The Jinn

Invitation to Islam, issue 4, January 1998

Throughout history man has always had a deep attraction for the supernatural and the unseen. The existence of a world parallel to our own has always fascinated people. This world is commonly referred to as the spirit world, and almost every set of people have some concept of one. With some people, these spirits are no more then the souls of dead peopleor ghosts. With others, spirits are either the forces of good or the forces of evil - both battling against one another to gain influence over humanity. However, both of these explanations are more in tune with folk tales and fantasy. The true explanation of such a world comes from Islam. Like every other way, Islam also claims to explain this realm of the unseen. It is from this realm that Islam explains to us about the world of the Jinn. The Islamic explanation of the Jinn provides us with so many answers to modem day mysteries. Without the knowledge of this world, the Muslims would become like the non-Muslims and be running around looking for any old answer to come their way. So, who or what are the Jinn? Existence The Jinn are beings created with free will, living on earth in a world parallel to mankind. The Arabic word Jinn is from the verb 'Janna' which means to hide or conceal. Thus, they are physically invisible from man as their description suggests. This invisibility is one of the reasons why some people have denied their existence. However, (as will be seen) the affect which the world of the Jinn has upon our world, is enough to refute this modern denial of one of Allah's creation. The origins of the Jinn can be traced from the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Allah says: "Indeed We created man from dried clay of black smooth mud. And We created the Jinn before that from the smokeless flame of fire" [Surah Al-Hijr 15:26-27] Thus the Jinn were created before man. As for their physical origin, then the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) has confirmed the above verse when he said: "The Angels were created from light and the Jinn from smokeless fire" [1]. It is this description of the Jinn which tells us so much about them. Because they were created from fire, their nature has generally been fiery and thus their relationship with man has been built upon this. Like humans, they too are required to worship Allah and follow Islam. Their purpose in life is exactly the same as ours, as Allah says: "I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me" [Surah Ad-Dhariyat, 51:56] Jinns can thus be Muslims or non-Muslims. However, due to their fiery nature the majority of them are non-Muslims. All these non-Muslim Jinns form a part of the army of the most famous Jinn, Iblis- the Shaitan[2]. Consequently, these disbelieving Jinns are also called Shaitans (devils). As for the Jinns who become Muslims, then the first of them did so in the


time of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) when a group of them were amazed by the recitation of the Qur'an. Allah orders the Prophet to tell the people of this event: "Say (O' Muhammad): It has been revealed to me that a group of Jinn listened and said; 'Indeed we have heard a marvellous Qur'an. It guides unto righteousness so we have believed in it, and we will never make partners with our lord'" [Surah Al-Jinn, 72:1-2] In many aspects of their world, the Jinn are very similar to us. They eat and drink, they marry, have children and they die. The life span however, is far greater then ours. Like us, they will also be subject to a Final Reckoning by Allah the Most High. They will be present with mankind on the Day of Judgement and will either go to Paradise or Hell Abilities That which clearly distinguishes the Jinn from mankind, are their powers and abilities. Allah has given them these powers as a test for them. If they oppress others with them, then they will be held accountable. By knowing of their powers, we can often make sense of much of the mysteries which go on around us. One of the powers of the Jinn, is that they are able to take on any physical form they like. Thus, they can appear as humans, animals trees and anything else. Over the last few years the interest in the subject of aliens and UFO's has become heightened. Programmes such as the X-files and the Outer limits have increased the popularity of the theory that aliens exist. Thousands of people have sighted strange looking creatures all over the world. These sightings however, have still not proven substantially that aliens exist. Rather - and it seems more plausible all the sightings of such creatures were just Jinns parading in different forms. So the next time you see something that looks like E.T, its most probably just a wicked Jinn trying to scare and confuse you! The ability to possess and take over the minds and bodies of other creatures is also a power which the Jinn have utilised greatly over the centuries. This however, is something which has been prohibited to them as it is a great oppression to possess another being. Human possession is something which has always brought about great attention. But the true knowledge of this subject is rare amongst the people. Over the last 3 decades the subject of possession has become very commercialised. During the 70's films such as The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby were used to educate people about possession. However, because such institutions (the film industry) were heavily influenced by Christianity, knowledge of the subject was non-existent. Rather then educate people about Jinn possession, films such as The Exorcist just tended to scare the living daylights out of us![3] Only through Islam can we understand such a phenomena. We know as Muslims, that Jinns possess people for many reasons. Sometimes it is because the Jinn or its family has been hurt accidentally. It could be because the Jinn has fallen in love with the person. However, most of the time possession occurs because the Jinn is simply malicious and wicked. For this reason we have been told by the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) not to loiter in those places where the Jinns reside, e.g. graveyards, ruins, deserts, market places etc. We have also been commanded to recite the Qur'an frequently in our houses as the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said: "Indeed,


the shaytan flees from the house in which Surah Al-Baqarah (the 2nd chapter of the Qur'an) is recited"[4].

If a person does become possessed, then the name of Allah has to be used in expelling the Jinn. If we look at the practice of the Prophet and his companions, we find many duas (supplications) to exorcise the Jinn. All these duas invoke Allah to help the possessed person. How contrary this is to many modern-day exorcists. Many exorcists, Muslim and nonMuslim, often invoke the names of others besides Allah to exorcise the Jinn[5]. When the Jinn does leave, these people believe that their way was successful. However, this is a ploy of the Jinn, as it knows that if it obeys the exorcist, then it has succeeded in making him worship others besides Allah i.e. commit shirk. The Jinn often returns when the exorcist leaves, as it knows that nothing except the words of Allah can stop it from oppressing others. The Occult Through their powers of flying and invisibility, the Jinn are the chief component in occult activities. Voodoo, Black magic, Poltergeists, Witchcraft and Mediums can all be explained through the world of the Jinn. Likewise, so can the illusions and feats of magicians. Because the Jinn can traverse huge distances over a matter of seconds, their value to magicians is great. In return for helping them in their magic, the Jinns often ask for the magicians to sell their souls to them and even to Iblis. Thus the magicians take the Jinn and Iblis as lords besides Allah. In our day, some of the feats performed by magicians and entertainers are without doubt from the assistance of the Jinn. Making the Statue of Liberty disappear, flying across the Grand Canyon and retrieving a ship from the Bermuda Triangle[7], have all been done by the Jewish magician David Copperfield. There is NO way that a man could do such things without the assistance of the Jinn. It would not be surprising therefore, if David Copperfield had sold his soul to Iblis himself. Because of their involvement with the Jinn, and its result in shirk, the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said: "The prescribed punishment for the magician is that he be executed by the sword" [8]. Some may argue that this is barbaric, but if, the likes of David Copperfield truly had powers, then they could just put their heads back on again!! One of the most frequent activities associated with the Jinn, is fortune telling. Before the advent of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) fortune-tellers and soothsayers were wide spread. These people would use their associates from the Jinn to find out about the future. The Jinns would go to the lowest heaven and listen to the Angels conversing amongst themselves about events of the Future which they heard from Allah. The Jinns would then inform the fortune-tellers. This is why before the time of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) many fortune-tellers were very accurate in their predictions. However, upon the Prophet's arrival the heavens were guarded intensely by the Angels, and any Jinn who tried to listen was attacked by meteors (shooting stars):


