Duncan Black Macdonald

The next point of contact with the Unseen to which I turn has much more immediate connection with religion, as we understand that word. Though Ibn Khaldun has, from time to time, been compelled to make mention of the Jinn, he has no section dealing explicitly with them; on them he never relieves his mind. The simple reason is that he could not; that his views on them were too far from those of the Muslim world to be stated in such a book as he was writing. He accepted the great fact of the institution of prophecy; he accepted the personal mission of Muhammad and the authority of the book revealed through him, because he also felt compelled to accept man's absolute dependence on God, and to admit that the researches, the reasonings, and the systems of the philosophers had been a failure. Viewing life from the side of reason he was an agnostic; by that path the ultimate realities could not be reached. But the reason is not the only pathway to reality, and is only one side of man's nature. On another side, that of the life of the soul, man came forth from God and can still have contact with God. This has already been made plain, again and again. Nor is it peculiar in the slightest to Ibn Khaldun. He derived it from al-Ghazzili; he was a convinced Ghazzilian.

And so, too, were the rest of Islam. This, which some might compare with the pragmatic or humanistic position to which many of us have drifted in these last years, is the standard attitude of Islam toward the problem of religion and metaphysics. All metaphysical systems have failed and must fail. The thinkers of Islam had been through them all, and had come out with empty hands. Reason, how ever subtle, could find no means of passing from "me" to "thee," from the effect to the cause. But the soul of man could go out from the body in many ways; could meet the outstretched help of God and therein find peace and rest. It is true that the soul, when it returned, must translate its message in terms of human experience; the veil of the senses, in which the body clothed it, required that. But the message was delivered, however its garb might vary; so much man could know with absolute certainty.

Starting from this position, then, Ibn Khaldun looked out on the world with all its varied, changing phenomena, and tried to interpret and realize it in terms of these ideas. It seemed to him that the pieces of the puzzle fell together of themselves. All through the world he found this reaching and groaning of the soul after its source. As the Christian church speaks of the fullness of time, so he felt that all these yearnings led up to the final revelation in Muhammad. That revelation, then, in the Qur'an he had to interpret again to himself in terms of the phenomena around him.

And he succeeded in great part. He found in life corresponding phenomena for everything in the Qur'an except the individual personal spirits, the angels and the Jinn. Of such things he had had no experience and, therefore, to these words he could attach no ideas. The spiritual world, in the broad, he knew, but not personalities therein. In all this to which we have now come, you will remember, that Ibn Khaldun stands by himself. No other Muslim ever looked with such clear, untroubled vision at the facts of life, reckoned with them all, and tried to rationalize them all, as did he. So he had never known angels and, it is plain, had had no personal experience of the Jinn. Soothsayers and magicians he had known, tested, and accepted; he had had dreams and found them valid; of the miracles of the saints he was firmly convinced; but he had never seen any of the Jinn, and so he blocked them out from his reckoning.

Only in one passage in his book, and that, too, as we have seen already, occurring only in a few MSS and apparently added as an afterthought, does he speak of them. There1, he puts the verses of

the Qur'an which mention them in the "obscure" (mutashabih) class. All Qur'an verses are divided into "clear" (muhkam) and "obscure," a division which delivers Muslims from the difficulties of the doctrine of inspiration much as do our human and divine elements in the Scriptures. Naturally theologians are little agreed as to what the true "obscure" verses are, and reckon in that class those which their systems find hard to digest.

But Ibn Khaldun, in thus, out of his respect for facts, disregarding the Jinn entirely, was really ignoring one of the most primitive sources of old Arabian religion. The Jinn were the nymphs and satyrs of the desert; all wild solitary nature was full of them; in a sense they typified that side of the life of nature which was still unsubdued and still hostile to man. They were in constant connection with wild animals and often appeared in animal forms. Whether they were originally animal fetiches and what their relation was to totemism we need not here consider. Our subject does not reach so far back. But the difference between them and the primitive Semitic gods, as Robertson Smith well puts it,2 is simply that the gods have worshipers, and they have not. That means that the gods have entered into fixed, personal relations with men, are no longer hostile, and dwell in sanctuaries that are no longer dangerous, though, it may be, awful.

