December 31, 2021

Can a Jinn Possess a Human?

Jinn is a sprite kind of creature that was created by Allaah SWT before the creation of human beings. It is invisible to us and enjoys similar freedom of making choices as we do. Like human beings they can be guided or misguided, Muslims or disbelievers (Soorah Jinn 72). Iblees was one of the Jinns (Soorah Al-A’raaf).

Some people equate Jinns with Shaytaan; while the truth is that Shaytaan can be both from Jinns and humans. Shayŧaan means a Satan or a devil, whether a human being or a jinn, who misguides people away from Allaah’s path. Literally, Shayŧaan is a superlative degree adjective indicating one who is extremely arrogant, rebellious, hasty, ill-tempered and boisterous. It is used for both human devils and jinn devils, because shayŧaan can be a Jinn who is not visible or it can be a human being, your friend, your colleague and your peer with whom you spend time or to whom you listen. Anyone who suggests something to you that should not be done, regardless of the excuse or the convincing reasons the person uses, is a shayŧaan from whom you must seek the refuge of Allaah SWT. The last soorah of the Qur’aan tells Muslims to seek Allaah’s refuge from all kinds of devils:

1 Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of people, 2 the King of people, 3 the God of people, 4 from the evil of the whisperings of the incessant sneaky whisperer, 5 who whispers into the minds of people – 6 whether from jinns or human beings.  (An-Naas 114:1-6)

A Shaytaan, whether human or jinn, can suggest bad views or incite evil thoughts, but cannot force the person to do anything bad. The irony is that although the Shayŧaan is responsible for incessantly suggesting the infraction in various convincing ways, he never takes the responsibility of the action of his victim because all he did was suggest, the decision to act was the person’s own.

Also, just like an evil human being can physically hurt a person, an evil Jinn can also do so. However, a Jinn cannot take over the control of a human, possess a person, make decisions for him, speak through him, or force him to do anything. The points have been clarified by the Qur’aan in verses such as the following:

وَقَالَ الشَّيۡطٰنُ لَـمَّا قُضِىَ الۡاَمۡرُ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ وَعَدَكُمۡ وَعۡدَ الۡحَـقِّ وَوَعَدْتُّكُمۡ فَاَخۡلَفۡتُكُمۡؕ وَمَا كَانَ لِىَ عَلَيۡكُمۡ مِّنۡ سُلۡطٰنٍ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ دَعَوۡتُكُمۡ فَاسۡتَجَبۡتُمۡ لِىۡ ۚ فَلَا تَلُوۡمُوۡنِىۡ وَلُوۡمُوۡۤا اَنۡفُسَكُمۡ ؕ مَاۤ اَنَا بِمُصۡرِخِكُمۡ وَمَاۤ اَنۡتُمۡ بِمُصۡرِخِىَّ ؕ اِنِّىۡ كَفَرۡتُ بِمَاۤ اَشۡرَكۡتُمُوۡنِ مِنۡ قَبۡلُ ؕ اِنَّ الظّٰلِمِيۡنَ لَهُمۡ عَذَابٌ اَ لِيۡمٌ‏

22 Once the Judgment has been concluded, Satan will say, "Certainly, Allaah had given you a true promise, while I promised you and betrayed you. However, I had no authority over you except that I invited you, and you responded affirmatively; therefore, do not blame me but blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I definitely reject your former act of treating me as Allaah’s partner (by listening to me where Allaah should have been obeyed). Indeed, for such iniquitous people there is a grievous punishment." (Ibraheem 14:22)

20 The devil found his assumption about them true; so, they followed him except a group of true believers. 21 But he never had any authority over them; rather, through him We distinguish those who believe in the Hereafter from those who are doubtful about it; and your Lord is the Watcher over everything. (Sabaa 34:20-21)

Just like jinns, the human devils have no authority on other people, but people listen to their incitement and accept their misguidance:

29 The leaders will retort, “Rather, you yourselves were not inclined to be believers! 30 We never had any authority over you; but you were an inordinately wicked people. (Aŝ-Ŝaafaat 37:29-30)

However, some superstitious people think that jinns can possess humans or have authority over them. The Arabs used to be very scared of Jinns and used to seek their refuge, which was absurd because Allaah SWT made humans superior over all of His creations. The following is how jinns commented on human folly:

6 Some human men have been invoking the protection of men from the jinn, so they caused them to increase in wrongdoing/arrogance. (Al-Jinn 72:6)

This kind of superstitions continues and, disregarding the teachings of the Qur’aan, some people think that jinns can possess humans. When someone is suffering from severe psychological or mental health issues, these superstitious people think that some jinn has possessed the person. Instead of treating them for the mental health, they try to cure it through baseless exorcism. The irony is that such people justify their superstitions through the misuse of the following verse of the Qur’aan:

41 Also mention Our slave Ayyoob, remember when he called upon his Lord, “The devil has afflicted me with distress and torment. 42 (We commanded him) “Strike the ground with your foot; this is a spring of cool water for washing and drinking. (Ŝaad 38:41-42)

The background of these verses is that on a challenge from Shaytaan, Prophet Ayyoob was tested by Allaah SWT through a severe kind of skin disease. Once he proved his patience and steadfastness and his strong relationship with Allaah SWT, he prayed to Allaah SWT with the words of verse 41, then Allaah swt cured him through a miraculous spring water. While praying to Allaah SWT, he mentioned the role of Shaytaan in his ordeal attributing the distress and torment to Shaytaan. This attribution to the devil was not in the sense that the devil had any power to cause such things because he does not have any power except to incite people mentally. It implied two things: firstly, that the devil’s challenge to Allaah SWT in this respect was the cause of his suffering; and secondly, Shaytaan was tormenting Ayyoob by inciting to adopt negativity, pessimism, complaining about his condition, instead of being patiently steadfast in obedience to Allaah and being content with whatever conditions one encounters while trying to be the best slave of Allaah SWT in those conditions.

This is the correct meaning and the background of this verse. Obviously, the sickness was caused by some viruses or germs. However, if we accept the superstitious explanation that it was shaytaan who caused his sickness, it is still a physical damage the way any human could have also caused. How does this prove that jinns can possess a human? Prophet Ayyoob was not possessed in any sense of the term.

The fact is that the Qur’aan is unequivocal in asserting that jinns cannot have any authority over humans. All exorcism business has no basis in Islam.

Posted in Q & A on December 31, 2021 by Ayub Hamid

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