"And We have guarded it (the heavens) from every accursed devil, except one who is able to snatch a hearing and he is pursued by a brightly burning flame" [Surah Al-Hijr, 15:18] The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) also said: "They (the Jinn) would pass the information back down until it reaches the lips of a magician or forrtune-teller Sometimes a meteor would overtake them before they could pass it on. If they passed it on before being struck, they would add to it a hundred lies" [9]. Thus, it is clear from this as to how fortune-tellers get predictions of the future right. It is also evident as to why they get so many wrong. Men like Nostradamus[10] are an example, as some of his predictions of the future were correct whilst many were completely wrong. Unfortunately, the amount of fortune telling which occurs amongst the Muslims is also increasing. By visiting Muslim lands such as Morocco, one is able to see as to how much inter Jinn-fortune-teller activity there really is. If you look up at the sky on a clear night in Morocco, you will see the heavens ablaze with shooting stars! A clear display of the devils being chased away from the heavens. Fortune-tellers also operate through the Qareen. The Qareen is the Jinn companion which is assigned to every human being. It is this Jinn which whispers to our base desires and constantly tries to divert us from righteousness. The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said: "Everyone of you has been assigned a companion from the Jinn. The companions asked: Even you O' Messenger of Allah? And the Prophet replied: Even me, except that Allah has helped me against him and he has submitted. Now he only tells me to do good" [11]. Because the Qareen is with a person all his life, it knows all that has happened to the person from the cradle to the grave. By making contact with the Qareen, the fortune-teller is thus able to make out that it is he who knows about the person. He looks in his crystal ball or the palm of a person and proceeds to amaze him with knowledge which no one else knows[12]. The severity of going to a fortune-teller is such that the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said: "The prayer of one who approaches a fortune-teller and asks him about anything, will not be accepted for forty days or nights" [13] and: "Whosoever approaches a fortune-teller and believes in what he says, has disbelieved in what was revealed to Muhammed" [14] The effects of the Jinn are not just limited to fortune-tellers. Other activities such as oujia boards and seances, which are used to contact the dead, are manipulated by the Jinn. 'Are you there Charlie? Speak to us Charlie!!' are the sort of words spoken by anxious relatives (names are obviously different!) seeking to make contact with their loved ones. And it is when the Jinn starts to talk and communicate as 'Charlie', that the people are truly fooled[15]. One of the biggest manipulations of the Jinn is through visions. Through these visions the Jinns are more likely to lead people away from the worship of Allah then any other way. When a person sees a vision in front of his eyes it is something which is very hard to explain away. Only by having knowledge of the world of the Jinn and conviction in Allah, can a person fight such a trial. The countless numbers of visions of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary over the centuries has been a popular choice for the devils. It almost seems as if leading Christians astray is the most easiest trick for the Jinns! Not only are Christians fooled by these visions, but often the Jinns possess and begin to talk from their voices. To the


Christians this is known as the tongues of the Angels and thus a proof for their faith. However, the amount of unintelligible nonsense and rubbish which is heard is a clear proof that this is in fact the tongues of the devils! For other people, visions of their parents or relatives are commonplace. By taking on the form of peoples parents, the Jinns can convince people that the souls of dead people still mix with the people of the earth. This is why so many people believe in ghosts. The onslaught of satanic visions has also hit the Muslims. Many Muslims claim to have seen visions of the Prophet Muhammed (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) and even Allah! By doing this, Shaitan is able to lead astray the weak Muslims. Through such visions, Muslims are often told that the commands of Islam are not applicable to them. The Jinns tell them that Prayer, Fasting, Hajj etc. are not obligatory for them. It is a great deception and unfortunately one which has been very effective. The extent of satanic visions still continues to this day. The recent death of Diana Princess of Wales sparked off great love and adoration for this woman. In fact the grief of the British people was such, that it was as if Diana was something divine. No sooner had the mourning of Diana reached its peak, that visions of her were already being seen at Hampton Court Palace! If these visions did occur, the desire of Iblis and his army of Jinn to capitalise on this event, was evident. Such visions are clear attempts by Iblis to lead mankind away from the path of Allah [16]. The world of the Jinn is one which is both sinister and intriguing. By knowing of this world we can explain many of the mysteries and issues which bother us. By doing this we can avoid the extremes which the people have gone to; nothing being more extreme then worshipping others besides Allah. By learning the Tawheed of Allah, we defend ourselves from these hidden allies of Iblis: "Indeed he (Iblis) and his tribe watch you from a position where you cannot see them" [Surah Al-A'raf, 7:27] Maybe there is a Jinn sitting in the corner of your room right now, or even one behind you. If so, then how will you deal with this creation of Allah? Learn Islam properly and you will be able to deal with all of Allah's creation - and not just the Jinn. By becoming true Muslims and followers of Islam, the fear of Iblis, Jinns and anything else will leave us - nothing will touch the Believer unless Allah wills.


1 Reported by Muslim - Eng. Trans. Vol. 4, p.1540, No.7134 2 It must be remembered that Iblis is a Jinn and not an Angel. The concept of the Devil being a fallen Angel is from Christianity and not Islam. 3 In fact when The Exorcist was first shown on cinema, it was so scary that many people fainted and one even died! 4 Authentic - Reported by Tirmidhi 5 Whilst Christians invoke the name of Jesus, many Muslims invoke the name of pious Muslim saints! The rituals which are conducted by many Muslims are more akin to voodoo then the exorcism practised by the Prophet and his companions!! drank the Whiskey!!! Suffice to say, the woman was kicked out of India. 6The ship which was recovered was more then 50 years old. It subsequently caught alight and was conveniently destroyed. 7 Authentic - Reported by Tirmidhi 8 Reported by Bukhari - Eng. Trans. Vol.7, p.439, No.657 9 Michel de Nostradamus was a famous French soothsayer of the 16th century. 10 Reported by Muslim - Eng. Trans. Vol.4, p.1472, No.6757 11 The classic example of how fortune tellers can be wrong is the case of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed. Both went to see a fortune teller who told Diana that she would live a long and happy life. A few weeks later, on August 31st 1997, Diana and Dodi Fayed were dead. After this the fortune tellers flew for cover, as their evil art showed its decadence. 12 Reported by Muslim - Eng. Trans. Vol.4, p.1211, No.5540 13Authentic - Reported by Ahmed 14 Ouija boards are so misleading, that people have even managed to get in touch with the spirit of Jack the Ripper!! 15Informative books on the world of the Jinn is Ibn Taymeeyah's Essay on the Jinn translated by Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips, and The jinn in the Qur'an and Sunnah by Mustafa Ashour.


The Jinn


In the West they’re know as genies. In this part of the world they’re called jinn and the are widespread repot of people experiencing strange encounters with them. This the First of an Eleven-Part Serious on the Mysterious Beings Iron out Jinn the wrinkles
Courtesy by Kuwait Times
From Kuwait This mysterious story takes place in the Pink Palace, a 37-room mansion in the town of Sialkot, Pakistan. The narrator is a Pakistani expatriate, an ex-army man who now works in Kuwait. Although the strange happenings took place many years ago, when he tells the story the memories are so vivid they still make the hair on his arms stand on end. “I was never superstitious and I was never afraid of such things as a ghosts or spirits; he matter-of-factly recalls. “ I used to sleep in the graveyard and I‟d sleep like a baby. Nothing out of the ordinary ever bothered me. Nothing, that is, until my extended family and I moved in to the Pink Palace” The Pink Palace was not very old building. It was constructed in 1965. People later said it had been built on the site of an ancient graveyard and this explained why it was the haunt of jinn, the supernatural beings made of smokeless fire that can be good or evil. Capable of disrupting human life, jinn are reportedly able to take on human or animal shapes. According to the Pakistani gentleman, his mother, wife and siblings were the first to see the jinn who appeared in the form of a woman and a baby. Initially, however, he was skeptical of his family‟s repots of hearing and seeing these strange beings and thought they were just imagining things. “Then one night we were sleeping in the courtyard. My brothers and sisters were all sleeping in a row nearby. There was a pedestal fan and I noticed that it had moved from its place and I wondered why. I moved it back to its place and short time later; I saw that it had moved again. I nudged my brother and asked him whether he had moved the fan but he said he hadn‟t “At the time I saw a shadow over me and I felt a horrible feeling, just like I was sinking into the ground. I recited some verses from the Holy Quran and everyone woke up. My mother began reciting the Holy Quran too but when the rug began moving we knew the jinn were still there‟

