Jinn… Muslim Folklore Enters World Cinema
Making inroads into world cinema, a Detroit-based production company has presented its first Muslim-based thriller movie Jinn, investing in a theme that remained far from reach of movie makers worldwide.

“There was a time when we were very creative and we created a lot of things, and we’ve kind of forgotten how to do that,” Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad, the movie writer and director, told Religion News Service.

“But we have a lot of our own stories to share.”

Like millions of Muslims worldwide, Ahmad has a rich heritage of folk tales about jinn.

The stories, though including lots of superstitions, rely on the Muslims holy book, the Noble Qur’an, which mentions jinn in several places.

There is also a sura, or Qur’anic chapter, named after Jinn, in which some of these creatures renounced their belief in many gods and accepted the belief in one God after listening to the Qur’an from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The Qur’an also suggests there are good jinn as well as mischievous and even evil jinn.

As Jinn as described as invisible to the naked eye and living in another dimension, lots of folklore stories emerged interweaving Muslim beliefs with eastern traditions.

“There seems to be a lot of superstition out there,” said Imam Achmat Salie, Islamic studies professor at the University of Detroit Mercy who previewed the film.

“There are still many people in the community who blame everything on the jinn.”

Released on April 4, the movie, titled Jinn, tells the story of Muslim hero and his family who are chased by jinn.

Drawing on Islamic lore, the movie’s narrator opens by saying: “In the beginning, three were created. Man, made of clay. Angels, made of light. And a third … made of fire.”

The story goes on to explain that man has come to rule the Earth, having all but forgotten about the jinn, who live invisibly in another dimension.

In making the movie, Ahmad heard from many Muslims regarding their beliefs about the jinn, and he found that “25 or 30 percent” were still very fearful of the jinn.

“They just felt like it was a very scary topic and they were going to have to build up the courage to go watch the movie, because they feel that if you talk about them, or ask them to come into your life that they’ll kind of follow you around,” Ahmad said.

Interfaith Movie

In the making of the movie, the Muslim hero gets help from a priest and a Jewish jinn to break a curse on his family that is being stalked by a powerful and evil jinn.

The interfaith theme was intended by the Muslim writer.

“I thought, this is a good opportunity to show that we have more similarities amongst us than differences,” Ahmad said.

“The jinn idea is very old, and we can find this through all the different faiths.”

Ahmad noted a Bible verse, Ezekiel 1:13, that refers to creatures whose appearance was like fire.

Many Muslims will also recognize a common Quranic phrase that is oft repeated in the film: “A’uzu billahi minishaitanir rajim,” which means, “I seek protection from God against Satan.”

Moreover, the movie adds other elements to the life of jinn, referring to “jinn scrolls” and prophets.

The movie was previewed by seven imams before release to make sure it wouldn’t offend Muslims.

“The Qur’an teaches us that the jinn had their own religions, so it’s possible that the jinn had their own prophets and their own religious texts,” explained Salie, one of the imams who previewed the film.

In Islam, jinn possessing humans and controlling them is a controversial issue. While some scholars see it as a fact, others totally reject it claiming that there is no evidence for this.

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states that the belief in the jinn possessing humans and exercising control over them is not one of the essential beliefs of Islam.

However, it is true that some of the past scholars (Ibn Taymiyyah and others) have considered it as a fact while others deny this, sheikh Kutty added.