Since jinn have the ability of shape-shifting, they can take on various forms. Animals, mythical creatures, human beings, and what ever you can imagine- are all forms they can take. Sounds like a movie? Seriously there is proof in the time of Rasoolullaah (Sallalaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) that this is true.
Do the jinn appear in human form? Do the jinn have a real form?
With regard to the first question, it may be said:
Firstly: it should be noted that the basic principle concerning the jinn is that they are concealed from mankind, hence they are called jinn, because the Arabic root janna refers to a single original meaning which is to cover and conceal, as Ibn Faris said in Maqayis al-Lughah. The jinn are so called because they are concealed from mankind, and so on in all derivations from this root.
Allah has told us of this when He said (interpretation of the meaning):
“O Children of Adam! Let not Shaytan (Satan) deceive you, as he got your parents [Adam and Hawwa] out of Paradise, stripping them of their raiments, to show them their private parts. Verily, he and Qabiluhu (his soldiers from the jinn or his tribe) see you from where you cannot see them.” [7:27]
Secondly: Can they appear in human form?
The answer to this is that it is proven in the sunnah and from real life that the jinn appear in different forms, such as the forms of people and animals, etc. Among the clearest evidence of that from the sunnah is the story narrated by al-Bukhari from Abu Hurayrah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) who said: The Messenger of Allah (SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) put me in charge of guarding the zakaah of Ramadhan. Someone came to me and started scooping up some of the food, and I said, “By Allah, I will take you to the Messenger of Allah (SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam).” He complained of being in need and having dependents, so Abu Hurayrah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) took pity on him and let him go. This happened three times, and on the third occasion, Abu Hurayrah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) said: “I will take you to the Messenger of Allah. This is the third time and each time you say that you will not come back, then you come back.” He said, “Let me go and I will teach you something by means of which Allah will benefit you.” I said: “What is it?” He said: “When you go to bed, recite Aayat al-Kursi, ‘Allah! La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), Al-Hayyul-Qayyoom (the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists)…’ [2:255] until you complete the verse, then you will always have a protector from Allah, and no devil will come near you until morning comes. So I let him go, and the next morning I told the Messenger of Allah (SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) what had happened. The Messenger of Allah (SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said: “He told you the truth, although he is a liar. Do you know who you have been speaking to for three nights, O Abu Hurayrah?” He said: “No.” He said: “That was a devil (a shaytaan).”
Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar (Rahimahullaah) said in al-Fath: This hadeeth (narration) teaches us a number of things… that one of the characteristics of the shaytaan is lying, and that he MAY APPEAR IN VARIOUS FORMS that may be seen, and that the words of Allah, “Verily, he and Qabiluhu (his soldiers from the jinn or his tribe) see you from where you cannot see them” [7:27], apply to when he is in the form with which he was created.
It was narrated that the shaytaan appeared to Quraysh in the form of Suraqah ibn Malik ibn Ju’sham and encouraged them to fight the Prophet (SallAllaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). This happened during the battle of Badr. Ibn Jarir al-Tabari narrated in his Tafsir that ‘Urwah ibn al-Zubayr said:
When Quraysh decided to march, mention was made of what was between them and Bani Bakr – i.e., war – and that almost made them change their minds. Then Iblis appeared to them in the form of Suraqah ibn Ju’sham al-Madlaji, who was one of the nobles of Banu Kinanah, and said: “I will protect you against Kinanah so that Kinanah will not be able to do you any harm.” So they went ahead with their plan. This was also quoted by Ibn Kathir in al-Bidayah wa’l-Nihayah.
Jinn can take the forms of snakes and appear in front of humans. It is for this reason that the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) has forbidden the killing of the snakes found in the houses, out of fear that they may be jinn that have embraced Islam. It is recorded in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Saeed al-Khudri (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) that the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said, “A group of jinn in Madeenah have embraced Islam. So he who sees anyone of them, should warn it three times. And if it appears after that it should be killed, for it must be a devil (evil jinn).”
The word translated as “creatures” here refers to kinds of snakes that appear in houses; they are not to be killed until they have been given a warning three times, because they may be jinn. See Ghareeb al-Hadeeth by Ibn al-Atheer.
Al-Nawawi said: What this means is that if they do not disappear after being warned, then they are not the kind of creatures that inhabit houses and they are not among the jinn who have become Muslim, rather that is a devil so there is no sin on you if you kill it and Allah will never give the shaytaan a way to prevail over you by taking revenge, unlike the creatures (snakes) and jinn who have become Muslim. And Allah knows best. Sharh Muslim.
There have been many such incidents. Shaykh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyyah) said: The jinn may appear in human and animal form, so they may appear as snakes and scorpions etc, or in the form of camels, cattle, sheep, horses, mules and donkeys, or in the form of birds, or in the form of humans, as the shaytan came to Quraysh in the form of Suraqah ibn Malik ibn Ju’sham when they wanted to set out for Badr.
