Beliefs About Jinns in Different Religions and Nations Throughout History

Beliefs about jinns in various cultures and nations in the historical process. The origins of the belief in jinn.

Etymological Origins of the Concept of Jinn

It is a noun derived from the Arabic root jinnī, which means “to cover, to veil, to remain hidden” and the singular jinnī means “something covered and hidden”. In Islamic terminology, it means “a type of being that cannot be perceived by the senses, has consciousness and will like humans, is obliged to obey divine commands, and consists of groups of believers and disbelievers”.

The ancestors of the jinn are called jān. Jinns, which are accepted to consist of various types such as gūl and ifrit, were sometimes expressed by the word hin in ancient Arabic. In Persian, the words perī and dīv are used for jinn. Although some orientalists have suggested that the word jinn has passed into Arabic from the Latin words genie or genius, Islamic scholars are in agreement that this word is of Arabic origin. It is possible to say that this view is more accurate when its root meaning and various derivatives are taken into consideration. As a matter of fact, some of the orientalists agree with this view (Watt, p. 62). 

The word “jinn” also has a general meaning for invisible beings that are the opposite of human beings, including angels. This is the reason why Iblis is mentioned among the angels in the Qur’an (al-Baqarah 2/34). In the sense of “invisible being”, every angel is a jinn, but not every jinn is an angel. 

However, Islamic scholars have stated that angels are a separate species from jinns and that the word jinn should be used as the name of a third type of being other than humans and angels (Râgıb al-Isfahânî, al-Müfredât, “jinn” md.).

Throughout history, people have believed in other unseen and supernatural beings besides God, and they have given different names to the good and the bad of these beings in various periods and geographical regions. These beings were sometimes deified or seen as second-order divine beings, and sometimes they were considered to have human characteristics and qualities. 

The nature of jinn, their appearance in different forms, their dwelling places, their relations with human beings, their good or bad effects, and their nomenclature occupy a large place in the religious and non-religious literature of various countries.

Beliefs about Jinns in Ancient Assyria and Babylon

Among the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians, evil spirits and jinns were believed in all segments of society. Since the Babylonians took these beliefs from the Sumerians, the words they used in this regard were also Sumerian. The evil spirits, which the Assyrians called edimmu, were the spirits of the dead who were believed to return to the world after death due to the lack of rituals and adequate offerings. It was believed that they haunted people and various remedies were used to remove them.

Among the Assyrians and other Semitic tribes, there were different classes of jinn whose creation was different from humans. A group of these, called utukku, consisted of evil spirits living in the sea, mountains and graveyards, waiting in the desert to trap and haunt people. 

Another, less well-known group, called Gallû, consisted of apparently sexless jinns. Another class of jinn, called rabisu, was believed to roam secretly and lay traps for humans. In addition, in order to protect especially children from the harm of a group of three jinns, including female jinns called labartu, amulets were hung around their necks with amulet tablets. 

Among the Semitic tribes, in addition to these classes of jinn that did not resemble human beings, there were also half-human-looking jinns. These jinn, who were believed to appear as monsters, were divided into three classes: lilu, lilitu, ardat lili. The first of these were considered male and the others female jinns.

The ancient Egyptians do not have as many and varied types of jinn as the Assyrians or Indians. The human demons in Asian religions do not exist in Egyptians. According to the ancient Egyptian religion, jinns were generally wild animals, reptiles such as snakes and lizards, or human beings with black bodies and were considered enemies of Re. 

According to the Book of the Dead, jinn, especially in the form of snakes, crocodiles and monkeys, often travelled to the other world. Jinns related to the sky are in the form of birds. Ancient Egyptians believed that jinns caused diseases such as insanity and epilepsy, that sorcerers used jinns to show people horrible dreams, and that they harmed people and animals.

In ancient Greece, daimon was a name given to secondary gods. In Greek mythology, this word is used for superhuman beings. However, daimons, like humans and angels, were seen as beings created by God, with good and bad qualities. 

