Teaching about the Jinn: Separating Facts from Fiction | SoundVision.com

Teaching about the Jinn: Separating Facts from Fiction

Long before a parent may think his/her child is ready to learn about the creatures that we call jinn, the Muslim child will probably have encountered some mention of them via popular culture. Whether they are called jinn (also spelled djinn) or genies, they are referenced so frequently in books, movies, TV shows, and cartoons that they have become stock fictional characters or tropes. How many storylines include a jinn-like creature granting wishes? How many songs reference a "genie in a bottle?"

Much of the information propagated about the jinn (outside of religious circles) is based on folklore and the writers’ (or artists’) vivid imaginations. These colorful ideas are widely accepted and our children are frequently exposed to them. Even when a Muslim child is taught the truth about jinn, it is possible for the child’s brain to still harbor conflicting beliefs. Psychologists term this mental confusion as cognitive dissonance, and it usually leads to the bearer of conflicting ideas either canceling out one of the ideas or merging them into one monolithic idea. The task of parents and teachers is to ensure that truthful ideas take cognitive precedence over false ones.

Facts about the Jinn

So, what do we say when our child (or anyone else, for that matter) asks about the jinn or "genies"? Here are some facts:

  1. We know about the jinn because of Divine revelation. They are mentioned approximately 29 times in the Quran. There is a surah named after them. They are mentioned in authentic hadith.
  2. They are part of Allah’s unseen creation. Humans do not see them in their natural forms. “…Verily, he (Shaytan) and his soldiers from the jinn or his tribe see you from where you cannot see them…” (Surah Al-A`raf, 7:27)
  3. They have different forms. Abu Tha’labah reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “The jinn have three forms – one form [that are] like dogs and snakes, one form flies through the air, and one form comes and goes.” (Sahih Ibn Hibban, #6156) Also, the Prophet said: “The jinn are of three types: a type that has wings and they fly through the air; a type that looks like snakes and dogs; and a type that stops for a rest then resumes its journey.” (At-Tahawi in Mushkil Al-’Athar)
  4. Some animals can see the jinn. Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger said: “When you listen to the crowing of the cock, ask Allah for His favor because it is seeing angels, and when you listen to the braying of the donkey, seek refuge in Allah from Shaytan, for it sees Shaytan.” (Sahih Muslim, #2729)
  5. They were created to worship Allah. That is their true purpose. Allah Almighty says: “I did not create jinn and humans except to worship Me (Alone).” (Surah Adh-Dhariyat, 51:56)
  6. They were created from smokeless fire, unlike angels, who were created from light, and humans, from clay. The Messenger of Allah said, “The angels were created from light, the jinn were created from a mixture of fire, and Adam was created as has been described for you.” (Sahih Muslim, #2996)
  7. They were created before humans. Allah says in His Book, “Surely We brought man into being out of dry ringing clay which was wrought from black mud. As for the jinn, We created them earlier from smokeless fire.” (Surah Al-Hijr, 15:26-27)
  8. Some jinn, like humans, are believers, and some are disbelievers. Allah says that the jinn say, concerning themselves, “‘There are among us some that are righteous, and some, the contrary; we are groups having different ways.’” (Surah Al-Jinn, 72:11)
  9. We call the disbelieving jinn “demons,” “devils,” or “Shayateen” (Shaytan - singular). Iblis, the main disbelieving jinn, is also known as Shaytan. He, according to the Quran, refused to prostrate to Adam, and thus, disobeyed Allah despite his belief in him. 
  10. They like to gather in unclean or desolate places. “These toilets are haunted (inhabited by devils), so when anyone of you goes to the toilet, let him say, ‘A’oodhu Billahi min al-khubthi wa’l-khabaith (I seek refuge with Allah from the male and female devils).” (Abu Dawood)
  11. All humans have a disbelieving jinn companion. The Prophet said, “Each one of you has a devil companion from the jinn over him.” They said, “Even you, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “Even me, yet Allah helped me against him until he embraced Islam. He does not order me to do anything but good.” (Sahih Muslim, #2814)
  12. The disbelieving jinn want humans to sin, innovate, and otherwise ruin their acts of worship. Allah states that Iblis has promised, “...Because You misled me, I shall indeed adorn the path of error for them (mankind) on the earth, and I shall mislead them all, except Your chosen, (guided) slaves among them.’” (Surah Al-Hijr, 15:39-40)
  13. They are not able to open doors that have been closed while mentioning Allah’s name. (Abu Dawud, Ahmad, ibn Hibban)
  14. They love it when we yawn and don’t remember Allah. The Prophet said, “Verily, Allah likes sneezing and dislikes yawning. When one of you sneezes and praises Allah, it is the duty of every Muslim to say to him: May Allah have mercy on you. As for yawning, it is from Shaytan. When one of you yawns, let him hold it back as much as he can. When one of you yawns, Shaytan laughs at him.” (Sahih Bukhari, #5872)
  15. The believers among the jinn will go to Paradise. Allah says, “They are those against whom the word (of torment) is justified among the previous generations of jinns and mankind that have passed away. Verily! They are ever the losers. And for all, there will be degrees according to what they did, that He (Allah) may recompense them in full for their deeds. And they will not be wronged.” (Surah Al-Ahqaf, 46:18-19)
  16. The disbelievers will go to the Hellfire. (Surah Al-’Araf, 7:37-39)