According to the narrator, the family was finally able to settle down for the night. The next morning, however, when he was talking about the peculiar events of the 8

previous night, a chair began to move without anyone having touched it, Or at least not anyone that they could see. “I could feel that the jinn were there but by this time I had control of myself and didn‟t panic.” From that time on the family heard the jinn many times. They even used to call the family members by name using their voices. “For example, I would hear my mother‟s voice very clearly calling me, but it wasn‟t her” the gentleman continues. “My sister often used to see a strange woman with the baby but she is a very pious lady and wasn‟t afraid. “The one night the jinn tried to strangle my wife. She was sleeping alone in our bedroom as I was here in Kuwait at the time. She felt a terrible pressure on her throat and couldn‟t breathe. She recited verses from the Holy Quran and the gradually the pressure was relieved. After that she never entered that room along aging.” “One day a friend saw the woman and baby outside by the gate of Pink Palace. He was riding his motorcycle and the woman asked him for a ride. He said o.k. but as soon as she and the baby were sitting behind him he felt a terrible burning sensation. When he turned around to look, they had disappeared. After that he was extremely ill with a high temperature for a week.” Something had to be done to get rid of the jinn so the family called in mullahs who were skilled in this task. “The mullahs performed a ceremony, reading Holy Quran over some long iron nails. Then they hammered the nail into the walls. “the gentleman recalls. Iron is a universal antidote for jinn and is also commonly used to prevent their presence in this part of world. From that the time on the house become quite. The family eventually left the Pink Palace and heard no more about it. As a result of his experiences at the Pink Palace, the gentleman wears a versa from the Holy Koran, the Surrat Yassin, tucked into a leather pouch hung around his neck. Happily, He has never again been troubled by jinn. He reports, however, that a colleague of his at work in Kuwait is being plagued by one such malevolent being. “He says there is something, or someone, in his room and at times he feels like someone is sitting on him. He has come to the conclusion that it is a jinni and he says it even follows him. When he is coming home late at night. When you hear such things it‟s easily to say they‟re just silly stories but after what I experienced myself, I can‟t discredit them so easily. I know that jinn exist. Besides, the other evening I went to visit this fellow and while we were sitting and chatting we heard scratching at his door. As soon as the scratching began he said to me, “That‟s him” referring to the jinn. We opened the door straight away but there was nothing there.” Or at least nothing that they could see.


In the West they’re know as genies. In this part of the world they’re called jinn and they are widespread repot of people experiencing strange encounters with them. This the third of an Eleven-Part Serious on the Mysterious Beings
Frankincense Jinn & Fire Shield the Soul
Courtesy by Kuwait Times
From Kuwait In previous articles we‟ve looked at different types of genies, or jinn, as these beings are known in this part of the world. In literature and folklore as well as in contemporary travelers‟ tales, we‟ve found evidence that jinn can be good or evil, helpful or disruptive, terribly mischievous or seriously mean. Nicholas Clapp, author of “The Road to Ubar: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands” learned about the traits of jinn while spending time with Shahra tribesmen in the mountains of Dhofar, Oman. The tribesmen informed him that jinn are creatures bone of smoke less fire, usually invisible, and found of inhabiting waterholes and gloomy gullies during daylight hours.(You‟ll note that in his descriptions he uses another common spelling of jinni, namely “djinn”) Though some djinns were friendly, most were not,” Clapp wrote, citing Dhofari reports of the mysterious beings in his book. “Given to inflicting misery and misfortune, they could take the form of whirlwinds and raging sandstorms. Or they could shape-change into reptiles, various beasts, or even humans. Their true identity Was discernible only by their feet, which were like the hoofs of asses. In great numbers, djinns were abroad at night, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays. Flying out across the land, they uttered screams so loud and penetrating that anyone unwisely out and about would lose his wits. It was a time to bar doors and windows and leave the darkness to its owners.” With such frightening creatures roaming the countryside it‟s not surprising that people would look for some manner in which to dispel them or at least prevent them from doing harm. One such method, observed by Clapp, is the burning of frankincense, an ancient ritual with its origins clouded in the mists of time. The Dhofar region, drenched in tropical sunshine tempered by summertime monsoon winds, is where frankincense trees grow best. It was the main frankincense producing area of the ancient world. Even today, the ritual burning of this fragrant gum resin is an integral part of some of the mountain people‟s daily routine. Clapp described how every morning the tribesmen burned incense at the huts where the cattle had spent the night in order to protect the animals from jinn. When this was done “the cattle could be led off to pasture with a reasonable assurance of safety, “he wrote. “The herdsmen would nevertheless be wary of strangers going 10

their way. In broad daylight djinns could manifest themselves as fellow travelers, leading men and animals astray, often to their deaths.” Clapp reported that, “Despite everyone‟s diligence, it appeared the djinns had worked some mischief. A little boy hadn‟t been able to shake off a bad cold, and something needed to be done. The settlement‟s matriarch added fresh frankincense to a burner and led the child center of the corral. Round and round she circled him, enveloping him in incense. She chanted, “Look at this your sacrifice: frankincense and fire. From the eye of the evil spirits, of mankind, from afar; of kindred, nearby, and from afar; Be redeemed from the evil spirits. Look at this your sacrifice: frankincense and fire.” According to the author, frankincense and fire are believed to be a potent combination for dispelling jinn. The ritual of burning incense, with the symbolism of smoke rising up towards the heavens, has long been associated with the invocation of blessings. Jinn are said to be creatures born of fire and oddly enough, even a small spark of fire is supposed to drive away troublesome jinn. Sir Wilfred Thesiger, who crossed the Empty Quarter by camel in 1947,worte about incense and fire being used for the same purpose in his fascinating book” Arabian Sands.” Traveling with bedouin companions, the British explorer had set off on his journey from the Dhofar region of Oman. Late one night, when sleeping out in the open, he was awakened by a blood curdling howl. “Again and again the uncanny sound quivered across the camp, sending shivers down my back,” Thesiger wrote describing the incident. When he inquired what was wrong, the Bedouins told him that a boy named Said had been possessed by a “Zar” or jinni, “By the light of the setting moon I could see the boy….crouching over a small fire. His face and head were covered with cloth, and he racked himself to and fro as he howled. The others sat close to him, Silent and intent. Suddenly they began to chant in two parts, while Said thrashed himself violently from side to side, More and more wildly he threw himself about….. Steadily the chanting rose and fell about the demented boy, who gradually become calmer,” Thesiger said. “A man lit some incense in a bowl and held it under the boy‟s nose beneath the cloth. Suddenly he began to sing in a curious, strained, high-pitched voice. Line by line the other answered him. He stopped, grew more violent again, and then calmed once more. A man leant forward and asked him questions and he answered, speaking like someone in his sleep. I could not understand the words, from they spoke Mahra. They gave him more incense and spirit left him.” Thesiger reported that a little later the boy lay down to sleep but soon he was troubled again. Sobbing bitterly and groaning as if in great pain. The men gathered round him once more and chanted until he grew clam. The boy then went to sleep and in the morning, he was fine. According to Thesiger, the belief in possession by a “zar” or jinni is also widely held “in the Sudan, Egypt, and Makkah, and is generally thought to have originated in 11

Abyssinia or Central Africa. It seems to me possible that it originated in southern Arabia. My companions told me that whenever they exorcized a „zar‟ they used the Mahra tongue, and I knew that the ancestors of the Mahra had originally colonized Abyssinia.” Ceremonies for people believed to be possessed by jinn are also held in Kuwait. These age-old rituals are referred to locally as “Zar” Later in this series we‟ll take a look at these mysterious events.


