raat ki rani


october is spooky. october is scary. and the spookiest, scariest islamic stories are always about the jinn.

jinn are beings made of smokeless fire, unable to be seen by the naked human eye. they live among us with their own daily lives and communities. they're everywhere and nowhere, completely common in every way (in the way that anything out of sight and out of mind would be).

however, close encounters of the third kind have nothing on the jinn when it comes to scaring muslim children all over the world.

except me, of course.

black magic is something very real in islam. it's used to summon and control jinn, for a price of course (your sanity).

whenever i was told a jinn story, i thought they were the coolest thing. straight out of fiction, except they were real. the best stories always have some truth in them.

one day, while my mother, brother, and i were vacationing in alberta with some family friends, we went on a seven hour hike at waterton. it was exhausting, but worth it. however, there was a slight problem. my mom really needed to pee. she refused to the nth degree to do this "just anywhere" and sought out a location with no fragrant flowers, just dirt and weeds, and let us all go on ahead while she did her thing.

when i asked her about this later, the drama she threw at the situation, she told me a story. it takes place in malawi, where my grandmother's family comes from. they were sitting on their old-style wraparound porch. meat was sizzling on the long grill. the adults were chatting and laughing and having a "merry ol' time."

until one of them saw a spectre, initially thought of as a trick of the light like a heat wave, circling around the most fragrant flower in the garden, the raat ki rani, or the night-blooming jasmine. they immediately shushed the rest of the attendees and ushered them all inside.

the last thing you want to do is disturb a jinn.

according to my mom, jinn are attracted to flowers, and the most fragrant ones can be their homes. if you dared used their home as a bathroom, well... she doesn't even want to think about what kind of horrors she'd suffer because of it.

we know family members who've had to be exorcised because of jinn possession, and that's not something mom (or i!) would ever want to cross off on a bucket list.

so it's like i said, the best, scariest stories always have some truth in them.

(too bad i'm still not scared)