth of information concerning that period. The material is so scanty and incomplete that one has to be very careful as to any extensive and general conclusions concerning the religion of the Arabs in general and the jinn in particular at that point of time. That is, perhaps, why Wellhausen entitled his book on pagan Arabia Reste arabischen Heidentums.. The history of the Jahiliyah remains the least documented part of the Arab chronology. It is possible to find sources on the Jahiliyah in cuneiform tablets, in old Babylonian sources, in the Bible, and also in the classical literature of Greece.
Eastern Arabia had common borders with Mesopotamia. The early inhabitants of that region, the Sumerians and Akkadians, had become familiar with their neighbours by the fourth millennium B.C. In some cuneiform inscriptions, there is information on the relations between the Arabs and Assyrians, Sumerians, and Babylonians. These tablets contains the first recorded references to a place in Arabia and to Arab people.2
In the Bible, one can find information on the Arabs in Jeremiah 25:24, where the phrase "kings of Arabia" is mentioned for the first time. In Ezekiel 27:21, one reads that the Arabs of the sixth century B.C. were engaged in breeding cattle which they sold to the neighbouring settlers.
The Arabs are also mentioned in the classical literature of Greece and Rome. The first mention of the Arabs in Greek literature was made by Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.), the reference being to a distinguished Arab officer in the army of Xerxes. One finds also isolated and scattered statements in the
Geography of Strabo (24 A.D.) and also in the Geography of Ptolemy written between A.D. 150 and 160 as well as in Herodotus.3
It is also possible to find occasional references to the heathen religions by the ancient poets and narratives of the Jahiliyah. But these poets describe social life more extensively than religion, though religion and society were not separated in pagan Arabia. Despite that, the poetry of pre-Islam has great historical importance as source material for the study of the period in which it was composed. This ancient poetry throws light on all phases of the JahiIiyah. This is why it was called the "the public register" (diwan) of the Arabs.
The most well-known poems of this period are the seven Mu'allaqat (suspended) odes. It is said that each of these odes was awarded a prize at the annual fair of "Ukkaz which was located between Nakhla and al-Ta'if, These odes were inscribed in golden letters and suspended on the walls of the Ka'bah. The annual fair of "Ukkaz was held during the sacred months when fighting was forbidden.4
In addition to their literary and poetic importance, these odes had also a significative historical value. Most scholars think that they developed in connection with Ayyam aI-'arab (the Days of the Arabs), particularly among the tribes of Taghlib and Kinda. The Days of the Arabs were records of intertribal hostilities which arose from disputes over cattle, lands, or wells. It was at "Ukkaz that the great poets of the desert recited their odes describing the great deeds of times past.
The greatest portion of the data concerning the Jahiliyah period has reached us through Orthodox Muslim sources in the maghazl (military expeditions of the Prophet) which include a detailed account of the sanctuaries destroyed by Muslims and in the sirah (biographies of the Prophet). All these sources had an interest in playing down the role of paganism in Arabia. The writers of these sources have distorted some facts and erased others, because
they felt such ideas reflected pure heresy. All these sources provide general and vague ideas on the religions of pagan Arabia.S
One exception is to be found in the little book of Hisham al-Kalbi
(820-890 A.D.). In his book al-Asnam (The Idols), al-Kalbi collected in a
systematic way whatever could be ascertained about heathen myths and rituals. Despite the author's attempts, the book remains a superficial presentation of the religions of pagan Arabia. al-Kalbi merely lists names of deities and idols without linking them to the cults and creeds of the people of that time. There is only one allusion to jinn in the entire book. Despite the superficial treatment of the topic, his book remain an indispensable reference for those interested in
the history of pagan Arabia, as "Irfan Shahid describes:
And yet Hisham busied himself with the pre-Islamic as much as with the Islamic past of Arab history, even more, much more, with the former. As a result of this interest, the history of pre-Islamic Arabia has not entirely vanished from the literary records of Islamic times or from the historical consciousness of the Arabs, and it is owing to the interests and the efforts of Hisham, who thus emerges as the principal Muslim historian of pre-Islamic Arabia, that much about that Peninsula in that distant past is known (1984:349).
3. ARABIA AS A GEOGRAPHIC UNIT
Before advancing further in this research, one should specify whether or not it is necessary to limit the scope of the project to one area in the Arabian Peninsula rather than another. One can also wonder if it is more useful to search for the jinn among the nomads in the farthest reaches of the desert than among the sedentary population of the settled areas.
Some historians insist strongly upon the necessity of studying North Arabia, Central Arabia, and South Arabia separately, because each had different religious and social patterns. It is known that South Arabia had a much more elaborate and sophisticated religion than North Arabia which was closer to a pure nomadic style of life,6 while Central Arabia had important towns like Mecca which depended on pilgrimages and markets. During these great occasions the scattered inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula came together.
It is, of course, important to focus on each region of the Arabian Peninsula to make a detailed, comparative study of the three different Arabian regions.7 But in a study of general scope, and especially with a topic dealing with the jinn, which were not localized in any particular area, a fragmentary approach is not of great help. One can grasp the complexity of the jinn more thoroughly if one views them in a continuous, homogeneous environment. Therefore, this project will tackle the concept of jinn in the Arabian Peninsula as a geographic and spiritual entity.
Two major factors shaped the unity of the Arabian Peninsula: markets
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and pilgrimages. As far as one goes back in time, one finds that the Arab populations have moved from place to place for trade, religious processions, or
transhumance as pointed out by della Vida: "The Arabs were obliged by the nature of their land to move away from one area to another" (1938:88). This state of affairs brought together the creeds and the patterns of life in all three parts of Arabia. It helped to promulgate ideas from one extreme part to the other in the Peninsula and even to create a kind of religious and ritual synthesis among the inhabitants. Modem scholars have increasingly focused on the religious continuity of the Peninsula as did the historian of religions Rene
La division en Arabie meridionale, centrale et septentrionale, nous l'avons dit ne presente d'interet que pour l'expose des questions; elle ne repond pas it un fait profond et ne tient pas compte du deplacement des populations au cours des temps. Plus nous penetrons la comprehension des anciens cultes, plus leur homogeneite saute aux yeux (1961: 153).
Even before Dussaud, another historian, Henri Lammens, introduced the
idea of 'sanctuaires mobiles' (mobile sanctuaries). He described how the Arabs
used to transport their idols and sacred stones with them wherever they went,
in wars, with their caravans, and in religioius processions (1928: 1 08).
4. THE CULT OF ANCESTORS
The bedouin used to pay certain forms of reverence to ancestors, upon whose graves stones were erected and simple sacrifices made. They used also
to pay homage to certain heroes from the past who were venerated as founders of tribes and tribal federations. Some scholars mention that the bedouins
started to worship their ancestors and that gradually these ancestors were transformed into gods. The Arab historian al- Alfisl claimed that:
The gods Wadd, Suwa', and Yaghfith were the names of good people who died all in one month. Their families were grieved. One of their relatives decided to console them, so he erected statues for them. Their children started to worship these statues. That is how the cult of ancestors began in Arabia (1924. vol. 2:212).8
In the Qur'an, in S.71/23 the names of these gods are mentioned but
nothing is said on their evolution from ancestors to gods:
Inasmuch as they said to their followers: "do not ever abandon your gods; abandon neither Wadd nor Suwa', and neither Yaghfith nor Ya'flq nor Nasr."9
This issue of worship of ancestors in pagan Arabia remains unclear. The god Wadd especially appears in many South Arabian inscriptions and texts as a moon god with vague bonds to the worship of ancestors. 10
5. THE WORSHIP OF STONES
In the Slrah. Ibn Hisham explains how the cult of the stones originated in Arabia:
They say that the beginning of stone worship among the sons of Ishmael was when Mecca became too small for them and they wanted more room in the country. Everyone who left the town took with him a stone from the sacred area to do honour to it. Wherever they setled they set it up and walked round it as they went round the Ka'bah, This led them to worship what stones they pleased and those which made an impression on them (trans.1955:35).
The Arabs of pre-Islam worshipped stones before starting to erect idols.
One of the most well-known stones of pagan Arabia was called DhG l-KhaHisa. It is described as:
A white quartziferous rock, bearing the sculpture of something like a crown. It was adorned with necklaces and offerings of wheat and barley (1965. Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam. vol. 2:241).
The sacred stones or pillars were called ansab.Ll They were widely spread in pagan Arabia as mentioned by the French orientalist Marie Joseph Lagrange: "Pour Clement d' Alexandrie, la pierre est I' objet propre du culte des Arabes, c' est par la qu'ils sont caracterises." (1905: 189). Later on, they
were used as more sophisticated altars. Camels and sheep were offered at various stones throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The worship of a monolith was the widest spread form of primitive religion in pre-Islam. The Kabah itself was an example of this. It was a cube-like building of primitive
simplicity, serving as a shelter for a black monolith which was venerated in
pre-Islam as a fetish.
It is this form that gave birth later on to more elaborate religious ceremonies. The na~b (sacred stone or pillar) was not itself the object of
worship. It was thought that it was consecrated by the actual presence of a
6. THE WORSHIP OF IDOLS
More sophisticated than the worship of stones is the worship of idols.