In the West they’re know as genies. In this part of the world they’re called jinn and the are widespread repot of people experiencing strange encounters with them. This the Seventh of an Eleven-Part Serious on the Mysterious Beings
Secret sharer
Courtesy by Kuwait Times
From Kuwait In literature and folklore we find information about the type of places said to be favored by jinn. They include the empty desert, the sea, rivers, islands, valleys, particular trees and shrubs, the junctures of roads, ruined houses, and deserted buildings. There are also certain specific places in and around Kuwait believed to be the home of jinn. Colonel Harold Dickson, who came to Kuwait as British Political Agent in 1929, documented the rapidly changing customs, culture, beliefs, and traditions of the local bedouins in his fascinating book, “The Arab of the Desert.” He made mention of certain parts of the desert reputed to be the haunt of jinn. One of these is Ras Misha‟ab. In Colonel Dickson‟s day, it was just inside the southern part of the Kuwait Neutral Zone, but today this land belongs to Saudi Arabia. It is a marshy area known as the “Maqtah” and it has a number of salty springs, one of which is said to be haunted. According to Colonel Dickson, “Ani al „Abd,” or “Eye of the Salve” is” a pool of water forty feet across and some six feet below the surface of the surrounding country.” He reported that “the whole marsh is covered by ausaj bushes. the plant which, according to Badawin lore, is dangerous to cut lest you be haunted by evil spirits. “In the centre of the pool,” wrote Dickson, “there is a spring which surges out of the ground. The water is strongly impregnated with sulphur and smells like bad eggs for a mile round. The pool flows away by a channel whether natural or artificial I do not know, and eventually the water finds its way to the sea some ten miles away.” Dickson was told by the bedouins that a black creature with the head of a black man and believed to be a jinni, lives in the centre of the pool. Every now and then it comes to the surface, shows itself and disappears again. Some also said that at other times the jinni emerges from the pool and sits sunning himself on the bank. “The water of the „Ain being unfit to drink and therefore useless, the place is avoided by man, A series of tests carried out by Captain Papworth, R.E., in 1934, proved that approximately 1,000 gallons of water per hour flowed from the spring,” Colonel Dickson remarked.


Colonel Dickson himself visited Ain al „Abd twice, but was unable to solve the mystery and reported that he saw nothing alarming. “My escort all refused to approach nearer than 300 yards, except one man, the stalwart Mirshid al Shammari…,” he wrote. Another supposedly haunted site inside the Saudi Arabia, called “Abrag al Khalijah,” was described by Colonel Dickson as being located “close to the southwest corner of the Kuwait Neutral Zone.” Writing in the 1930s, Dickson said that he had not visited the spot but had been told it was said to be “a place where a meteorite fell some seventy years ago.” He reported that “Every Kuwait Badawin know the place but pretends to fear to go near it as it is said to be the home of Jinns. It has been flown over and examined by air by certain geologists (in 1932), who were greatly interested. According to them it consists of a hole in the ground some four acres in extent with cliff-like sides about twenty four feet high. The „Awazim and „Ajman particularly feat to approach the place.” Another desert area where people claim to have seen jinn is Febel Salam in the north of Kuwait, near the Iraqi border. People say it is a haunted mountain, or hill, and there have been many sightings of jinn in that area,” one Kuwaiti grandmother said.” In the old days it was a popular place for hunters and they used to say the jinn would often appear just before dawn.” On the edge of Burgan, Kuwait‟s largest oilfield, is another area that‟s supposedly inhabited by jinn. Subaihiyah, a desert oasis and once an ancient settlement, is now used exclusively by Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) for oil production and is closed to the public. It is described in the April-June 2001 issue of The Kuwait Digest, the KOC magazine. “No one comes here now,” Musalah Al Otaibi, the KOC Supervisor Production Operations was quoted as saying of Subaihiyah. “Even KOC‟s role is minimal. We have eight oil wells here and of course we keep an eye on these, but generally the place is, for the most part, deserted.” According to the magazine, an abundant supply of sweet water attracted the first settlers to Subaihiyah and made it a popular resting place for the many traders and tribes who wandered kuwait‟s harsh desert terrain in ancient times. “The area is steeped in a history that dates back 1,500 years, at a time when ancient caravan routes stretched from Basra in the north to Oman in the south, and when the main town of the country was Khazimah, near Fahra,” the article says. Now fenced off from campers, hunters, and grazing herds, the area is wild, lonely, and over grown. The old wells are filled with sand but the many trees still attest to the presence of ground water. Musalah remarked that many KOC employees are not keen on visiting this remote place at night due to the presence of jinn.


“Some people believe that jinn will come and inhabit a place where people once lived and if this is the case then Subaihiyah is a prime spot. I did not really believe it until I was out here one night checking on a well. The night was still and cool. There was no wind and yet from the surrounding trees came a really strange sound, like wind but different,” Musalah recalled. Subaihiyah was inhabited until the mid-1960s, when the government relocated the people there, mostly farmers, to new homes in the newly constructed town of Sabaihiyah, . According to Kuwaiti historian Farhan Al Farhan, the discovery of oil coupled with a serious of devastating sandstorms, made the decision to leave Subaihiyah easy for many. “After oil was discovered in this area people left their farms and went to work on the oilfields or in the government. Life had become very difficult for those who lived here and when they saw how the government was providing jobs and new houses for every Kuwaiti they thought, why should I work on the farm when I can work in the government? Why should I live here, without electricity, without running water, without a new house?” With the sealing off of the area, Subaihiyah was spared the effects of development, except for the eight oil wells. As the magazine says, “Birds fill the trees, their song mingling with the sound of the wind, and lizards, snakes, beetles and locusts thrive amongst the long grass and sandy soil.” Who could blame the jinn for choosing such a long forgotten oasis of unspoiled nature and solitude.


In the West they’re know as genies. In this part of the world they’re called jinn and they are widespread repot of people experiencing strange encounters with them. This the Eighth of an Eleven-Part Serious on the Mysterious Beings
Jinn tongues feed flame of a smokeless fire born in the mists of time
Courtesy by Kuwait Times
From Kuwait It was during a Kuwait ladies tea party that the talk turned to jinn, those supernatural beings made of smokeless fire known in the West as genies. The ladies were sharing news about births, deaths, weddings, divorces, and about who had been traveling where, When Umm Fahed began talking about a terrifying creature her friend had encountered on the road in Saudi Arabia, all the ladies grew quiet and gave her their attention. “My friend, Umm Abdullah, and her son, Nawaf, were driving back to Kuwait to Makkah where they had just performed that pilgrimage of Umra It was late at night and the road was very dark. Umm Abdullah was chatting to her son , in order to make sure he stayed awake behind the wheel, when all of sudden a figure appeared in front of the car, Nawaf hit the brakes but it was too late. There was a sickening thud before the car came to a halt. “The mother and son were relieved when in the beam of the headlights they saw the figure get up. But their relief turned to horror when they saw that it was half man and half donkey; obviously a jinni.” “What happened then?” one of the ladies asked. “Well, Umm Abdullah and her son were so shocked they just sat it to the car for about half an hour, Umm Fahed continued. “Then they walked around the car, reciting verses from the Holy Quran before continuing on their way. Fortunately, the car has sustained only minor damage. After they had driven a short distance they saw the same figure standing in the road staring at them, but then it disappeared. “After umm Abdullah and Nawaf returned to Kuwait they couldn‟t sleep. When they recounted the story, they were told that many people have seen the same sort of creatures on the stretch of road and they are responsible for many accidents.” With the conclusion of this strange story came a burst of conversation. It seemed every had something to say on the subject of jinn. “There was a terrible incident involving jinn in the United Arab Emirates. They killed a young man,” said Umm Fahed‟s sister Nora. “I read about it in one of the local women‟s magazines and there was even a photograph of jinn with the article.” 16