Robertson Smith thus goes on, in what is a locus classicus for our subject:

In fact the earth may be said to be parceled out between demons and wild beasts on the one hand, and gods and men on the other To the former belong the untrodden wilderness with all its unknown perils, the wastes and jungles that lie outside the familiar tracks and pasture grounds of the tribe, and which only the boldest men venture upon without terror; to the latter belong the regions that man knows and habitually frequents, and within which he has established relations, not only with his human neighbors, but with the supernatural beings that have their haunts side by side with him. And as man gradually encroaches on the wilderness and drives back the wild beasts before him, so the gods in like manner drive out the demons, and spots that were once feared as the habitation of mysterious and presumably malignant powers lose their terrors and either become common ground or are transformed into the seats of friendly deities. From this point of view, the recognition of certain spots as haunts of the gods is the religious expression of the gradual subjugation of nature by man.

But when we reach Muhammad's time, the situation has greatly cleared and simplified. No essential connection remained between the Jinn and wild beasts. They had become spirits with some curious animal associations. For example, they appeared riding upon animals, as, in another connection, they were accompanied by manifestations of light. The heathen Meccans associated them with Allah as his sons and daughters, or they were made partners with Allah.3 They also, as we have seen, inspired the kahins and poets, and Muhammad was said to be possessed by one. In a word, they furnished for the Arabs their general background of the supernatural, out of which rose pre-eminently Allah, and less eminently but more intimately to the hearts of the worshipers, the various tribal gods. Allah, Muhammad accepted and made the one, only God. The Jinn remained for him real rational beings, but the creation of Allah and under his rule. How he conceived their relations to the angels, the messengers of Allah on the one hand, and to the devils, especially to Iblis — an effect from Judaism and Christianity on the other — is obscure because of his own uncertainty and lack of decision. Certain it is that for him the two salvable races on earth were the Jinn and mankind, these two before Allah were on exactly the same footing.

To the Jinn then he must proclaim Islam as he did to mankind. And that was done. In chap. lxxii of the Qur'an we read the words of Allah to Muhammad, revealing that this had taken place, and telling him to inform the people of it:

Say [O Muhammad], "It has been revealed to me that a small company of the Jinn listened then said, 'We have heard a wondrous Qur'an [or recitation], guiding to right; so we believe in it and we certainly will not join any as a companion to our Lord.'"

The revelation goes on to give the confession of faith made then by these Jinn, and introduces incidentally some points which interest us as showing how the heathen Arabs regarded the Jinn. Men, under certain conditions, "sought refuge" with the Jinn. That is, invoked their help and protection. The Jinn used to ascend to heaven and listen there in order to learn what was decreed by God. "Now," they said, "whoever listens finds there for him a shooting-star waiting." The angels hurled these at them to drive them off.

In chap. xlvi, 28 ff., mention is again made how a small company of the Jinn gathered to hear the Prophet and then dispersed to carry the message to their brethren. There are many other references in the Qur'an to the Jinn, all accepting quite simply their existence as a race on earth beside that of the Sons of Adam; the phrase, "the Jinn and mankind," occurs again and again. With them, as I have already said, Iblis, , is curiously confused; sometimes being reckoned a fallen angel, and some-times one of them. Several times we are told that he refused to prostrate himself to Adam when the other angels did so. In one of these passages (xxxviii) he is explicitly said to be one of the Jinn, and mankind is asked, "Do ye then take him and his seed as patrons (awliya) instead of me?" This is an allusion to the semi-worship of the Jinn by the heathen Arabs.

So far, then, the Qu'ran. But these references, though plain, do not carry us very far. Muhammad is either artistically or really modest in his claims. The great controversy among Muslim theologians, as to whether Muhammad ever really saw the Jinn, must be decided in the negative. The Qur'an is explicit that all this was a revelation to him from Allah. But tradition has not been content with that, and the fixed belief of the enormous majority of the Muslim church is that he had divers direct interviews, face to face, with these spirits. Some are most picturesquely told, with details suggesting western magic.

