Lecture on Islam and Winti offers new insights

Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention (and translating it from the original Dutch.

Euritha Tjan A Way of De Ware Tijd reports on an interesting lecture comparing the role of djinns in Islam and Winti (an Afro-Surinamese folk religion).

Both Kawina (traditional Surinamese) music and Arabian music welcome the people who arrive at the Congress Hall in Paramaribo, Suriname, to attend the lecture ‘Islam and Winti: The Djinn.’ The MC, Abu Bakker Fatah, opens the evening stating: “The Qur’an says that the value of a deed is determined by one’s intentions. We therefore wish to clarify that it is not our intention to discuss the Winti culture in Suriname. We primarily wish to exchange information with one another, listen to each other’s perspective, and explain how Islam views the phenomenon that we call the djinn.”

After a word of welcome by the two organizing parties, Thoriqul Islam and Fiti Fu Wini, and a short recital by poet Stanley ‘Sombra’ Slijngaard, the evening’s speaker Sheikh Ali Mustafa Seinpaal from Durban, South Africa, commences his lecture. He compares Winti to Hinduism which has one main deity and several lower deities. Seinpaal also mentions various concepts in the Winti pantheon and compares them with similar phenomena in other religions. For example, he positions the supreme entity of the air pantheon, Opete, who in the Winti religion is the only one who can enter the residence of Anana Keduaman, Keduampon (God), next to the angel Gabriel, who is assigned the same role in Christianity.

After this gradual build-up the Sheikh presents Islam’s perspective on the djinns. “There are three types of creatures: humans, angels – who have no choice but to obey God – and the djinns, who, like humans, can distinguish between good and bad. Humans differ from djinns as they are visible in this dimension and stand above the djinns and the angels. In the beginning the djinns lived on the fireball that was the Earth. The angels lived in heaven and used to consist of pure light. One of the djinns, later to become known as Lucifer, had developed himself so well that he received an almost angel-like status. God created Adam, elevated him above these two creatures, and commanded both Lucifer and the angels to bow to Adam. Lucifer became jealous because he felt that he deserved to be elevated instead of Adam. Lucifer was therefore banished; the djinns who support him are demons [hence the common identification of the folk-religion term ‘djinn’ with ‘evil spirit’ or ‘demon’]. But not all djinns are demons; there are good djinns that can help humans, provided that humans understand that they should neither worship djinns nor elevate them above humans. That is against God’s law.”

The audience in the packed Congress Hall is captivated by Seinpaal’s lecture which lasts almost an hour. Next up is a panel consisting of Seinpaal, representatives of Islam, and pastoral theologian Leendert Pocornie. They are presented with many questions, such as: ‘Why is the Church against Winti?’ “Many people are quick to judge. I do not understand their haste, because God says that we should not judge. He will do that on the day of judgment,” Pocornie answers.

Fatah closes the evening after three and a half hours. “That all of you have stayed shows your interest,” he tells the audience that still fills three-quarters of the Congress Hall. “I never knew that there are so many black Muslims. We need more in-depth information about this topic,” says an inspired Simena Pinas as she leaves the Hall.

For the full report (in Dutch), go to http://www.dwtonline.com/website/nieuws.asp?menuid=41&id=105488.

The photo, which shows Sheikh Ali Mustafa Seinpaal (with the white turban), is credited to De Ware Tijd / Claudio Barker.

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