“How can that be?” some of the ladies asked. “Well the article said there are some caves in the Hajar Mountains, in a very rugged and lonely area. Some local shepherds said they heard music and drumming coming from these caves at night and people said it was the jinn holding their celebrations. Everyone was afraid to go to that place but one young man from a nearby village said he was determined to go there and see for himself. He talked a friend into going with him and as they approached the caves they heard the music and the drumming. From the sound of it, the jinn were having a wedding party. “The first young man, armed with a camera, walked bravely into the cave while at the last minute, his friend turned and fled back to the village. When the first young man hadn‟t returned by daybreak, his friend headed a search party, When the men entered the cave, all was quiet and they found the body of the young man with his camera beside him. He had died from a blow to the head that was surely administered by the jinn as they don‟t allow anyone to intrude on their celebrations. The proof of this came when the film in the camera was developed and printed. The last picture on the roll was the image of a horrible looking creature, and it was printed in the magazine.‟ “What did it look like?” the ladies asked. “It was just horrible but I can‟t really describe it.” Nora answered. “But I think I still have that magazine laying around somewhere. I‟ll look later and see if I can find it.” From the conversation that followed it become clear that there are also many reports of encounter with jinn right here in Kuwait. In fact, Nora‟s friend Maha had a Bluetooth video of one recorded on her mobile phone, or so she claimed. “Let‟s see it!” the ladies demanded. “Just a moment,” said Maha busily pushing buttons on her phone. “Yes, here it is,” she said as the ladies craned their necks to see. The brief video showed a rather blurry figure in white running past some tents at night and then suddenly vanishing. “How do you know that‟s jinni?” some of the ladies enquired skeptically. “The man who filmed this was making a video of his desert camp at night and there was no one there. But when he played back the video there was this figure running through the camp. It must have been a jinni,” said Maha. “I‟m surprised you haven‟t seen it as the video was sent out on mobile phones all over Kuwait.” “I saw the video some time ago, but I don‟t think it‟s conclusive evidence of a jinni,” replied Umm Ahmed who had been quiet until then. “The figure could have been anyone wearing a white dishdasha and the guy just said it was a jinni.” The ladies discussed this point, with most agreeing with Umm Fahed and a few siding with Maha. However, they all agreed that jinn exist and that humans do see them sometimes.


“Listen to me, my daughters,” said an old lady called Umm Mishal. “The jinn live with us but most of time they don‟t hurt us. Just like people, some jinn are good and some are evil. Some are even religious and worship God just as we do. “When I was young my family lived in an old mud-brick house with a central courtyard, To reach the bathroom, we had to go through the open courtyard. At night, before the fajr prayers, we often used to see an old man with long white beard performing his ablutions at the well. He would disappear right before our eyes but we weren‟t scared since we knew he was a pious jinni and wouldn‟t cause any harm.” Umm Fahed agreed with the old lady about there being religious jinn. “We had one living in our house when I was a girl. It used to wake my mother up every night before the fajr prayer by whispering in her ear. My mother used to tell us, I can see something that you don‟t see,‟ referring to the jinni, but she was never afraid. One time we were sitting together and we felt a breath of wind, as if someone were passing, accompanied by a whiff of incense, just like when someone has stood over the incense burner to scent their clothes. We all asked my mother, what was that?‟ and she laughed and said “That was the jinni.” Quite a few similar stories followed. Maha‟s grandmother, Umm Mohammed, reported that she also used to live in an old Arab style house, with high walls and very large courtyard. One night everyone was fast asleep except her uncle who was restless and got up to get some fresh air. “My Uncle saw my father walking around the courtyard so he followed him and called to him but he wouldn‟t stop. In the morning he said to my father, „So you couldn‟t sleep either. I got up in the middle of the night and saw you walking around the courtyard.‟ My father was very surprised and replied, „What are you talking about? I Slept very well and didn‟t stir all night.” Next Maha spoke up again. “Don‟t think that the jinn only live in the old houses. We have one in our new villa in Adailiya,” she said. We‟ve never seen it but every day at 3:00 in the afternoon we hear the sound of a door opening and closing on the roof and then footsteps going back and forth, but there is no door up there. Perhaps 3:00 is the time the jinni wakes up. Everyone in the house has heard it.” Umm Ahmed spoke again cautioning against believing that any unexplained noises are due to jinn. “Some people also try to attribute strange behaviour to someone being possessed by a jinni. Last Ramadan, however, I heard one of our religious sheikhs talking on the radio and he said that people with such problems should receive proper medical care. He told the story of a Kuwaiti woman who was convinced she was possessed and her family thought so too. They were advised to take her to a certain religious sheikh in Saudi Arabia who is knowledgeable in these matters. When the woman stood in front of the Saudi sheikh he recited some verses from the Holy Quran and then said, „She has no jinni, take her to a doctor.‟ 18

“The family returned to Kuwait and when the woman was seen by a doctor he diagnosed her with a certain disease, I can‟t remember what it‟s called, but she was treated with medication and cured, “Umm Ahmed concluded. The ladies nodded and one of them said, “You‟re right, Umm Ahmed, some undoubtedly so. In any case, this conversation is giving me the creeps, so let‟s change the subject. And how about having some more tea.”


In the West they’re know as genies. In this part of the world they’re called jinn and they are widespread repot of people experiencing strange encounters with them. This the Ninth of an Eleven-Part Serious on the Mysterious Beings
Alive in legend and Jinn Look Behind you
Courtesy by Kuwait Times
From Kuwait Dr. Zubaydah Ashkanani is a Kuwait anthropologist who has carried out an indepth study on the subject of jinn, the mysterious beings known in the West as genies. Her doctorate thesis concerns the role of middle-aged Kuwaiti women in a changing world and why some of them attend the zar ceremonies, the age-old rituals meant to placate or exorcise troublesome jinn who inhabit human beings. It was written in 1988 and involved many hours of field work and research. A unique documentary, Dr. Ashkanani‟s thesis provides information on beliefs concerning jinn prevalent among people in Kuwait. It is with these popular beliefs, collected by Dr. Ashkanani, that we will begain. “Just as God made man out of clay, so He made jinn out of fire. Jinn are transparent and invisible until they choose to reveal themselves. In the meantime, they continue to live their own lives, as we do. Jinn have an existence parallel to human existence “Dr Ashkanani writes. According to Dr Ashkanani, it is widely believed that jinn have their own hierarchy, with some types of jinn more powerful than others. She points out that „ahl il-ard‟ (the inhabitants of the earth) is a name by which they are commonly known as they are thought to live underground in the seventh layer of the earth. “ In general conversation, jinn are referred to as „Asyad‟ (the masters) or simply as „they‟. In the case of someone being possessed by a jinni, it is called „the one who is in him‟.” Dr. Ashkanani explains that people think that jinn can surface whenever they wish and also inhabit certain places above the ground. “There was a particular house, well know in Kuwait, which had been uninhabited for many years because jinn were know to live there, and to appears there during the night. The reason for choosing the house is unknown. It might be that someone with a strong jinn was living in the house for some time.” This notorious house was demolished last year and the groundworks are now being prepared for new structure to be built on the site. Whether jinn will make their presence known in the new building remains to be seen, “The malevolent jinn are said to like dark, damp places and in preoil Kuwait, they were often thought to inhabit rubbish dumps. Formerly, areas of land were walled 20