I choose one not because of its superior historicity — for all are equally unhistorical — but because of its detail, which commended it to the later Muslim imagination and makes it more representative for us. It is put in the mouth of az-Zubayr ibn al 'Awwam, one of the earliest of the believers and one also of the ten who were personally promised by the Prophet that they would enter the Garden:

One day the Prophet prayed the morning prayer with us in the mosque of al-Madina. Then when he had finished, he said, "Which of you will follow me to a deputation of the Jinn tonight?" But the people kept silence and none said anything. He said it three times then he walked past me and took me by the hand, and I walked with him until all the mountains of al-Madina were distant from us and we had reached the open country. And there were men, tall as lances, wrapped completely in their mantles from their feet up. When I saw them a great quivering seized upon me, until my feet would hardly support me from fear. When we came near to them the Prophet drew with his great toe a line for me on the ground and said, "Sit in the middle of that." Then when I had sat down, all fear which I had felt departed from me. And the Prophet passed between me and them and recited the Qur'an in a loud voice until the dawn broke. Then he came past me and said, "Take hold of me." So I walked with him, and we went a little distance. Then he said to me, "Turn and look; dost thou see any one where these were?" I turned and said, "O Apostle of God, I see much blackness!" He bent his head to the ground and looked at a bone and a piece of dung, - and cast them to them. Thereafter he said "These are a deputation of the Jinn of Nasibin; they asked of me traveling vender; so I appointed for them all bones and pieces of dung."

This end is rather puzzling but it seems to occur in all the stories of this kind. I take it that it is an attempt to explain a part of the ritual law dealing with purification.4 In one form it runs:

The Prophet said to them [the Jinni], "Yours is every bone over which the name of God has been spoken; ye shall take it and it shall be in your hands the richest possible in flesh; and dung shall be provender for your beasts." Then he said [to his followers], "So do not use these two things for purifying; they are the food of your brethren."

Of these legends there are curious later echoes. Stories came down of Muslims who saw Jinn or heard their voices, and learned from them that they had taken part in these famous deputations to Muhammad. There is a long tale, too, of one aged Jinni who met Muhammad and professed Islam. He had lived in the days when Cain slew Abel, and had known all the prophets from that time on. Jesus had commissioned him to greet Muhammad if he lived into his time.

But this whole matter is far too vast for me to enter into it in detail. I will here attempt only some bits of personal experience, and the like, which may make living for you the conception in the broad.5

That the Muslim law in its entirety is binding on the believing Jinn is accepted as certain. Whether they have had prophets of their own kind is uncertain, but not that Muhammad was a prophet to them. That they will enter the Garden and be rewarded therein is almost unanimously accepted. Iblis himself, of course, is an unbeliever but differing grounds are given for his being so reckoned. He is also the supreme tempter of men and is conceived of as setting his wits against Allah to seduce from him his creation. He brought about the Fall, but it in Islam, is an historical event only, without theological consequences. Still, traces remain of a doctrine of original sin. The following story is strikingly to that purpose, but I have been unable to find it in Arabic. I give it in E.J.W. Gibb's translation from the Turkish:

From that time when Satan was cursed and driven from Paradise by reason of Adam (peace on him!) he pursued him with hatred and sought to take vengeance. He had a son named Khannas; and he made him assume the form of a kid, and took him before our mother Eve, and said, "Let this kid remain by thee; I shall come now and fetch it." Eve said, "By reason of thee have we come forth from Paradise; art thou come now again?" Satan replied, "If they drove you from Paradise, they have driven me thence, too; one must pass from the past." And he left the kid and went off. Saint Adam came and saw the kid, and he said, "Whose kid is this?" Eve answered, "Satan has left it, and has gone off." He said, "I will come now and fetch it." Saint Adam (peace on him!) was wroth, and he killed the kid, and threw it into the desert and went away. Satan came and said, "Where is the kid?" Eve said, "Adam came and killed the kid, and threw it into the desert." Satan cried out, "Khannas!" The kid said, "Here I am, father." And it became alive and went up to him. Again Satan left it, and went off; for though Eve entreated him, saying, "Take it, and go," he would not take it. Saint Adam came and saw the kid, and asked about it, and Eve told him what had happened. Adam said, "Why didst thou keep that accursed one's kid?" And he was angry with Eve; and he cut the kid into many pieces, and threw each piece in a different direction, and went away. Again Satan came and asked, and Eve told him what had happened. Again Satan cried, "O Khannas!" And it answered, "Here I am, father." And it became alive and went up to him. Again Satan left it and went off; and though Eve said many times, "Leave it not," it was of no avail, for Satan vanished. Again Adam came and saw the kid, and this time he smote Eve; and people have beaten their wives since that time. Adam seized the kid, and cut its throat, and cooked it, and he and Eve ate it; then he went away. Again Satan came and asked, "Where is the kid?" Eve said, "This time was Adam wroth, and he cut its throat, and cooked it, and we both of us ate it." Satan again cried, "O Khannas!" This time it answered from Eve's belly, "Here I am, father." Satan said, "My son, thou hast found thy best place; let us tempt the sons of Adam, thou from within and I from without, till the resurrection, and urge them to many sins, and make them deserving of hell."6

