My first hearing of Jinn students of knowledge was more than ten years ago, when during a lesson on Arabic grammar on a chilly autumn/winter night the door of the classroom creaked a little. Most of us looked back at the door which peeped out into the dark night, which suddenly became all the more unwelcoming due to this sudden sound. The teacher reassured us not to worry too much saying that throughout Islamic history there had been a number of Jinn scholars, and that perhaps we had been joined by one of them. The following account from our Akabir, namely Sayyidi Shah Waliullah al-Dehlawi in the ‘Anfas al-Arifin’ reminded me of this point.
He (Shaykh Abd al-Rahim al-Dehlawi) said: In Akbarabad on the way back from the lesson of Mir Muhammad Zahid I happened to pass by the door of Sayyid Lutf Sawnpatti, I saw him at the door distressed. I asked him the reason and he said: I am embroiled in a strange affliction, saying this he took me in to the home. A jinn had possessed a female member of his family and seeing me he (K: whilst in the body of the woman) stood out of respect and gave salam.
I asked him: Who are you?
He replied: My name is Abdullah and I study in the lesson of Muhammad Tahir whilst being in a human form. The very day you entered Akbarabad and Muhammad Tahir along with his students went to greet you outside the city I was also amongst them. I know you very well however you do not know me.
I asked him: What do you study?
He replied: The section on Mafool Mutlaq in ‘Kafiyah’ where the author discusses labbayk wa sadayk.
I asked him: Explain the these two words in a grammatical way which students of knowledge would not be able to do. He proceeded to explain.
I said: I will interecede for you with Muhammad Tahir so that he may give you extra attention.
He replied: If he finds out that I am a Jinn then he will never teach me. Then he said: My routine is that I divide the night in to four parts, I pray in one part, in the second I practice nafi wa ithbat (K: A form of dhikr) the third part I revise the ‘Kafiyah’ in, and in the last part I rest. And for the whole day I stay with Muhammad Tahir. This woman by urinating at this place has made my area impure and has disturbed my routine, this is why I am giving her trouble.
He gave an order, and the area was immediately cleaned and perfumed. Due to this arrangement he…went away, at that very moment the woman became conscious and because of shame and shyness covered her face.