Tuesday, 26 April 2016



‘…there were men who took shelter among the Jinns but they only increased their folly’. Qur’an 72:6

An invisible but very real world exists, contiguous to ours. Its people are males and females. They eat and drink. Marry and have children. Like men, some are good, others bad. Some believe in the Creator, while others disbelieve. Who are they? They are the Jinns.

If you are a Muslim, their reality is axiomatic. Because affirmed in a whole chapter of the infallible and inimitable Qur’an, surah al-Jinn. Plus taught in the sunnah, the deeds and words of the Prophet Muhammad. You learn how a company of such creatures once listened to the divine message and was converted. Others, wicked ones, stopped their ears. Ever since, they are busy provoking mischief amongst mortals.

On Sunday in Whitechapel I attended a conference on Islamic spiritual healing. A euphemism for exorcism on black magic, the evil eye, Jinn-possession and how to treat the victims. Tenebrous matters about which any priest – by definition an expert on good and evil – would be concerned. The Gospels indeed show Jesus Christ vigorously confronting the forces of darkness, beating Satan and his minions. Jesus exorcised demoniacs, cast out devils and healed the poor possessed. A conference speaker acknowledged that fact.

The Qur’an says God created Jinns before mankind. Unlike men, they are made from fire – presumably an allusion to their spiritual nature. But they also invade human beings and take them over. Sometime fornicate with them. How is that possible if they come from fire? An answer is that we know one night a Jinn attacked Muhammad while at prayer. A well-authenticated hadith relates how the Messenger physically fought the Jinn and chocked him. Had it not been for a Qur’an verse suggesting Solomon’s unique prerogative over Jinns, he would have tied the critter to a post, ‘so that the urchins of Medina would make sport of him’.

The point is that, although originally from fire, Jinns can take bodily form and interact with men. Similarly, Scripture relates that non-material beings like angels can sometimes appear physically to men. Thus, at the 624 battle of Badr, infidel Jinns are said to have fought alongside the mushrikeen, the Mecca polytheists, against Muhammad’s army. The Muslims, with angelic assistance, were victorious.

Sceptics and atheists will scoff, naturally. Ignorance, naivety and superstition! Why should there be such an invisible world? Like a duplication of the visible one? And which evidence can you possibly have of its existence? Muslim rationalists like Abu Bakr ar-Razi and Muhammad Abdu took a dim view. The latter claimed that the language of Jinns actually means germs. Clever but highly implausible. Would God have sent messages to microbes? The Prophet in Medina that night certainly did not wrestle with a germ!

Identifying invisible entities is of course epistemologically tricky. But no more difficult than postulating sub-atomic quantum particles, black holes or non-visible dimensions parallel to ours. Scientists posit them not by direct sensory experience but by forming elaborate theories. For believers, Jinns stand on a firmer basis as they are certified by a divine, irrefragable revelation. Moreover, any entity can be known by its empirically effects. As the phenomena of demonic possession clearly show, some human beings suffer from fearsome attacks. Something must be done about it.

How do you know when someone is supernaturally possessed? Christian exorcists mention criteria like sudden knowledge of things distant, superhuman physical strength and unnatural behaviour, like sexual perversions, obscenities and loss of blood. Many demonic manifestations display similar features. Some of the above may be explained by recourse to medical science but not all. And psychiatry’s most effective remedies for dealing with symptoms of demonic possessions are questionable. Aggressive drug treatment and electroconvulsive therapy can damage a patient long term far more than exorcism putatively does…

The popular idea of devil-busting is often exaggerated. I can vouchsafe it because I have conducted the procedure myself. A lady, daughter of a dear friend and married to an MP, asked me to say prayers in her home. Her mother told me that her grandchildren were disturbed by strange voices and ‘presences’. I readily agreed to go and pray in the lady’s house. No Latin hocus-pocus but just good, simple Christian prayers – that’s what exorcism at bottom is all about. Well, it worked. The voices went for good. As it happens, the lady lived near Logan’s Place, famous for having been the former residence of singer Fred Mercury, of Queen’s fame. Significant?

Weeks later another woman, I think from the Middle East, popped into my Kensington church, St Mary Abbots. She too complained about supernatural happenings in her home and asked for a priest to go over and exorcise. Oddly, she too lived near Logan’s Place. Had the spirits simply moved house? Wallahi! I didn’t tell her. She might have sued me.

The Whitechapel conference did not discuss whether Jinns may also possess or affect political figures. Muslims have to be careful about what they say, in the present climate of being constantly monitored and scrutinised by media and snoopers alike. The priest will put his head above the parapet, however. Do the disastrous foreign and home policies of Blair, Bush, Cameron, Obama and the EU betray diabolical influences? Some absolute evil or moral enormities greater than the usual political corruptions and stupidities?

Huh! Perish the thought!

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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