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Genies, also known as djinn, are a varied collection of creatures present in Islamic culture and mythology, though references to genies predate the religion. They are one of the three sapient life forms created by Allah, the other two being angels and humans. In this arrangement, genies are what demons are to the other Abrahamic religions, but also more than that as they can be good or neutral too.
The English word "genie" comes from the Arabic word "djinni". "Djinn", spelled as "جن", is Arabic and means "hidden from sight". The word does not necessarily refer to the creatures, but can also mean other things that are currently not visible. "Djinn" is the plural and core form of the word, whereas "djinni", spelled as "جني" in Arabic, is the singular form. The Arabic words "djun" (خن, "go mad") and "majnun" (مجنون, "mad, insane, literally - possessed or inhabited by djinns") are directly related to the word "djinn".
The reason the creatures are known as genies in Europe and America is due to the 1704 French translation and adaption of One Thousand and One Nights by Antoine Galland, which was the earliest modern European translation of the story collection. Rather than translating the words "جن" and "جني", Galland chose to translate them as words the European audience was familiar with. In Roman religion, there were genii (singular: genius), which were protector spirits that manifested from individual portions of divinity that living creatures and important locations possessed. The concept and word made it into various European languages, becoming "génie" in French. Due to the similar sounds of "djinni" and "génie", Galland was inspired to translate the former as the latter despite that the two types of creatures have very little in common. Galland's translation and adaption of One Thousand and One Nights formed the basis for all other translations, thus the word "genie" became the translation of "djinni" in the Western world.
Genie origins and variations
Genies are spirits that appear to have been worshiped prior to the arrival of Islam. Rather than deny their existence, Islam incorporated them into its worldview. According to Islam, Allah created three sapient lifeforms: angels, whom were made from light, humans, whom were made from earth and clay, and genies, whom were made from smokeless fire. Angels are incapable of disobeying Allah, but humans and genies both were granted free will.
According to the sources that identify him as a genie, Iblis, the Islamic version of the devil, is the first of the genies. Before his fall from grace, he lived hierarchically on the same level as the angels, which came to end with the creation of the first human, Adam. Allah declared the human the best of his creations and ordered his previous creations to bow before Adam. The angels, unable to disobey, did so, but Iblis could choose and refused to bow. In response, Allah banished him to Jahannam, the Islamic version of Hell, for eternity. Iblis requested the punishment would not come into effect until the Day of Judgement, which Allah granted. Iblis subsequently vowed to spend his remaining time influencing humans away from Allah and into Jahannam. From that point on Iblis became known as Shaytan, equally so the most powerful of the shaytans, a group of genies that whisper evil into humans' thoughts.
Genies in fiction
There are two types of Islamic texts that tell of genies: religious ones and mythological ones.
The 2013 TV special "13 Wishes" features a genie named Gigi Grant and her shadow sister Whisp. Rather than three wishes,Gigi grants thirteen of them, and she appears not to be malicious, while Whisp is what her name suggests: she whispers things into the ears of finders and tries to convince them to give her all power. She appears to be malicious, until the end where she became the new genie.
- Monster High regularly employs puns based on the word "ghoul". In all these puns, a ghoul is understood to be an undead creature, but not a genie.