Most primitive religions have known idol worship, as claimed by historians of religions and anthropologists. Among them is the anthropologist Charles Wineck who defines an idol as follows:
An idol is a three dimensional representation of a man or an animal which is believed to be the seat or receptacle of a supernatural entity and before which appropriate acts of worship are performed. Early man, attributing special power to some specific objects, often expressed his anthropomorphism by cutting human features in a stone or tree, thus making it sacred (1970:276).
Where did the idols of the pagan Arabs originate? In most of the primary
sources, one finds the same story repeated over and over, from one reference to
another. These sources tell the story of a certain Arab called' Amr ibn Luhayy (who is supposed to have lived in the third century A.D.), who left Mecca and went to Syria for trade. In al-Asnam (The Idols) al-Kalbi writes:
"Amr ibn Luhayy had a follower from the jinn. His surname was Abf Tamamah. He said to him: leave Tihama quickly, safely and luckily! Do not reside where you are going. Just pass by! Go to the shores of Jiddah where you will find idols ready. Bring them to Tihamah, Be not afraid. Then invite the Arabs to worship them, and they will respond to you" (1969:54).12
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The same story is also related by Ibn Kathir who specifies that:
"Amr asked them to give him one of their idols, and he brought it back with him to Mecca, and the people worshipped it. The name of this idol was Hubal (1982. vol. 2:187).
From that time onward, each tribe in the Arabian Peninsula had its own
god or goddess. Quraysh acquired the property of Hubal who was the chief deity of the Ka'bah, It was painted red, and had the shape of a human being. al-Ahisi mentions that: "When Ibn Luhayy brought Hubal from Syria, his hand was broken, so Quraysh gave him a hand of gold instead" (1924. vol. 2: 205).
Each tribe in pagan Arabia worshipped a different god or goddess. Thus, the tribe of Hudhayl worshiped Suwa'. Rabia worshiped Nasr. Himyar worshipped the goddess al-Lat and the goddess al-Tlzzah, The god Ruda was worshiped in Tayyi', Kalb and Ta'laba. In addition to all these idols, the Arabs of pre-Islam worshipped minor gods and goddesses.l3
In Mecca all the idols known in the Arabian Peninsula were represented.
The Arabs at that point in time used to bring with them idols from Mecca, each time they went there for trade or pilgrimage. In pre-Islam, Mecca was considered a sacred place for the Arabs.14 It is possible to wonder if the Arabs in the Peninsula were without any idols before the comimg of Ibn Luhayy. It
is difficult to answer by the affirmative or the negative. Old poetry mentions few, if any of these gods, except for a few verses where an oath by the goddess al-Lat is mentioned. Many historians such as De Lacy O'Leary seem to believe that the introduction of idols into Arabia happened a short time before the rise of Islam:
It seems fairly safe therefore to understand that the use of images was an instance of Syro-Hellenistic culture which had come down the trade route. It was a recent introduction in Mecca and was probably unknown to the Arab community at large (1927:196).15
Under these foreign influences, some of the Arabs replaced their original cult of stones with that of statues bearing human likenesses. Hubal's arrival in Mecca led even many prominent Meccan families to introduce the images of their personal gods into their homes. What is of interest here is that in the settled areas, one of the most striking shifts away from Bedouin religion was the increase in the number of deities and a movement toward greater polytheism. Each family used to possess its own idol as Ibn Hisham tells in his Sirah (Biography of the Prophet):
Every household had an idol in their house which they used to worship. When a man was about to set out on a journey he would rub himself against it as he was about to ride off: indeed that that was the last thing he used to do before his journey; and when he returned from his journey the first thing he did was to rub himself against it before he went in to his family (trans.l955:38).
The most well-known idols in pre-Islam were the three goddesses al-Lat,
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Manat, and al- 'Uzza, They were regarded by the pagan Arabs as "Allah's daughters" side by side with the angels. This triad had several shrines in the Hijaz and in Najd. In his al-Asnam, (The Idols), al-Kalbi describes in detail
these three deities. He tells stories of how Muslims destroyed their shrines. al-Kalbi claims that Manat was the most ancient goddess while al- 'Uzza was
the most recent (1969:12).
The Arabs continued to worship them till the advent of Islam. Primary sources mention that the leader Abu Sufyan carried al-Lat and al- 'Uzza with him into the battle of Uhud, al- Tabari mentions that, after the capture of Mecca, al-Lat was destroyed with her sanctuary in Ta'if by al-Mughirah (Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam. 1965. vol. 2:287).
The Qur'an mentions these goddesses and addresses the pagan Arabs in
Have you, then, ever considered what you are worshipping in al-Lat and al-Uzza (19) in Manat, the third and last of this triad? (20).
In response to the assertion of the pagan Arabs that these goddesses are Allah's daughters, the Qur'an says:
Why-for yourselves you would choose only male offspring, whereas to Him you assign female(20); that, 10 and behold, is an unfair division (21).16
In opposition to this greater tendency towardpolytheism, one can find
throughout pre-Islam a tendency toward a kind of primitive monotheism. In fact, there was a widespread movement which resembles what may be called primitive monotheism referred to as "al- hanifiyyah." In the Qur'an the term 'hunafa' , refers to those before Islam who by the purity and uprightness of their nature did not succumb to paganism and polytheism. A short time before the coming of the Prophet, the old paganism of Arabia reached a point where it failed to meet the spiritual demands of the people.17 al-hanlfiyah was mainly represented in the person of "Allah" as the one god, long before the rise of Islam. Allah was in fact venerated in the whole of Arabia as the creator of the world. Allah, the godhead, corresponds with EI throughout the Semitic world. In Mecca especially, Allah was the principal deity, though not the only one. Meccans worshipped him as the creator and supreme provider. IS
7. THE WORSHIP OF STARS
Some of these goddesses, especially al-Lat and al-Uzza started as simple idols sculpted very naively and ended by bearing a relationship with the sky which, in almost all religions, seems to be the favorite dwelling place of the gods. The North Arabian cults developed no mythology or cosmogony similar to that of the Babylonians, but the South Arabian cults show some astral features, elaborate rituals and sacrifices which represent a higher stage of development attained by sedentary society. In the South Arabian cults, al-Lat and al-Uzza became two goddesses dwelling in the sky.
Many scholars focused on the relation of these two goddesses to the
planet Venus, the sun, and the moon. Some of them even considered that the religion of the Southern Arabs was entirely based on the worship of palnets. Among these scholars is the orientalist Joseph Henninger who studied the civilization of pre-Islam from an anthropological and ethnological point of
view. On this issue, Henninger wrote:
Most scholars agree that the religion of the Southern Arabians was an astral religion, where the moon, the sun and the planet Venus represented the three most important deities. In this respect Nielsen goes farther, regarding all Southern Arabian, and even all Semitic deities to be at bottom identical with some of these three deities, which, genealogically, can be put in the following scheme: moon-god-father, sun-goddess-mother, Venus- god-sun (1947:173).19
8. CHRISTIANITY AND JUDAISM IN PAGAN ARABIA
Christian influences were particularly evident in the case of some famous
poets, al-Nabighah and 'Asha, for example, who had much intercourse with
Arabian Christians, chiefly at the courts of princes on the northern frontier, where Christianity prevailed. Many other great bards of Arabia such as Tarafa
ibn al-" Abd and al-l)anth ibn Hillizah and "Amr ibn Kulthfim flocked to the court of "Amr ibn-Hind at al-Hira (554-69 A.D.).20
It is also possible to find information on the Christian tribes of Arabia in Ayyam al-'arab (The Days of the Arabs). In the earliest and most famous of these bedouin wars was the war al-Basiis, fought toward the end of the fifth
century of the Christian era between the Banfi Bakr and their kinsmen, the Banf Taghlib in north eastern Arabia. Both tirbes were christianized.
But it is mainly in the works of "Irfan Shahid that one finds comprehensive information concerning the situation of the Christian Arabs before the rise of Islam. Shahid provides information on the diverse tribal groups who converted to Christianity:
To the world of pre-Islamic Arabia in which the Ghassanids of al-Jabiyah and the Lakhmids of al-Hira figure prominently, the Harithids of Najran must be added as a third group who, even more than the first two groups, were directly and intimately involved in the course of events in inner Arabia" (1971: 11).
In Rome and the Arabs, Shahid supplies the reader with even more
information concerning the contribution of the Arabs to "the progress made by
Christianity in reaching the imperial court" (1984:155). From this book one
realises how extensive the power of Arab Christianity was at that point in time.
One learns about great Christian Arab figures, such as Abgar the Great, the ruler of Edessa "who around A.D. 200 was converted to Christianity and in so doing became the first ruler in history to adopt Christianity and make it the official religion of a near Eastern state" (Ibid.:155).
The monotheism affecting Arabia was not entirely of the Christian type.
Jewish colonies were present in al-Madinah, in various oases of northern
al-Hijaz, and in the fertile parts of southern Arabia. They were either refugees of the Hebrew race or Arab tribes who had adopted Judaism. Most scholars seem to agree that there were apparently very few Jews in Mecca.