The word demon, used in Western languages for a demon, came from the Greek daimon through the Latin of the late Middle Ages, meaning a demigod being who mediates between God and man. Homer uses this word synonymously with theos.

At the end of the Greco-Roman period, daimon, like the Latin genius, was generally used for demi-gods, demi-humans or second-order spirits, especially spirits guarding farms, houses and property. Later, the meaning of the word changed and began to refer to evil spirits that harass people, cause them physical or mental harm, and lead them to evil. 

In the translation of the “Seventy”, in the first form of the Testament and in the writings of the church fathers, this word is used for evil spirits, evil spirits, and in the Vulgate, besides evil spirits, it is used for the idols or gods of the pagans. In ancient Rome the word genius (pronounced juno), after a long development, came to denote sometimes the soul, sometimes the spirits of the dead; finally it was used for the demon guarding the house or the place.

The belief of the ancient Slavs in spirits and demons has survived to the present day. These beings were related to dreams, illness, home and nature. The ancient Celts believed in good and evil spirits. These were beings that lived in caves, hollows and deep forests. 

It is difficult to make a clear distinction between spirits, spirit-like beings and ghouls in ancient Germanic mythology. In addition to the spirits of the dead, Germanic mythology also mentions spirits that leave the person in dreams and trances and harm others. The spirits that protect the house, djinns living in rivers, streams, wells, forests, forests, in or on mountains are also among their beliefs. These spirits and jinns cause rain, lightning and thunder.

As in the West, the subject of spirits and jinns has always been important in the East. The Chinese concept of kuei (jinn) and shen (spirits or gods) covers the entire Chinese invisible world. Kuei are human and animal spirits that have gone from the visible world to the invisible world after death. It is believed that they can take the form of human or animal to deceive and harm the living. In addition, supernatural beings that dwell in mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, etc. or are in contact with them are also expressed by the word kuei. 

Chinese folklore and literature is full of the deeds of jinns and spirits. Beliefs about these feared beings are largely derived from Taoism. However, when Buddhism came to China, the belief in invisible good and evil beings in this religion was added to it. The Chinese believe that jinns are omnipresent, that they can revive the dead, and that they frequently visit graves, road junctions and the homes of relatives.

According to them, some of the jinn live in that realm under the command of Yen-lo Wang, in charge of punishing the dead in hell, some of them live in the sky, and some of them live among humans, appearing only at night. 

In China, especially Taoist priests take measures to protect themselves from the evil effects of jinns with amulets, talismans, incense and incense, reading and blowing and some instructions. Many mental and physical illnesses are known to be caused by jinns. It is common to communicate with ancestor spirits and good spirits for jinn possession and good fortune. In China, Taoist and Buddhist public temples are used as centres where priests carry out such works. Confucianism opposed such activities.

The Japanese also have beliefs about invisible beings, animal and human spirits, ghosts, ghosts and jinns. The Japanese have been influenced by the Chinese in this regard. Various methods are used to exorcise evil spirits and demons, which are believed to be active in humans in the form of animal spirits such as foxes and badgers. The Nichiren sect has a special place in such treatment. The village of Nakayama near Tokyo is very famous in this regard. In this village, all kinds of evil spirits and demons are treated in a temple belonging to the Nichiren sect.

In India, since the earliest times, there have been mythological narratives about gods, invisible beings, and among the beings closer to humans, jinns. In the Vedas, the oldest Indian sacred texts, invisible jinn are divided into two groups. Those in the first group who are good to humans are found in the sky; those who are hostile live on earth, in caves and underground. They bring sickness, distress and death to animals as well as humans, and even beyond death, they can violate people’s souls.

Indians have confused the concepts of angel, jinn and god. They do not directly see beings of angelic nature. Although the beings who are good to human beings from the above two classes are shown as a class of jinns, they are closer to the concept of angel with their demigod status. 