But in one respect the Muslim Iblis differed markedly from the Devil of medieval Europe. He was lost hopelessly — that was accepted — but then he was also the father of all the Jinn, believing and unbelieving. There was, therefore, with all his stratagems to mislead men a kindly side to his nature. He was not simply stupid as in European devil-lore; he was also humorous. Often in the Arabian Nights he plays this double part; showing himself most interested friendly, and amusing, while the other characters in the tale scrupulously refer to him as "Iblis the Accursed." Outstanding examples are in the Story of Sul and Shumul, recently published and translated by Seybold,7 and in the "Story of Harun ar-Rashfd and Tuhfat al-Qulub.8 From many of these, as for example, "The Story of Abdullah and his Brothers,"9 it is plain that the popular imagination had brought Harun ar-Rashid into close relationships with the Jinn. By his strict piety and exact observance of his religiousduties — this sounds very curious, but Harun was pious in his way — joined to his position as successor of Muhammad, commander of the faithful and representative of Allah on earth, he had complete control, supernatural and natural, of both Jinn and mankind. The Jinn added to his wealth, taught songs and airs to his court poets and musicians, and took the oath of fidelity to his proclaimed successor. For the last point, we have better authority than the Arabian Nights. Ibn Khallikan tells us of it in connection with a certain poet, who was the intermediary.10 To this poet Harun is reported to have said, "If thou hast seen what thou tellest, thou hast seen marvels; if not, thou hast composed a wonder." This must not be taken as implying doubt of the existence of the Jinn; that were heresy of the worst. The doubt was only of his having had intercourse with them; for it was a much contested point whether any men except prophets could see them. Some few lawyers laid it down flatly that any man who claimed to have seen them was not fit to be a legal witness; he had showed himself impious in claiming what the law did not admit. More curious still is a Berber story in which Harun actually marries a female Jinni. I know it only by reference.11

Around the possibility of marriage between mankind and the Jinn an immense literature has gathered. The general position is that such marriages have frequently taken place and are lawful; some few canon lawyers, however, deny their legality on qur'anic grounds.12 According to the present code of Ottoman law, following the school of Abu Hanifa, such marriages are illegal13 — the reason alleged is because a Jinn may appear in either sex. But these legal doubts the broad belief of the Muslim people laughs to scorn. Probably every Muslim has heard of or been in some relation to some man or other, who was known to have married a female Jinni. So Lane, during his residence at Cairo, had a Persian acquaintance who told him of a friend of his own, who had had such an experience.14 The idea has also often served to cover an intrigue. A good example of this in Alexandria in the middle of the last century, is to be found in Bayle St. John's Two Years in a Levantine Family (chap. xxiv). But from the earliest Muslim times such stories were current, and had become a lieu commune in romance. The book called Al-Fihrist, a calalogue raisonné of Arabic literature of about 1000 A.D., gives a separate section to "Names of those of Mankind Who Loved the Jinn and Vice-versa." It is really sixteen titles of books of their love stories. Similarly, in the numerous collections of love stories there are chapters given to "lovers of the Jinn." Another fertile aspect of this subject is the relation between saints and the Jinn. As Muslim saints live more or less in contact with the unseen world all the time that relation of necessity is close. Of course, we must distinguish between necessarily apocryphal stories and those which have a vraisemblance* at least; although both for our purpose, are of value. A story with every appearance of truth is that which al-Ghazzali tells of his own attempt at spirit-seeing. I may say of him that one of his characteristics is extreme modesty in his claims to contact with the Unseen. He had visions of insight into spiritual truth, but he never felt that he had reached the same degree of closeness to the divine as some of his contemporaries, and he always declared that he had never been able to work miracles. This story then bears these characteristic marks of modesty. He applied to a celebrated evoker of the Jinn, Muhammad ibn Ahmad at-Tabasi — an older contemporary of his own, who died in A. H. 482, when al-Ghazzali was thirty-two years of age-requesting that he would bring about a meeting between himself and some of the Jinn. To that he consented, and al-Ghazzali says, "I saw them like a shadow on a wall. Then I said to him that I would like to talk with them and hear their speech, but he said, 'You are not able to see more of them than this.15 "Not a very satisfactory case, except as showing al-Ghazzali's truthfulness. The magician, apparently, had made only so much preparation.

