Islamic Legends

by Samuel Haywood
Magic lamp

Magic lamp

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Legends exist in every culture adding to the overall tapestry of a cultural identity. Islam, one of the Abrahamic religions, shares many legends and myths with Judaism and Christianity. There are however legends within Islam that are distinct and separate from its sister faiths. One such legend is that of the jinn, or genies.

Western Misconceptions

In the West, jinn are typically viewed through the lens of popular media, such as stories of genies popping out of lamps and granting wishes. Pop culture is full of misinterpritations of what the jinn actually represent in Islamic culture. That isn't to say there aren't legends of wish granting jinn, just that there is much more to the mythology than westerners acknowledge.

Djinn, Angels, And Humans.

The jinn are one of three intelligent beings created by Allah, the other two being angels, and humans. Humans and jinn share the ability of free will, giving the jinn personalities of good, evil or neutral, much like those of humans. They are beings made from a smokless fire and thought to be responsible for many of the happenings concerned with humans. They will also be judged as humans are, according to their deeds, and sent to paradise or hell.

Types of Djinn.

There are different types of jinn within Islamic mythology. There are those who are able to shape-shift into animal or human forms. These jinn are known to attempt to mislead and destroy humans from time to time. There are also jinn known as Qarin, who function as personal guardians assigned to each human. Qarin whisper into the ear of their human and, depending on the alignment of the Qarin, they might be helpful to the human or try to tempt the human into evil. Other jinn are the Shaytan, who are the followers and army of the fallen jinn Iblis, who was cast out of paradise when he refused to bow to Adam.

Not Necessarily Demons

The jinn as a mythological being of great power has existed since before Islamic times, and has persisted in the minds of many people today. The jinn aren't necessarily seen as demons or evil forces who cause humans woe and misery. They are seen as the invisible force that drives many unexplained phenomena in our world, for good or evil.

References

  • El-Zein, Amira. "Jinn," 420-421, in Meri, Joseph W., Medieval Islamic Civilization - An Encyclopedia.
  • Quran, 15:27
  • Quran, 72:1–2
  • Quran, 7:11-12

Resources

  • El-Zein, Amira (2009) Islam, Arabs, and the intelligent world of the Jinn. Contemporary Issues in the Middle East. Syracuse, NY, Syracuse University Press.

About the Author

Sam Haywood holds a Master of Recording from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Science in Tempe, Ariz., and is studying anthropology with a focus on archaeology at the University of Kansas. He loves camping, music, woodworking, leatherworking, blacksmithing, archery, vikings and more.

Photo Credits

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