Over at Fantasy Magazine, Saladin Ahmed talks about The Messengers, Monsters, and Moral Instructors of Islamic Literature:
The lore of every culture in human history contains sentient beings that are more than or less than human. Elves and vampires, nagas and orishas, daemons and spirit animals—each of these creatures has powers beyond those of mortal men and women, and each is enmeshed in the moral and symbolic order of creation particular to the culture from which it arises. Their strange forms and powers, their familiar-yet-foreign drives and weaknesses, teach humans about what it means to live in this world and the worlds beyond.
The stories and scriptures of the world’s numerous Muslim cultures are no different. Islam’s holy book (the Qur’an), its contested doctrinal traditions (the Hadith), and its various folklores are brimming with powerful nonhuman creatures.
First of all, there is the constitutive presence of God Himself in these texts and traditions. Below the divine, there are also several lower orders of nonhuman beings present. Angel, Djinn, and Ghoul: each of these creatures appears in numerous Islamic scriptures or stories, from theQur’an to the Thousand and One Nights to epic poetry. The cultures of Islam are profoundly diverse, of course, spanning centuries and continents. Local iterations of these beings reflect this diversity. But in every instance, when humans encounter these creatures, it is a test of faith, wit, and bravery. – continue reading.