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Exorcism:  The world of jinn at the crossroads of Science & Religion

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By: TMR Mohsin

Recently the festival of Halloween was held in the western world. It would be apt trying to peep into the strange paranormal world. We humans have always been fascinated by supernatural phenomena featured since times immemorial in folklore (tales, myths, legends) and religious contexts. The domain of supernatural world transcends all the physical sciences. The practices such as occult, magic, telekinesis, levitation, precognition, and extrasensory perception to name a few are also enumerated in this mysterious world.

Historical background

It was perhaps this ‘sense of fascination and fantasies ‘ that elevated human imagination to the level of impossibilities. One outcome of such innate quest for spine-chilling metaphysical adventures unfolded in the form of ‘Fiction’ that encompasses imaginary narratives expressed in any medium from writings to live theatrical performances, films, television programs, radio dramas, comics, role-playing games, and ballards.

In the subcontinent the prominent form it took was of Dastangoi—a 13th century Urdu oral storytelling art form. In these Daastans (feebles) the metaphysical things and supernatural beings would constitute an inseparable part. This is manifested by the vast amount of literature written on fairy tales, devils, ghost stories, depiction of mythical characters with extraordinary powers and qualities, tales, mythologies, and other non-physical or incorporeal entities such as angels, demons, gods and spirits etc all belong to the realm of paranormal.

Interestingly, this apparently unrealistic ‘flight of Fascination’ couldn’t be dampened in this Post-modern world where every single concept, hypothesis, theory or claim is contested , assessed and investigated to the core on the touchstone of rational, scientific analysis and principles.

As Dr Bilal Philips puts it ‘Throughout history man has always had a strong attraction for the occult and supernatural. In the past, high priests, mediums, shamans, secret societies, cults and religions were always there to satisfy this thirst. With the birth of industrialisation and the evolution of modern science, there arose in the West an era of scepticism which relegated the occult to the realm of fairy tales and Fiction. However, from time to time there have been upsurges of spiritualism…Belief in the spirit-world and diabolical possession of human beings has continued (to remain) virtually unchallenged since the earliest times…” [The Exorcist tradition in Islam].

However the scientific temperament has managed to shift , to a large extent, the trajectory of the erstwhile mythological depiction toward “Sci-Fi” in the form of literature as well as movies. The Sci-Fi films like Avengers, Dr Strange, Interstellar, Guardians of the galaxy, Superman, Prometheus, Everything Everywhere all at once and so on should be conceived as an evolved form of Dastaan. The mode of depiction might have changed over time; nevertheless the curiosity for unseen world is very much intact till this day.

This begs some serious questions that a thinking person can’t ignore ; that what drives a man to try to peep into this uncanny universe?

Why is she so passionate about paranormal things?

Are supernatural affairs really possible? Is there any compatibility between religion and science on this? And last but not least what is the take of science on this?  In the following lines we shall try to find the answers on the basis of science & religion (Islam).

Exorcism and Islam:

Though the mystical world of unseen creatures and characters is a part and parcel of almost every mythology and religion, it’s unlikely to put forth every religion’s point of view regarding them in such a brief column. As a corollary we will confine our quest to Islam only.

The unseen spirit world of created beings in the Islamic cosmological view is formed of three entities viz Human spirits, Angels and Jinn.

At least to the extent of Quranic perspective these three immaterial beings are explicitly mentioned. This doesn’t, anyhow, rule out the possibility of other unseen creatures like Aliens or any kind of extra-terrestrial life. This is so because many verses of the holy Quran refer to such possibility here and there, though in a subtle manner and via delicate signs. I believe it’s is just a matter of time when all these ambiguous signs in Quran would be better understood with further scientific advancement especially in Astrophysics at Quantum level.

The Jinn world

‘The world of Jinn is one, which is both threatening and fascinating’. There is a great deal of misconception both within and outside Islam about the Jinnkind among folks. Some think of Jinn as equal to ghosts or Aatma in Hindu mythology, some deny their existence while some equate them to Greek gods and deities. Let’s briefly find out where the truth lies.

