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Religion of Friday, 12 February 2016


Spiritual attack or mental disorder; Exorcism the Islamic way

“She had clocked 34 years but was still rejecting suitors. At one time, Mariam (not her real name) would accept a marriage proposal and the next moment, reject it,” Mariam’s brother narrates.

“Our mother thought her attitude was strange and conferred with a Sheik who after examining the situation, told us Mariam might never get married as she had a spiritual husband, a jinn. The only solution was to exorcise her,” he explained.

Quran chapter 72 describes jinns as being made from smokeless and scorching fire who are able to take possession of human beings. Jinns can either be good or evil and capable of harming the people they possess.

Thus, with the foundation of jinns firmly rooted in the Quran and as an Islamic community, residents of Nima in Accra believe in jinn possession and practise exorcism as a way of dealing with it.
Mustapha Hamid, an Islamic scholar at the University of Cape Coast, explained that the term.

“jinn” was etymologically derived from the Arabic word “majnun” which means a madman. Thus, the term “jinn” was coined to admit that jinns were the cause of mental illness.

“People who are possessed by jinns typically behave like madmen,” Hamid said.
“They may not be dressed like madmen but their utterances and behaviour can be associated with madness.”

Mallam Luthfi Jamal-Baba, an Imam and exorcist at Nima said that exorcism is done differently ­by different exorcists though the underlying remedy is the recital of some verses from the Quran, to get the jinns out.
While some exorcists use only the recitation of the Quran, others use physical abuse with the view of inflicting pain on the jinns so that they exit.

“Some of the jinns are stubborn and when the victim is in a trance, they become violent and try to attack the exorcist during the exercise,” Jamal-Baba said. “When it happens that way, the victims are tied with a rope and sometimes chained to chairs to keep them calm.”

Jamal-Baba professed he does not believe in subjecting victims to physical beating as the victims are the ones who suffer the pain. Rather, he recites verses from the Quran.
He usually works with some assistants who pin the victims down when they get violent.

However, Mallam Mohammad, another exorcist at Nima, believes that caning victims during exorcism gets the jinns out more quickly.
“The victims, at that moment, do not feel the pain. The jinns are the ones who feel the pain and it is at this moment, together with the Quranic recitation, that they flee,” Mohammad said.

Though men can be possessed by jinns, women are considered the ones more prone to possession.
Jamal-Baba said the jinns prefer beautiful and attractive people and thus, tend to possess women.

According to him, the only way to prevent demon possession is to be steadfast in prayers, avoid wearing revealing clothes and bathing at midnight.
Women deemed possessed by jinns tend to talk to themselves, harm themselves and in extreme cases, kill themselves or other people around them.

A victim’s brother, who gave his name only as Aminu, said his younger sister behaved like a normal person until she turned 20 years when she was frequently found talking to herself or cutting herself with a razor blade. Before she turned 22, she wouldn’t come out of her room.

“She locked herself up in her room most of the time and we could hear her talk to herself as if she were with someone,” Aminu said.
Aminu’s sister was later taken to a Sheik at Nima who told them she had a jinn husband and needed to be exorcised.

In the field of orthodox medicine, all the symptoms associated with jinn possession may pass for treatable medical conditions.

Mr Nuworza Kugbey, a clinical psychologist at the Guidance and Counselling Placement Centre at the University of Ghana, said such symptoms could pass for psychotic disorders. Such disorders can cause one to behave abnormally.
“These are disorders that can be treated with both medication and psychotherapy,” Mr Kugbey said.

Bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic-depression, is one of the psychotic disorders where patients experience unusual and swift mood swings; at one time, very happy and the next moment, extremely sad.

People who have bipolar disorder can be indecisive and tend to have relationship issues. In extreme cases, they commit suicide.
Schizophrenia, another psychotic disorder, is a brain illness where people who have it usually hear voices. Also, they tend to speak to themselves as though someone was present.

To the majority of Muslims at Nima, however, what may be considered a medical condition by orthodox medicine, is considered jinn possession where exorcism is the only treatment.