What are Jinn or Spirits
By Shaykh Ibn Arabi
The Existence of Spirits Created from Smokeless Fire (jinn)
He mixed fire and plants, so the form of the jinn was set up
as an interspace between two things
It is between a bodily spirit with a place in depth
and a spirit without “where”.
That which accepts embodiment seeks for food for
nourishment without falsehood,
And that which accepts the angels, accepts the heart in
taking shape in the source.
For this reason, it obeys one moment and rebels the next.
He will repay those of them who disobey with two fires.
(Creation of the Jinn, angels and man)
Allah says, “He created jinn from a fusion of smokeless fire.” (55:14) It is reported in sound hadith [saying of the Prophet], “Allah created the angels from light and Allah created the jinn from fire and He created man from what you were told.” As for what the Prophet said about the creation of man “from what you were told”, he was concise and did not specify it as he did in the case of the creation of the angels and the jinn. The Prophet “was given all the words”. This is part of them. The basic creation of angels and jinn did not vary.
- The creation of man is varied as there are four categories of man’s creation.
- The creation of Adam does not resemble the creation of Eve.
- The creation of Eve does not resemble the creation of the rest of the children of Adam.
- The creation of Jesus does not resemble the creation of the others.
- Here the Messenger of Allah was concise. He has transmitted to us the details of the creation of man.
- 1-Adam was created from clay, 2-Eve from a rib, 3-‘Isa is from the blowing of a spirit, and the 4-children of Adam from “a contemptible water”. (77:20)
(The conceptual cohesion of heaven and earth)
When Allah set up the four basic elements and smoke rose to the bottom of the Sphere of Fixed Stars, the seven heavens unwound themselves in that smoke, each separate from each other. He “revealed, in every heaven, its ordinance” after “He established in it its nourishment” and all that was “in four days“. Then he said “to the heavens and the earth: Come willingly or unwillingly.” (41:9-11) i.e. they answer when they are called to produce what He wants them to produce. They said, “we come willingly.”
Then Allah established a conceptual cohesion between heaven and earth and a direction by which He desires to bring into existence products in this earth in the form of minerals, plants and animals. He made the earth like the wife and the heaven like the husband.
- The heaven casts to earth the command of Allah in it as a man casts water into a woman in intercourse.
- In that casting, the earth brings forth the types of formations which Allah has hidden in its.
(The four elements and the formation of man and jinn)
When air is ignited and heated, it burns like the lamp.
- The burning of that fire is the flame which is the burning of the air and this is smokeless (marj, jumbled) because it is mixed with the air and is the burning air. Marj is mixture and from this the smokeless is marj since the plants are mixed in it.
The jinn are composed of the two elements of fire and air,
- as man is composed of the two elements of water and earth kneaded together which produced the name mud.
- Similarly the mixture of air and fire has the name ‘smokeless fire’. Allah created the form of jinn in that smokeless fire.
- Because of the air which is in the jinn, they can assume whatever form they wish. Because of the fire which is in them, they are insubstanital and very subtle, and they seek dominance, pride and might since fire has the highest position of the elements and it has great power to change things as nature demands.
- That is reason why he [the jinn Iblis] was too proud to prostrate to Adam when Allah commanded him to do so, because of his own estimation of himself. He said, “I am better than Him” (7:12), i.e. meaning according to the basis by which Allah preferred fire among the four elements.
The jinn did not know that the power of water from which Adam was created was stronger than fire for it extinguishes it and earth is firmer than fire by cold and dryness.
Adam has strength and constancy by the dominance of the two elements from which Allah derived him. Even though he also possesses the rest of the elements – air and fire, they do not have the authority in him. The jinn also have the rest of the elements…
Adam was given humility on account of the clayness of his nature.
- When he is proud, that is incidental (and not intrinsic to his nature).
- He accepts that because of the element of fire in him as his imagination and states accept different forms because of the element of air in him.
- The jinn are given pride by the nature of fire in them. If they are humble, that is something incidental which they accept because of the element of earth in them. They also accept fixation in enticement if they are devils and fixation in acts of obedience if they are not devils.