Among these are the rbhus who help Indra to lead people to victory. The apsaras, celestial water nymphs who live in waters and trees, are also among them. Apsaras were gradually transformed into maidens who struck men with their beauty. Their husbands are gandharvas with bodies of heavenly light. The gandharvas guard the sacred drink soma. The second group are beings of evil and dark nature. 

The asuras, who are enemies of the gods, especially Indra and all creatures, and who are associated with darkness and death; the panis, who steal the cows of the aris, who are also enemies of Indra; the celestial jinns called “rakshasa”, who can take the form of predatory animals, ghouls or human beings, eat flesh and drink blood, who are enemies of all human beings, are among these evil beings.

The bhutas in Indian mythology are goblins or ghouls that are generally believed to be found in places where the dead are cremated. Pisakas, yatudhanas and rakshasas, who are thought to have red eyes, a body like smoke, bloody sharp teeth and terrible claws, form a trio. Pisakas are also known as man-eating djinns and are believed to cause death and disease. There is also a tribe in northwest India known by this name and known as cannibals.

Pisakas are also mentioned in Buddhism. Yakhas, like pisakas, are goblins mentioned in the Buddhist sacred text that take the form of a wild animal or bird living in desolate places and disturb and frighten monks and nuns in meditation. 

In Buddhism, Mara is regarded as a being hostile to those who aspire to a holy life, such as the devil, whose root is the demon. Pali texts include the struggles between Buddha and Mara. It is believed that she can take human or animal form. 

Such an understanding of a single evil being exists only in Buddhism among Indian religions. The subject of jinn is not a product of Buddhist thought, but is in fact a common inter-religious tradition of India. However, in early Buddhism, jinns were seen as the result of bad karma in previous incarnations according to the reincarnation system. Although Buddhism did not touch the local understanding of jinn in the places where it spread, it succeeded in drawing attention to moral and psychological evils.

Jinn Beliefs in Ancient Iran

Zoroaster considered the gods of ancient Iran, called devas, to be djinns. The principle of evil in Zoroastrian dualism was called druj (lie) in the Gathas. There is an endless struggle between good and evil. The jinn arose from this evil thought, deceit and lies. 

In an ancient religious text in the Pahlavi language called Bundahishn, it is stated that jinns and harmful animals were created by Ehrimen (Angramainyu in Zoroastrian times), the evil power (devil). Zoroaster had forbidden sacrifices to djinns. 

Later, classifications were made about the jinn. According to this classification, the chief jinn Aesma is responsible for violence, robbery and lust (Asmodoeus in the Hebrew Tobit). The ancient Iranian jinns had a male gender. However, there are also female jinns descended from druj. Jinn often visit dark and unclean places, such as the towers of the dead, called dakhma, now seen among the Parsis of India. 

Zoroastrian legends mention jinnish giants such as Azhi Dahaka with two snakes growing from his shoulders (see DAHH K). In Zoroastrian eschatology, jinn will also take part in the defeat of Ehrimen by Ohrmazd (formerly Ahura Mazda). Again, in Zurvanism, a pre-Zoroastrian cult in ancient Iran, which was merged with Zoroastrianism in Zoroastrianism and after Zoroaster in Magianism, lust was symbolised by a female jinn named Az.  Az was also passed on to Manichaeism.

Jinn Belief in Turks

According to the pre-Muslim beliefs of the Turks, the whole world is full of spirits and mountains, lakes and rivers are all living objects. These spirits, which are spread all over nature, are divided into two categories: good and evil. 

The good spirits under the command of God Ulgen both serve him and help people. Among these spirits, Yayık mediates between Ulgen and people, Suyla protects people and informs them of future events, and Ayısıt provides fertility and prosperity. 

On the other hand, the evil spirits under the command of Erlik, the prince of the underworld, do all kinds of evil to people and send diseases to them and animals. These spirits belonging to the dark world of Erlik are called black nimes or yeks, and yek means “devil” in Uyghur religious texts. 