off for the disposal of rubbish, later to be connected or burnt. Anyone entering or passing any such place would pronounce the name of God, and be careful not to fall lest he hurts a jinni living there,” Dr Ashkanani writes. One of this mistresses of the zar ceremony know as a „mama‟ told Dr. Ashkanani about the case of a woman who had poured hot water onto the step of a room late at night, without saying the name of God. This had supposedly caused the death of a jinni and in revenge, The jinni‟s family sent the woman a tab‟a, or jinni that kills a woman‟s children before they are born. They „mama‟ told Dr.Ashkanani that “to satisfy this jinni family the patient was told that when she become pregnant, she must take a lamb and feed it every day by putting the food in her lap. She must hold the lamb while it eats. She must continue to feed it until her child is born, and then slaughter it as an act of satisfying the jinn. “The woman followed the mama‟s instructions, but when she was better after six months, she decided she was tired of this „nonsense‟ and had the sheep slaughtered. The next day, she had a miscarriage. Of course, the next time she became pregnant she followed the instructions until her child was born. Since then she has had no trouble having children.” Dr.Ashkhanai writes that jinn “are believed to be able to achieve tasks which are difficult or impossible for humans. They are thought to move very quickly and to be able to disappear from one place and appear in another. Usually they disappear as soon as they feel they are discovered. Anyone who encounters a jinn can use the opportunity to ask for something, and it will be done as long as he or she does not tell anyone about the jinni, Jinn can take any shape they want, especially black cats. Cats can of course move very quickly. In the following story the jinni appears as a cat. “A poor woman saw a black cat limping in the courtyard. When she found out its leg was wounded, she treated the cat leg and discovered that it was a jinni when the cat asked her by talking to her as a human being, asking if there was anything she needed. The women asked for help in running her family‟s life. The cat promised to bring everything she needed, provided she never told anyone. From that day on, anything the woman took from her storeroom was immediately replaced by the cat. Unfortunately her husband eventually became suspicious, and when he insisted, she told him about the jinn. From that moment on, all help ceased.” In another interview, Dr Ashkanani was told about a couple who had a jinni living in one of the rooms of their apartment. “The couple were careful to fumigate the room with incense every Thursday night to keep the jinni happy,” Dr Ashkanani writes. “The jinni was never seen but sometimes the couple heard the jinni reciting the Holy Quran in the room, or noticed some change in the room the next day. The jinni appeared to be very kind , as since they had been living there, they had been happy


and lucky and were getting wealthier. In the way. The jinni had brought them good fortune. “This story should not suggest that all jinn are kind, as people in Kuwait usually regard attempts to contact jinni with caution and sometimes fear. A story is told about three men in old Kuwait who tried to make a jinni appear. One did appear and they were all so frightened that their minds were unbalanced. One of the men became psychologically disturbed and another developed fits. This may have been because the jinni was malevolent, or simply because he was unhappy to be made to appear This write was recently told of a Kuwaiti family that has a long association with the family of jinn, Umm Asem, the grandmother of the family, volunteered to tell their story. “For more than thirty years we have shared our home with several jinn. We first noticed them when we were living in Rumeithiya. Light would turn on and off by themselves, doors would slam, and there was a strong smell of cigarette some in the house, although we are all non-smokers. Only one of the jinn appears to us and she is a small, dark-skinned girl who wear a kerchief on her head like a gypsy. She is very mischievous and like to bother us when we‟re reading the newspaper by running around and tapping on the paper and then running away.” Umm Asem said that the jinn also called the family member by name. One evening, when seven member of the family were having dinner together, they heard their maid calling them in a low voice. They were all astonished at what they heard as the main was away on a holiday at the time. “It wasn‟t just that one of us thought we‟d heard something strange‟ we all heard it!” Umm Asem emphasized. During the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1990, the family escaped to Saudi Arabia. Umm Asem said they were surprised when they realised the jinn has gone with them. “In Kuwait they had just been noisy and rather irritating but in Saudi Arabia their behaviour become worse. When I would get up to pray before dawn I would hear the sound of horses‟ hooves running, as though right next to my ears, and it made it difficult to carry out my prayers,” she said . When the family returned to Kuwait after the liberation, the jinn went with them. When they moved to Qurtoba, so did the jinn. Umm Asem continued, “We tried playing recordings of the Holy Quran and brining incense and things would get better for a while, but only temporarily. I don‟t know what they want but after thirty years I‟ve figured out they must be Muslim jinn, since during all this time they‟ve never harmed us. So therefore I am no longer afraid. I actually said to them, „Hayakom Allah‟, you are welcome, but if you want live in our house, please behave yourselves and don‟t be a nuisance!”


In the West they’re know as genies. In this part of the world they’re called jinn and they are widespread repot of people experiencing strange encounters with them. This the tenth of an Eleven-Part Serious on the Mysterious Beings
Zar: it may appease jinn but they never leave
Courtesy by Kuwait Times
From Kuwait Zar is an age-old ritual performed for individuals who are believed to be possessed by jinn. It is widely practiced in many countries throughout Africa and Middle East, including Kuwait. In 1983, Dr Zubaydah Ashkanani, a Kuwaiti anthropologist, conducted an in-depth study on zar as part of the research for her thesis. Her field work included attendance at many local zar ceremonies and interviews with the mistresses of the zar and their patients. The result is a scholarly and welldocumented portrait of ancient therapeutic rite that still serves a special need in the modern world. The ceremonies are characterised by singing, dancing, the beating of drums and tambourines, ritual meals, the burning of incense, and in some cases, the slaughter of sheep and massaging the patient‟s body with fresh sheep‟s blood. While it may sound like some sort of bizarre ritual that‟s attended by demonic cult members, in reality it is most popular among middle-aged and elderly housewives. Dr Ashkanani‟s thesis is a study of the effects of socio-econoimc change on a category of middle-aged women in Kuwait. “These women are from Kuwait‟s middle class and were young when Kuwait‟s economy was subject to massive change due to the discovery of oil, “Dr Ashkanani writes. „The central argument states that due to their strict upbringing and socialiastion, these women are unable to adjust to modern Kuwait and subsequently feel alienated and suffer from a loss of identity. Among the few outlets available to these women is zar, which gives them a temporary release and alleviation from these feelings. “However, the alleviation through zar is only a temporary measure and in fact can lead to increased feelings of alienation. The argument states that in order to prevent further alienation, special attention must be paid to these women.” According to DrAshkanani, the zar rituals in kuwait are not exorcisms. “The jinn while thought by the patients as being inside their bodies in some way, are not exorcised by the zar performances. They are rather placated, or appeased, by the rhythms of the music, by the dancing and by the ritual meal. Jinn are never got rid of, once and for all, which is why many of the women continually return to the particular zar preferred by their jinn. The jinn is thought to „recognise‟ the music, and be „pleased‟ or „satisfied‟ 23