(The jinn when Surat ar-Rahman (Chapter 55 of the Qur’an) was recited
When the Prophet recited Surat ar-Rahman to his Companions, he said, “I was reciting it for the jinn. They listened to it better than you. When I said, ‘So which of your Lord’s blessings will you deny?’ they stated, ‘We do not deny any of the blessings of our Lord’. They affirmed them and did not quake when they were told, “So which of your Lord’s blessings will you deny?” in his recitation. That is by is in the nature of the jinn of earth and of water which remove the fieriness of fire. Some of them are obedient to Allah and some are rebellious, like us; but they can take on forms as can the angels.
(Their basic form is spiritual)
Allah has made them invisible to us so we do not see them except when Allah wishes to lift the veil for certain individuals who then see them.
- Since the jinn are insubstantial and subtle, they can take form in whatever sensory form they wish.
- Their basic form is the spiritual one which was the first form the first jinn accepted when Allah brought him into existence.
- Then he took on various forms according to what Allah willed. If Allah had opened our eyes so that we could see what the forms conceived by the conceptual faculty through the imagination (khayal), then at different times you would have seen man in various forms which are unlike one another.
(Procreation in jinn and men)
Then Allah breathed the spirit into the flame which was full of turbulence because of its insubstantiality. The blowing increased the turbulence and air dominated it and it did not remain in the same condition.
- The world of the jinn appeared in that form.
- As intercourse occurred in mankind by the casting of water in the womb and progeny and birth occurs in this mortal Adamic species,
- So procreation occurs in the jinn by casting air into the womb of their female, and progeny and birth occurs in the jinn.
- They exist by Sagittarius and it is fiery. That was mentioned by the one who arived – may Allah preserve him!
(The years between the creation of jinn and men)
There were 60,000 years between the creation of Jann (the first jinn) and the creation of Adam. This is necessary according to the claim of some people that birth will cease among the jinn after 4000 years and that birth will end with man after 7000 years.
- However, things do not occur on that basis. Things will occur occuring to what Allah wills. The jinn still procreate and we still procreate. So when did man begin, how many years of progeny does he have left and how much time remains until the end of this world and the annihilation of mankind on the face of the earth and their transfer to the Next World? This is not the stance taken by those who are firmly rooted in knowledge. It is stated by a small group of people and will not be repeated.
(The Jinn are an interspace between angels and men)
The angels are spirits breathed into lights.
- The jinn are spirits breathed into winds.
- Men are spirits breathed into shapes.
- It is said that a female was not separated from the first existing jinn as Eve was separated from Adam.
- One of them said Allah created a vulva in the first existent jinn, so part of him mated with the other part and offspring like those of Adam were born to him: a male and female who married each other.
- So the jinn’s nature was hermaphrodite. For that reason the jinn are part of the world of the interspace: they resemble men and resemble angels as the hermaphrodite resembles both the male and femaleÉ
(The food and marriage of the jinn)
The elements of air and fire dominate the jinn.
- For that reason, their food is what the air carried by of fat in bones.
- Allah made their provision in them.
- So we see that the bone and its flesh is not decreased at all and we know that Allah gave them their sustenance in the bones.
- This is why the Prophet said about bones, “They are sustenance for your brothers among the jinn.” In a hadith, “Allah appoints their sustenance in them.” Someone to whom this was unveiled reported to us that he saw the jinn come to some bones and sniff them like beasts of pray sniff. Then they went back having taken their sustenance. Their food was taken in that sniffing. Glory be to the Subtle, the All-Aware!
As their union with each other in marriage, it is in the form of twisting – like what you see of smoke issuing from a kiln or a pottery oven. The smoke intermingles and each of the two individuals enjoys that mutual entry. Their ejaculation resembles like the seed of the palm and is in the form of pure scent, just as is the case with their food.
(The tribes and clans of the jinn)
They have tribes and clans. It is said that they are contained in twelve tribes and then they branch into subtribes.
- There are great wars between them, and some whirlwinds are, in fact, the centre of their battles.
- The whirlwind is the mutual opposition of two opposing winds, each preventing its companion from passing through.
- So that barrier leads to the circle witnessed visually in the physical dust which is the effect of the mutual opposition of the two winds.
- Their battles are like that, but not every whirlwind is on of their battles.
