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Jinn Possession and Exorcism

Posted on Apr 28, 2015 by in Articles | 3 comments

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Islam accepts the existence of jinn who have power to bother and harm human beings, but rejects the notion that they can possess someone and take away their freewill.

Exorcism is the attempted expulsion of a supposed evil spirit from a person or place. This procedure has been popular in the Catholic Church since the early 17th century. In Catholicism, there are two types of exorcism, formal exorcism and prayers of deliverance. Formal exorcism was introduced in 1614 and revised in 1999. It is found in section 11 of Rituals of Romanum. Guidelines and procedures are listed. Prayers of deliverance are simply prayers to rid the possessed person of his demon. Formal exorcism can only be performed by a priest. Some of the signs of demonic possession in adults: superhuman strength, spitting, cursing, aversion to holy water, ability to speak unknown languages, excessive masturbation.

The belief in possession and the ability to perform exorcisms has biblical support. There are 58 veres of the Bible which discuss exorcism. For instance, Luke 9:42 states: “While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him [possible epilepsy]. But, Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy and gave him back to his father.

Also, Acts 16:18 states: “And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.”

The following is a video which shows a woman who is suspected of being possessed by a demon and a priest performing the rites of exorcism:

When this issue is discussed in Islam, there are two main questions that arise. Can a jinn possess a person? Can they bother or harm a person? To what extent can they disrupt somebody’s wellbeing?

First, one must learn about the jinn before these questions can be answered. There are many verses of the Quran and traditions that depict the characteristics of the jinn. Allamah Tabataba’i in Tafsir al-Mizan mentions some common characteristics of jinn. These characteristics are:

  1. The jinn were created before human beings
  2. The jinn are created from fire
  3. The jinn are similar to mankind in that they have life, death, and resurrection
  4. The jinn are similar to mankind in that they have intellect
  5. The jinn are similar to other beings in that there are male and female jinn, they marry, and reproduce
  6. There are believing and non-beliving jinn
  7. Satan is a jinn and he has a tribe and family

The scholars have issued verdicts regarding summoning jinn, not exorcism. The following verdicts have been issued by Shia jurists:

Sayyid Khamenei: Summoning the spirits, angels, and jinn have various rulings pertaining to various cases, methods, and purposes

Sayyid Khamenei: was asked: Some believers refer to people who summon spirits and jinn to treat illnesses. What ruling does this have? Answer: “In and of itself its permissible, conditioned upon the method being religiously permissible.”

Sayyid Sistani: was asked: Is it permissible to summon jinn to solve the problems of believers? Answer: “That is prohibited in as much as it harms to the level of prohibited harming.”

The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that jinns can be summoned and communicated with. They have the ability to bother human beings and harm them. But, they do not have the ability to possess a person and take away their freewill. Thus, many cases where people think a jinn has possessed someone, they might be mistaking a mental illness for the possession.

Written by: Shaykh Hamid Waqar

3 Comments

  1. Firstly I would like to say that this is a well written article on a topic which is commonly misunderstood.

    From a scientific point of view I find it amazing that spirit possession is a ubiquitous phenomena in all world religions. I would like to add that contrary to popular belief spirit possession can have a positive OR a negative influence on the individual. In the cases of positive possession, the old “nafs” has become a new personality, a new “self” which is characterised by self unity and a steadfastness to an ultimate goal. The negative form of possession is ranked amongst the most unfortunate experiences one can undergo characterised by physical and mental changes for e.g an individual can speak in different languages with alterations in tones emitting animalistic sounds and obscenities at random and an exhibition of intense aggression to name a few.

    This article begs the following questions.

    Why do these events occur?
    Why is there positive and negative possessive experiences?
    How does possession operate? [What I mean by this question is how does a supernatural being such as “jinn” influence/change a physical entities physiological/spiritual makeup.

    Finally I would like highlight that one could be easily persuaded to generalise people that have experienced spirit possessions as being pathologically predisposed to experiencing such events. In fact a review by (DePalatis, 2006) suggests that there is little or no evidence for brain or personality disorders in people whom report possession experiences.

    Therefore we must endeavor to understand and shed light on this exceedingly complex phenomena with as little subjective bias and pre-existing stigma.

    Reference:

    DePalatis, R.s. (2006). An exploration of the different responces to a deliverance ministry procedure: Possession trance and dissociation in the Protestant Christian expulsion ritual setting. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Capella University, Minneapolis, MN.

  2. Salam Alaykum

    Thanks for this interesting article.

    What led to the conclusion that Jinn cannot possess someone? I couldn’t find anything in the article.

    • Salaams brother,

      Good Question. This would depend on what possession is defined as. If it is defined as a jinn entering one’s body, removing the person’s freewill, and then controlling his body as one would control a robot – then this would be rejected. This would contradict the purpose of our creation, which is to use freewill to gravitate towards ultimate perfection.

      But, if what is meant is scaring someone, bothering someone, disrupting one’s life, or encouraging one to sin, thus leading one away from God — without taking away one’s choice — than this would be accepted.

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