Islamic position is crystal clear regarding existence of Jinnkind i.e, they do exist. Quran says, “I did not create jinn and humans except to worship Me.” (51:56)

A Muslim can’t afford to deny the existence of Jinnkind otherwise it would amount to disbelieving the Quranic narrations and its claims. This can be inferred from the fact that a whole chapter “Al jinn” finds its place in Holy Quran, let alone the corpus of prophetic narrations.

“Jinn” is an Arabic word that comes from the verb Janna meaning “to hide or conceal”. This is so that the very nature of Jinn is to remain hidden/unseen to human eye. But not necessarily to animals for they can see them as clearly as they see us.

In a narration by Abu Hurayrah, he quoted the Prophet (pbuh) as saying, “When you hear a donkey braying, seek refuge in Allah from Satan, for he has seen a devil.” [al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Jinn or Jānn [both terms used in Quran(72:1, 55:39)] is a plural form of Jinnī (Eng., genie).

Numerous Quranic references identify fire to be their origin. Here one verse should suffice: “And He created the jinn from a flame of fire marij min nar].” (Qur’an, 55:15)

Life and death

Despite Jinniyat (Urdu) being from spirit world they do live their life much like humans. Scriptures & exorcists tell us that they are born, marry, eat, procreate and die. Their average life expectancy spans thousands of years. The author of the book ‘creation mystery: Quran and science’ writes at P. No 101: “Some Muslim scholars claim to have met the jinn of prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) time, whom the prophet taught praying Salah…The jinn of prophet Muhammad’s time are still at their prime youth”. Amazing! Isn’t?

They dwell either in colonies or individually in dense woods, deserted places, uninhibited buildings etc alongside humans in parallel world. They (Devils) may sleep in the houses of humans and eat with a man while he eats.

Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah narrated that  the Prophet said, “If a man enters his house and remembers Allah while entering and while eating, Satan says [to his companion],

‘There is no place to pass the night and no dinner. ‘ But if he enters without remembering Allah while entering, Satan Says, ‘You have caught a place to pass the night.’ And if he does not mention Allah’s name before eating, he says, You have caught both a place for the night and dinner.”(Muslim, Ibn Majah)

However jinn’s staple food is ‘ bones and animals’ droppings’. Can they intrude into human world?

Sometimes a mysterious phenomenon you witness at home is not always a mirage or fantom. It’s quite possible devils are behind this mischief. The following narration offers a clue: “When you go to sleep, put out your lamps, because Satan may guide something like this [rat] to that [lamp] and cause you to be burned.” (Abu Dawūd). Similarly we are also ordered to the cover utensils with lids at night. This is to prevent the jinn from eating the food remained in them.

Jinn are divided into different races, tribes and creeds. It’s well known in Islam that Jinns are believers and non-believers whom Quran calls Shayateen which in English loosely translates as “Devils or Satans”. This lot belong to the fleet of Iblis (Lucifer).

The difference between Jinn and Demons is like the difference between a common man and an evil man.


According to various authentic hadiths the jinn may be divided into three broad types in relation to their modes of existence. Prophet (saw) said, “There are three types of jinn: one type which flies in the air all of the time, another type which exists as snakes and dogs, and an earthbound type which resides in one place or wanders about.”[al-Tabari and al-Hakim]

Based on this hadith , jinn can be divided into three categories.

Category I: Aerial.  Among aerial jinn are those who eavesdrop on the angels in the lowest heaven. “And We have guarded it [i.e., the heavens] from every cursed devil, except the one who is able to snatch a hearing. And he is pursued by a brightly burning flame.” (Qur’an, 15: 17-18)

Category 2: Animal. In a number of authentic hadiths, the Prophet (saw) spoke about the jinn appearing as dogs, snakes & other creatures. This category of jinn is capable to change their appearance. They are also called ‘Hinn’

Category 3: Earthbound. A type that keeps wandering–stops for a while then resumes the journey. In order to visualize them, a scene in the movie The Lord of the Rings (the two towers) is worth watching. This may not be their true depiction, but should satisfy your fantasy.