There are always fights, disputes and wars between evil spirits, and diseases, deaths and injuries are caused by them. These spirits, which are considered the cause of all kinds of diseases and evil, are removed from sick bodies by the shaman (Inan, pp. 22-72; ER, XIII, 214).

In the period before the Babylonian exile in Judaism, although there were individual demonic-divine beings (such as Bel, Leviathan) and concepts passed down from the Mesopotamians and Canaanites, the belief in demons and evil spirits did not play much of a role in the life of the Israelites in this period.

However, with external influences, especially the influence of the dualist system of Iran, a distinction between good and evil beings began, and the understanding of evil jinn and spirits emerged among evil beings. In Rabbinic Judaism, demons have an advanced status in the Aggada (Haggadah) and a relatively important status in the Halakha.

In the Jewish Bible, it is stated that all spiritual beings, whether good or evil, are under the control of God (II Samuel, 24/16-17). In these texts, even the devil is seen as a servant and messenger (Job, 1/6-12; 2/1-7), or as a plaintiff before the divine court in cases where people have exceeded the limits (Zechariah, 3/1-2). 

However, there are also expressions such as “shedim” (evil spirits, Deuteronomy, 32/17) or “lilit” (Isaiah, 34/14) which can be seen as examples of the influence of folk beliefs on the Bible. Shedim is equated with the pagan god Seirim (Leviticus 17/7) and Lilith with the Mesopotamian Lilitus. These pagan gods were depicted as satyrs (half man, half goat) and hairy (Isaiah, 13/21).

They were transformed by the Jews into demonic beings believed to be found in ruins. In addition, two other important jinnish figures are Azazel, mentioned in Leviticus (16/8), who lives in the desert places called Kippur, where the scapegoat is released on the Day of Atonement, and Lilith, a female jinn mentioned in post-biblical Jewish myths, known for attacking children and being Adam’s first wife (see AZ ZÎL). The Old Testament or Jewish Bible also mentions jinns who cause pain and calamity (II Samuel, 1/9) and suck blood (Proverbs, 30/15).

In the Jewish religious literature after the Babylonian exile, it is seen that the narratives about jinns increased. In later sacred texts, apocryphal works and folk tales, especially in the mystical tradition called kabbalah, shapeless and shadow-like jinns were depicted together with many prominent jinns with names and special duties; they were accepted as half-angelic, half-human beings living in deserted places and showing their skills at night. 

They were thought of as beings who visited people with physical and financial calamities and misfortunes and diverted them from the path of God. Thus, under Iranian influence, jinns began to be thought of as beings who not only caused discomfort and illness, but also as beings who were under the command of Satan, the chief of evil. This tendency is especially evident in apocryphal texts.

In the tradition related to the Aggada, various hypotheses have been put forward about the origin of the demons. Accordingly, they were created by God in the twilight of the evening of the first Sabbath, or they were the descendants of Adam from Lilith, or they were the descendants of the banished angels who had sexual relations with women (Genesis, 6/1-4). According to another understanding, they are expelled angels who rebelled against God under the leadership of Satan.

The general nature of the concept of jinn in classical Judaism is best exemplified by Leviathan. Leviathan is a source of evil that can be equated with the seven-headed female sea monster of the Abyssinians, Tiamat of the Babylonians, or Lotan of the Canaanites. It is also closely related to Behemoth (Job, 40/15) and Rahab (Isaiah, 51/9; Job, 9/13; 89/10), a demonic desert entity.

Although jinns occupied an important place in medieval Judaism and the kabbalistic tradition, after the seventeenth century a separate understanding of a demonic entity called Dibbuk, which is not mentioned in this literature, emerged. This being enters a person who does not walk the earth because of his sins and leads him astray. To drive Dibbuk away requires special religious rites.

