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Firewood for Hell

If you ever loved Al-Qadim, check out the Economist's article on Islam and the real-world take on the mythos of the jinn. Sample from the lead-in:

The Koran states that Allah fashioned angels from light and then made jinn from smokeless fire. Man was formed later, out of clay. Jinn disappointed Allah, not least by climbing to the highest vaults of the sky and eavesdropping on the angels. Yet Allah did not annihilate them.No flood closed over their heads. Jinn were willed into existence, like man, to worship Allah and were preserved on earth for that purpose, living in a parallel world, set at such an angle that jinn can see men, but men cannot see jinn.

Tons of magical thinking here, the more heart-rending because of the tragic superstitious fallout, such as a woman killed by the Ugandan police for being a jinn, and the belief that jinn whisper into the ears of suicide bombers. Other points of interest to AQ gamers: menstruating women can bear a jinn child, Mohammed supposedly converted a few jinn to Islam, jinn may beg favors from mullahs, and islamic courts hold marriages between humans and jinn to be lawful. Some theologians and religious scholars believe they are thoughts that existed in the world before the coming of men.

Those all sound like story ideas to me. But the fact that anyone believes this is deeply sad.


( 8 sutras — Your wisdom )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 30th, 2006 04:49 am (UTC)
Sounds like a Tim Powers novel. I'd be all for it.
Dec. 29th, 2006 08:11 am (UTC)
It always amazes me...
...that the stories and superstitions of mankind still play such a powerful role in our lives. You'd think, on the cusp of 2007, we'd have outgrown it. Not so much the stories, but the fanatical beliefs that drive us to refuse to understand one another. You'd think we (and I'm speaking of humanity in general) would have accepted that our various cultural and religious views are just that. Views. Ways of looking at our specific lives, our value systems, and our places in history.

Yet, these ideas and beliefs still drive us apart. And it isn't just a matter of it being just in the Middle East, in South East Asia, or even here in America. It's all over. Both in primative and civilized lands, a large part of the global population lets wild stories and myths push us apart.

If you ask me, it should come down to a few, simple things. Learn to be yourself and let others live as they will. Let reason reign. Seek self-understanding.

I think, if we could do these things, we'd be better off as a race. I think if we started to live as caretakers instead of as self-imposed kings we'd suddenly begin to understand our role on this planet.

...and when that happens, a true Golden Age might just fall in our laps.


PS ....Speaking of the mid-east, nice article in Dragon #351. I had to laugh when I thought "Man, I'll be there in less than a month. I should play some AQ".
Dec. 29th, 2006 10:26 am (UTC)
I'm DMing a campaign in Calimshan now, so thank you for the article!
Dec. 29th, 2006 02:14 pm (UTC)
One of the more interesting things I find about jinn and jinni is that the earliest folklore and mythology surrounding them is very similar to European civilization's elven mythago or even prehistoric tales of kami-centric hengeyokai.
One of the great debates in Catholosicm is to weather or not jinn were actually demons in the traditional sense or possibly the fallen cast of Gregori choir of angels... but that's a whole 'nother story in and of itself.

I don't find it sad that anyone believes in jinn... there are a lot of primitive religous systems that still hold sway in many parts of the world...take a look at the US for example ;)
Dec. 30th, 2006 04:52 am (UTC)
Oy, the US is full of primitive religious systems holding sway, it's true.

I think there was a good Arabian fey story in "The Green Man" anthology. Jinn/fey does seem like an excellent fit.
Dec. 30th, 2006 04:50 am (UTC)
Ghost Hunters! I think scarlettina is quite a fan; I've seen a couple episodes. Good fun, lots of shaky videocams. :)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 31st, 2006 06:04 am (UTC)
I see I didn't really explain myself at all. Allow me to expand on why this makes me sad.

People believe in all kinds of unlikely things, and I've gotten used to that. It's usually none of my business. But... As an Al-Qadim writer in the 90s, I wrote "Secrets of the Lamp" and all the tasked genies of the AQ MC. In that work and my research, the jinn were always just creations of the 1001 Nights, wonderful, joyous creatures. Villainous or helpful, they were always FUN.

Now, I read that people are murdering one another in the real world over jinn, a topic I've always ranked on a par with, say, gnomes in terms of their real-world impact. So this clashes with the more lighter and more pleasant memories I have of writing about them. So, now I have to chalk it up to one of the strange, even self-destructive things that people believe.

I think a supernatural view of the world often leads to some dark conclusions, and devalues human agency. But in this particular case, I think my main distriss comes from my beloved image of the jinn recast as a superstition driving destructive behavior.
( 8 sutras — Your wisdom )

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