It is common for human beings to have conflicting beliefs. That is a part of how our brains work, particularly when we are learning something new. Conflicting ideas can coexist in our minds until we challenge their validity. Consequently, when we teach others about the jinn, it is important to not only teach them the truth of jinn’s existence and their characteristics, but it is also important to tell them what the jinn are not.

This practice becomes even more critical when we are teaching children (especially those who are under the age of reason) about intangibles or abstract ideas. It is essential for the teacher or parent to provide learners with both examples and non-examples of the concept. Because the jinn are intangible to human beings, we have to make a deliberate effort to dispel the misconceptions that are present in our culture.

Many of the misconceptions have their origins in literary classics like 1001 Nights (‘Alf Laylah wa-Laylah) and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. These books, both of which are well-known anthologies of familiar tales, include stories handed down from generation to generation and derived from a variety of sources. Adding to the lore are modern television shows and movies like "I Dream of Jeannie" (1965-1970), "Aladdin" (1992, 1994, 2019), "Genie in the House" (2006), "Three Thousand Years of Longing" (2022), and "Kazaam" (1996). From these stories and other works in popular culture, many parents and their children have internalized a body of mythical thought about the jinn.

The False Beliefs about the Jinn

Many of the folk stories about the jinn, whether classical or modern, include some of the following story elements:

  1. They appear before humans in a puff of smoke.
  2. They all wear Arabian-styled clothing.
  3. They are all bald. If they have hair, they have top knots or ponytails.
  4. They usually get trapped in a bottle, lamp, or jar. 
  5. They are compelled to do the bidding of whoever frees them.
  6. They must cross their arms, nod their heads, or otherwise manipulate their bodies to perform magic. 
  7. They often can be tricked back into captivity.
  8. They are all mischievous, interfering, and deceitful. 
  9. They do not eat food.
  10. They grant wishes, usually three.

While these folkloric ideas make for fascinating fictional literature, they also serve to obscure the truth about the jinn. Caricatured images of the jinn belie their real significance. When we see them as mere impish creatures who are easily tricked and controlled, we might fail to use the Islamically prescribed protections against them, such as reciting verses of the Quran and specific prayers. Allah the Almighty says:

“And say, ‘My Lord! I seek refuge in You from suggestions of the evil ones. And I seek refuge in You, my Lord, lest they be present with me.’” 

(Surah Al-Mu’minun, 23:97-98)

And Abu Sa’id narrated that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, would seek refuge from jinn and the evil eye of man until the two chapters of refuge were revealed, Surahs All-Falaq and Al-Nas. After they were revealed, he would seek refuge using both of them and left off everything else. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, #2058)

Knowledge is, indeed, power. As Muslims, we must always promote the teaching and elevation of the truth, especially regarding faith.

Sources and Suggested Readings

The World of the Jinn and the Devils, al -Ashqar U. (1998),  J. Zarabozo, trans. Jordan: Al Basheer

The Devil’s Deceptions, by al-Jawzi, Abu al-Faraj Ibn (2018), Riyadh, KSA: Dar us Salaam Publishers

The Jinn in the Quran and Sunnah, by Ashour, Mustafa (1989), London: Dar ul Taqwa

Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn, by el-Zein, Amira (2009), Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press

Candice “Sister Islaah” Abd’al-Rahim reverted to Islam in 1976 and considers herself a student of knowledge. She has deep education credentials which include an M.A. in Teaching, a Certificate of Advanced Studies (Post-Masters) in Administration and Supervision, a B.S. in English, and experiences as a principal (in fact the first hijab public school principal in Maryland!), curriculum and staff developer, mentor, and classroom teacher of grades pre-K through 12. She is a former adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate School of Education and is a doctoral candidate in Islamic Sciences at the International Online University. Islaah’s contributions to the field have earned her honors in the Who’s Who of Distinguished JHU Alumni. She is a wife, daughter, mother, and grandmother and is an active member of several Muslim communities in the Baltimore area.



Hey I’m kinda young to ask this question but I have a question to jinns watch kids because every time my light keeps going on and off and prophet Muhammad (saw) pbuh Said jinns will play with light 


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Asalamu 'alaikum,

From my understanding, experience and knowledge they can. But please also consider normal light or fuse faults. But to answer your question yes, some can also move objects and interfere with tv' s or radios



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