Particularly in al-Madinah, Jewish communities flourished. The Banfl Nadir and the Banf Qurayza were Judaized clans of Arabian and Aramaen stock. al-Jumahi (c. 845) mentions in his biography the Jewish poets of al-Madina and its environs (1916:70). The most famous Jewish poet who left us a diwan (anthology of poems) was al-Samaw'al (Samuel). His Judaism has been suspected because it had nothing to differentiate it from the current pagan forms of worship.
9. DIVERSITY WITHIN PAGANISM
The religion of pagan Arabia was not only polytheism. In fact, it was not one religion but several. What draws one's attention in the religious life of pre-Islam is the multiplicity and variety of religious forms. Despite its primitive forms, despite the absence of an organized pantheon, despite the lack of information on the topic, one cannot accept the notion that has been presented by Noldeke, Wellhausen, and other orientalists who characterized the bedouins of Pagan Arabia as "Unproductiv religiosos."21
The contemporary Arab historian' Abd al-Aziz Dfiri depicted different facets of this religion, thereby emphasizing the richness, variety, and, most of all, a certain "religious conscience":
One notices in the religion a diversity between paganism and the belief in some forms of the old Semitic monotheism. Moreover, one finds the worship of the heavenly bodies, which can be traced back to the Babylonians, the reverence paid to the ancestors, totemism, and the belief that spirits dwell in trees and springs. There is also belief in Hnn and devils (1961 :33).
It is therefore in this religious environment, against a mixed backdrop of paganism, Christianity, Judaism, and that which resembles monotheism that the jinn dwelled. Like the historian Dflri, the orientalist Ringgren gives insights into the religion of pagan Arabia. For him too, the religions of the Arabs at that point of time were not merely paganism:
To the evolutionistic school of comparative religions, the origin and growth of polytheism is no problem. There may be one-sidedness and doctrinairism, so that all kinds of religious beliefs are explained from a single fact such as the belief in souls and spirits (animism), the idea of an impersonal power (mana), totemism, or the like. But the research of the last years has made it quite clear that the evolutionistic pattern is a pure fiction, which does not agree with the facts. As investigation proceeds, it is apparent that the belief in higher gods would seem to be one of the primary factors-if not the primary factor-in religion. The high god of destiny, fertility god, and all-seeing surveyor of man's action seems to be dominant in the initial stages of religious history-at least so far as we are able to trace the latter (1947:7).
The abundance of cults and the multiplicity of divine names as described
by Ibn al-Kalbi in his book al-Asnam (The Idols) might reflect more than polytheistic practices: the worship of a one god who manifested himself in
When were the jinn introduced into the religious tribal system of pagan
Arabia? Albright in his article "Islam and the Religions of the Ancient Orient" leans towards the notion that "the belief in the jinn was introduced late in pre-Islam" (1940. vol. 60:233).
Still others, like Waadenburg in his article "Changes of Belief in Spiritual Beings, Prophethood, and the Rise of Islam" think that "the belief in the jinn may have been present since ancient times, although it was more developed among the settled people than the nomads" (1984:259).
The opinion of Waanderburg seems more acceptable. Given the story told by so many primary sources on "Amr ibn Luhayy who went to the Levant to bring idols on the orders of his own iinnl around the third century A.D. and given that several poets of pre-Islam, such as al-Asha, al-Nabighah, Ta'abbata Sharran, and Umayyah ibn Abi al-Salt mention the iinn in their poetry, one can propose that the jinn have existed since ancient times in pagan Arabia.
To return to the legend of' Amr Ibn Luhayy, the most important feature in this story is that the one who incited' Amr to go to Syria and bring the idols is his own jinnl. 'Amr went not only because he had some trade to finish but mainly because his ra'l, (one of the names given to the iinnl who accompanies a priest or a poet) ordered him to go and bring the idols and call the Arabs to worship them. In fact, 'Amr went on a sacred journey to accomplish a religious goal. Were the jinn then truly responsible for bringing pagan gods to Arabia? Was it an invention of Ibn Luhayy's imagination? Or is it an invention of Islam itself to justify the later degradation of some of the jinn to demons? No matter when the jinn came to pagan Arabia, they eventually
became rooted in its daily life. Commenting on the relation of the jinn as spiritual beings and pagan Arabia as a special place for the sacred, the French orientalist Andre Miquel wrote:
De ce peuple intermediaire (les jinn) entre notre univers et une nature a la verite inimaginable, l' Arabie est, j'y insiste, le pays privilegie. L'Arabie et plus precisement, celle du paganisme (1979.
It is in this pluralistic, relativistic, fragmented, and tribal society as
a particular space belonging to a particular time, the time before Islam, that one
must search for the iinn. For that, this study will not be looking at the Jahili'yah as pure heresy, but more as a space where, as Thales states:
"Everything is full of gods" (Miller.194:74). Euripides closed his most famous play, The Bacchae, with the words: "Many are the shapes of things divine" (Ibid.:77). The search for the jinn in pagan Arabia starts with this same spirit that animated both Thales and Euripides.
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ENDNOTES OF CHAPTER ONE OF PART ONE
1. On this issue, see especially Philip Hitti who refuses to see in the Jahillyah a period of ignorance: "The term jahillyah, usually rendered "time of ignorance" or "barbarism" in reality means the period in which Arabia had no dispensation, no inspired prophet, no revealed book; for ignorance and barbarism can hardly be applied to such a cultured and lettered society as that developed by the South Arabians" (1943:87).
2. See also Philip Hitti who mentions some of these cuneiform inscriptions, such as the inscriptions of the Assyrian Schalmaneser III who led an expedition against the Aramaean king of Damascus and his allies Ahab and Jundub, an Arabian shaykh. Hitti states that the Arabian oasis Tayma' is mentioned in several cuneiform tablets related to the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. (1943:39).
3. One can find additional information on pre-Islam in the Semitic literature.
The Arabs are included in all kinds of Semitic studies. On this issue, see especially W. R. Smith where the Arabs as a religious group are not very different from the Hebrews, Babylonians, or other Semites (1927:151).
See also Marie-Joseph Lagrange who tackles the same topic, but is fairer and more sensitive to the differences that seperate each Semitic group from another (1905:68).
Finally, see G. Levi della Vida who criticizes Ernest Renan for adopting ethnic views in his parallel betwen the dogmatic and intolerant Semites and the ingenius Greeks.
4. The pagan calendar of pre-Islam was lunar like the Muslim one, with the first three months of its spring session, dhfi al-Qa'dah, dhfi al-Hijjah, and Muharram coinciding with the period of peace.
5. In the Qur'an, one can find also information on the religious beliefs of the Arabs. See especially S.3/154; S.5/50, S.33/33, and S.48/26.
6. On the religious importance of South Arabia, see especially the article of G. Ryckmans "I'Arabie preislarnique" in HistQjre Generale des Religions (1948:528).
7. It is interesting to note that the Classical writers divided the land into Arabia Felix, Arabia Petraea and Arabia Deserta. These divisions correspond to the tripartite political division of Arabia in the first Christian century. On this issue, see especially Philip Hitti (1943:44).
8. Helmer Ringgren claims that: "The god Wadd appears in Sabean territory too, especially on amulets and building inscriptions in the formula 'Wadd is father"'(1947:179).
9. These same gods are mentioned again in S.71/23.
10. Philip Hitti mentions that the god Wadd refers in South Arabian religion to a moon-god and also sometimes to "father" (1943 :60).
11. On this issue see Lammens who mentions the great diffusion of "the cult of divine stones" in pagan Arabia (1928:101).
12. Ibn Hisham in his Sirah (Biography of the Prophet) makes also Ibn Luhayy the importer of idols. But he specifies that: "Ibn Luhayy brought them from Moab and Mesopotamia, not Syria" (1384 H:50).
13. See Rene Dussaud who mentions other minor pagan deities such as the god Nasr (vulture) and 'Awf (the great bird) (1955:42). Both gods have animal names and suggest totemic origin.
14. On the importance of Mecca as a sacred place in pagan Arabia, see "Abd al-Sattar al-Rawi who thinks that: "These idols were sacred because they were brought from Mecca"(1980:181).
15. On the Syrian origin of these idols, see Philip Hitti who states that: "The Arabic word for idol sanam is clearly an adaptation of Aramaic selem." Hitti mentions also that hubal is an Aramaic word meaning 'vapour' or 'spirit' (1943:100).
16. Some scholars such as Philip Hitti think that the worship of these goddesses reflects an early matriarchal sysytem in the Jahiliyah (1943:100).
It is true that the feminine names of certain Arab clans show traces of great importance accorded to mothers in the old society of Arabia. But on the other hand, this pagan society knew the burying alive of little girls to which the Qur'an addresses a harsh criticism as in S.81/8. On this issue of wa'd (burying female infants alive), see especially Muhammad Asad (1984:933).
17. Some people were considered hunafa' in pre-Islam, such as the poet Umayyah ibn abi al-Salt and Waraqah ibn Nawfah, a cousin of Khadijah.
18. Philip Hitti asserts that even the supreme god Allah was "imported from Syria toward the fifth century B.C." Hitti attributes a major role to Syria in "developing" the religion of Pagan Arabia" (1943:101).
19. See also Hubert Petersman who claims in his article "Ie culte du soleil chez
les Arabes, suivant les temoignages greco-romains" that: "al-Lat was worshipped under the features of the Greek goddess Athena." In L'Arabie prehistrorique et son environement historique et culturel (1989:231).
