Contemporary Islam

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 121–137 | Cite as

Islamic exorcism and the cinema fist: analyzing exorcism among Danish Muslims through the prism of film

  • Christian SuhrEmail author


In this article I apply film theory as an analytic prism through which to examine the ritual mechanisms of a particular kind of Islamic exorcism (al-ruqya al-sharʿiyya). I show how these exorcisms operate as a ritual montage that conjures the absent presence of al-ghayb—a hidden world of power that only God can see in its totality and to which the possessed patients and the jinn spirits must succumb. These exorcisms thus provide healing, not in the sense of immediate “well-being” or “relief from pain” but in the sense of moral witnessing, an opportunity to testify to the limits of human seeing and action and to the ways in which invisible and divine forces give shape to the tangible world.


Islamic exorcism Spirit possession Jinn Psychiatry Cinema Montage The invisible Ritual theory Al-ruqya al-sharʿiyya 



I wish to thank the exorcists and patients with whom I worked during my fieldwork in Denmark in 2010–2012—especially Abu Bilal, Abu Omar, Abu Bashir, and their families, all of whom made this study possible. I have also profited from readings and comments by the co-editors of this volume, Nils Bubandt and Mikkel Rytter, as well as Rane Willerslev, Mark Sedgwick, Ton Otto, Stefania Pandolfo, Laura U. Marks, Martijn van Beek, Amira Mittermaier, and two anonymous reviewers. The study was financed by the Aarhus University research program “Camera as Cultural Critique,” Moesgaard Museum, Knud Højgaard’s Foundation, EpiCenter, and the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF-1321–00169).


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

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