, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 348-353

Cultural Variations in Interpretation of Postnatal Illness: Jinn Possession Amongst Muslim Communities

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Abstract

Maternal experience of emotional and physical disturbance during the postnatal period is a worldwide occurrence but may be interpreted differently according to cultural background. Little is known about different expressions and treatment of cultural phenomena during the postnatal period such as the affliction of Jinn possession in Arabic cultures. Jinn are considered to be evil spirits, which cause emotional and physical distress at times of vulnerability such as the postnatal period. The aim of this paper was to explore maternal experience of Jinn possession and draw parallels with Western interpretations of postnatal illness. Ten women in an Arabian Gulf state who had recently given birth and identified themselves as having Jinn possession were interviewed as to their experiences of Jinn possession. Mothers described the Jinn as evil spirits who cause symptoms such as sadness, anxiety and physical malaise during the postnatal period. Numerous risk factors for possession emerged such as lack of familial support, poverty and a traumatic birth. Clear parallels emerged between Western concepts of postnatal illness and Jinn possession Mothers in Muslim cultures may experience Jinn possession during the postnatal period, which reflects similar symptoms and aetiology to Western concepts of postnatal illness. With increasing multiculturalism in the UK, understanding the origins and perception of Jinn possession is important for health professionals working in Muslim communities here.