If the mythological beings who appear in movies to grant people wishes were jinn rather than genies, the person who rubbed their lamp might wish they hadn't. Jinn are the supernatural creatures who inspired the modern-day genie, but unlike the magical characters of I Dream of Jeannie and Walt Disney's Aladdin, these beings aren't interested in helping people and making friends. Tales of jinn go back long before the advent of Islam, but their inclusion in the Quran gave them the notoriety that has allowed them to permeate our modern culture. In some parts of the world, flesh-eating, malevolent jinn are lesser-known paranormal entities similar to lamp-dwelling genies.
What is a jinn? There are different categories of jinn, and while not all are evil, the ones who are can be pretty scary. Some jinn may be content with playing pranks, but others are said to possess people, which can sometimes lead to exorcisms gone wrong. Since they live in a world parallel to humans, these beings can't be seen unless they reveal themselves. Like the creepy night hag, jinn simultaneously exist in their world and ours, and they do whatever they please.
Jinn are not inherently good or evil, although many choose to indulge in bad behavior. They have a reputation for being mischievous and are known to deceive and fool humans. In addition to pulling pranks, they may change shape, tell lies, or otherwise lead people astray and corrupt them.
Some people also blame jinn for their health problems. In 2000, teachers at a school in Saudi Arabia blamed jinn for causing seizures in their students. Some even believe jinn can trick doctors into giving incorrect diagnoses and performing unnecessary surgeries.
Islamic scholars refer to jinn as dual dimensional, meaning they have the ability to exist in both the human world and their own. Because of this, along with their ability to shapeshift, jinn are never seen by humans unless they choose to reveal themselves. In fact, "jinn" is translated as something concealed, invisible, or hidden. Some Islamic scholars believe humans will never even be able to understand jinn, aside from the few messengers and prophets who have been able to maintain contact.
According to witnesses, jinn sometimes have hooves or hairy legs, can be male or female, and have the ability to fly. Some believe each person is assigned an individual jinn who watches over them and acts as a companion. The connection between jinn and human is sometimes so close that stories have emerged about humans and jinn falling in love.
According to the Quran, Allah created angels the day before he created jinn, saying, "Indeed We created man from dried clay of black smooth mud. And We created the Jinn before that from the smokeless flame of fire." It's generally believed all angels are jinn, but not all jinn are angels. Unlike angels, which Allah created from light to follow his commandments, Allah gave jinn free will and magical powers - making them kind of like a group of super-powered humans.
It was this free will that eventually led the jinn to grow prideful over thousands of years and believe themselves better than Allah. Angered by this, Allah sent the angels to fight them, offing most of the evil jinn in the process. Allah then created man from clay and ordered the angels and jinn to honor Adam, the first man.
Jinn share many qualities with humans, the most important of which is free will. They choose what to do with their lives; they can get married, have children, drink, eat, find jobs, form communities, and decide whether or not to be Muslim.
Like humans, jinn will supposedly be judged on the Final Day of Reckoning. According to Islam, Allah assesses jinn just like humans and sends them to paradise or hell depending on how they lived.