See della Vida (1938:36); see also Muhammad Asad who claims that: "al-Lat may have been the prototype of the Greek semi-goddess Leto, one of the wives of Zeus and mother of Apollo and Artemis" (1984:814).
20. See Lammens who describes the Christian communities of al-Madinah (1928:89). See aslo al-tabari who gives in his Tftn1ch (History) information on Christianity in the Himyarite kingdom (n.d. vol. 1 :919). See also Montgomery Watt who claims that "apocryphal gospels and the like seem to have been floating about Arabia" (1960:28).
21. The religions of pagan Arabia were looked at not only from the point of view of'productivity" or from the point of view of "religious conscience" but also from the point of view of "sincerity." Thus, the Arab American author Amin al-Rihani criticized the hypocrisy of the bedouins: "Up to today, the bedouin never pay much more than lip homage to the Prophet" (1928:233). The Qur'an itself accuses the bedouins of hypocrisy in religion as in S.9/98.
RELATION OF THE .IINN TO PLACE IN PRE·ISLAM
1. PLACE AS THE DWELLING
OF THE SUPERNATURAL IN GENERAL
It is in pagan Arabia as a whole geographic and spiritual entity that the search for the jinn begins. Where exactly did the jinn dwell in this immense space? What were their favorite places? Did they like springs or arid places? Did they like obscure places or open spaces? Did they frequent houses full of people or did they, on the contrary, prefer to flee them for the solitude of the desert?
To study the favorite places of the jinn is to gain insight into the connections of particular aspects of the sacred to the physical aspects of nature; it is to discover how certain places are rather than others the principal supernatural seat, and how the jinn as supernatural beings have like humans a physical environment, on and through which they act, and by which their activity is conditioned.
The choice of one place over another is the difference between the sacred and the profane. For the Arabs of pre-Islam, the space around them was not homogeneous. This means that some places carried in them a special power, a certain energy, more than others. The Arabs approached them with awe and
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even paid reverence to these places and to the supernatural beings who were dwelling in them. Mircea Eilade explains this opposition between the sacred and the profane in these terms: "II y a done un espace sacre, et par consequent
'fort', significatif, et iI y a d'autres espaces, non-consacres et partant sans
structure ni consistance, pour tout dire: amorphes" (1971:6).
This relation of the sacred to place is visible also in the worship of gods.1 The most well-known gods of the Jahillyah such as al-Lat and al-Tlzza had their sacred tracts (hima and haram). For example, al-Lat had a special enclosure near al- Ta'if whither the Meccans and other Arabs came for
pilgrimage and sacrifice. Around the goddess al-Lat no trees could be cut, no hunt possible and no human blood shed. Animal and plant life participated of the sacredness of the deity there honored. As for the goddess al- "Uzza, her sanctuary consisted of three trees as mentioned by Ibn al-Kalbi: "al-Tlzza was a she-devil which used to frequent three trees in the valley of Nakhlah"
The relation of the sacred to a certain place has been commented upon by Waadenburg in his article "Changes of belief in spiritual beings, prophethood and the rise oflslam" in these terms:
Among Semitic peoples the gods were named after the places where they were worshiped. The cult was directed not only to a particular idol but also to a particular altar (In Struggles of Gods 1984:263).
In other words, if the altar is as sacred as the deity or the supernatural
being, it is so because this divinity or supernatural being frequents it, and because he or she manifests himself or herself in it. It is this unmistakable
presence or manifestation of the sacred that the Greeks denoted by the term epiphania (epiphany). The more a deity manifests itself in a certain place, the more the place becomes sacred in the eyes of those who dwell in it. The relation between humans and the sacred is subject to physical conditions. This implies that human worship of certain forms of spiritual beings or gods is not independent of the material environment. W. R. Smith comments on this
relation with respect to the name Ba'al so common in many Semitic religions.
The name Ba'al refers in these religions both to a god and to a possessor of a sacred place. Smith asserts that:
In Semitic religions, the relation of the gods to particular places which are special seats of their power is usually expressed by the title Ba'al (pI. Ba'alim, fern. Ba'lath). As applied to men, Ba'al means the master of a house (1927:93).
Some places, then, were charged more than others with meaning for the Arabs of pre-Islam. These places inspired them with the sentiments of the fearful, the horrible, and even the tremendous, or, as Rudolf Otto puts it with "numinous awe" (1956:58).
2. THE WILDERNESS
AS A FAVOURITE PLACE FOR THE .IlliN
It is striking that most of the primary sources speak of the preference of
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the jinn for lonely, desolate, deserted, and obscure places. In the preliminary chapter, it was evident from the definitions accumulated that the jinn are invisible creatures, hidden from human sight. When one looks for their favorite haunts, it is clear that these entities prefer places like their nature, which means hidden places, where the untrodden wilderness lies teeming with unknown perils. Maydani mentions in his Majma' al-amthal (Anthology of Proverbs)
We let the country speak for itself.
This might mean fertile countries and the many voices of the wolves. It might also mean wild deserts where no one lives except thejinn (1988. vol. 1:191).
"..:..~ .J~I ~.;.:i" wi j~.J .,-;-,wjJl ~I~i iI~.J ~I "-;a .J1_r: wi j~ IoU "~I ~ 18',<",,: '1.J .~~i '1 ~I .)LWI "-;a .J1_r:
The primary sources tell us that the jinn dwell where the spontaneous life of nature is most actively exhibited in all its phases. The routes they follow are outside the known routes and pasture grounds of the tribe, and where only the boldest venture with terror. In primary sources the jinn seem to dwell specifically in the desert.2 Bustani mentions that: "The expression someone was hosted by a jinni means he or she stayed in a wild place, where no friendly
person dwells" (1927:53).
«"-;a~i '1 Jt.:..w~~i ~~ w~ ~~))
The jinn dwell in wells, in holes, in deep valleys, under the earth, to the
- 58 -
point that they have been called ahl al-ard (the dwellers of the earth). Valleys especially seem to be among their favorite places. Mahrruid Salim al-J;lfit mentions that the Arabs of pre-Islam expressed often their fear of the jinn when crossing a desert or a valley: "When an Arab arrived in a valley, the first thing he did was to draw a circle and then recite: 'I seek protection from the master of this valley'''(1979:225).2
al-ijiit gathered information from the primary sources which indicate that the Arabs of pre-Islam believed that: "The bottoms of the valleys seemed to be the most dangerous places where any peril can occur and where the strange voices of the jinn were heard" (1979:223).
Jawad 'Ali claimed that these strange voices mentioned in the primary sources "were similar to a bell, and sometimes to a drum in the night. The Arabs told of mysterious buzzing, humming, or whistling noises caused by the iinn, It was called 'aztf al-iinn" (1970. vol. 5:720). There was even a place called al-'uzaf referring to the strange music 'aztf3 produced by the jinn as mentioned by al-Zabidi in his Taj al-'arus (The Crown of the Bride) (1965.vol.6: 197).
In Kitab al-hayawan (The Book of Animals) of al-Jahiz, one can find a rich and detailed picture of these diverse noises produced by the jinn. The imagination of the poets of pre-Isalm described the impact of these noises on humans, especially in the night of the desert and how it was carried by the winds. al-Jahiz quotes the following verse of the poet DM al-Rummah who said: "the iinn chant in its borders as if they were trees moaning in a windy
day" (1968. vol. 6:175).
:~~I Jj Ju J )1
J...-::.,) 1"11-6 _---l-d . .A l.:.. ~ 0 ... II "
"r~ c:-=.rll i~ tJL:u us
Some of the primary sources speak of dense thickets as other special haunts of the jinn. They tell stories of jinn dwelling within the roots of certain trees.4 al-Isbahani tells the story of the jinn who killed two people because they burned the trees where they dwelled: "When the flames appeared, people heard moaning and a sudden great noise: flying white serpents appeared on top of the fire" (1969. vol. 6:92).
Equivalent creatures in neighboring Semitic civilizations preferred similar places. The utukku of the Babylonians like the jinni in Arabia used also to dwell in the wilderness, and likewise lurked in the desert in wait of unsuspecting travellers. The ziyyim of the Hebrews was a kind of spiritual entity, a 'desert dweller,' 'crier,' or 'yelper.'
3. ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS
AS ALTERNATE PLACES FOR THE.J.INN
The locale of perished civilizations was another favorite dwelling place for the jinn. That is to say that the place where a civilization disappears was immediately occupied by the iinn. The deserted Hijr is an example. This
town used to be a flourishing place for the people of Thamfid. The locales of
Yarin and Wabar are two other examples.S Maydani gives some information concerning the place of Wabar. The jinn of this place used to destroy everyone who tried to pass by their country. Maydani quotes the poet al-Farazdaq who said: "Similar to the one who perished while looking for the road of Wabar"
(1988. vol. 2:484).