In Judaism, the expulsion of Satan from heaven (Job, 1/2), his becoming the head of the jinn, and his eventual defeat by Michael and the heavenly army (Revelation, 12/7 et al.) are important events. Another demon recognised by the Jews of the time of Jesus was Beelzebul. He was the prince of the demons (Matthew, 10/25).

The Christian understanding of jinn is a mixture of Judaism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism, Greco-Roman thought, Jewish apocryphal and apocalyptic traditions.

However, the Christian understanding of demons was mostly influenced by the Jewish apocryphal and apocalyptic literature of the second and first centuries B.C. The New Testament writers transformed the idea that a class of giants was formed from human daughters who lived with angels as a result of forbidden intercourse (Tekvîn, 6/2-4; Le livre d’Hénoch, Bâb 6-7), and that these turned into a clan of evil spirits over time into Satan and his minions. 

In fact, although Satan (Satan) was gradually transformed into the source of evil in apocryphal Jewish texts, it was not until the New Testament that he was equated with the serpent in Genesis 3, that he caused the first human couple to sin in the Garden of Eden, leading to their expulsion, and that he himself was expelled.

Although the New Testament states that demons are the gods of the pagans (Acts, 17/18; Letter to the Corinthians, 10/20; Revelation of John, 9/20), it also explains that they are the source of physical and spiritual diseases (Matthew, 12/28; Luke, 11/20). According to the New Testament, demons enter man and cause disease; they can only be cast out of the body by invoking the name of God (Matthew, 7/22).

Paul wrote that Satan and the forces of evil operate in a cosmic theatre, in the air, on earth and under the earth, and that Satan will reign as king of evil at the second coming of Jesus Christ (Letter to the Ephesians, 2/2). The book of Revelation describes the final struggle of good and evil at the Battle of Armageddon. 

Origen lamented the failure of the early Church to develop a serious doctrine on demons and angels. While Tatian emphasised the nature of demons, Irenaeus discussed the status of demons and angels between man and God. In spite of all this, it is seen that early Christianity focused more on angels and spirits and did not deal much with the subject of demons.

As the centuries passed, the practices of magic and the use of demons increased, and from the XIIth century onwards, demons began to be depicted in Christian art as the cause of all kinds of misfortunes, disasters, floods, earthquakes, individual sufferings and death. 

In the IVth Council of Latteron, it was declared that demons and heretics would be sentenced to eternal punishment together with the devil, and demonic beliefs reached their peak in the XVth and XVIth centuries. Reformers also accepted the belief in jinn. However, as a result of scientific advances, this subject lost its former reputation in Protestant countries. However, exorcism is still practised in the reformed Christian church, which is a branch of Protestantism, and in the eastern churches.

Jinn Belief in Pre-Islamic Arab Societies 

In the beliefs of pre-Islamic Arab society, the spirit world, good and evil forces had an important place. It was believed that there were beings in some stones and trees, wells, caves and similar places that influenced human life. Some of the good and beneficial beings of the spirit world were angels and jinns, while the bad and harmful beings were devils and jinns. 

The Jāhiliyyah Arabs regarded the jinn as gods residing on the earth and believed that they were responsible for many events that took place. According to the Qur’ân al-kerîm, the Quraysh claimed that there was a unity of descent between the jinn and Allah (as-Sâffât 37/158), made the jinn partners of Allah (al-An’âm 6/100) and worshipped the jinn (Saba’ 34/41).

The Jāhiliyyah Arabs believed that jinn also lived in tribes and groups, that they fought with each other, and that some natural events such as storms were the work of jinn. They accepted that they killed and kidnapped people, and that some jinns helped people, and that there were people who married jinns. It was believed that jinns took the form of various animals, especially snakes, that they usually lived in secluded, secluded and dark places, that they ate and drank like humans, that they brought diseases, and that insane people were those who were invaded by jinns (al-Jāḥiz, VI, 164-265; Jawād Ali, VI, 705-730).

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