they are caused by disobedience to God. But Abu Omar is clearly not disobedient. His actions testify to his virtues. He prays and fasts, he performs all of the obligatory ablutions and nearly all of the voluntary prayers. Erdam is shocked; how could this happen to such a man?
But Abu Bilal says that the first time he met Abu Omar last year, he felt something was not right, that he needed treatment with ruqya . Tonight it finally broke out. Abu Bilal recites over a glass of water that Abu Omar drinks. Now he is able to stand. He leaves the
What is it like to be a Muslim possessed by a jinn spirit? How do you find refuge
from madness and evil spirits in a place like Denmark? As elsewhere in
Europe and North America, Danish Muslims have become hypervisible through
intensive state monitoring, surveillance, and media coverage. Yet their religion
remains poorly understood and is frequently identified by politicians,
commentators, and even healthcare specialists as the underlying invisible cause
of ‘integration problems’. Over several years Christian Suhr followed
Muslim patients being treated in a Danish mosque and in a psychiatric hospital.
With this book and award-winning film he provides a unique account of the
invisible dynamics of possession and psychosis, and an analysis of how the
bodies and souls of Muslim patients are shaped by the conflicting demands of
Islam and the psychiatric institutions of European nation-states. The book
reveals how both psychiatric and Islamic healing work not only to produce relief
from pain, but also entail an ethical transformation of the patient and the
cultivation of religious and secular values through the experience of pain.
Creatively exploring the analytic possibilities provided by the use of a camera,
both text and film show how disruptive ritual techniques are used in healing to
destabilise individual perceptions and experiences of agency, so as to allow
patients to submit to the invisible powers of psychotropic medicine or God.
I could see the real power of ruqya and the dark substance of magic when it has left its victim.
Doubt and faith
To take seriously other people's reality is, as outlined in Chapter 2 , by no means an easy task. In addition to a conceptual rearrangement of thoughts and presuppositions, it may sometimes also require a rather fundamental disruption of one's own perceptual and emotional faculties. Such disruption is not necessarily difficult to achieve, but it may be difficult to deal with. Prolonged fieldwork
T HE term ṣarʿ designates the state a person enters when consciousness is lost and the jinn takes over full control of the body. It is derived from the verb ṣaraʿa , meaning to strike down or bring to the ground. In modern Arabic the term is also used to describe epilepsy. Ṣarʿ may be provoked by Quranic readings ( ruqya ) that force the jinn to identify itself – literally by burning the jinn so that the pain it suffers within the human body becomes manifest. However, this unconscious state may also erupt without direct provocation
kernel of his being – his ‘ego’ if you like – had been under siege and was violated through psychiatric treatment.
Aziz's wife Liliane also expresses this view. After we watched a rough cut of the film together she explained how she often found her husband dimmed by psychiatric medication, which made proper Quranic treatment difficult: ‘The medicine reacts against the ruqya … If someone who has jinn gets this medicine, he becomes apathetic. His brain stops functioning and the jinn doesn't come out when the shaykh reads the Quran. A shaykh
, psychotropic medicine and God. In this way, psychiatric treatment and Islamic exorcism raise questions about the limits of human perception and the human capacity for healing.
Readers familiar to Arabic may find the use of the concept of exorcism to be peculiar. In Arabic, the term the people I worked with would use is al-ruqya al-sharʿiyya – lawful incantation – the common practice of reciting prayers and Quranic verses for healing and protection not only from jinn, but from all kinds of maladies ranging from headaches to severe illness. In
double dealing. It is said that al-munāfiq , the hypocrite, is the person who gets the lowest position in hell. Ordinary heathens will be standing with their feet on the heads of al-munāfiqūn . To enter the territory between belief and unbelief is to also consequently enter a limbo between prospects for eternal life in paradise and an eternity at the very bottom of hell.
The intention with the YouTube video discussed here is that it should work as an example in the Geertzian sense – as a model of and a model for the practice of ruqya . For
the jinn. I started to speak with different words.’
In the period that followed, several local shaykhs treated Aziz. They read specific healing verses from the Quran ( al-ruqya al-sharʿiyya ) over him, over water he subsequently drank, and over olive oil with which his wife massaged his body in order to purify it. But it did not help. It possibly made things worse by angering the jinn that had taken possession of Aziz. He started to feel hatred towards the shaykhs and the mosque. On one occasion he virtually ransacked a whole mosque in the