Another very different story, a legend with large elements of folk-lore in it, is told of 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, who died in 1166, A. D., the founder of the Qadarite fraternity of darwishes. Around him an immense accumulation of myth has collected, and to that the following evidently belongs. I do not mean to suggest that all the marvels of 'Abd al-Qadir's life are necessarily mythical. The levitations, for example, told of him have far too many analogues elsewhere to be ruled so easily out of court. The story runs thus:

One of the people of Baghdad came to him and told him that a maiden daughter of his had been snatched away from the roof of the house. "Go," said the shaykh, "this night to the ruined part of al-Karkh [a district of Baghdad] and sit beside the fifth mound and draw a circle on the ground and say, as thou drawest it, 'In the name of Allah; according to the intention of 'Abd al-Qadir.'" [I presume he meant, as though 'Abd al-Qadir had drawn this line.] "Then, when the black of the night has come, there will pass by thee troops of the Jinn in different forms, but let not their appearance terrify thee. And when the dawn comes, there will pass by thee their king in an army of them. He will ask thee of thy need; so say, 'Abd al-Qadir hath sent me to thee,' and tell him the case of thy daughter." The man did so. "It was" he told thereafter, "as the shaykh had said. Not one of the Jinn was able to pass the circle in which I was. They kept going by in bands, until their king came, riding on a horse, and before him [whole] nations of them. He stopped over against the circle and said, 'O human being, what is thy need?' I said, 'The shaykh, 'Abd al-Qadir, hath sent me to thee.' Then he alighted from his horse and kissed the ground and sat just outside of the circle; and those sat who were with him. Then he said, 'What is thy affair?' and I told him the story of my daughter. He said to those around him, 'Bring me him who hath done this!' and they brought an evil Jinni and my daughter with him. He was told, 'This is one of the evil Jinn of China.' Then he said, 'What led thee to snatch one away from under the stirrups of the Quth [the chief of all the saints of Allah]?' 'She pleased me,' said the evil Jinni. So he gave orders, and the head of the evil Jinni was struck off, and he gave me back my daughter."16

This, you will observe, is exactly the same as the nocturnal procession of the demons with Pluto, their part of the magician is taken by the head, for the time, which we meet in European folk-lore. The part of the magician is by the head, for the time, of all the saints of Allah. Ex officio, he has absolute control over the Jinn.

Around Ibn 'Arabi, another great saint and mystic of later times, who died in 1240 A.D., similar tales have gathered. He wrote an account of all who had been his teachers, of the Jinn and mankind and angels and beasts. In that account he tells the following story as a rebuke of his pride; it is evidently told in earnest, though it may seem rather humorous to us. One time he was in a ship on the great sea. The wind blew, and a storm arose. But he cried out to the sea, "Be still, for a sea of learning is upon thee!" Then a sea monster raised its head and said to him "We have heard thy saying. What do you say to this case of law? If the husband of a wife be ensorcelled and transformed, must she wait, before remarrying, the period of a widow, or of a divorced woman [literally the waiting period of the dead or of the living]?" But Ibn 'Arabi for all that he was a sea of learning, could not tell. So the sea-monster said "Make me one of thy teachers, and I will tell thee." Ibn 'Arabi accepted, and the sea-monster said, "If he is transformed into a beast, then she must wait the period of a divorced woman; and if into a stone, that of a widow."17

But an evident jest is the following: A certain shaykh had been asked about Ibn 'Arabi. He replied with emphasis "An evil shaykh, a liar!" "A liar, too?" someone said to him "Yes indeed," he said. "We were discussing, once, marriage with the Jinn, and he said, 'The Jinn are fine spirits and mankind are coarse bodies; how can they come together?' Then he was away from us for a time, and came back with a bruise on his head. We asked him whence it was. He said, 'I married a woman of the Jinn, and we had some trouble, and she hit me this bruise!'" The original teller of the story adds "I don't think this was a deliberate lie on Ibn 'Arabi's part; it was simply one of the jesting stories current among those of the spiritual life."18

