What are jinn?
Question: "What are jinn?"
Answer: Jinn (singular, jinni; also spelled djinni or genie) is an Arabic word that literally means “to hide.” Jinn are supernatural creatures found in Islamic and Arabic writings, particularly the Quran. The Quran says that the jinn were created from a “smokeless and scorching fire,” separately from humans or angels. However, they can appear in human or animal form to interact with people. From the word jinn we get our English word genie, defined as a spirit in human form who grants wishes. According to the Quran, jinn will be judged the same as human beings and will be sent to either paradise or hell, according to their deeds on earth.
Jinn are often considered the Islamic equivalent of demons; however, they are more complex than that. Muslims do not believe that angels can sin, although Scripture indicates that they can (Isaiah 14:12–15; Luke 10:18; 2 Peter 2:4). Muslims believe that Satan (Shaitan) was a jinni, not an angel named Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12) who refused to obey God and was cast from heaven. In Islam, jinn are a different kind of spirit creature that can do evil (by rejecting Islam) or do good (by accepting Islam). They have a free will just as humans do but can also oppress and possess human beings, animals, and objects. They have social order that includes celebrating weddings, honoring kings, and practicing religion.
The idea of jinn has been snatched from the world of ancient religious writings and spun into the world of fantasy, with websites abounding that claim to help people understand jinn. Many of these explanations sound more like characters in a video game, with instructions about how to contact jinn or derive personal benefit from them. Depending on whom you ask, there can be three to five different categories of jinn:
1. Marid: the strongest, most powerful type of jinn.
2. Ifrit: enormous winged creatures of fire, either male or female, who live underground and inhabit ruins.
3. Shaitan: the evil jinn, akin to demons in Christianity. In Islam, these jinn chose to be non-Muslim.
4. Ghoul: the creepiest type of jinn. Blood-suckers that inhabit graveyards and lonely places.
5. Jann: serpent-like, primitive, and considered the father of the jinn.
From a biblical perspective, the idea of jinn could be an attempt to identify the many unseen creatures that inhabit the heavenly realms (2 Corinthians 10:3–4; Ephesians 6:12). We know that the spiritual realm is real, but we possess little information about it. The Bible does not mention jinn at all, but it does expressly mention angels (Hebrews 1:14), demons (Luke 4:41), living creatures (Revelation 4:6–9), seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), and cherubim (Ezekiel 10:9–17). There could be countless other creations of God, designed to worship and serve Him, although they are not mentioned in Scripture. The existence of what the Quran and other ancient texts call jinn may have some validity, but perhaps not in the way those documents explain them.
What we do know is that God’s Word contains everything God wants us to know about supernatural creatures, including angels and demons (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16). If jinn do exist, we know the Quranic explanation of them is incorrect because it contradicts God’s Word (John 17:17). Since jinn simply means “hidden,” then the word could describe those unseen creatures that inhabit the spiritual realm. But we must always be careful to compare any speculation with what is revealed in God’s Word and base any belief or conviction on that alone.
Recommended Resource: Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels, and Demons by R.C. Sproul
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