SHAMAN, SAIVA AND SUFI
Jinn or genies sprang from three mangrove−leaves, the green jinn from a leaf that soared into the green sky,
the black from a leaf that fell at the gate of the forest, the white from a leaf that fell into the sea. According to
another incantation they were created from the earth of the mountain Mahameru, the Malay Olympus with the
Hindu name. So Malays believe, unless it is to be supposed that in such charms the magicians were merely
inventing fictitious origins for spirits they wished to control. According to some incantations the genies of the
earth were born of afterbirth, according to others of the morning star. One magician's account says that jinn are
sprung from the coconut monkey! Another declares that they were created from Sakti−muna, a great serpent: the
king of the jinn from his life's breath, the white jinn from the whites of his eyes, the black, blue, green and yellow
jinn from their irises, the genie that lives in the lightning from his voice. Muslims hold that Jan was the father of
all. the jinn, and Jan in the Quran also signifies a serpent. There is another legend with a Muslim colouring. When
Cain and Abel were still in the womb they bit their thumbs till the blood came, and along with them were born
jinn, black from the blood that spurted cloud−high, white from the blood that fell to the ground. So run the
discrepant accounts of the Malay magician, who accepts also the Quran's version that jinn were created from
The account of genies in the Garden of Kings is as follows: Jan, the father of all jinn, was originally an angel,
called firstly Aristotle but later 'Azazil. When 'Azazil refused to do obeisance to Adam, his name was changed to
Iblis or Jan and his form into that of a genie; of the relation of Iblis to the genies, however, there are several
variant accounts. Begetting a child every two days, Jan became the ancestor of all the genies, countless shadowy
beings, numerous as the sands of the earth and filling hill and cave, forest and plain. At first they inhabited the
lowest heaven. Thence they got the permission of Allah to descend to the earth, seven thousand troops of them. In
time they fought among themselves and disobeyed God. So He sent Prophets and Angels to quell them and pen
them in a corner of the world. To plague mankind jinn can assume any shape. Some take the form of men, others
of horses or dogs or pigs, others of snakes, others of insects. Some can fly. Some can eat, drink and marry. One
tradition talks of three classes of jinn, one winged, another in the form of dogs and insects, another in human
form. A few are good Muslims and will go to heaven; most are infidels doomed to hell. Their great age is
illustrated from the story of the genie detected by Muhammad under the disguise of a very old man. Being
recognised as a genie, he admitted that he had met Noah and all the Prophets after him.
Again the Malay has read of jinn in his recension of the story of Alexander the Great. That world−conqueror
meets a descendant of the genie Sakhr, who stole Solomon's ring, and assuming Solomon's shape reigned in his
stead for forty days. He and his kin are guarding till the day of judgment a mosque built for Solomon by Sakhr in
retribution for his presumption. He appears to Alexander in the form of a handsome youth but turns by request
into his proper shape: huge as the mosque, having seven heads, each with two faces, each face having four eyes
like tongues of flame, a cavernous mouth, teeth like fiery tongues, a nose like the nose of a bull; on each forehead
are two snakey locks, and the genie has the feet of a duck and the tail of a bull! Near the border of the world
where the sun sinks Alexander finds genies guarding King Solomon's treasure−house of jewels. They are the
descendants of human men and ten daughters of Iblis. When Alexander marvels, the Prophet Khidzr quotes the
case of the Queen of Sheba, who had a human father and a genie mother, and showed this origin by the hair on
All jinn are the subjects not of Muhammad but of Solomon, to whom God gave authority over genies, the
animal creation and the wind of heaven.
One Malay charm speaks of "Jin the son of Jan of the line of the Pharaohs," a pedigree founded on the Arab
notion that the last king of the pre−Adamite jinn was Jan the son of Jan, and that he built the Pyramids.
According to Malay belief there are jinn inhabiting the sun, the moon, the sky, the wind, the clouds. There are
others whose homes or hosts are ant−hills, wells, rocks, the hard heartwood of trees, ravines, fields, swamps,
lakes, rivers, mountain or plain. Others are genies of cape or bay, the sea, the tide, estuaries. Syncretism has
included in these classes Indonesian soul−substance and nature−spirits and Hindu divinities; but one tradition of
the Prophet also distinguishes three kinds of genies, one in the air, one on the land, and one on the sea. Malay medical lore, having borrowed from Arabia Plato's theory of the origin of disease, differentiates a fourth class, the
genies of fire and fiery sunsets.
The colour of a Malay genie varies according to his habitation. Genies of earth and the dark forests and
lowering clouds are black. Those inhabiting the sky are blue or to the Malay eye green. The jinn of fire and sunset
are yellow. In fleecy clouds and the shimmering sea they are white.
Just as Plato ascribed disease to disturbance of the balance of power between the four properties of earth, air,
fire and water, out of which the body is compacted, so the Malay medicine−man ascribes all diseases to the four
classes of genies presiding over those properties. The genies of the air cause wind−borne complaints, dropsy,
blindness, hemiplegia and insanity. The genies of the black earth cause vertigo, with sudden blackness of vision.