The anthropologist explain that in old Kuwait, people took the existence of jinn for granted, as natural, and regarded zar as the necessary and proper traditional treatment to satisfy the demands of the jinn. “ Individuals thought to be suffering from the various ailments accepted as being caused by jinn, freely consulted local healers and underwent zar curing rituals.” Dr Ashkanani reports, however, that not surprisingly these traditional methods of cure are no longer used as frequently as they once were. “Modern medical treatment by the no highly developed and free medical services in Kwait has made an impact on traditional medicine and practices. In particular men think little of these „old fashioned‟ riuals, and the younger, more educated generation say that they are simply „superstitious‟ and should be abolished. “However, in spite of the advances of high technology medicine, many people, particularly women, refuse to accept any other form of treatment, for what are often emotional disturbances with social causes. While this attitude tends to be more prevalent among the middle-aged and elderly, it is also found on occasions among both young and educated women who not only still believe in zar but prefer it to modern medicine…. The main difference between the young and elderly believers is that the former feel the need to have their ceremonies performed in secret, and of course their numbers are not significant compared with the latter. It should also be mentioned that the devotion with which the middle-aged regard and attend these ceremonies is largely absent from the patients of other genetations. Dr Ashkanani point out that these facts apply to the period when the field work was carried out around twenty year ago. There were once six types of zar rituals commonly practiced in Kuwait but at the time of Dr Ashkanani‟s study, two of them were no longer being performed. The rituals differ, she explains, in terms of the musical instruments played; the language of the songs (some in Arabic and some in Swahili) style and rhythms of the dances and the extent of the participation in the ritual by the patients. They also vary in length, from between one to seven days. “The choice of which zar is to be performed is believed to be that of the jinn., speaking through the patient, “ Dr Ashkanani says. “The jinni asked for a particular zar ceremony, and it is thought that jinn have preference for different musical rhythms.” “Dar” is the word used for the place where zar is held and literally means a room or a house. The plural of “dar” is “dur.” When Dr. Ashkanani conducted her field work she found there were 22 “dur” in Kuwait located in private homes. It is not know how many there are at present. The mistress of the zar, who presides over the ritual, is called a “mama.” According to Dr Ashkanani, the “mamas” are usually black women of African origin, from former slave families, and at least middle-aged and at least middle-aged and more often elderly. A “mama” usually attains her position through inheritance, from her mother, 24

elder sister, mother-in-law, or grandmother, but sometimes she is given the position by her own “mama” whom she used to serve as an assistant. “The „mama‟ is regarded by her patients, called „daughters,‟ as their spiritual mother (patients are in fact usually women), and great respect and affection is shown to her. When visiting the „mama,‟ a „daughter‟ kisses first the right, then the left shoulder, then the „mama‟s forehead or head. Although a „mama, is shown respect by her patient‟s families, neighbours, and by society in general, it is her patients who show the greatest respect. This description naturally excluded all those who regard belief in jinn as superstition and zar as quackery,” Dr Ashkanani remarks. “On all social and religious occasion the „mama‟s daughters,‟ or patients, should visit her, and sometimes bring presents. It is very similar to the obligations that exist between a daughter and her natural mother. In fact, those women, who are not very intimate with their real mothers, show an extreme affection and loyalty to their „mamas,‟ Also the daughters‟ regularly gather in the „mamas,‟ houses, especially on Friday afternoon, where the „mama‟ fumigates them with sandalwood incense and sprinkles rosewater over their heads, and serves coffee and „karaku‟ a special tobacco smoked in a waterpipe.” Dr. Ashkanani points out that for the “daughters,” the zar ceremonies, and their relationship with a comforting sense of solidarity and belonging. The “mama,” in turn, is rewarded with respect, power, social status, a sense of purpose and self worth, and often, financial independence as a result of the money paid to her for the zar ceremonies. Many of the “mams” interviewed by Dr. Ashkanani were able to use their prestigious position to overcome what might otherwise be insurmountable social and financial difficulties. In the next article we will delve into Dr Ashkanani‟s account of what takes place during the zar ceremonies, playing special attention to the “sufra” ritual which goes on for seven days.


In the West they’re know as genies. In this part of the world they’re called jinn and they are widespread repot of people experiencing strange encounters with them. This the last of an Eleven-Part Serious on the Mysterious Beings
Jinn Zardar sufra
Courtesy by Kuwait Times
From Kuwait Viewed as superstitious nonsense and quackery by some and revered as a scared healing ceremony by others, zar is an ancient ritual still often practiced in modern Kuwait. It is performed specifically for people who are believed to be possessed by jinn, the beings made of smokeless fire that can be good or evil. The woman who conducts such a ceremony is called a „mama‟ and the patient and other women attending are known as her „daughters.‟ During the 1980s, Kuwaiti anthropologist Dr Zabaydah Ashkanani investigated the mysterious world of zar while researching the doctorate thesis. She interviewed many „mamas‟ and „daughters‟ and attended a large numbers of zar rituals. Her thesis is the only comprehensive study of zar put into a sccio-eco-nomic context. According to Dr. Ashkanani, there are variety of symptoms that may make an individual‟s, or her family, believe she is possessed by a jinni. These include a strange behavior, chronic headaches, nightmares, fits and nervous movements, general pains, and loss of appetite. Such symptoms that may warrant a visit a traditional healer or religious man who reads verses from the holy Quran in an attempt to drive out the troublesome jinni. Other traditional treatments, too numerous to describe here, may also be administered. If these efforts fail, a “mama” may be consulted. Before recommending zar, she will also usually recommend various other plans of action, including small ceremonies involving the burning of incense and the sprinkling of rosewater. If all else fails, zar is the last resort used to appease of placate the jinni. These are different types of zar ceremonies that vary in length from one to seven days. The jinni supposedly asks for the type of ceremony he wants through the patient. According to Dr Ashkanani, the “daughter” help the „mama‟ get ready for the ritual by shopping for supplies, cooking the food, and preparing the „dar‟ or ceremonial room. In the case of the weeklong „sufra‟ ceremony, the day before it takes place the patient brings her special clothes and jewelry and leaves them in the “mama‟s” room. Throughout the „sufar‟ the patient is referred to as the „bride.‟ When Dr Ashkanani attended a „sufra‟ ceremony, she observed that the „bride‟ was the first to arrive. After greeting her „mama‟ she changed into her special clothes and took her place between them. After all the „daughters‟ had arrived, sweet 26

coffee was served. Dr Ashkanani explains that the serving of the coffee signifies that the beginning of the „sufra‟ is an especially important occasion, that the jinni wh is to be placated is important, and that all hospitality must be shown to him. Next, bitter coffee is served to all the women and „karaku‟ a special tobacco smoked in a water pipe, is served to the mamas. The other women smoke before or after the ceremony, or during breaks. All the women are fumigated with incense and sprinkled with rosewater, in order to purify them before the music starts and the „mamas‟ and a special singer begin to sing. Dr Ashkanani related that some women played tambourines while one beat rhythmically a big drum with a special stick. “As the singing progressed and the voices become gradually louder and higher, the women became more involved in the music, Dr Ashkanani says. “The „bride‟ started to tremble and then dance in a way peculiar to zar rituals , with creeping movements, dancing on hands and knees, swaying her head from side to side in time with tambourines. “Other women began to dance and some became „possessed‟ and started shivering and dancing. The „mama‟ sprinkled rosewater on anyone in a trance. Characteristic continuous shivering or rapid irregular movements and creeping dancing signify that the patient (or any other woman) is coming down, „meaning that the „bride‟ is now directly under the influence of her afflicting jinni. During the zar rituals many woman „come down‟ in this way, or in their own personalized manner. For example, some lie on the floor, twisting their bodies to right and left, often breathing very rapidly and sweating profusely, in their trance states.” According to the anthropologist, “the more frantic and seductive the movements, the more they are taken as an indication of the presence of a jinni. From the first day the „birde‟ is encouraged to express herself by dancing as freely as possible.” “While the „bride‟ dance she is always spoken to as if she were a man. It is believed that „it is believed that „it is the one in her who dances,‟ the jinni, rather than she herself. Male jinn enter or afflict women and whenever the „bride‟ speaks in zar rituals, she always does so in a deep masculine voice.” After about an hour and a half the music stops. There is a break for the evening prayer and then the singing and dancing continues for another session roughly equal in length. This brings the first day of the ceremony to a close. Dr Ashkanani describes the second day as being much the same as the first, except that special snacks and beverages were served instead of the coffee, and the „bride‟ wore a different costume and jewelry. She explains that this particular „sufra‟ ceremony consisted of two days of quadrizar,‟ which have just been described, and five days of „hibbshi zar.‟ The „hibbshi zar began much as the previous days‟ ceremonies but with a different style of music (no instruments and more clapping) and the „mama‟ sang is Swahili. This was followed by the procession of the sheep, one much longer than the room. The „bride‟ accompanied by the “mama” stood next to the larger sheep, held it horns and swayed to the „mama‟s‟ singing The two women were surrounded by circle of 27

