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Salim begins to speak. "My grandmother swore that she had seen an ifrit, or perhaps a marid, late one evening, on the edge of the desert. We told her that it was just a sandstorm, a little wind, but she said no, she saw its face, and its eyes, like yours, were burning flames."

–Salim to the Jinn, Chapter Seven

The Jinn, also called the Ifrit, is an ifrit from the Middle East, working as a taxi driver in New-York City. After encountering Salim, he took his identity and life, offering him his own in exchange.

Significance in narrative[]

Somewhere in America[]

Salim is a young Muslim man from Oman who moved to New York City a week ago. He visits offices with a briefcase of trinkets, trying to secure a sale, but seldom sees any success. His brother-in-law, Fuad, secured him his job and a place to stay at the Paramount Hotel. Unfortunately, the sales aren't going well, his money is running out, and Fuad is very unhappy with Salim.

On this day, Salim goes to the office of Panglobal Imports. He arrives a half an hour early and spends all day at the office across from a sick secretary, but Mr. Blanding never has time to see him. At the end of the day, he decides to take a taxi back to the hotel. The taxi driver is a poor, exhausted middle eastern man. When he learns that Salim is from Oman, he says he's been there before, at the city of Ubar (The Lost City of Towers). Each night, three or four thousand travelers would stop at the city, drinking wine and celebrating, but the city perished two or three thousand years ago.

The taxi driver falls asleep at the wheel, and Salim reaches over to wake him and accidentally knocks off his sunglasses. That's when he sees his eyes: they burn like fire. The man is an ifrit, or a jinn: someone who was born of fire, as opposed to of mud, like men. He says that people don't know who he is here, that they think he can grant wishes, but if he could grant wishes, he wouldn't be a taxi driver. Before getting out, Salim tells the ifrit his room number.

That night, the ifrit comes to his room, and they have sex and sleep cuddling all night. In the morning, Salim finds that all his belongings are gone, and only the ifrit's taxi keys and ID remain. He thus begins his new life as a taxi driver.

Physical appearance[]

The Jinn is described as an unshaven man with dark lips, wearing a thick, dust-colored sweater and black plastic sunglasses. Said sunglasses hide the true nature of his eyes: instead of eyeballs, he has scarlet flames.


The ifrit appears at first as an angry and tired man. He highly dislikes living in America (which he describes as an "Allah-forgotten country" with stores full of "shit"), thinking with nostalgia about the lands he left behind (such as Oman and the Lost City of Ubar), while the stressful and ungrateful conditions of his job leave him with little sleep and a lot of frustration. He is infuriated by how little Americans know about jinns, believing them to be wish-granting genies, and deeply saddened by his fall from power, how from a respected and feared being battling with angels he became an underpaid taxi driver. He mentions that he feels "dirty". The ifrit confides to Salim that he feels the "storm" coming in America, and that it scares him, his biggest desire being to get away from America as soon as possible.


Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Graphic novel

Cultural background[]

Jinn, or Djinn, are creatures of pre-Islamic and Islamic mythologies. They are considered to be the remnants of pagan beliefs and pre-Islamic entities, later included into the Islam theology. The strictest definition of a jinni is a supernatural invisible entity part of a species that was created by Allah before He created human beings, and who were the first inhabitants of Earth. Created out of a "smokeless fire", able to wield magic and much stronger and faster than humans, they were however mortal beings, needing to eat and drink, able to reproduce and die, and being judged after their death to be sent to heaven or hell. The jinn considered themselves superior to human, or envied them, and as a result became corrupt and disboeyed God's orders to bow down to humanity. As a result, God sent angels to battle the jinn and banish them to remote areas of the world (islands, mountains, deserts). However, the jinn were said to be born "fitra" nor believers nor unbelievers. As a result they could accept or not God's guidance and the Islamic religion, and there were as much good jinn as wicked jinn.

In a larger meaning, the word "jinn" came to oppose the term "al-ins" (something in shape) to refer to all entities and beings that humans cannot detect with their senses. As a result, the good and faithful jinn were associated or assimilated with angels, while wicked and unfaithful jinn were associated and assimilated with demons. The writer Al-Jahiz considered that the angels and demons were two types of jinn (one pure and entirely goodk the other faithless, wicked and corrupted), while the other two subtypes were marid and ifrit. [1]

The specific jinn that Salim meets is identified as an "ifrit". Ifrit (or efreet, afrit) was a type of jinn made of fire and smoke, associated with the underworld and the spirits of the dead. Usually associated with or considered to be demons, they were malicious, ruthless and wicked spirits inhabiting desolated places such as ruins and temples. The prophet Muhammed had to fight against ifrit on two different occassions, while according to the Quran an ifrit offered to carry the throne of Bilquis to Solomon: it was said the ifrit could be summoned and bound by a sorcerer. It was said that the jinn were not fundamentaly evil, and might even carry on God's purpose, but always with a ruthlessness to their actions: as such the faithful ifrit were those who carried on blood vengeance and avenged murders. [2]

The narrative of the book mentions some superstitions and traditions associated with the jinn, such as the fear of urinating in a holes of the ground because the Prophet said in those holes lived jinn, or the legend according to which when the jinn try to listen to the conversations of angels, the angels throw stars at them to repel them.

The jinn mentions that he went to the city of Ubar, now known as the "Lost City of Towers" or the "Atlantis of the Sands". A fabled city mentionned in both the Qur'an and A Thousand and One Arabian Nights (the Qur'an mentions that God punished its inhabitants for the wickedness and decadence their wealth and luxury brought them), its ruins were actually discovered in February 1992 by a group of Los Angeles-based archaeologists. [3]

Notes and trivia[]

  • Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab created a perfume oil based on the Jinn for their line of "American Gods" products. It is described as: Desert sand, red musk, blackened ginger, dragon's blood resin, black pepper, cinnamon, and tobacco.
  • The ifrit mentions that he has been driving a cab in New-York for ten years. It means he probably took this job somewhere around 1990.
  • The semen of the jinn is said to taste "strange" and "fiery", burning Salim's throat. Similarly, the lips of the jinn are noted to be "burning" during his sexual encounter with Salim.
  • The fake ID the jinn uses as a taxi driver is the one of "Ibrahim bin Irem".
  • The jinn mentions that he lives in a "stinking room" in Brooklyn.
  • The ifrit is not the only jinn living in New-York, but he mentions that they are few in numbers.