In today’s modern scientific mindset, the idea of supernatural beings is readily dismissed. The notion of angels and demons is viewed as nothing more than outdated religious myth. Yet those who are more alert to this realm recognize the reality of spiritual beings that often times operate just outside our sphere of conscious perception. Both Christians and Muslims alike acknowledge the existence of such beings and their clandestine and obscure interaction with humans. So it seems here might be a similarity between the two religions, but of course a closer inspection will reveal something else entirely.
In Islam, the Qur’an discusses a group of beings known as the jinn. These jinn are said to be another race of beings created by Allah. It is from this Arabic term we get the English word “genie.” These jinn are mysterious creatures and even within Islam there are questions about exactly what jinn can and cannot do. These creatures are generally viewed as malicious, and stories from within predominately Muslim areas abound. It’s hard to know which are factual and which are exaggerations. One Muslim I spoke with recently told me about some jinn that harassed his village when he was a boy. The exact details of how these jinn interact with men are under debate. But what is not under debate according to Islamic doctrine is that some jinn chose to become Muslims when they heard the Qur’an. The Qur’an itself speaks to this in Surah 72, verse 1-2.
[72.1] Say: It has been revealed to me that a party of the jinn listened, and they said: Surely we have heard a wonderful Quran, Guiding to the right way, so we believe in it, and we will not set up any one with our Lord:
When the Qur’an was revealed, these jinn are reported to have been amazed by it, and thus some of the jinn took this opportunity to become Muslim, obedient servants of Allah. As noted Islamic commentator Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi explains,
The Qur’an also explains that the jinn, like men, are a creation possessed of power and authority, and they, just like them, can choose between obedience and disobedience, faith and disbelief. This is confirmed by the story of Satan and the event of the jinn affirming the faith as found in Surahs Al-Ahqaf and Al-Jinn. [i]
So Islam teaches that there are supernatural beings that made a choice to become followers of Allah. Does the Bible also talk about supernatural beings? Indeed it does. The Bible talks about both angels and demons. An angel named Lucifer rebelled against God, taking many followers with him (Revelation 12:9). He is now referred to as Satan, or the devil. Those beings who followed Satan are referred to as demons. Some of them have been given some amount of freedom before a time of judgment yet to come (Matthew 8:29) while others are already bound awaiting that final judgment (Jude 1:6). Those beings who did not rebel are called angels, and they continue to work in the service of God performing various tasks, such as transmission of messages (Matthew 1:20, Luke 1:13), gathering people at the end of the age (Matthew 13:41), and somehow watching over children (Matthew 18:10).
So both Islam and Christianity attest to the presence of supernatural beings, some good and some bad. But something very different is going on here. In Islam, notice that some of the jinn converted to Islam when they heard the Qur’an. They become Muslims, finding redemption from the Islamic point of view.
The issue of redemption for supernatural beings within Christianity is also discussed in the Bible. However, when compared to the Islamic doctrine of jinn, the Bible posits the exact opposite state of affairs regarding demons. Because God sent His Son as an intercessor in the form of a human, Jesus was able to represent humans before the Father. But this price that Jesus paid as a human does not reconcile the fallen angels. From Hebrews 2:16,
For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.
In the book of Hebrews, the author makes certain to point out that it was because God became a human in the person of Jesus that now provides the mechanism by which humans can be saved (Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:17). Somehow, because God paid the price for sin as a human, humans are able to be saved. But God did not die as an angel, so the fallen angels are incapable of being redeemed.
In Islam, mischievous supernatural beings can be redeemed after hearing the Qur’an. In Christianity, fallen angels have sealed their fate, and cannot be redeemed. Once again, Islam and Christianity demonstrate an exact anti-parallel doctrine when viewed up close.