In the Name of Almighty God, The Merciful, The Compassionate

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

Salaam Aleikum (Peace be with you)! I hope you may gain some insight from my work here. Remember, I'm not a scholar and don't claim to be. I only claim to be a person who has a passion for both Islam and this great republic in which I live and wish to share my thoughts with others. Remember that anything good you find in this blog is from Allah, and anything wrong or bad is from my own flawed self.

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The Holy Ka'aba

The Holy Ka'aba
The House of God built by Abraham (peace be upon him)

The Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance
take out the 9th line, and it would be haram (forbidden) to say this.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Islam and the Paranormal

In the name of Allah (Almighty God), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Recently my wife and I watched the movie "Paranormal Activity". I have always found stories of such happenings very intriguing. Of course the word "paranormal" is defined in the dictionary as, "of or pertaining to the claimed occurrence of an event or perception without scientific explanation". This of course can pertain to a wide breadth of things; possibly including religion itself (depending upon how you look at it). Most commonly it refers to such things as ghosts, demons, aliens, and some claimed human characteristics such as psychokinesis and telepathy. Allah does not leave us without information about the existence of such things. In short all of these things can be explained by one word, Jinn.

The Arabic word jinn comes from the Arabic root ja-na-a which means "to hide" or "conceal". A jinni is a creature, created by Allah, that is similar to us in that it has free choice or sometimes referred to as free will. Just as humans, there are numerous jinn that occupy the earth, and also jinn that occupy the universe at large as well. Because they are creatures of free will, some choose to obey God and some don't. In fact, like humans, the majority of them do not obey Allah. Jinn were created before humans which is evident in the story of the most famous jinni, Iblis, or also known as Lucifer or Satan. He was at one time, considered a righteous servant of Allah. However when Allah created Adam, the first human being, all the angels and jinn who were present were ordered to bow to Adam in respect for the great power (of reason, logic, the various faculties) that Allah had given to mankind. Iblis, or Satan, in his arrogance, refused to acknowledge Adam as having any superiority over him. The story is related in the Qur'an.

"Call to mind, when we ordered the angels (and present jinn); 'Prostrate to Adam', they all prostrated, except Iblis. He refused and was arrogant, being already one of the disbelievers." (Qur'an 2:35)

"Allah questioned him; 'what prevented you from prostrating when I commanded?' He responded, 'I am better than he. You have created me from fire while you've created him from clay.' Allah said, 'in that case, be gone from this place; your arrogance pleases me not, you are surely of those who are astray. Iblis pleaded, 'Give me respite till the day which they shall be raised up (the day of judgment). Allah said 'you are given respite'. Iblis said, 'Since you have brought about my ruin, I will surely lie in wait for them upon the straight path (of righteousness) and will approach them from the front and from the rear, from the left and from the right, and you will find most of them ungrateful. Allah said, 'get out then, despised and banished. Whoever of them follow you should know that I will fill Hell with all of you". (Qur'an 7:13-19)

As is shown in the last part of the second quoted verse, Iblis himself, and by extension the Jinn in general, are subject to the same judgment and hellish punishment that evil humans are. So the popular image of Satan ruling over Hell and torturing damned souls is really not accurate. In fact, Iblis, other jinn who follow him, as well as humans who have chosen his path will all collectively be tortured in the blazing fire of Hell. The Qur'an relates in another place that in fact it will be a group of terrifying angels that will be in charge of guarding the gates of hell and subject its inhabitants to grueling torment.

"Oh you who believe, save yourselves and your families from a blazing fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are appointed angels stern and severe who flinch not from executing the commands of Allah, but do precisely what they are commanded". (Qur'an 66:6)

Jinn, as Iblis mentioned, are created from fire.

"He created Man from sounding clay like the clay of pottery and created the Jinn from a smokeless flame of fire" (Qur'an 55:15)

The prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) also related to us much information on the Jinn as well. Like other prophets including Solomon, David, and Jesus Christ, Muhammad, after becoming a prophet, was given the ability to see and interact with jinn. There was even a time when the prophet witnessed a group of jinn embracing Islam which is related in the Qur'an in Surah Al Jinn.