There are some other categories of jinnaat that the experts of occult & exorcism claim to exist , though could not be validated via Islamic injunctions. They are quickly discussed below; 4. Ghoul. This type of jinn are Known for shape-shifting, cannibalistic & blood drinking.

  1. Marid: A type of jinn that is huge and powerful. They are also mentioned in pre-Islamic Arabian Mythology.
  2. Ifrit: They are cunning and most powerful of all jinn. They are enormous winged creatures of fire. (This one is also mentioned in Surah Sabah)
  3. Shiqq: A weaker kind of jinn…looks like monster half-formed creature.
  4. Palis: Lives in deserts.
  5. Silat: The smartest one that can mimic human appearance easily.

Exorcism and Science: In the realm of science, Metaphysics has always been a subject of hot debate. Generally all the affairs transcending our physical world by virtue of their immaterial nature does not invite any serious interaction from scientific community. All the attempts by parapsychologists to reproduce paranormal phenomena under controlled laboratory conditions are fraught with difficulty. Positive results are not unusual, but are rarely repeatable. Therefore paranormal studies are not considered worthy of a serious study.

Has science denied the existence of spirit world?

Science doesn’t accept or reject any notion or theory unless it has experimentally demonstrated either of the position regarding the subject matter. As the spirit world is immaterial in nature , it can’t be confirmed (whether they exist or not) via our physical sciences, at least not yet with this insufficient technology & equipments.

String theory and Possibility of Jinnkind

String theory postulates the possibility of not just existence of unseen parallel world but also argues the existence of many universes called ‘Multiverses’. It’s pertinent to mention that this theory is considered as the best candidate among all other theories that has exceptionally done well trying to explain everything that exists within & outside our universe. It’s also called “The Theory of Everything”.

String theory, inter alia, talks about the existence of “Multi-Dimensions” within our 3-dimentional world. The world we dwell in is three dimensional (length, width & depth) but the mathematical equations of string theory leads us to 10 dimensions–each higher dimension unfolding with an array of possibilities & powers which is not possible to experience or visualise in lower dimensions.

Since the theories like string theory, M-Theory, Super string theory, Quantum Mechanics and all other scientific theories point to the possibility of other dimensions & parallel worlds with different sets of physical laws & types of life. One glaring example is Aliens. It’s true Alien life hasn’t been confirmed so far but the continuing fervent exploration , to find any, by the scientific fraternity shows their optimistim.

Cosmologists seem committed & fully hopeful for the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. One can ask then, what rules out the possibility of the existence of Jinnkind in any one of these higher dimensions? Why believing in alien life is cool & the same for jinn life is bizzare? Especially when all the scriptures of major religions describe them being extremely powerful compared to humans! As we know higher the dimension, more the capabilities of its dwellers. So isn’t it possible that the jinn belong to any higher dimension which we are not capable to access?

That they can easily interact with us, but we are not allowed to?

That they can see us from such a dimension, but we can’t see them?

Since we live in a 3-D world, it’s very hard for our three dimensional brain to visualise higher dimensions. In this case, let me quote a verse of the Quran that clearly beckons to the possibility of a higher dimension. Strangely this verse talks about the interaction between humans and jinn.

The Quran says: “He [i.e., Satan] and his tribe watch you from a position where you cannot see them.” (7:27)

Post script:

Supernatural world may unfold a lot of mysteries of our universe. However it demands a serious consideration from scientific community. The need of the hour is to shun ‘ the forbidden tree approach’ & deeply engage with this uncanny world. Physicists believe that quantum mechanics only needs to be tweaked to incorporate paranormal effects.

I end this piece with the quote of Bernard Carr, a cosmologist at the University of London. He says; “I do not believe the subject (paranormal studies) will make any progress unless we are sufficiently open-minded to accept the possibility of supernormal powers, and sufficiently critical to abandon claims shown to be false.”

(The author has done Masters in pub-administration)

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