The jinn are interesting characters in the Qur’an who don’t really have a parallel in the Bible. They are something between humans and angels—invisible beings that are the origin of the word “genie.” The jinn were an important part of pre-Islamic Arabian mythology. Unlike the pre-Islamic gods, the jinn managed to become a part of Islamic mythology, albeit in a limited role. They can loosely be compared to fairies or nymphs.
This surah describes a group of jinn who overhear a recitation of the Qur’an and become believers. This causes them to recognize the limits of their power. For example, they try to get into heaven, but can’t: “We tried to reach heaven, but discovered it to be full of stern guards and shooting stars (divine missiles?).” They try to listen at the gates of heaven, hoping to predict the future, but are unable to do so. This surah is about the loss of the power of the jinn in Arabian mythology. With the advent of Islam, the jinn are subject to the power and judgment of God—just like humans.
|Disney's concept of a jinn (or genie).|