These places used to be inhabited by the people of 'ad mentioned in the Qur'an.6 All these cities were destroyed by God because of their heresy. After the punishment of God, the jinn came to inhabit them. It seems then as though the jinn search for places where disasters have happened. They like to dwell in places abandoned by human occupants. Jawad 'All mentions that: "All the countries inhabited by 'Imlaq, Thamfid, and 'Ad are then conquered by the
jinn" (1970. Vol .6:718-773).
al-Jahiz even tells stories of humans trying to reconquer their lost realms, but in vain (1966. vol. 6:66). The jinn would throw sand in their faces (ibid. vol. 6:215). If humans insist and try again, they will bring madness upon them. al-Hamadhani (d. 334 H.) tells that: "These places are jealously defended by the jinn for they are the most fertile and beautiful countries of all"
- 61 -
4. IMAGINARY PLACES: 'ABQAR
In the poetry of pre-Islam, it is possible to find various allusions to the jinn. Omar Fam1kh in Tankh al-jahiIiyah (History of pre-Islam) quotes some poets who mentioned the jinn in their poetry such as Labid, al-Nabighah, and Zuhair ibn abi Salma who speaks of "some jinn of "Abqar riding on horses"
The name of "abqar appears often in the primary sources cited as an imaginary dwelling for the jinn. Yaqut describes' Abgar as follows:
"Abqar is a place in Yemen. Some say that it was near Yamamah, May be it was an old country that was destroyed. It is a place known for its embroidery."
Farther on, Yaqut adds this enigmatic phrase: "but since the Arabs did not go there, they said it is the country of the jinn" (1957. vol. 4:79).
Ibn Manzfir in Lisan al-'arab (The Language of the Arabs) gives additional information. II' Abqar is a place in the desert, full of jinn. 'Abqar is written without a definite article because it is a proper name" (n.d. vol. 4:535).
"Abqar is not the only imaginary place where the jinn dwell. Other imaginary places are mentioned in the primary sources such as al-biqar, al-badi, and jinn dhi samar.
5. THE J.INN DWELL EVERYWHERE
Certain primary sources cited assert that since the jinn are invisible
beings, they used to dwell everywhere in the Jahillyah. These authors assert that since humans do not see the jinn, it is difficult to know if they are living among us. Thus Jawad 'Ali' asserts that it is true that the jinn prefer certain places to others, but that does not mean that they cannot live elsewhere. For
the Arabs of pre-Islam, they dwelt in all places. On this question, he writes:
Those were the favorite dwellings of the jinn. But their countries are in fact unlimited, undefined. For they dwell in all places, even in peoples' houses. They dwell even in the sea, and in the sky. Their kingdom is in fact larger than human kingdomm. If a ji'nni entered a house, the owner would protect himself by presenting him some incense or whatever is like it. Otherwise, the jinn will harm him (1970. vol. 6:716).
The jinn who live with humans in the same house are called 'ummar
al-buyfit (the dwellers of houses). The house where they dwell side by side with humans is called al-'amrah (the inhabited house).
It was already mentioned that in pre-Islam space is divided between the sacred and the profane, because the jinn seemed to prefer some places to
others, and because humans seemed to attribute a special power to these places. However, some primary sources depicted the jinn as dwelling everywhere, taking full advantage of their invisible nature. How does one reconcile these two assertions? If the jinn are everywhere, then there is no special place to be sacred, and no profane one. If their place is no longer simply linked to a
proper name, then their dwelling is the most common of all. By uncovering the relation of place to the jinn, it is possible to search for some theories that try to explain the existence of the jinn, such as the theory of animism. This issue is perhaps best left for discussion further on in this study. It will specifically be raised in the general conclusion.
Most primary sources refer to the dwelling of the jinn as being earthly.
The jinn seem more likely to dwell close to a human environment, rather than in the heavens. Few primary sources mention the sky as their realm. What, then, is one to conclude? Are they of angelic origin? Are they earthly creatures? This question will be dealt further in the following chapter on the nature of the jinn in pre-Islam.
ENDNOTES OF CHAPTER TWO
1. On the relation of both gods and spiritual entities to place in general, see James Frazer (1950. vol. 1:476).
2. The fear of the jinn in barren deserts has been commented on differently by Arab authors and orientalists. al-Hflt claims that this fear led the Arabs to recite poetry to the jinn only indeserts and not in towns (1979:211). Joseph Henninger stated on the other hand that: "The bedouins were not afraid of the jinn in deserts. They usually know the desert very well. On the contrary, they dreaded their presence in towns" (1959:115).
3. For more details on 'azlf see Zamakhshari (1953:30).
4. Gods and goddesses of pre-Islam dwelt also in trees. The sanctuary of al- 'Uzza consisted of three trees. al-Hut tells the story of Khalid ibn al-Walid who destroyed her sanctuary and found in one of the trees the goddess in the shape of a woman" (1979:75).
5. Wabar has attracted the interest of orientalists also. See especially Regis Blachere (1966. vol. 3:743). See also Toufic Fahd who described the jinn of this place as "dotes d'une mobilite de formes et d'une etonnante ubiquite" (1978:124).
6. The Qur'an mentions that God punished the people of 'Ad and destroyed their land, but there is no mention at all of the jinn occupying the place after it had been destroyed.
7. Despite it being a real place, Palmyra has been described by Arab authors as a fantastic place similar to "Abqar. See especially "Umar Farnlkh who quoted the verse of some poets on Palmyra inhabited by the iinn.
KINDS OF THE JINN IN PRE·ISLAM
The jinn is a general name under which it is possible to list: ghfil. shaydin. si'Uih. and m.igg.. these being the most well-known kinds of iinn. As for 'ifrit, gutrub. and mllrid, they are much less mentioned in the Jllhillyah. All these varieties of jinn can be in tum good or bad, depending on the circumstances. Despite the fact that the iinn were sometimes considered to be
gods, sometimes to be demons, there was not a sharp distinction between evil
jinn and good jinn in the minds of the Arabs at that time.
al-Jahiz mentions that:
The ghfil entices humans, especially by night. It is the most dangerous of all jinn (1966. vol. 6:220).
He adds in this same volume that ghfil means: "Every supernatural
creature that takes diverse forms" (Ibid. vol. 6 :48). al- Zabidi (d. 1205) states that: "Ghfil is a synonym to anything in general that keeps changing" (1965. vol. 8:51). This term comes from a root which means "to destroy," or "to assault." "The gMI has carried him off' is sometimes merely a poetic expression meaning simply "he has perished."
- 65 -
The Arab poets of pre-Islam gave full imagination to this notion. Thus, the poet "Ubayd ibn Ayyfib, told of his encounters with ghfils, sa'ali, and others. He relates how the ghiil, the daughter of the jinn, came one night to the fire which he had kindled, and how he cut off her head.1 One can find similar stories in the poetry of Ka'ab ibn Zuhayr, and of Imru al-Qays who depicted the "arrows sharp as the canine teeth" of the ghfil, and even in 'Antarah who insisted on the sudden appearance and disappearance of the ghfil in the following verse quoted by Dawfid Dawfld:
The ghiH in my hands sometimes appears
and sometimes disappears like the light of a torch (1981 :365).
bJI:. ~~~ ~ J_,iJ1 JU
The most well known poetry on ghfil is undoubtedly the verse of Ta'abbata Sharran, the poet whose name means literally "he carries evil under his armpit," alluding to the fact that he had a ghfilah (f.) with him. The critic Shawqi daif mentions that:
The poet alleges that he encountered the ghfilah, one dark night while he was travelling in the desert. He chased her until he finally killed her without knowing her. Then he recited the following verse:
I spent the night leaning on her, waiting for the morning to see what I caught. Then I found two eyes in an ugly head, similar to the head of a cat with a forked tongue" (1977:95).2
- 67 -
: 4-A ~ 'J y:. " c,)U ~ t, _·J..;:'<U-'..oo dl.:si rU"
& I,)"i,) ~ 04 Ij!
Poets were not the only ones to have encounters with ghfils. Primary sources mention also that some well-known figures of the Jahili'yah had also encountered the ghfi1. Mas'fidi for example, states that:
Some of the Companions of the Prophet mentioned that 'Umar ibn al-Khattab -may God be satisfied with him- encountered the ghfil one day on his way to Damascus. He killed it with his sword. This was before the advent of Islam. This story is well-known in their annals (1965. Vol .2:135).
ill I ~,) ',-:-,lb..:J1 ~ ~ ::'i ~L:..._...:JI U..o L.4 ~j .u ,," ,d Q.!- fI',' ~~ ~i "J_,_iJ1 iU:J1 u-l! u.:,;-b ~,,1.Au, ~ "rA)_~~i ~ rA..w..c J~ lolA" 'i)l....'J1 J~ ~ ~j"
What is the gender of this monster? Some of the primary sources mention that it is female, others claim that it is male. The popular belief at the time of pre-Islam was that there was a ght1l (masculine) and its female ghfilah. al-Jahiz seems to incline to the idea that it can be both, a kind of androgynous creature. By way of contrast, some lexicographers such as al-Zabidi and Ibn Manzfir think it is a female.3
The poets mention also a kind of another female demon named al-si'Hih,
of which the plural is sa'aIi. Arab lexicographers mention her as being sahirat al-jinn (the witch among the jinn). al-Zabidi claims that: "As there are magicians among men, thus it is among jinn (1965. vol. 8:51). He claims that:
The si'lat is the most sneaky of all jinn. If she encounters a human, she keeps dancing with him or her and playing as does a cat with a mouse (Ibid. vol. 7: 375).