Another saint who had large dealings with the Jinn was ash-Sha'rin, a Cairene mystic, who died in 1565. He was a very remarkable man, and a union of the most opposite characteristics. He was a canon lawyer of originality and keenness; one of the very few creative minds in law after the first three centuries. He was a moralist, touched with high ethical indignation. Unlike most of the learned of Islam, he sought and found his own among the oppressed common people. He was a mystic who lived from day to day in constant touch with the Unseen; the spirit world was as near and real to him as the walls of the classroom in which be taught, or of the mosque in which he worshiped. In the night time, there came dreams to him, or else, when he waked, a voice would sound in his ears; a hatif, as they called such wandering utterances, would warn or admonish him. Of these the records of Islam are full, but in no case so full as in his. Naturally, intercourse with the Jinn was not lacking. They used to seek his judgment, as a jurisconsult of standing. Once a Jinni in the form of a dog ran in at his house door with a piece of European paper in his mouth, on which certain theological questions were written. Ash-Sha'rani replied by writing a book, still extant, on them.

It should be understood, then, that just as among men there are ascetics and devotees, so, too, among the Jinn. In deserts and solitary places, men have often heard their voices in pious exclamation or prayer; of such the records of the saints are full. And just as they taught men, so men taught them. The great shaykhs had disciples of the Jinn as of mankind. Here is something upon that, from a most valuable and interesting book, consisting of translations of passages from the lives of the great saints of Morocco:19

"I once happened upon the shaikh Aboo'l Hasan," he [shaikh Muhammad the Andalusee] said, "and he was sitting in the midst of a plantation, of which he was the owner, and around him sat a company of the Jinn who believed, to whom he was teaching the beautiful names of God.

"On seeing me, he looked up and asked: 'Has the matter concerning these been revealed to thee?'

"I replied that it had been revealed. 'These,' he went on, 'are in search of that which thou art in search of' - meaning that they, too, were seekers after the Truth."

Andalusee used also to say: "There was not in all Morocco nor in any part of it, neither in any land, the like of the shaikh Aboo'l Hasan, the son of Aboo'l Kasim in his time. He had as followers upward of seventy thousand of the jinn; and when he died, they were scattered into all quarters of the earth, but none of them ever found again a teacher like him." "I had made friends with four of these jinn," he continued, "and once I asked one of the four, who was the best-read of all, which of the plants, in their opinion, afforded the most useful drugs for the purposes of medicine, so as to cure all maladies. 'There is not one among all plants,' replied the jinnee, 'more generally useful than the caper; for it unites in itself qualities which are found only separate in other plants; and if the men-folk but knew all that is in it they would not wish for any other.'"20

But to all this matter was not so simple. The Jinn might be spoken of in the Qur'an, and many might have seen them and had speech with them, but others had no such good fortunes. Al-Ghazzali, as we have seen, had but indifferent success in his attempt to reach them, and Ibn Khaldun seems to have had none at all. These, however, were believing men, and either accepted the traditions and the testimony of others, or held their place. But there were some who were no great believers, and who had to settle the existence of the Jinn on other than religious grounds. Many of the Mu'tazilites seem in general to have rejected them; how these dealt with the qur'anic passages I do not know. They must have explained them away in some fashion, as they were only heretics and not unbelievers. It is certain that they were of varying opinions on the matter.

But the philosophers were in different case. Al-Farabi, who died in 950, was a Plotinian and an Aristotelian, but managed, being also a mystic, to remain a devout Muslim. His only trouble, then, was to discover a philosophical definition, and so get them into his system. The ordinary definition was, "Airy bodies capable of assuming different forms, possessed of reason and understanding, and able to perform hard labors."21 But there was a doubt on the point of reason ('aql). For example, in the "Story of the Fisherman and the Jinni," in the Arabian Nights, the fisherman says to himself in some texts,22 "This is a Jinni, and I am a human being, and Allah has given to me reason and made me more excellent than him, and lo! I contrive against him with my reason, and he contrives against me with his Jinn-mind (bi-jinnihi?)."

