All things Jinn
Read A Thousand and One Nights, and you learn right away that Morocco is a land of mystery and magic. Live here for any more than a few days, and you can’t help but be touched by the sense of the Supernatural. All devout Muslims believe in spirits called Jinn, or Jnoun. This is because they are described in the Qur’an. When God created Man from clay, He created a second life form from ‘smokeless fire’.
The Occidental world gets confused when it comes to Jinn. They portray them as friendly, even loveable, spirits ready and willing to fulfil their masters’ orders. Or, they regard them as spirits of the deceased. In reality, however, Jinn are not ghosts, nor are they adoring servants crafted in the Disney mould.
Like all Muslims, Moroccans believe that Jinn inhabit the world in a parallel realm laid atop our own. Sit in a cafe, and there could well be a Jinn right there opposite you. Walk down by the beach, and a Jinn may well be taking a dip in the water a few feet away. Just because you can’t usually see them, you might imagine they are not there at all. Much of the time, Jinn are quite happy enough living quiet, unassuming lives. But, get on the wrong side of one, and he is likely to tear you apart.
Westerners visiting Morocco sometimes find it odd that the Moroccans they quiz remain tight-lipped when they broach the subject of Jinn. Regarded by all as extremely forbidding and serious, the Supernatural world is never taken lightly. After all, merely mentioning a Jinn can lead it to be summoned. For this reason, learning about Jinn is not only difficult but also potentially dangerous.
As with most things in Morocco, the best way to learn is from the inside out. My own experiences with the Supernatural realm, and with Jinn, came about while renovating Dar Khalifa, our home in Casablanca. The house had been empty for years and as such it was widely regarded to be haunted, or rather occupied, by legions of malicious Jinn.
The trials and tribulations of exorcism are described in my book The Caliph’s House. I have perhaps made lighter of the belief that I ought. For Jinn are a subject that’s woven into the fabric of Moroccan, and all Islamic, society. Making a careful study of their role within Islam is a way of glimpsing facets of Oriental culture that many in the West never quite realises exists.
I recommend that anyone with an interest in learning more read Robert Lebling’s fascinating master-work on the subject, Legends of the Fire Spirits, for which I wrote a very modest introduction.