Ibn Faris states that she is "the most sneaky of all ghilan." He mentions
People believed in the Jahiliyah that the wolf hunts for the sa'ali in the night. When he approachs them, the si'lah starts screaming "the wolf is eating me! Who will save me?" (1368 H:74)
al-Alfisi tells a popular story about' Amr ibn Yarbfl' who fell in love with a ghiilah:
Yarbu' married her, and she gave birth to human children. It is said that one day, she saw lightening in the sky. It was a sign of her cIan calling her, so she left children and husband, and returned to her cIan" (1924. vol. 2:341).
al-Alfisi adds that an Arabian clan was supposed to have sprung from this marriage betwen Ibn Yarbu' and a silah, Whether this ancestry was originally regarded as an honor or the reverse is unknown. This cIan was called banii
si'lah (the sons of si'lah).
What are the differences betwen a si'lah and a ghUl? Damiri mentions
that the ghiH appears to humans in the night, while the si'Hih appears in the day. (n.d. vol. 2:223). al-Jahiz tells of another difference: "The fire that a ghUl kindles in the night is different from the fire kindled by a si'lah" (1966. vol. 4:481). But he does not specify in which way.
Is there any relation between a si'lah and a ghii1? Some sources seem to think so. al-Zabidi asserts that the ghiil is a jinni, whose wife is a si'lah (1965.
This kind of jinn is the strangest of all. Mas'fidi mentions that the Arabs of pre-Islam described it as a man split in two, having half a body. As with the two other kinds, it seems to appear mainly during the journeys, in the desert
(1965. vol. 2: 140).
If a shigg encounters a human, he beats him till he dies. al-Jahiz records
"Alqama ibn Safwan ibn Umayya went in the time of the Jahiliyah to Mecca one day on a donkey. He arrived to a place called ha'it Hazman, There, a migg appeared to him. He had only one hand, one eye, one leg. They recited poetry to each other, then they hit each other, and both of them fell dead (1966. vol. 6:206).
Interestingly enough, Ibn Manzflr in Lisan al 'arab (The Language of the Arabs) asserts that migg is the name for a kahin (priest) in the Jahiltyah. It is not a kind of iinn. But this k§hin was in fact like the ~ himself, a person
split in two (n.d. vol. 10: 605).4
It is noticeable that the word shay tan occurs much less frequently in pre-Islam than the three other words mentioned above: ghiH. si'lah, and shigg. In pre-Islamic poetry, the word occurs mainly in the poetry of Umayya ibn abi
al-Salt (d. 624 A.D.) and 'Adi ibn Zayd (d. 590 A.D.) who had vaguely
monotheistic ideas. It seems that the first had access to some basic ideas of
Judaism and Christianity. As for the second poet, he was himself Christian. It is possible then to relate the knowledge of the two poets of shay tan to ahl-al kitab (people of the book): Jews and Christians).5
Except for these two poets, the other meaning of shay tan in pre-Islam is generally different from the Judeo-Christian one that Islam in turn adopted. The shay tan of the Jahiliyah is not necessarily evil. He is smart and cunning. He is very powerful. Yaqut mentions that:
The Arabs apply the term shay tan to every rebel among jinn. humans, and beasts. The term refers also to a branch of the tribe of Tamim (1975. vol. 3:281).
al-Jahiz mentions that:
In pre-Islam, shay tan is not yet clothed with all the attributes of rebellion that one finds in Judeo-Christianity. The word itself
comes from a root sh-t-n which means to be clever, to be cunning (1966. vol. 1: 153-291).
Ibn Manzflr relates in Lisan al-'arab (The Language of the Arabs) the root to the meaning of ugliness, too. He asserts that: "The Arabs of pre-Islam used to call the branches of an ugly tree ru'us al-shayattn (the heads of satans), an expression that one encounters later on in the Qur'an" (n.d. vol. 12:351).
Despite the insistence of the majority of primary sources on the Arab origin of the word, some orientalists such as Noldeke point to a possible foreign origin of the term 'shay tan.' Noldeke states in The Encyclopedia of Religions and Ethics that: "Its form agrees so closely with that of the Ethiopian word shay tan, which is derived from the Hebrew Satan that we are forced to consider it a loan word" (1921. vol. 1 :678).6
5.1. The blurring of genders: the question of androgyny
The first thing that draws one's attention is the confusion that exists between some kinds of jinn in the Jahiltyah. It is not clear from the primary sources what is exactly a ghfil and what is exactly a si'lat. Despite the efforts of Arab lexicographers, the boundaries are not clear between those two kinds of jinn. There is a blurring of genders concerning them. Is the ghfil a masculine, feminine, or both? Is it a kind of hermaphrodite creature that lurks in the desert? Concerning this latter question, it does not seem from the
primary sources that the imagination of the Arabs at that point in time was as concerned with this kind of hermaphroditic creatures as one finds in Greek mythology as stated by the contemporary historian of religions Wendy
The androgyne or hermaphrodite is popularly regarded as a universal, archetypal symbol. In fact, though it is widespread, beyond any single culture, many religions, particularly the "primitive" ones, have managed to survive without it (1980:284).
In general, the relation of si'Hih to ghfil remains vague in the primary sources. Ibn Manzfir is confusing on the question. For example, first he asserts in Lisan al-'arab (The Language of the Arabs) that the name WJ_trub applies to the male of al-si'lah (n.d. vol. 1 :683) then he adds that the si'lah is the ghlll itself (n.d. vol. 11 :336). Jawad' Ali also thinks that these two different names refer to the same kind of jinn (1970. vol. 6: 729).
al-Jahiz is no less confusing. First, he claims that: "Si'lat is the female of
a ghlll" (1966. vol. 4:481). Then he adds that: "Ohm can be a female or a male" (Ibid. vol. 6:158-9). Does that mean that ghfil has a female counterpart named "ghiilah"? In The Encyclopedia of Islam, one can find a summary of
Early sources, while observing that ghfil denotes a male as well as a female being, make it clear that the Arabs tended to regard it as a female; later sources however make it into a diabolical jinn and certain of them prefer to apply the word ghfil to the male, of whom the female is called si'lah, while others consider the .9.Y.t!:!!.h as the male of the latter (1991. vol. 2: 1078).
Despite this vagueness in the description of ghfil and si'Hih, one element keeps coming clearly in almost all of these primary sources: it is the relation of ghfilah and si'Hih to women. For the people of pre-Islam, shape shifting in these creatures was understood as a dimension of feminity. A si'lah kept changing shapes infinitely till she attracted a man in the desert. al-Alfisi mentions that the Arabs at that point in time called any attractive, powerful woman a si'lah (1922. vol. 2:346). Ibn Manzfir also claims in Lisan al-' arab
(The Language of the Arabs):
Ghllan and sa' ali are similar to women. The Arabs used to say that the ghllan appear to them in the desert, keep changing shapes, and lead them astray from the road, so they perish (n.d. vol. 11 :507).
::'i J~ ~~I ~l.S .~L.....:JI ~ ~l.,.,._,_..J1 J w~I::'! "
,. _ _ "wi -' ..
,~_,l.3 w_,.b LSI ,'i~ J~ (,)"'l.:&JJ LS~I..u ..:...1_,llJ1 ~ w~1
al-Alflsi wrote the following: "If they found the woman sharp of look and intelligence, quick of movement and slim, they would then say: she is a si'lah!"(1924:346).
,U_,...t- ,u.rJ1 ~..>-"-" ,~.:JI J w,rbJ1 ;;.1.;!~ ;;i_,ll IJi,; Ij! ~J)I ((;;~:I~u
5.2. The blurring of species: the question of hybrid creatures
If one reads detailed descriptions of these kinds of jinn, one is astonished
to see how often these creatures are formed from two or even more species.
Thus a ght1l is sometimes half a man, half a donkey. al-Ahisi mentions that it has the head of a cat and the tongue of a dog (1922. vol. 2: 342). al-Jahiz
asserts that a ghfil can change everything in its appearance, except its feet
which remain a donkey's feet, no matter the shape it takes (1966. vol. 6:220). In all their representations of the ghul. the Arabs at that time pictured it as having a composite body.
The pre-Islamic Arabs were not the only ones to view the supernatural beings which they called the jinn as hybrid creatures. This representation of
spiritual beings as composite creatures was something common to ancient
civilizations and widely spread in the Mediterranean area as stated by C. J. S. Thompson:
Herodotus describes some people who were supposed to live beyond the region inhabited by the Scythians as having goats' feet. The Babylonians and Assyrians had representations of monsters in their winged bulls or lions with human heads. which were often placed at the entrance of buildings to frighten away the spirits of evil (1968:20).7
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ENDNOTES OF CHAPTER THREE
1. Salim al-Hflt claims that this personage was a renown thief in the 1iihiliyah period. In his verse, he tells of his wanderings in the desert and of his several fights with the ghfil (1979:274).
2. al-Ma'arri considers that the poet had invented this story. He even thinks that all the poetry about intermarriages between ghfils and humans in pre-Islam is mere fantasy (1950:351). W. R. Smith takes the opposite position, claiming that: "Ta'bbata Sharran is an historical personage and the incident also is probably a fact" (1927:129).