The genies of fire cause hot fevers and yellow jaundice. The white genies of the sea cause chills, catarrh and
All these are external genies, visible to lonely wayfarers, to the magician in a trance or, according to Kelantan
belief, to the gazer upon the finger−nails of small innocent boys. They can talk among themselves or through the
mouth of the shaman medium. Genies of the earth may appear in human form "floating in the air and not always
remaining the same size," or in the form of animals or ants or scorpions or in any shape they please. The
manufacture of old Chinese crackle−ware is ascribed by Malays to genies. Muslim genies haunt two mosques in
Negri Sembilan, flitting to and fro in long white robes and sometimes chanting the Quran. If a person stand under
a ladder and bathe in water wherein a corpse has been washed, he has only to stoop and look between his legs to
see crowds of genies and demons sipping the water. Infidel genies of the earth are thought in Patani to assume the
form of dogs and guard hidden treasure. If they take a fancy to a person, they change into little old men and leave
sacks of gold for their favourites to remove. Peculiar bubbles on the surface of the water indicate the presence of
jars of treasure placed by genies in pool or well. There is a genie "supposed to resemble the human form but to
dart about like a will−o'−the−wisp" and daze the man that crosses it. Seize a genie and hold him, no matter what
terrifying aspect he may assume, and one can wrest from him the secret of invisibility. "If a man had a tame genie,
he could cause the meat from another man's cooking−pot to come to him." The founder of a house of great chiefs
in Perak was a poor fisherman. His traps were repeatedly thrown on the bank and his weirs opened. He watched
and saw the offender, a genie clad in the green robes and turban of a Muslim pilgrim. He seized the genie and
refused to let him go. The genie said "Swallow this," spat in his mouth, and told him that he would become the
greatest chief in the country and his family prosper for seven generations.
But these external jinn (for whom Malay physicians find yet another origin suitable to their medical theories,
namely wind) cannot inflict disease without the help of the class of genies that inhabit the bodies of men. So, at
least, it is said in Kelantan. When the genie, whose host a man's body is, has weakened him by loss of blood,
coughing, dyspepsia, then only can jinn from outside enter and cause him hurt. There is a yellow genie controlling
a man's five senses. There is a white genie (jin or malaikat), also called the Light of the Prophet, that "takes up its
abode in the heart of every Muhammadan and prevents him from being wicked," Even these internal jinn have
colour and shape. False etymology and recollection of the Indonesian bird−soul make Patani Malays identify a
man's white genie with a bird, one of Muhammad's parrots!
In some genies abstract ideas seem to find a local habitation and a name.
The genie of golden life,
The genie of bright desire,
Wearing bangles of brass and coat of steel,
can both abduct a woman's soul on her lover's behalf.
The moral character of the white genie in man's bosom may be due to confusion of this spirit with the Light of
the Prophet. Genies, destined for heaven, are moral beings, and belong to the several schools of Muslim belief.
The others are capricious and do not distinguish between good and evil.
The syncretism that has made the name of Malay jinn legion is patent in the Perak magician's address to "the
procession of the thousand jinn." In that invocation the evil influence believed by Malay animists to invest the
corpses of deer, Indonesian goblins of the soil, the Misty Beauty that floats over blind wells, the Piebald Pony,
four spirit guardians of the corners of the world, Kala or Siva in his destructive form, Sri the Hindu Ceres, a
Hindu Moon Fairy beautiful upon waters, the Herald of the World that dwells in the clouds with a name half
Sanskrit half Arabic, Jamshid a spirit of the headlands bearing the name of a Persian king, the spirits of the Muslim dead−these and scores more are entreated so that the magician may display the wealth of his uncritical
lore, offend none of the spirit world and let no genie escape the net of his magic.
An equally good example is found in the list of the guardian jinii of Perak, or, to give them their other name,
the genies of the royal trumpets, whose indwelling spirits were fed and revived annually centuries before the
coming of Islam. These include the Four Children of the Iron Pestle, Old Grannie from up−river, the Prince of the
Rolling Waves, the Children of the Gaffer who lives in the sky. Brahma, Vishnu, and Indra are among them. King
Solomon and 'Ali, the fourth Caliph, find a place. There are royal familiars of the State shaman and his assistant.
There is the Raja of all the jinn, who is throned on the breeze of heaven. There is the Sultan of the Unsubstantial
World ( maya), who condescends to the ear−posies of kings from his throne on a crystal car that is followed by all
the Sultans of the universe. And there are spirits with royal titles in Persian, and female fairies with Sanskrit
names. The list shows a wide knowledge of Malay romances, like the Hikayat Shamsu'l−Bahrain and the Hikayat
Indraputra , that are based on Indian models and full of heroes and genies with Indian names. Acquaintance with
such literature was an esteemed accomplishment at Malay courts. Among the jinn regarded by Perak commoners
is 'Umar Ummaiya, the Ulysses of the Persian romance of Amir Hamzah!