Thirdly: The jinn have led many people astray by appearing in the forms of awliyaa’ (“saints”) and righteous people etc. Shaykh al-Islam said: The shaytan often appears in the form of the person who is being called upon and asked for help, if he is dead or sometimes if he is alive, without the person who called upon him realizing it. Indeed the shaytan may appear in his form and the misguided mushrik (pagan) who is seeking that person’s help may think that the person himself has responded to him when in fact it is the shaytaan. This also happens to the kuffar (non-Muslims) who seek the help of those of whom they think well, whether they are dead or alive, such as the Christians who seek the help of George or others of their saints, and it happens to those so-called Muslims who commit shirk (polytheism) and follow misguidance by seeking the help of those who are dead or absent. The shaytaan appears to them in the form of the one upon whom they call, without them realizing it… More than one person has told me that they sought my help, and each of them told me a different story. I told each one of them that I did not answer any one of them and I did not know that they were seeking my help. It was said that this was an angel, but I said: Angels do not help mushriks, rather that was a devil who wanted to misguide him.
One of the greatest ways in which a Muslim may seek help against the devils is to “fortify” himself with adhkar (words of remembrance) and reciting Ayat al-Kursiy, as stated in the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) quoted above.
With regard to whether the jinn have a true form:
With regard to this matter of photographs of the jinn, which have fascinated many people and become widespread on some websites, it is not possible to verify the authenticity of what is in these websites, especially nowadays when people are highly skilled in producing all kinds of deceptive pictures. Moreover, researching such matters brings no spiritual or worldly benefit and serves no purpose. It is better to occupy oneself with things that will bring spiritual or worldly benefit such as reading and understanding what is in the Quran and the saheeh sunnah (authentic prophetic teachings), and what a person needs to know and do of correct belief and worship, and the proper attitude and etiquette which the Muslim should develop, and so on.
One of the Companions of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) killed one of the snakes in the house and this led to his death. Muslim has recorded it in his Sahih that Abu al-Saib (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) went to Abu Saeed’s (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) house and found him praying. Abu al-Saib was waiting for him to finish his prayer when he heard some rumbling in the bundles of wood which were lying in the corner of the house. He looked and he found it was a snake. He was about to kill it when Abu Sa’eed (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) gestured to him to sit down. After the prayer, Abu Sa’eed (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) pointed to a room and he said, “Do you see this room? “Yes,” answered al-Saib (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu).
Abu Sa’eed (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) said, “There was once a man who was a newly-wed and we went to participate with Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) in the Battle of the Trench. He used to ask the Prophet’s permission to go to his wife and the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) cautioned him to take along his weapons for he feared [an attack from behind by] the tribe Quraidha. The man took his weapons and when he returned to his family he found his wife standing between the doors of the apartment. He was enraged from jealousy and took a stab at her with his spear. She told him to keep his spear away and to enter the house to see what had made her go outside. He entered and found a big snake on the bed. He struck it with his spear and pierced it. He was bent upon taking it outside, but the snake had enough strength to bite him. No one knows who died first from that incident, the snake or the man. The people made mention of this incident to Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) asking him to ask Allah to bring that man back to life. Instead, the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said, “Ask forgiveness for our companion. Prophet(Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said, ‘Verily in Madeenah there are Jinns who have accepted Islam, so if you see any of them, ask them to leave over a period of three days, but if one appears after that, kill it for verily it is a devil.’ In another narration collected by Muslim; the Prophet(Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) is reported to have said, ‘Verily these houses have snakes, so if you see any of them, ask it to leave three times. If it leaves, fine, otherwise kill it for surely it is a disbeliever.’ Then he said, ‘Go and bury your comrade.’ ”
This was due to the fact that killing a jinn without just cause is as forbidden as killing a human without just cause. Aggression is forbidden in all cases. It is not allowable to oppress anyone, even a disbeliever. ln this regard the Almighty has said: Do not Jet your dislike for a people cause you to be unjust. Be just, for it is closer to being God-fearing …) (Surah Maa-idah/05, v:8)
Since house-snakes could be Jinns, they are warned to leave three times. If they are in fact Jinn and they do not leave, they may be killed , and if they are snakes they may be killed likewise. Jinn who continue to scare humans by exposing themselves in snake form may be repelled by whatever will prevent them from doing further harm, even if it means killing them. However, killing them without just cause is not allowable in Islam. [Ibn Tayyimah’s Essay on Jinn translated by Bilal Phillips]
1. This regulation concerning the prohibition of killing such animals is with respect to snakes only and not with respect to all animals.
2. The regulation does not extend to every snake but only to those that are found in the house. Those that are found outside of the houses may be killed.
3. If one sees a snake in the house then he should warn it, in other words, order it to leave, by saying something similar to, “I adjure you by Allah to leave this house and take your evil away from us, if you do not do so we shall kill you.” If you see it after three days, you should kill it.
4. The reason that it is to be killed only after three days is a precautionary step in order to ensure that one does not kill a jinn that had become Muslim. If he was such a jinn, he would leave the house. If he does not leave, then he deserves to be killed, as it is, in that case, a rebellious non-believing jinn that deserves to be killed due to the harm that it brings to the inhabitants of the house.
5. There is one type of snake that is found in the house which we have been given special permission to kill without first requesting it to leave. In Sahih-al-Bukhari it is recorded from Abu Lubaba that the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said, “Do not kill the jinn, except every one with two streaks on the back, for they cause miscarriages and take away the eyesight. Therefore, kill them.”
And Allaah knows best.
Shaykh Saleh al Munajjid (islamqa)