3. al-Jabi~ mentions that this strange detail: the ghfil dies from one stroke, but can come back to life if it is hit again. It remains then alive for ever, even after one thousand srokes (1966. vol. 6:158).
4. For more details on the life of this intriguing personage, see al-Alfisi (1934. vol. 3:278), al-Zabidi (1965. vol. 6:396) and al-tabari in his Tarikh (History) (n.d. vol. 1 :911).
5. Although the term "ahl al-kitab" (people of the Book) applies specifically to Jews and Christians, its use was later extended to the Sabeans and Zoroastrians, because it was thought that they too were "possessors of scriptures." See especially The Encyclopedia of Islam (1991. vol. 1:264).
6. Noldeke is not the only orientalist to speak of a foreign origin of the term "shay tan." See also Philip Hitti who wrote in turn that: "The term 'shay tan' points to Christian and Abyssinian influence on Moslem Hijaz, (1943:106).
7. On this belief in supernatural beings as hybrid creatures, see also Rene Dussaud who wrote on the genies guarding the entrance of the garden of Eden as :"ces acolytes de la divinite ont un aspect composite" (1941:55).
NATURE OF THE JINN IN PRE-ISLAM
The question of hybridity raises many questions about the the nature of the jinn. It was shown in the preliminary chapter that these creatures are defined as being composed of two elements: fire and air. Are they some kind of heavenly beings, or on the contrary, as the descriptions from pre-Islam show, earthly beings, powerful creatures half beasts, half spirits? To investigate the mystery of the jinn belonging simultaneously to two opposite realms, that of matter and that of spirit, it is necessary to view in turn first to their relation to angels and second to their relation to animals.
1. RELATION OF THE .IINlS. TO ANGELS 1.1. Difficulty of the topic
It is difficult to study the relation of the jinn to angels. The pre-Islamic Arabs did not have a developed cosmology with clearly defined notions of angelology or demonology. It is possible to find some information on this question in some primary sources, mainly in history books such as the Tfuikh (History) of al-Tabari, in geography books such as the works of al-Qazwini and al-Damiri, in some chronicles such as in al-Azraqi's Akhbar Makkah (Tales of Mecca). However, it is in the Qur'an that one finds the greatest
amount of information concerning details of the religious life of pagan Arabia.
In the preliminary chapter, it was mentioned that angels were called sometimes jinn because they were, like them, veiled from human eyes. The characteristic of invisibility is shared by both angels and jinn. which led most of the Arabs at that point in time to confuse them. Ibn Manzfir in Lisan al-'arab (The Language of the Arabs) mentions the following on this issue:
"The people of the Jahiliyah called angels-peace be upon them-jinn because they were invisible from sight" (n.d. vol. 13:197).
~ r-A.)t:u_....~ 4 i)l...Jl ~ ,~)ll1 W~ ~4Jl jAl w~.J"
" ... - II
The relation of iinn to angels in pre-Islam is difficult to study because of this confusion which will continue somewhat in Islam as shall be seen in what
1.2. Belief in angels in pre-Islam
This blurring of boundaries between angels and jinn led some historians to say that the Arabs of pre-Islam ignored the existence of angels. They knew only the notion of jinn. Occasionally, some of them attributed the name iinn
to a vague entity: malak (angel). Jawad 'Ali in his al-Mufassal fi Tankh al-'Arab gabl aI-Islam (The Detailed History of the Arabs before Islam)
expresses the opinion that:
The belief in angels comes rather from Judeo-Christian sources than pure Arab sources. Except for those poets who were in contact with
'ahl al kitftb (The People of the Book), like the poet Umayya ibn abi at-Salt, the rest of the Arabs at that point in time ignored the notion of angels (1970. vol. 6:738).
Toufic Fahd thinks also that the Arabs of pre-Islam ignored the concept of angel. He does not think that the Arabs at that point in time took it from Judeo-Christian sources, but rather that: "L'angelologie n'est entree en Arabie
que par la voie de L'Islam naissant" (1971: 156). Joseph Chelhod, a French sociologist of religions, disagrees. He thinks that the concept of angel as distinct from jinn existed already in the Jfthillyah:
Bien que le mot malft'ika (anges) selon toute vraisemblance, soit d'origine etrangere (il serait de l'ethiopien ou de l'arameen), il a dfi penetrer tres tot parmi les Arabes du Hijaz, au point qu'a la veille de I , Hegire, il faisait deja partie de leur vocabulaire religieux. Mais en s'integrant aux croyances arabes, cette nouvelle notion aurait subi de notables modifications (1964:78).1
In the Qur'an, it is mentioned that the Arabs of pre-Islam were familiar with this concept of angel, since it says that Muhammad's Meccan opponents asked him to make them acquainted with his 'angel,' in order to prove his prophethood to them. Consequently, they must have known that angels are sent to certain chosen individuals such as prophets. In S.6/8, the Meccans demand to 'see' the angel of the Prophet:
They are saying, too, "why has not an angel visibly been sent down unto him?" But had we sent down an angel, all would indeed have been decided, and they would have been allowed no further respite for repentance.
In S.11/12, the Meccans repeat their demand to Muhammad which shows clearly that the concept of angel was widely known among them:
Is it then, concievable, 0 Prophet, that thou couldst omit any part of what is being revealed unto thee because the deniers of the truth dislike it, and because thy heart is distressed at their saying: "why has not a treasure been bestowed upon him from on high" or why has not an angel come visibly with him?"
In his comment upon this specific verse, Muhammad Asad wrote:
Explaining this verse, Ibn 'Abbas mentions that some of the pagan chieftains of Mecca exclaimed derisively: "bring before us angels who would bear witness to thy being a prophet!" Whereupon the above verse was revealed (1984:313).
1.3. Angels and goddesses
Several goddesses were worshiped as angels or daughters of Allah, mainly al-Lat, al-Tlzza and Manat.2 Muhhiy al-Din al-'Attar in BuIGgh al-' arab fi athar al-' arab (Attaining the Goal in Knowing the Traces of the Arabs) claims that:
Every tribe among the Arabs had its own idol which they called 'daughter of.' These idols were worshipped as angels, as daughters of AlHih (1913 :97).
It is again in the Qur'dn that one finds a wealth of details on the worship of goddesses as celestial beings in pre-Islam. The Qur'an asserts that the ancient Arabs believed that these three goddesses were considered a kind of
divine beings of a lower grade than Allah. They were called "daughters of Allah." The goddess al-Lat was worshipped at al- Tli'if.3 The goddess al-Tlzza was worshipped at Nakhla near Mecca and Medina. al-Tlzza was worshipped in the first place by Quraysh. The goddess Manat had a shrine between Mecca and Medina and was worshipped primarily by the Arabs of Medina. These three goddesses were worshipped mainly at their shrines where ritual ceremonies were performed. The pagan Arabs of pre-Islam flocked in pilgrimages to these shrines.4
The Qur'an comments on several occasions on the beliefs in these
goddesses as female angels, as daughters of Allah. God addresses the pagan Arabs in S.l7/40:
Has then, your Sustainer distinguished you by giving you sons, and taken unto himself daughters in the guise of angels? Verily, you are uttering a dreadful saying!S
In S.43/19, this same belief in angels as daughters of Allah is sharply
And yet they claim that the angels-who in themselves are but beings created by the Most gracious-are females: but did they witness their creation?
This false claim of theirs will be recorded, and they will be called to account for it on Judgment Day!
Finally, in S.53/27-2S, it is said that:
Behold, it is only such as do not really believe in the life to come
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that regard the angels as female beings (27).
And since they have no knowledge whatever therof, they follow nothing but surmise: yet, behold, never can surmise take the place of truth (28).6
1.4. Angels, iinn, and Allah
Another belief in angels was also prevalent in the JahiIlyah. The Arabs of pre-Islam thought that the angels are the children of unions between Allah and the daughters of the jinn.7
In the Qur'an, one finds numerous allusions to the fact that the Arabs of pre-Islam, especially those of ijijaz, believed that Allah and the jinn were relatives. Some of them even worshiped the jinn because of this relation to
Allah. In the Qur'an, in S.6/100, it is mentioned that the pagan Arabs worshipped the jinn beside Allah:
And yet, some people have come to attribute to all manner of invisible beings Ginn) a place side by side with God-although it is He who has created them all; and in their ignorance they have invented for Him sons and daughters.
In S. 34/40 this same idea of the worship of the jinn is expressed.
God asks the angels the following question:
And [as for those who deny the truth] one Day he will gather them all together, and will ask the angels: "Was it you that they were wont to worship?" (40).
They will answer: "Limitless art Thou in Thy glory! Thou [alone] art close unto us, not they! Nay, [when they thought that they were worshipping us] they were but [blindly] worshipping forces concealed from their senses (the jinn); most of them believed in them." (41)
In S.72/6, it is clearly mentioned that the Arabs before Islam sought help
and protection from the jinn:
Yet it has always happened that ceratin kinds of humans would seek refuge with certain kinds of such invisible forces (the jinn): but these only increased their confusion.
