Djinn — The term means "the hidden." And, indeed, these mythological figures have been hidden in human consciousness since ancient, pre-Islamic times, revealing themselves through stories and superstition, but also through fervent belief. While there are countless stories about djinn, most famously those in The Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights), existence of the djinn is documented as real and substantial in the Koran, by some Islamic scholars, and in folktales passed from generation to generation.
In the written records of legend and of belief, God created humans from the clay of the earth, angels from celestial light, and the djinn from the smokeless fire. Known variously as jinn, genie, and jnun, the djinn are subject to the same laws of creation as man. And when they sin, they are cursed; considered to be followers of Iblis, a powerful genie who defied God's will and is considered by many to be a manifestation of Satan.
Not all djinn are evil. Like humans, they are born, marry, bear children and interact in the world. The Prophet Mohammed was sent to both djinn and humans, with an entire book of the Koran, the Al-Jinn, devoted to dictates for living and behavior of both species.
As a community, the djinn can be massless, occupying what would seem to be small physical spaces. Yet, they can also expand and assume a physical dimension, travel the world in a flash, or inhabit animals, like cats, dogs, snakes, and scorpions. For the most part, they are invisible to humans. When they have revealed themselves, djinn are described as being similar to the human form, though more imposing and fearsome. If they choose, they can mingle unnoticed among men. Alternately, some stories and tales have described intercourse between a djinni and a human. There is no prohibition against such co-mingling, although there are not many accounts of it.
Western lore interprets the existence of djinn primarily as Middle Eastern fable. Yet, some aspect of the djinn has been incorporated into European and American tales of fairies and evil spirits. Most cultures describe their own pantheon of spirits that bear startling similarities to the three types of djinn: marid are wicked and malicious spirits, like devils and demons; ifrit are strong and powerful spirits that are not necessarily evil; ghuls are lesser phantoms who can fly, much like ghosts and ghouls.
Supposed remnants of djinn civilizations litter the world’s archaeological digs. From the forgotten city of Ubar in the Rub al Khali, a trackless expanse of desert in southern Arabia, to the mystical and long-abandoned stronghold of Meda'in Saleh in northeastern Saudi Arabia, and its sister city, Petra, in southern Iraq. Across Afghanistan, Iran, and Egypt, ruins of ancient sites are still believed by many to harbor realms of the djinn. It is in Ubar that the primordial dwelling place of the djinn purportedly originated — a city once known as Irem of the Pillars and which has carried forward in time as the supernatural djinn kingdom of Jinnistan.
Whether djinn truly exist ultimately is a matter of personal belief. Millions of people in the world today are aware of djinn as creatures of myth; of those, easily thousands accept the presence of djinn as real, unseen wards of a parallel realm.
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