This distinction al-Farabi laid hold of, and he constructed the following definitions: Man is a living being, rational, mortal; the angels are the same, rational, immortal; brute beasts the same, irrational, mortal; the Jinn, then to fill out the analogy, are living beings, irrational, immortal. But the Qur'an speaks of them as hearing and speaking; must they not, then, be rational? Al-Farabi denies that Speech and verbal utterance may be found in any living being, qua living being; they are different from that power of distinguishing, which is reason. The speech of man is natural to him, qua living being; but his speech is different from that of other kinds of living beings; each kind has its own speech. He might further have defended himself with the popular belief that the speech of the Jinn is a kind of whistling; that is why it is unlucky to whistle in the Muhammadan East. But the truth evidently is that he was simply hard pressed.23 His argument from classification is of a type common in Arabic and is based essentially on a realistic philosophy.

Avicenna (died 1037) avoided such subjects as far as as he could, but his system had certainly no place the Jinn. Yet once, in giving a series of definitions of things, he defined "Jinn," "Airy animals capable of changing themselves into different forms," but added, "This is an explanation of the name (or noun)," meaning evidently that the thing had no real existence; he, in this was a nominalist.24

Farther with the philosophers we need not go; they practically had no effect on the views of the vast body of Muslims. Islam believes to this day in the Jinn not only among the vulgar but as an essential part of the faith. In the Azhar University at Cairo, the legal textbooks still consider the vexed question of the marriage of men and Jinn; e.g., al-Bajuri's great commentary on Ibn Qasim's commentary on Abu Shuja's handbook of Shafi'ite law, Vol. II, pp. 113, 186, 187. We have already seen the same in the Ottoman code. So, too, is Lane's testimony for modern Cairo. Professor E. G. Browne, in his Year among the Persians, has a curious narrative of a friend of his, a certain unbelieving philosopher of Ispahan, who had twice gone through the training incumbent upon those who wish to gain control over the Jinn:

The seeker after this power [said he] chooses some solitary and dismal spot, such as the Hazar-Dere at Isfahan (the place selected by me). There he must remain for forty days, which period of retirement we call chillé. He spends the greater part of this time in incantations in the Arabic language, which he recites within the area of the mandal, or geometric figure, which he must describe in a certain way on the ground. Besides this, he must eat very little food, and diminish the amount daily. If he has faithfully observed all these details on the twenty first day a lion will appear, and will enter the magic circle. The operator must not allow himself to be terrified by this apparition, and, above all, must on no account quit the mandal else he will lose the result of all his pains. If he resists the lion, other terrible forms will come to him on subsequent days — tigers, dragons, and the like — which he must similarly withstand. If he holds his ground till the fortieth day, he has attained his object, and the jinni, having been unable to get the mastery over him, will have to become his servants and obey all his behests. Well, I faithfully observed all the necessary conditions, and on the twenty first day, sure enough, a lion appeared and entered the circle. I was horribly frightened, but all the same I stood my ground, although I came near to fainting with terror. Next day, a tiger came, and still I succeeded in resisting the impulse which urged me to flee. But when on the following day, a most hideous and frightful dragon appeared, I could no longer control my terror, and rushed from the circle, renouncing all further attempts at obtaining the mastery over the jinnis. When some time had elapsed after this, and I had pursued my studies in philosophy further, I came to the conclusion that I had been the victim of hallucinations, excited by expectation, solitude, hunger, and long vigils, and, with a view to testing this hypothesis, I again repeated the same process which I had before practiced, this time in a spirit of philosophical incredulity. My expectations were justified; I saw absolutely nothing. And there is another fact which proves to my mind that the phantoms I saw on the first occasion had no existence outside of my own brain. I had never seen a real lion then, and my ideas about the appearance of that animal were entirely derived from the pictures which, may he seen over the doors of baths in this country. Now the lion which I saw in the magic circle was exactly like the latter in form and coloring, and, therefore, as I need hardly say, differed considerably in aspect from a real lion.

So far this philosopher of Isfahan, as reported by Professor Browne. But you already know, from Ibn Khaldun and al-Ghazzali, that the spectres which appear to the would-be magician must be forms that he already knows. They are ideas — true idea which his memory and imagination clothe in corresponding appearances. Thus the idea "lion" would necessarily assume the form of a bath-house picture lion.

