The Five Types of Jinn and Their Threat to Your Digital Security
Islamic belief divides sentient beings into three categories. In order of creation, they are: the angels (malayka), the hidden ones (jinn), and humankind (nas or banu adam). Angels are made out of light, jinn out of fire, men out of earth (sometimes translated as mud or clay). Angels are considered neither male nor female and have no free will. Jinn, like humans, are gendered, and have free will. (This is why, in Islamic thought, Satan is a jinn, not an angel; it would be impossible for an angel to disobey the will of God.) Jinn may be benevolent, evil, or neutral, but are generally regarded as less trustworthy and more prone to trickery than people, even if they are benign. In addition to the types of jinn mentioned here, there are many lesser varieties of jinn that appear in local legends that vary from place to place. For example, in Egypt, there are thought to be female jinn who inhabit the canals and tributaries of the Nile and lure men to their deaths, much like sirens, but they don’t appear elsewhere in the Arab world.
Types of Jinn
MARID (pronounced MAA–rid)
Large and imposing, the marid are considered the most powerful tribe of jinn. They are the classic genies of folklore, often portrayed as barrelchested men with booming voices.
Originally sea-spirits, they are often associated with water, and thought to take sanctuary in the open ocean. While marid are very powerful, they are not technically minded and therefore unlikely to infect your hard drive. However, there is at least one known case of a marid being imprisoned in a flash drive and doing quite a lot of damage to the operating system, attempting to free itself. Please be aware when opening any unfamiliar attachments and if any of your computer’s peripherals exhibit a telltale blue-gray cast, please disconnect from your machine and take them to a qualified technician.
Intelligent and cunning, the effrit are thought to live in complex societies similar to those of humans. They are said to prefer caves and under ground dwellings. Though ostensibly demonic, they are portrayed as changeable in nature, and capable of becoming pious and good. In the Quran, King Solomon is said to have had power over a tribe of effrit, who performed various tasks for him.
Effrit are the greatest risk for phishing scams and online privacy violations, as they are natural schemers and also understand human personality and social interaction the best. It is thought that quite a few effrit amuse themselves sending Facebook messages to attractive potential mates using the profiles of call center employees and programmers in India, the Middle East, and the Philippines, who are bewildered by the response. More seriously, however, some effrit have the capability of writing code themselves, and it is thought that the Conficker worm, which infected some fifty million computers worldwide, may have been written by a group combining effrit and human members. Effrit are not to be taken lightly, but they can only be guarded against by the standard information safety protocols used with human threats—be wary of unverified interlocutors and executable content, and if your system slows or behaves oddly, conduct a thorough scan or contact your IT professional.
(Arabic pronunciation uses a guttural gg sound somewhere
between an English G and a French R)
This tribe of jinn has traveled north and west to become a common English- language term for “undead monster.” This is pretty close to its original Arabic connotation; ghouls are thought to be zombie-like jinn who haunt graveyards and prey on human flesh. They are strictly demonic and incapable of goodness. Often portrayed as nocturnal. Given their limited intelligence, ghouls are low risk in the information technology world—but you really don’t want to run into one in a dark alley.
Talented shape-shifters who are more tolerant of human society than other tribes of jinn, sila are most often portrayed as female. Thought to be extremely intelligent, sila are nonetheless the most rarely seen of all the types of jinn, and appear only sporadically in folklore. There is speculation that the term sila might be related to seelie, a Middle English word for “a good faerie.” (This would make sense, as sila does not appear to correspond to an Arabic root pattern.) Sila are extremely rare, both on- and off-line, and while they are intelligent and comfortable crossing back and forth between realms seen and unseen/human and jinn, by their nature they do not usually set out to harm or trick humans. Sila are, however, fond of meddling in an attempt to help. That Livejournal community member who intervened when you got overinvolved with that troll in the George R.R. Martin community?
Possibly a sila
The original vampires, vetala are semi-malevolent spirits from ancient Indian folklore. They can possess human corpses and prevent them from decaying, and in so doing trick human beings into believing the vetala is an ordinary person. However, vetala can also change shape at will. They are thought to be natural psychics, able to foretell the future and gain insight into the past, as well as read the thoughts of others. The most famous vetala appears in “The Vampire and King Vikram,” a set of stories from the Baital Pachisi. Vetala are quite rare, and while they are certainly intelligent enough to threaten your computer, their superior mental and psychic abilities make technology somewhat irrelevant to their needs. To the extent you are likely to encounter a vetala online, it is likely posing brain-twisting rhetorical questions that keep you on a messageboard well past your bedtime.
Always remember that the unseen can take on disproportionate power —which goes for genies and online demagogues in equal measure. If your blood pressure rises, step away from the computer and make a cup of tea. Vetala are also extremely fond of Words With Friends—they are excellent players and lots of fun to engage with, even if their superior skill may prove frustrating.
Information technology specialists have been working for some time to identify and profile the unique online habits of jinn, in order to better protect human users. However, after the disastrous outcome of the Tin Sari program, there is a general consensus that the likelihood of abuse of this program to target benevolent jinn is too great a risk. Until a better solution presents itself, surf carefully, and if you believe your computer has been attacked by jinn, contact your IT professional.
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