The Qur'an and Sunnah (or authentic traditions of the prophet Muhammad), basically illustrate to us that while some jinn are good, most are bad and try to mislead us from the path of God, and use there various abilities to do so. Such abilities include flight, telepathy, non-verbal communication (whispers into the mind of humans), audio and visual manifestations (hearing voices or seeing apparitions), and probably the most frightening, possession of human bodies.

In the film "Paranormal Activity", a young couple buys a video camera to try to document strange occurrences that had been taking place in their home. At one point the young woman invites a psychic to their home to seek advise, and she tells him that this did not start in this house but rather she has been experience these things since she was 8 years old. Now, we know from authenticated traditions of the prophet that some human beings can communicate with jinn. Some use this ability to foretell the future such as fortune tellers. The prophet's wife Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her), related that some people asked the prophet about fortune tellers and he said, "they are nothing". To which they replied, "Sometimes they tell us things that come true". The prophet explained, "a jinn snatches that true word (from the whispers of the angels) and pours it into the ear of his friend (the fortune teller) and then the fortune teller mixes it with a hundred lies". (Sahih Al Bukhari 7:657).

So if some people can communicate with jinn for these purposes, they can also communicate with the jinn for other reasons, and in many cases the jinn that they are communicating with is only misleading them. So while we reject the use of physics to resolve problems with jinn, we do recognize that there are people capable of communicating with them. The psychic tells the couple that he specializes in "ghosts" which are believed by some to be souls of dead human beings. Also we know as Muslims that the soul of a dead human being does not walk the Earth, but instead rest in the grave until the Day of Judgment. However, jinn can manifest images to us in many forms, including images, voices, and other characteristics of dead humans. This is why you often see apparitions and so forth of say Civil War soldiers on modern day battlefield parks or possibly a young woman who died violently in a particular house. Jinn will use these images to make us believe that the dead walk the Earth, which is something that is not taught by Islam or even Christianity or Judaism.

The psychic says that while his expertise is "ghosts", he believed that the entity infecting this couple was rather a "demon". Demons, according to him, being not human souls but "something else". This he explained, would be why it was something that had followed her from childhood.

As the film went on the occurrences become more frequent and more violent, until eventually the entity seems to possess the woman. This is also something recognized in Islamic tradition. There are stories from the time of the prophet of people being possessed by jinn for various reasons including the possibility that the jinn has fallen in love with the human. Yes jinn do marry and have offspring just like humans, because they do die. So, because jinn also have a mating urge, they sometimes vent these urges on human beings. This was the theory I came up with in regard to this particular film, because as the story progressed it became more and more clear that the entity was not trying to harm the woman, but rather seemed to want to separate the woman from her boyfriend, and eventually seemed to want to physically harm the man. Ultimately of course, it did.

While the movie is fictitious, the situation described in it does happen. In the case of this couple, they waited too long to seek professional help, and it ended in the death of the woman's boyfriend, and the disappearance of the woman herself. Ultimately it is only a movie, and lately it seems that movies about the paranormal are common. We as Muslims, should remind ourselves that Allah, God Almighty gives us the information we need to deal with these situations. We may not know everything about them, because we also know that there are a lot of things that Allah has created that we know nothing about, but nonetheless we have the tools in the Qur'an and in the example of the prophet Muhammad to deal with the Jinn when we need to. Our brothers and sisters from amongst the Jinn, those who submit themselves to Allah (i.e. Muslims), largely leave us alone, but it is the jinn who are devious and evil that will make contact with us; ultimately only for the purpose to distract us from remembrance of God and obeying His will.

I for one found the movie entertaining not only for the "scream" factor, but also because it served as a nice conversation piece for me and my wife about the importance of having knowledge of the Jinn. I hope it does for you as well.

...And Allah Knows Best...

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