Last Updated on 29th January 2021
Reem Shraiky, UK
Exorcism is the practice of removing evil spirits and it is common in many faiths. Many Christians have a strong belief in exorcism. It is likewise a feature of popular Hindu practice and as a custom, it is rife in the Indian subcontinent and in the Middle East and Africa.
Some Muslims also believe in such a concept; however, as far as Islam is concerned, there is no scriptural support for exorcism.
Indeed, we find no trace of it in the Holy Quran at all, while in the ahadith – which are the traditions of the Holy Prophetsa – there is one tradition which is classified as da‘eef, meaning it was narrated by an untrusted narrator, so it is classified as denounced.
It says that a woman went with her seven year-old son to the Holy Prophetsa and told him that he was suffering from a kind of epilepsy twice a day. The Holy Prophetsa put his hand on him and said, “O enemy of Allah, get out!” So, from this, some scholars understood that this boy was possessed by a jinn and the Holy Prophetsa drove out the evil spirit from him.
As Ahmadi Muslims, we do not reject even a weak hadith unless it clearly contradicts the Holy Quran. Thus, we can easily understand from this narration that the Holy Prophetsa was praying that this illness left the boy’s body and that he recovered from it – not that he was possessed by a jinn or spirit.
The Holy Quran speaks about jinn in different contexts and the meaning changes from one place to another, but there is a general rule which is applicable to the interpretation of all references to jinn in the Holy Quran.
The rule which we have to always bear in mind is to look at the linguistic meaning of the word jinn in Arabic. The word jinn in Arabic is a descriptive word, which refers to anything hidden from sight.
Based on this meaning, we can easily understand the word jinn in the Holy Quran as well as the ahadith of the Holy Prophetsa to sometimes refer to the elite among men, who do not usually mix with the public, while sometimes referring to strangers and foreigners in a country, whereas elsewhere it refers to night travelers.
There is also one reference in the Holy Quran to a snake (Ch.27: V.11 & Ch.28: V.32) and in many traditions of the Holy Prophetsa, it means bacteria and germs.
The common denominator among all of these is the idea of disappearance and invisibility.
Where does the Holy Quran refer to jinn possessing humans?
There is no basis for this idea in the Holy Quran; however, there are some who misinterpret verse 276 of chapter 2 (Surah al-Baqarah), which says, “Those who devour interest do not rise except as rises one whom Satan has smitten with insanity.”
“Satan has smitten with insanity” is in fact a metaphorical expression to indicate the ugliness and atrocity of taking interest, as the Arabs of the time did not consider anything uglier than devils or Satan, so it is a literary device.
However, the Quran does speak about the jinn and Satan. What exactly are these two entities? Are these physical entities such as can be removed or are these conscious thoughts within a person’s mind?
Satan in the Holy Quran is the whisper in the hearts of people and he incites and urges them to do evil. He cannot possess their body, nor physically be in their minds or in their veins. He is quoted clearly in the Holy Quran:
“And I had no power over you except that I called you and you obeyed me. So, blame me not, but blame your own selves.” (Surah Ibrahim, Ch.14: V.23)
So the solution to be protected from Satan according to the Holy Quran is to be a good, righteous person and to follow the Quranic commandments. This is how you can be protected from Satan’s attacks.
Jinn, as mentioned earlier, are either human beings who are not visible normally or are hidden creatures like snakes, bacteria and germs.
In the first case, in chapter 72, which is called Surah al-Jinn, we read:
“Say, ‘It has been revealed to me that a company of the jinn listened, and they said, ‘Truly we have heard a Quran that is wonderful.’’” (Surah al-Jinn, Ch.72: V.2)
According to an authentic tradition of the Holy Prophetsa, those jinn were a group of Jewish people from a place called Nasaibeen who came to meet the Holy Prophetsa and accepted his message. They were called jinn because they travelled to meet the Holy Prophetsa secretly, fearing the non-believers of Mecca; secondly, they were foreigners from another country.
Some Muslim scholars insist that they were supernatural beings from Nasaibeen; however, they declared themselves to be believers in Mosesas. Furthermore, the Holy Quran declares, “O company of jinn and men, did not messengers come to you from among yourselves?” (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.131).
We do not know of any prophet who came from among supernatural beings! This shows clearly that jinn, in this context, are just human beings.
Moreover, if this delegation consisted of supernatural creatures, why then did they meet the Holy Prophetsa at night? They could have met him during the day and no one would be able to cause them any harm. In the ahadith, we read, for example, “Do not use bones and dung to clean yourselves after relieving yourselves, for they are the food of [jinn].” (Sahih Muslim)
The Messengersa of Allah also said, “Cover up the [kitchen] containers, tie up the mouth of the water pots, lock up the doors because Satan can neither untie the water pot, nor open the door, nor uncover the containers.” (Sahih Muslim)
It is very clear that the Holy Prophetsa is speaking here about bacteria and germs; an astonishing hadith, as the Holy Prophetsa, over 1400 years ago, is explaining the modern phenomenon of germs and bacteria.
What did the Holy Prophet say about ridding ourselves of such inner thoughts?
The Holy Prophetsa advised us to get rid of the whispers and attacks of Satan and inner evil thoughts through seeking refuge in Allah from Satan in every matter and through the continuous istighfar, meaning to ask Allah to save us from the evil effects of our sins and to help us from falling into error or into Satan’s clutches.
He also encouraged us to read, on a daily basis, a number of chapters of the Holy Quran, such as al-Mu‘awwidhatain (the last two chapters of the Holy Quran).
We have always to remember the golden principle in the Holy Quran in the words of Allah to Satan:
“Surely, you shall have no power over My servants”.
Thus, the Holy Prophetsa admonished us to always be true servants of Allah in order to be protected from Satan or from evil thoughts.
The Promised Messiahas said:
“‘Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind”’ [Ch.114: V.2] indicates satanic incitements that Satan is spreading among humankind nowadays.” (Malfuzat [Urdu], Vol. 2, pp. 244-245 [1985 edition])
The Promised Messiahas also explained:
“Until and unless all lowly morals are shunned, one’s heart cannot be cleansed. Everyone has some form of evil within them and that is their Satan. Until and unless that Satan is killed, one cannot progress.” (Malfuzat [Urdu], Vol. 9, pp. 280-281 [1985 edition])
According to the Holy Quran, there are two types of sehr (magic); the first type is the magic of imagination and visual deception, which is mentioned in the story of Mosesas with the Pharaoh’s sorcerers.
The second type is the magic of secret groups and gangs, which seek to trick, conspire, incite and spread rumours within society to undermine the system of government and rebel against it. This type of magic is also mentioned in Surah al-Falaq, so one can refer to its tafsir as well as the tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah (verse 103, under “Harut” and “Marut”).
All of this serves to highlight the multifaceted and complex understanding of jinn in Islam, a far cry from the supernatural jinn of folklore. Even if there does exist a separate creation of Allah called the jinn, according to what Khulafa-e-Ahmadiyyat have told us, there is no evidence from the Holy Quran or ahadith that proves that such jinn can affect human beings in anyway.
Where jinn are mentioned in the Holy Quran, they are descriptive words used for certain types of people.