- The story of ‘Amr the jinn is famous. He was killed in a whirlwind which was seen. It dispersed from him while he was dying. It did not take long for him to die. He was a pious jinn. If the basis of this book had been to present traditions and tales, we would have mentioned some of them, but this is a book about the science of meanings. You can look for their stories elswhere in book of history and poems.
(The manner in which the spiritual world appears in forms)
When this spiritual world takes on shape and appears in a sensory form, the eyes confine it since it cannot abandon that form as long as the eye continues to look at it although that it is the human being which is looking.
- When human eye defines it and continues to look at it, the spiritual (ruhani) being does not have a place into which it can disappear, so this spiritual being manifests a form which it puts on itself like a veil.
- Then the spiritual being makes the person imagine that that form has left him in a particular direction, so his eye follows it.
- When his eye follows it, the spiritual being leaves its confinement and vanishes.
- When it disappears, that form vanishes from the sight of the one who is looking at it and following it with his eye.
- In relation to the spiritual being, that form is like light is in the case of a lamp whose light is diffused in the corners.
- When the body of the lamp is absent, the light is lost. It is thus with this form. If someone knows this and wants to confine that spiritual being, he should not follow the form with his eye.
- This is one of the divine secrets which are only known by the instruction of Allah. The form is not other than spirtual being. Indeed it is the same, even if it is in a thousand places, or in every place, with different shapes.
If it happens that one of those forms is slain and apparently dies, that spiritual being moves from the life of this world to the interspace just as we move when we die.
No information about it remains in this world, just as is the case with us.
- Those sensory forms in which the spiritual beings appear are called ‘bodies’.
- It is the words of Allah, “We cast a mere body on his throne” (38:34) and “We did not give them bodies which did not eat food.” (21:8)
- The difference between jinn and angels, even though they share in spirituality, is that the food of the jinn consists of foods found in natural bodies.
- The angels are not like that. That is why Allah mentioned in the story of the guests of Abraham, “When he saw that their hands were not reaching for it, he was suspicious of them” (11:70) i.e. the angels did not reach for the roasted calf and they did not eat it which made him afraid.
(The formation of the world of the jinn)
When the time for the formation of the world of the jinn came, He directed three of the trusty angels in the first sphere who took their deputies which they needed for this formation from the second heaven.
- Then they descended to the heavens and took two deputies from the second and the sixth there.
- They descended to the elements and prepared the place. Three other guardians followed them, and they took whatever deputies they needed from the second heaven, and then descended to the third heaven, and to the fifth from there.
- They took two angels. They passed by the sixth heaven and took another deputy from the angels. Then they descended to the elements in order to complete the formation. The remaining six descended and took the remaining deputies in the second heaven and the heavens. All were gathered for the ordering of this formation by the permission of the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
When the formation of the world of the jinn was complete, Allah directed the spirit from the World of Command and breathed a spirit into that form by which life flowed into it.
- It stood uttering the praise and glorification of the One Who brought it into existence: this is the natural disposition on which He fashioned it.
- Within it there was might and immensity whose cause is not recognised nor discovered since at that time there was no another creature in existence in the world of nature other than it. It remained worshipping its Lord, proclaiming His power, humble to the lordship of the One who brought it into existence by what was in its being until Adam was created.
- When the jinn saw his form, one of them, whose name was Harith, was overcome with hatred for that organism and he glowered at the sight of the form of Adam.
- The rest of his species saw that and they censured him for that since they saw that he had grief and sorrow because of it.
- When Adam’s business was complete, al-Harith displayed what he felt in himself and refused to obey the command of his Creator to prostrate to Adam and became arrogant towards Adam because of his own constitution and he boasted of his origin [from fire which he said was better than earth].
- He failed to see the secret of the power of that water from which Allah created every living thing, and from which comes the life of the jinn although they are not aware of it.
( The creation of Adam and the formation of man)
If you are among the people of unveiling, reflect on the words of Allah, “and His throne was upon the waters.” (11:7)
- So the throne and the creatures around it were brought to life by water. “There is nothing which does not glorify His praise.” (17:44)
- He used the negative. Only the living glorifies. In an excellent hadith from the Messenger of Allah said, “The angels said, ‘O Lord (in a long hadith)! have You created anything stronger than fire?’ He replied, ‘Yes, water.'”