The most remarkable narrative of all, however, is given by Bayle St. John in his Two Years in a Levantine Family (chap. xx). The house in which he lived with his "family" was haunted by a ghost, an 'ifrit; ghosts now are called 'ifrits, which means strictly an evil kind of Jinni. This ghost was the spirit of a deceased previous owner, who was supposed to have buried his money in the house, and in consequence had to guard it. The Levantine family had seen him from time to time for thirteen years, and now took no notice of him. He never meddled with them, and they had become accustomed to his prowling about, and appearing and disappearing. Also he had always the same appearance, and this had often been described to St. John. Then suddenly, one day, in broad daylight, he, himself, saw this shaykh, as he was called, with perfect clearness. Twice, thereafter, he saw him again, but the third appearance, the most circumstantial, is invalidated as evidence by occurring during an attack of fever. It is curious that the first two experiences agree precisely in type with the cases of "haunting ghosts" collected by the Society for Psychical Research and are utterly different from the loquacious, meddlesome ghosts of literature, eastern and western. For these two St. John could find no explanation. Nor do I think will you be able to, if you read his careful narrative. I can make only one suggestion. It is incredible to me that there should be absolutely no foundation for the unbroken belief of the East in these spirits. There must be some phenomena behind it. It is possible to explain it as a result of auto-hypnosis that the whole people are more or less under this hypnotic suggestion? It is conceivable, then, that St. John, living for long in such an environment, would come at last under the same suggestion.25 It is certain that Europeans who have long lived in the East, and adapted themselves to eastern ways, come in time to be orientalized in their attitudes and ideas. Sometimes, this reaches a, for us, disgusting point; at others, it is only the possibilities of the unseen world which are marvelously widened.

* [web editor's note: vraisemblance = "an appearance of truth"]

1 De Slane's translation, Vol. III, p. 68; the passage is not in the Bulaq or Beyrout texts.

2 Religion of the Semites, p. 121.

3 Qur. vi, 100.

4 Cf. al-Bajuri on Ibn Qasim, Vol. I, p. 63, fi-l-istinja; edition of Cairo, A. H. 1307.

5 Cf., on the whole subject. Lane, Arabian Nights, Vol. 1, note 21 to the Introduction, and the Arabian Nights themselves passim; Lane, Modern Egyptians, chap. x; also Ad-Damiri's Hayat al-Hayawan, translated from the Arabic by A.S.G. Jayakar, London, 1906, Vol. I, pp. 448 ff. for heathen Arabia see Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites; Wellhausen, Reste; Goldziher, Arabische Philologie, and articles by Van Vloten in the Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 1893-94.

6 History of the Forty Vezirs, p. 348.

7 Leipzig, 1902.

8 Payne, Tales from the Arabic, Vol. II, p. 203; Burton Vol. IX, p. 291, of 12 vol. edit.

9 Payne, Arabian Nights, Vol. IX; Burton, Vol. VII, p. 364.

10 De Slane's translation, Vol. III, p. 373; Wüstenfeld, No. 735.

11 Chauvin, Bibliographie arabe, Vol. VI, p. 48.

12 Qur. xvi, 74; xl, 9.

13 Young, Corps de droit Ottoman, Vol. II, pp. 210, 215.

14 Arabian Nights, Vol. I, chap. i, note 25.

15 Al-Qazwani, Vol. II, p. 272, (Wüstenfe1d's edition).

16 Damiri, Vol. I, p. 185, edition of Cairo, A. K. 1313.

17 Sha'rini, Lawaqih, p. 284, edition of Cairo, A. H. 1308.

18 Damiri, Vol. I, p. 185.

19 T. H. Weir, The Shaikhs of Morocco, p. 121. Mr. Weir's method of representing Arabic words in English is preserved here.

20 Compare the folk-lore stories of fairy changelings and the like who would say, "If men but knew the value of this or that" (some despised thing).

21 Damiri, Vol. I, p. 177.

22 Galland; Breslau; I Calcutta.

23 Dieterici, Alfarabi's philos. Abhandl. herausg., p. 84.

24 Razi, Mafatih al-ghayb, Sura lxxii beginning.

25 Cf. the case of the haunting of the old house in St. Swithin's Lane, London (Proceedings of Society for Psychical Research, Vol. III, pp. 126 ff.), and the gradual extension of the hallucination (veridical or otherwise) to Mr. Votas-Simpson himself.

Duncan Black Macdonald, Haskell Lectures in Comparative Religion, University of Chicago, 1906, pp. 130-156.

Essays by Duncan Black Macdonald
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