PREPARE NOW to undertake a journey upon the wings of scientific vision into the ancient past to explore the nature and identity of the jinn. The Quranic concept of jinn has been briefly discussed before in Life in the Perspective of Quranic Revelations. Arabic lexicon mentions the following as the possible meanings of the word jinn. It literally means anything which has the connotation of concealment, invisibility, seclusion and remoteness. It also has the connotation of thick shades and dark shadows. That is why the word ‘jannah‘ (from the same root word) is employed by the Quran to denote paradise, which would be full of thick, heavily shaded gardens. The word jinn is also applicable to snakes which habitually remain hidden from common view and live a life secluded from other animals in rock crevices and earthen holes. It is also applied to women who observe segregation and to such chieftains as keep their distance from the common people. The inhabitants of remote, inaccessible mountains are likewise referred to as jinn. Hence, anything which lies beyond the reach of common sight or is invisible to the unaided naked eye, could well be described by this word.
This proposition is fully endorsed by a tradition of the Holy Prophet sa in which he strongly admonishes people not to use dried up lumps of dung or bones of dead animals for cleaning themselves after attending to the call of nature because they are food for the jinn. As we use toilet paper now, at that time people used lumps of earth, stones or any dry article close at hand to clean themselves. We can safely infer therefore, that what he referred to as jinn was nothing other than some invisible organisms, which feed on rotting bones, dung etc. Remember that the concept of bacteria and viruses was not till then born. No man had even the vaguest idea about the existence of such invisible tiny creatures. Amazingly it is to these that the Holy Prophetsa referred. The Arabic language could offer him no better, more appropriate expression than the word jinn.
Another important observation made by the Quran is in relation to the creation of the jinn. They are described as having been born out of blasts of fire (from the cosmos).
And the Jinn We created before that (the creation of man) from blasts of fire (naris-samum). 1
Here the adjective used to describe the nature of the particular fire from which the jinn were created is Samum, which means a blazing fire or a blast that has no smoke. 2 We find a similar statement in another Quranic verse:
And the Jinn He created from the flame of fire. 3
Having established that the word jinn applies here to some type of bacterial organisms, let us again turn our attention to the verses quoted above that speak of the jinn as having been created out of fire. The prime candidates for the application of these verses seem to be such minute organisms as drew the energy for their existence directly from hot blazes of lightning—Samum—and cosmic radiation.
Dickerson inadvertently agrees with the Quranic view when he observes that the most ancient organisms:—
‘… would have lived on the energy of lightning and ultraviolet radiation …’ 4
This scenario of cosmic radiation is not specifically mentioned in the work of other scientists in their search for the pre-biotic organisms. But they too have corroborated the idea that whatever organisms existed before biotic evolution must have drawn their energy directly from heat. Of all the categories of bacteria classified as the most ancient only ‘prokaryotes’ and ‘eukaryotes’ were mentioned by previous generations of scientists. However, that conclusion proved to be a hastily drawn one, according to Karl R. Woese and his colleagues. They observed:
‘Simply because there are two types of cells at the microscopic level it does not follow that there must be only two types at the molecular level.’ 5
For the benefit of the lay reader the difference between the two bacteria, known as the prokaryotes and eukaryotes, is explained in terms as simple as possible. It relates to the presence or absence of a nucleus in them. The prokaryote type of bacteria, despite having a well-defined cell membrane, have no distinct nucleus. The eukaryotes on the other hand, possess well-defined and well-developed nuclei occupying the centre of each cell.
It was considered that these were the only two ancient forms of bacteria which gave birth to others and evolved into organisms which could be referred to as the ancestors of life. However, Woese published the findings of his pioneer research in Scientific American, June 1981, claiming that archaebacteria, could be rightly considered as the earliest form of organisms. He and his colleagues informed the scientific community that they were a third distinct line which preceded all others. Thus it is they who should be entitled as the most ancient ancestors of life. Woese and his collaborators continued to pour strong evidence into this discovery and as the ice began to thaw, according to Woese:
‘Although a few biologists still dispute our interpretation, the idea that archaebacteria represent a separate grouping at the highest level is becoming generally accepted.’ 6
Again he writes:
‘This implies that the methanogens are as old as or older than any other bacterial group.’ 6
According to The Hutchinson Dictionary of Science:
‘… the archaebacteria are related to the earliest life forms, which appeared about 4 billion years ago, when there was little oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.’ 7
But the author of Genetics a Molecular Approach states:
‘Since 1977 more and more differences between archaebacteria and other prokaryotes have been found, so much so that microbiologists now favour the term archaea, to emphasize that these organisms are distinct from bacteria.’ 8
THE ORGANISMS REFERRED TO AS JINN in the Quran seem to fit the above description. But, though scientists unanimously describe these bacteria as possessing the potential of drawing their energy from heat, they are not mentioned as having been originally created directly by the cosmic rays and blasts of lightning by any scientist other than Dickerson. The rest however, continue to throw more light on their various modes of dependence on heat for their survival:
‘… in undersea vents, hot springs, the Dead Sea, and salt pans, and have even adapted to refuse tips.’ 9
On the issue of antiquity though, Woese and his colleagues have no doubt that the archaebacteria are the prime claimants. According to some scientists they may have evolved from some unknown parenthood simultaneously.
But these are issues which fall outside the domain of this exercise. Whether the other bacteria evolved out of them or not is irrelevant to the discussion. The relevant point is that all forms of most ancient bacteria draw their energy directly from heat. This is a tribute of no small magnitude to the Quranic declaration made over fourteen hundred years ago:
And the Jinn We created before that from blasts of fire (naris-samum). 10
According to the accepted scientific studies, direct heat from fire had to play a vital role in the creation and maintenance of pre-biotic organisms. This, in fact was the only mode of transfer of energy for the consumption of organized forms of existence during this era. As they multiplied during their uninterrupted proliferation lasting over billions of years, their death must have polluted the oceans while they decayed and fermented turning the oceans into the primordial soup. This will be discussed at greater length in the following chapter.