- So He made water stronger than fire. If the element of air in the structure of the jinn had not been ignited by fire, the jinn would have been stronger than the children of Adam, for air is stronger than water. In this hadith, the angels asked, “O Lord, have You created anything stronger than air?” He replied, “Yes, the children of Adam.” Allah made the human organism stronger than air.
- Water is stronger than fire, and it is the main element in man as fire is the main element in the jinn. This why Allah said about Shaytan (Satan), “Surely the guile of Shaytan is ever feeble.” (4:76) He did not ascribe any strength to him at all. He did not deny it to the Governor (of Egypt) when he said, “surely your guile is great” (12:27) …
The reason for that is that the human organism accords deliberateness in matters, perseverance, meditation and reflection due to the predominance of the elements of earth and water in the human temperament. Thus the human being has ample intellect because earth holds him back and restrains him while water makes him supple and easy. The jinn are not like that. The jinn’s intellect does not possess that which will enable him to hold to something as the human being does. This is why we say, “So-and-so is ‘light’ of intellect and dim-witted” when he is frivolous and foolish! This is the attribute of the jinn, and by it the jinn strays from the path of guidance due to the frivolous nature of his intellect and his lack of firmness in his thought. So he said, “I am better than him,” (7:12) and combined ignorance and bad manners because of his frivolous nature.
(The first shaytan of the jinn)
So any jinn who rebels is shaytan,
- i.e. one who is far from the mercy of Allah. Al-Harith was the first jinn to be called shaytan.
- Allah drove him to despair, i.e. drove him out of His mercy and repelled mercy from him. From him all the shaytans branch out.
- Any jinn who believe, like Hama ibn Alham ibn Laqis ibn Iblis, join the believing jinn. Any who remains an unbeliever is a shaytan.
- It is a matter of some dispute among the scholars of the Shari’a). Some of them say that the shaytan never submits, deriving this from what the Prophet said about his shaytan who was the companion entrusted to him, “Allah gave me power over him and he submitted (aslama).” The one who interprets what he said as “aslamu” takes it to mean: “I am safe from him” and he has no way against me. Thus the interpretation varies. If it is interpreted as “aslama” is it submission. It means that he submitted although he was an enemy and so he only commands me to good, compelled to do so by Allah and as a protection for the Messenger of Allah. The opponent says that “aslama” means that he believed in Allah as the unbeliever becomes Muslim and thus becomes a believer. This is more appropriate and acceptable.
(Iblis was the first of the wretched jinn)
Most people claim that al-Harith was the first of the jinn, and that he was in the same position to the rest of the jinn as Adam is to mankind.
- We do not think that that is the case. Al-Harith was one of the jinn, but the first among them who is in the same position as Adam is to mankind was someone else. That is why Allah says, “Iblis was one of the jinn” (18:50) i.e. he was from this category of creation.
- Similarly Qabil (Cain) was one of mankind, but Allah wrote him down among the wretched. He was the first of the wretched among mankind, and Iblis was the first of the wretched among the jinn. The majority of the punishment of the shaytans of the jinn in Hellfire is by severe cold, not by heat, although they may be punished with fire. Most of the punishment of the descendants of Adam is through fire.
One day I came upon one of the saints whose intellect was deranged. He was weeping and saying to the people, “Do not stop with His words, ‘I shall assuredly fill Hellfire with you’ (38:85) and apply them to Iblis alone. Look how He alluded to you when He said, ‘…Hellfire with you’. Iblis was created from fire, so he returns to his source – may Allah curse him! If Iblis is punished with it, the punishment of pottery by fire is greater, so take heed!”
When Hellfire (Jahannam) was mentioned, this saint only thought of fire in particular, and was heedless of the fact that Jahannam is a name for both its intense heat and its intense cold. It is called Jahannam by its frowning (jahama. Jahuma means “to have an ugly face”) because its appearance is hateful.
- Jaham is the word for clouds which have already poured out their water.
- Abundant rain is the mercy of Allah. When Allah has removed the rain from the clouds, then the name jaham is applied to them. since the mercy, which was abundant rain, has vanished. Similarly, Allah has removed mercy from Jahannam which is hateful in appearance and report. It is also called Jahannam because of its great depth. One says, “the depths of Jahannam” when something is very deep. We ask Allah Almighty, to give us and the believers security from it!