The belief in the supernatural is pan-cultural and has survived through time. These tales of the supernatural have been generously documented in high art and low art such that convergences have been perpetually formed among imagination, superstition, empiricism, myth as well as reality. One thing that appears more lucid however within this grid of intersections is that the supernatural is still with us – whether we choose to believe it or not.
Many of us have heard of Genies, lamp-dwelling, often benevolent, supernatural beings that come alive and grant their master three wishes when summoned. And the popularity of this creature is owing perhaps to its depiction in mainstream movies such as Aladdin, Arabian Nights, and Kazam starring Shaquille O'Neal – to mention a few. However, very few of us know that Genies are actually westernized versions of Jinns, creatures in pre-Islamic Arabia and Islamic mythology that are said to be made of smokeless fire and dwell among men.
Jinns are simply spirits that were known to have been created by God himself according to the Islamic religion. Although they possess supernatural powers which are apparently not inclusive rights of human beings such as strength, invisibility, teleportation, trickery and transformation, Jinns are parallel to humans in an extra-terrestrial plane and, like humans, they possess the ability to eat, drink, and marry and the freewill to choose between good and evil.
Despite their relative power, Jinns are believed to be subject to the control of men, they can therefore be called upon to carry out their biddings. Lending credence to this is the Quranic documentation of the wise king, King Solomon, who adopted and commanded Jinns to perform certain paranormal tasks that defied time, weight and space. Theologically, King Solomon’s wisdom enabled him to marshal such creatures at the time and the belief that humans still employ these creatures to do their will points to the fact that mastery of the mystical still very much exists.
Little wonder then that the belief in the existence of Jinns thrives in different cultures till today, especially in modern Islamic societies from Bangladesh to Arabia, Morocco to Indonesia, Thailand to Turkey, and Egypt to, of course, the Islam dominated Northern Nigeria. Mind you, Jinns are not just creatures that are to be manipulated to the beck of human beings; inversely, they are more renowned for their ability to wreath havoc by possessing or inflicting suffering on humans. This could be as a result of some transgression that the Jinns believe that particular human has caused such as unknowingly trampling upon them or displacing their homes or a case of the human being depressed, unloved, distressed, mentally disturbed or sad, which are altogether considered as a weak state; a state of susceptibility that can easily be exploited.
There have been different stories about such encounters from different cultures. For example, an Egyptian lady had described her mother recounting to her about how, at a very young age while they lived in Spain, she saw her standing by the staircase and constantly talking to thin air. Her mother would put her in bed in the belief that she was just being a child. However, the grandfather started to experience similar paranormal activity as the TV kept going off and on and shadows traversed through the blinds and balcony. Eventually, it was agreed upon that because children and animals are believed to see spirits, Jinns had been trying to communicate with the young child.
Another lady recounted how her Aunt who was staying in Saudi had perpetual visits by Jinns. She was sleeping in bed with her husband when she started to hear a sound in the living room. On getting to the living room, she found out that her husband had been watching TV all the while and the person who had been in bed with her was merely a Jinn. The Jinn, on being found out, just laughed it off and vanished.
Another lady from Morocco described that she woke up one fateful morning to find an ornate design of henna, a body art made with dye, on her hand. Since then she has had problems with finding a husband and everywhere she went, she was told that she was married to a Jinn. This means that Jinns can also get married to humans without their consent – spiritually, of course.
In Northern Nigeria, the belief in Jinns is not any less firm than that of other Islamic societies. This is because Jinns are creatures whose existence are backed by the Quran itself. Therefore, it is considered a sin to argue about their nonexistence. In this society, Jinns are a reality as there are several tales of encounters between the people, high school students especially, and Jinns, to the extent that the denizens have been known to be sensitized on how to guard themselves against such malevolent advents.
Jinns are more than a myth in many cultures, including the Northern part of Nigeria. Undoubtedly, the belief in the existence of this paranormal activity points to the fact that there are still a lot of uncharted knowledge in the planes of the supernatural, and understanding these uncultivated planes takes more than a scientific leap. It involves the examination of answers that lie at the very confluence of religion, culture, myth, science, history, reality as well as the folklore of a given people.
This article has merely scratched the surface on Jinns. You can listen to the full gist on Jinns in Northern Nigeria through the mouth of a first-hand witness on our podcast here