1.5. Angels and humans
Beside the belief in angels as daughters of Allah and as the result of union between the daughters of the Hnn and Allah, the pagan Arabs believed that fallen angels interacted with humans and even had sexual relations with them. In some primary sources, one finds stories on fallen angels and their sexual relations with humans. One of the most widespread stories is the story of the tribe of Jurhum. al-Jahiz relates it as follows:
They claimed that Jurhum is the result of union between the angels and the daughters of Adam. It is said that when an angel disobeys his God in Heaven, God sends him down to earth in the image of a man and gives him a human nature. When an angel disobeyed God, he sent him down to earth in the image of a man. He married then the mother of Jurhum who gave birth to Jurhum (1969. vol.l :187).
,J 'i.!! t.:J~ ,J d.£)lll ~ lo t W .J-o 0LS 'L.ut~ ::'i 1,J~j,J .. u4}JI~! ~i "Lu..J1 u-A~.) ~ Ij! ~)llI.J-o dill w~ ~ ~W ill I ~ W .d -, , _. .. b u-A,J '~.) ~.)"...._ u-i
"r-A~ ii G:~_).:j '~.) ~.)~ ~ u4.)~i u-l! ~i ,J d.£iJ.1
The fact that the ancestor of Jurhum was a fallen angel took an extreme importance in the eyes of the pagan Arabs. This tribe played an important role
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in the 11lhillyah. The sanctuary of Mecca was of very old antiquity. It was controlled by Jurhum as expressed by Toufic Fahd in these terms: "C'est ainsi que Jurhum, ancetre de la tribu qui, selon la tradition regna sur la Meque apres les descendants d'Ismael aurait eu pour pere un ange dechu" (1966 :70).
The story of Jurhum is linked in a way or another to the story of the Ka'bah itself. al-Tabari relates the story of the custody of the Ka'bah in these
It [that is, the Ka'bah] had not any custodians since its destruction in the time of Noah. Then God commanded Abraham to settle his son by the Ka'bah, wishing thereby to show a mark of esteem to one whom he later ennobled by means of His Prophet Muhammad. Abraham, the friend of the Compassionate, and his son Ishmael were custodians of the Ka'bah after the time of Noah. Mecca was then uninhabited, and the surrounding country was inhabited by the Jurhum and the Amaliqa (trans. 1988. vol. 1:1131).
al- Tabari mentions that Ishmael, in order to coexist with his powerful new neighbor, had eventually to marry a woman of the Jurhum, Sayyidah bint Mudad, who bore him twelve sons (Ibid.:1139).8
2 • THE RELATION OF THE JINN TO ANIMALS, OR, THE BESTIAL COMPONENT OF THE JINN
If the data concerning the relation of the jinn to angels is rather scanty and often contradictory, the data on the relation of the jinn to animals is on the
contrary prolific. In The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Barton mentions that:
The early Arabs believed in a great mass of spirits called jinn, these were not pure spirits, for they were often represented as hairy and often as having the form of an ostrich or a snake. It was believed that, when a iinni was killed, a solid carcass was left behind. Nevertheless the jinn had the power to appear and disappear, to assume temporarily any form that pleased them (1921. vol. 11: 135).
In pre-Islam, the iinn were either pictured as close to angels, as pure
spirits, abstract entities, divine powers, or, they were - on the contrary -
pictured as concrete and tangible beings. This latter representation seems to have prevailed during pre-Islam. The fact that the jinn were embodied in animal forms has been commented differently by researchers on the religion of the pagan Arabs. W. R. Smith states that:
There is no great gulf between the jinn and wild beasts on one hand and human beings on the other. The failure to distinguish clearly between human and animal is common among primitive peoples (1927:538).
2.2. Spiritual entities and animal power in the ancient Near East
This representation of the supernatural powers as having an animal aspect is not in fact characteristic of what Smith calls 'primitive' peoples. Most civilizations, whether primitive or advanced, have linked the supernatural in one way or another to animal power, or even to the genuinely savage. The great civilizations of the Near East from Egypt to Babylon to Canaan pictured
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the spiritual entities as having animal forms. It was part of a view of nature as a whole, in which the several orders of natural and supernatural beings were mixed. It was a world in which animal and human shapes were interchangeable, where a jealous goddess could tum her rival into a snake. Voluntarily or involuntarily, humans became animals and animals became humans.
One of the basic beliefs held that divine power could become manifest in certain animals and birds, especially bulls, snakes, cows, rams, and falcons. There was also a belief that spiritual entities: gods, demons, and jinn took animal form or even a composite human-animal form when they visit the earth.9
All the Egyptian gods had animal aspects and in some cases, although human in body, they almost never appeared except with the head of the appropriate animal. Animals were worshipped in Egypt because of their strength and also out of fear. E. A. Wallis Budge asserts that: "The Egyptians developed the idea that individual animals were the abodes of the gods, and they believed that certain deities were incarnate in them" (1969. vol. 2:345).
The Babylonian pantheon was also rich in gods and demons having animal forms. Thus, the demon Oallu had sometimes the form of a bull, while another one named Alu appeared often to humans in a composite form: half human, half anima1.l0 In the Babylonian legend of creation, humans and animals were formed of earth mingled with the life blood of a god. The Hebrews also represented their demons with animal aspects.ll It was this
belief in spiritual entities inhabiting animal bodies that led the Greek Porphry to become a vegetarian as stated by Edward Langton:
Porphry, as a vegetarian, believes in the virtues of abstinence from flesh-meats, in which, he says, the demons delight, and enter into those who use them. The same writer also related that among the Egyptians and Phoenicians, the priests drive away the demons by giving them the breath or blood of animals, and by beating the air. Thus the Greek belief in demons and exorcism is brought into connection with similar beliefs in Egypt and Syria (1981 :84).
2.3. The Jinn as serpents
2.3.1. Serpents as the embodiment of spiritual entities in the Ancient Near East
The serpent is not a mythical creature. Yet, its position in the legends and superstitions is such that it can truly be said to have a supernatural as well as a natural existence. It is also credited with having in its possession secrets of renewing life that are denied to humanity. The serpent was believed to have no fear of old age, to be immortal because it casts its skin. It is thus a creature to be envied as well as feared, an evil genius perhaps, but one of infinite cunning and subtlety. Therefore, serpents were associated with spiritual entities throughout the ancient Near East. In many cases a demonic character is directly attributed to them. The idea of demons in serpent form was familiar to many peoples in the ancient Near East from Egypt to Babel to Persia where in Persian mythology the serpent Dahaka is the incarnation of evil spirit Angra
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Mainyu. The repulsion that a serpent causes to many humans, its size and
strength, the mystery of its silent gliding movements made it an embodiment of supernatural powers. Both fear and fancy gave rise to certain beliefs in mythical supernatural serpents as stated by A. Macculioch in The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics:
The origin of the cult of the serpent is to be sought in the effect which all animals more or less had upon the mind of early man-a feeling that they were stronger, wiser, subtler than he; in a word, uncanny. This was especially true of the serpent because of its swift yet graceful and mysterious gliding motion without feet or wings, unlike that of any other animal, its power of disappearing suddenly. More recently, Elliot Smith suggests a theory of migration by which, along with megalith-building terrace-culture, and many other things, serpent-worship originated in Egypt about 800 B.C., was spread thence by the Phoenicians to other areas in the Middle-East (1921. vol. 11:4(0).
In Egypt the serpent, more exactly the cobra of the lower Nile was named Wadjat and worshipped as a goddess of good. The figure of the serpent appears as a personal or house protecting amulet throughout Egyptian history. Many varieties of snakes were in fact venerated by the Egyptians. Serpents and snakes were kept in large numbers in temples.l2 Serpents were both a symbol of deity and of evil as stated by E. A. Wallis Budge:
The great enemy of Horus, and Ra, and Osiris, and also of the deceased in the Underworld was the monster serpent Apep, or Apohis, which directed the attacks on gods and men of numbers of serpent broods, and which was held to be the personification of all evil; on the other hand the uraeus was the symbol of divinity and royalty, for the walls of the abode of Osiris were surmounted by 'living uraei,' and the god Ra wore two uraei upon his forehead, and
every king is represented with a uraeus upon his forehead (1969:377).
In Babylon, it is possible to find a similar belief in the serpents as chthonic powers. They were primarily associated with the nether world and worshipped because of their secret knowledge, their power of healing. In the myth of Tiamat, of Sumerian origin, the goddess Tiamat herself is identified with the" evil serpent" or the" serpent of darkness." The demonic aspect of the
serpent is seen also in the myths of Labbu and in the serpent which stole the plant of immortality from Gilgamesh.13
The Hebrews, too had their own representation of serpents as embodying powerful entities. Several passages of the Old Testament can only be fully understood when it is recognized that they refer to demonic creatures of serpentine form. The myth of the chaos-dragon is found in the writings of the post-exilic prophets. In Isaiah 27:1, an oracle, introduced by the characterisitc formula 'in that day,' declares: "Yahweh with his sure and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the swift serpent, and Leviathan the crooked (or, winding) serpent, and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea."
In Numbers 21:6 it is said: "And the Lord sent fiery serpents (literally seraphim [serpents]) among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died." In verse 8 it is told that the Lord commanded Moses to make a " fiery serpent" (literally a saraph) and put it upon a pole. When those who had been bitten looked upon the bronze serpent they lived. In Isaiah 30:6