Angels and jinn can assume a form and appear in this world in the form of any being. Here, we observe movement from the visible to the invisible: water evaporates and disappears into the atmosphere, solid matter becomes a liquid or a gas (steam), and matter becomes energy (nuclear fission). Likewise, we observe movement from the invisible to the visible: gases become fluids, evaporated water becomes rain (as well as snow or hail), and energy becomes matter. Similarly, intangible thoughts and meanings in our minds can appear in the tangible form of letters and words in essays and books.
In an analogous way, such invisible beings as angels, jinn, and other spirit entities are clothed in some material substance, such as air or ether, and then become visible. According to Imam Shibli, if God wills, He allows them to assume a form when they utter any of His Names, for this functions like a key or a visa enabling them to assume a form and become visible in this world. If they try to do so without God’s permission, by relying upon their own abilities, they are torn into pieces and perish.
When Gabriel came to Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, with Revelation or God’s Messages, he rarely appeared in his original form. Rather, he usually came as a warrior, a traveler, or a Companion named Dihya. Once he came as a traveler dressed in white and, in order to instruct the Companions in religion, asked the Prophet such questions as: What is belief? What is Islam? What is ihsan (perfect goodness or excellence or perfection of virtue)? When is the Day of Judgment?5
Jinn also can appear as snakes, scorpions, cattle, donkeys, birds, and other animals. When the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, took the oath of allegiance from the jinn in the valley of Batn al-Nakhla, he wanted them to appear to his community either in their own form or in other agreeable forms, not in the forms of such harmful animals as dogs and scorpions. He warned his community: “When you see any vermin in your house, tell it three times: ‘For God’s sake, leave this place,’ for it may be a friendly jinn. If it does not leave, it is not a jinn.”
The jinn who gave allegiance to God’s Messenger promised him: “If your community recites the Basmala (In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate) before anything they do and cover their dishes, we will not touch their food or their drink.” Another Tradition says: “[After you relieve yourselves] do not clean yourselves with bones and dried pieces of dung, for they are among the foods of your jinn brothers.”6
Ünal, Ali. Living in the Shade of Islam. Somerset, NJ: Tughra, 2009.
- September 19, 2013
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