“daughters,” many holding lighted candles, who clapped and repeated parts of the songs. This lasted about twenty minutes. The sheep were then led out and the mat was removed and replaced with a fresh mat on which food and beverage were arranged. After a short session of singing and dancing, the women sat down to eat. The „bride‟ ate first, Dr Ashkanani explained, out of respect for jinni, who had asked for the whole seven-day „sufra‟ and for whom the food had asked been cooked eating for her jinni the „bride‟ also smoked „karaku‟ for him. The next day the smaller sheep was slaughtered and there was another session of singing and dancing. In the evening there was a ritual meal, during which the „bride‟ had to eat a piece of every part of sheep‟s body. The next day the other sheep brought to stand on a plastic mat and with the „bride‟ holding its horns, the women began to sing. The „bride.‟ was asked to sit on the sheep on several minutes. Then the „mama‟ stopped singing and asked the „bride‟ „what your name?‟‟ In man‟s voice the „bride,‟ and answered, „Saeed.‟ Dr Ashkanani explains that this part of the ritual is called „the promise‟ as the „mama‟ asks the patient‟s jinni to promise not to bother her any more. It is also the process by which the jinni is identified. “The act of „promise‟ reassures the „bride‟ and her „mama‟ that the „bride‟ will be cured at least temporarily since by identifying the jinni, the ambiguity of the „bride‟s‟ illness and the ambiguity of the jinni himself is dispelled (the act of naming somehow always been associated with gaining power over him, this especially the case in the process of producing spells and amulets in Muslim culture),” Dr Ashkanani writes. After the promise the sheep was taken outside, purified by fumigation with incense, and slaughtered. As the butcher cut open the vein in the sheep‟s neck, the „bride‟ drank the blood that gushed from the cut directly from the sheep‟s neck. “The „bride‟ was then taken back into the „dar,‟ where a bed had been made up for her on the floor, “Dr Ashkanani continued. “Four assistants held a blanket up and the „bride‟ undressed completely, out of sight of the other women present. A bowl of the sheep‟s blood was brought in and with this, the „mama‟ and of her assistants massaged the now naked „bride‟. After the massage, the „bride‟ body is completely covered in blood. It is most important, of course, that all who help the „mama‟ are „daughters‟ and themselves possessed by jinn. The blood covered „bride‟ is then covered by two blankets, which induces profuse sweating, an important part of this cure.‟‟ A bowel of blood was then taken round to all the women possessed with jinn and they dipped their little fingers into it. “After two hours, the „bride‟ was taken to bathroom and washed from head to foot by the „mama‟ and her assistant. That night the „bride‟ always sleeps with the „mama‟ in her house, in the same room,:Dr Ashkananai writes.


The anthropologist says that “when asked about the „bride‟s‟ drinking of blood an being massaged with it, the „mamas‟ saged with it, the „mamas‟ said that it is because the jinni likes blood. However, it is worth mentioning that blood in Muslim culture represents strength and the life force. Slaughtering, controls the animalistic nature and the jinn himself, but blood gives life and strength to the „bride‟ in this way the force of nature and the jinni has been transferred, both internally and externally, to the „bride‟ “ During the sixth and seventh days the ceremony begins to wind down. There is more singing, dancinging, burning incense and serving ritual meals. A special dish called „bun,‟ made of coffee beans and cardamom fried in butter, is served on the day. The „bride‟ is massaged with the special oil left over from the „bun‟ She goes to sleep that night covered in oil and the next morning the „mama‟ and here assistant massage the „bride‟ again. In the afternoon there is a final massage after which the „bride‟ takes a bath and says her afternoon prayers. The „mama‟ then fumigates her with incense, sprinkles with rosewater and after receiving her thanks, wishes her well and bids her goodbye. The „sufra‟ is over. Analysing the need and the reasons for women attending zar ceremonies, Dr Ashkanani made the following comments in her contribution to the book, “Women‟s Medicine, The Zar-Bori Cult in Africa and beyond” published in 1991. “When women go to the zar ceremonies it is not simply to be treated for a real or problems of these women are a combination of „complex‟ ailments which involve their whole lifestyle. The zar ceremonies help, the „cure‟ is the coming together in these associations and re-enacting of the experiences they have had. It involves self worth, a sense of self and identity.” The women Dr Ashkanani describes are most illiterate, middle-aged to older, who married at a very early age. “The old mode of life had changed enormously for these women, “she writes. “Their bustling life surrounded by a large extended family has turned into a quite, lonely life. Their small, close-knit community where everyone knew everyone else has changed to big, modern, residential areas where people do not even know their next-door neighbor. “In zar these women relive their old traditional lives and senses if community spirit. The zar ceremony not only allow the patient to safety her need for the motherly feeling of concern and solidarity which existed in her old community. Zar also provides these women with opportunity to regain the self-image which has been crushed by socio-economic change. “The unhappy web of contradictions in their lives makes them conceive change as having brought them discontentment and unhappiness. These women are not materially deprived of appropriate from of living, for the context of Kuwait is that of wealth and luxury, they are deprived of personal, social and cultural identity.” What about the zar ceremony itself? Can it continue to survive in a rapidly changing, modern world? Dr Ashkanani writes that “ It is very difficult to predict whether zar will die out all these illiterate middle-aged women are replaced by their literate 29

daughters or whether it might experience a kind of „revival‟ In my opinion, it is more probably that zar, which is criticized by the younger generation on two levels – firstly by the westernised who consider it old fashioned, and secondly by the young fundamentalists who consider it anti-Islamic – will experience a decline in popularity and may even become a clandestine practice, but it will not die out. “As long as the ambiguities and contradictions of Kuwait society still prevail, zar will provide one of several possible outlets for a certain group of people for whom zar is an opportunity to express their feelings of alienation and confusion, and to receive a feeling of solidarity and of belonging.” In a recent interview, the anthropologist remarked that there are less zar ceremonies being held in Kuwait nowadays due to the “mamas” passing away or being too old to practice any more, Indeed, this writer was scheduled to interview one of her zar ceremonies. Unfortunately, she passed away four days before the date of the interview. Dr Ashkanani also cites the current religious trend in Kuwait society as causing a decline in the practice of zar. “Something like zar has it rhythms and cycle and there always certain socio-economic conditions that lay the ground for these types of movements to flourish or decline. It will continue, but probably on an much more limited basis, “Dr Ashkanani surmises. Perhaps it is most appropriate to conclude this article, and this series on jinn, with a quote from one of the old “mamas.” When Dr Ashkanani asked her about the changes in the practice of zar, she replied, “Zar is always zar, there is no difference between the past and present zar. As long a this earth is inhabited by human beings there will be jinn, good and vicious jinn, and there will be a way to treat the afflicted patients,”

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