Saturday, April 02, 2011

Afghan Diary: Where the Djinn Live

Islam is a religion with a complex cosmos that shares much with older forms of Judaism and Catholic-Orthodox Christianity.  In many parts of the Islamic world, Muslims believe in a universe with daily events full of saints, demons, angels, and miracles.  This is a much different cosmos than what more reformist branches of Judaism and Protestanized Christianity believe in (though many Pentecostal-type Christians are starting to migrate to traditions and beliefs of the Catholic-Orthodox cosmos).

One of the most common otherworldly creatures in Islam are the Djinn (aka Jinn aka Genies).  These are more than the magical people who live in lamps according to Dinseyifed Americanization of Arab tales.  These are beings created out of smokeless fire (as compared to clay/mud for humans and light for angels).  According to the Qu'ran's Surat al-Jinn, Djinn are creatures which have free will.  While in Islam, Satan is a Djinn, Djinn can be hostile, neutral, or even friendly.

From reading parts of the Qu'ran, Hadiths (stories of Mohammad), Islamic fairy tales, and books on Islam I knew that Djinn are suppose to live in another dimension.  However, it was not until my recent conversation with a Kuchi Pashtun tribal elder that I realized how strong belief in Djinn were and where Djinn fit in our world.

Below is a recalling of my conversation I had with an elder through a Pashtun interpreter.

Me:  Let's go take a walk up those hills and survey the area.
Elder:  We cannot go there.
Me:  Why not?
Elder:  Because the Djinn live there.
Me:  The fire beings?
Elder:  Yes!  The smokeless fire spirits.  You, a Christian, know and believe of the Djinn?
Me:  I have read about them.  As a Catholic my faith is open to the possibility of other creatures.  How do you know the Djinn live there?
Elder:  They use to live where our tribe settled (over a hundred years ago) and built the village.
Me:  So why did the Djinn move?
Elder:  There were too many encounters between people and Djinn.
Me:  I thought the Djinn live in another dimension (this took the interpreter a minute or two to convey)
Elder:  They do.  But our worlds are so close together that it is possible for cross over.
Me:  Were there any bad incidents?
Elder:  Most Djinn were kind or neutral to us.  Some were mean though.  Many Djinn left because they were afraid of our ancestors because our ancestors were all warriors.  Others left because we would accidently step on their children.
Me:  Stepping on smokeless fire babies is not good for Kuchi-Djinn relations.
Elder:  Yes, yes.  Very true.
Me:  So do the Djinn leave you people alone?
Elder:  Most do.  We consider them our neighbors and friends.  Some are mean, just like how some people are mean, but we respect them and they respect us.
Me:  So you never go to the Djinn place?
Elder:  No.  When a baby is born we take some gold, bones, and some of the child's hair if possible and put it in a bag.  We take the bag and leave it on the Djinn's hills.
Me:  Why?
Elder:  So they can celebrate the child's birth with us.  The gold is a gift, we give them the child's hair so they can see part of the child, and bones because in the Hadiths the Prophet Mohammad once visited a tribe of Djinn and brought them a bag of bones.  When the Prophet's followers asked why he had a bag of bones the Prophet replied, "Because Djinn eat bones."
Me:  Sounds like you have some good neighbors.  So why can't we go up the hill together?  Would not the Djinn think I am your friend because I am with you?
Elder:  The Djinn do not travel much.  They may think you are Soviet or British.  I do not want to put you at risk, my friend.
Me:  Thank you.  I tend to prefer distance between me and other worldly beings anyways.

4 comments:

Catholicgauze said...

I guess putting a bag with the child's hair in it on the hillside is better than having the fire being go to your home to check out your baby.

Dan tdaxp said...

What is the typical age range of the Djinn? After an episode of "Mysterious Universee" was dedicated to talking of them, I got the impression that many (such as Iblis) are extremely long-lived.

Catholicgauze said...

Dan TDAXP,
The interpretor had no idea, he suspects a long time because Satan is still alive.

Jenny Schwartz said...

This is a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing it. I was doing a search for "smokeless fire" plus "djinn" and found it.