While reading the articles about jinn, I started to think about the origins of jinn. The idea of jinn comes from the pre-Islamic world were these spirits were used to guide the communities everyday life. As I was reading the articles I notice that the belief in jinn could either explain things that are known or have a specific function in the community. To further explain this idea one may look at the interactions between jinn and humans.
In one way the jinn serve to explain the unexplained. In the El-Shamy reading he states, “until relatively recently, certain physical disorders were believed to be caused by jinn.” When something occurs that cannot be explained, in this case diseases, jinn are blamed. This reminded me how the ancient Romans and many other ancient societies explained the unknown through the belief that individual Gods controlled these unknown occurrences. For example the ancient Romans viewed lightening as the sign of Jupiter, since they could not explain the why lighten occurred they explained it by pointing to Jupiter as the one who caused it. In the Ameen article he articulates that, “Sometimes if a person develops a backache for which no medical explanation can be found, in the end he decides that it is because of the jinn taking revenge on him.” It is interesting that there have been so many medical advances since the beginnings of Islam and jinn are still used to explain unknown medical illnesses.
Jinn also have a functional purpose in these cultures. Some functions of the jinn are to keep people away from dangerous animals and places. Ashour says that, “they are frequently found in places where they can cause a lot of mischief and corruption, like markets.” Markets, in this context were probably, a place full of thieves, bargainer, and beggars. Here, jinn are used to keep people away from the market to keep them safe. In the readings there is also a lot about certain animals that are more likely to harbor jinn. The types of animals that jinn usually reside in are animals that are dangerous, like snakes. In this case the fear of bad jinn helps people stay away from snakes that could potentially harm them.
Jinn also create social behaviors. The use of jinn in this sense is to make people behave in certain ways that help them in the end. For example in this Islamic culture the children are taught to wash their hands and mouth after a meal so that the “she-sniffer” stays away from them. This jinn serves to make the children to clean themselves after a meal. This can also be seen in Western culture with the example of the boogey man. It is taught to young children that if they misbehave the boogey monster will come, therefore the kids behave because they are scared of the boogey monster. In most Western societies monsters like the boogey man are usually only believed in by children, but in these Muslim societies adults also believe in jinn. It is taught in this society that an unattended crying baby can attract jinn, therefore the parents always comfort the crying baby. These jinn are used to guide new parents in taking care of their child. There are many different kinds of jinn in this society it is amazing how the people go out of their way to tip toe around the bad jinn and in other cases embrace them.