The Ifrit also spelled as efreet, efrite, ifreet, afreet, afrite and afrit (ʻIfrītعفريت, pl ʻAfārītعفاريت) is a powerful type of demon in Islamic mythology. The Afarit are often associated with the underworld and also identified with the spirit of the dead and had been compared to evil genii loci in European culture. In Quran, hadith, and Mi’raj narrations the term appears always followed by the phrase among the jinn. Only in folklore, they developed into independent entities, identified as powerful demons or spirits of the dead, inhabiting desolate places on the surface, such as ruins and temples. Nevertheless, their true habitat remains the underworld.

Main articles: Islamic Mythology, Jinn, and Demon

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Makhan embraced by an Ifrit. Illustration to Nizami's poem Hamsa. Bukhara, 1648.

Makhan embraced by an Ifrit. Illustration to Nizami’s poem Hamsa. Bukhara, 1648.

The word Ifrit derives from the Quran, but only as an epithet and not to designate an specific type of demon. The term itself is not found in Arabic poetry, although variants such as ifriya and ifr are recorded. Traditionally, Arab philologists trace the derivation of the word to عفر (ʻafara, “to rub with dust” or “to roll into dust”). It is further used to describe sly, malicious, wicked and cunning characteristics. Some Western philologists, suggested a foreign origin of the word and attribute it to Middle Persian afritan which corresponds to Modern Persian آفريدن (to create), but regarded as unlikely by others. In folklore, the term developed into designation of a specific class of demon, contrary to most Islamic scholary traditions, who regards the term as an adjective. Only in works concerning popular beliefs, such as in Al-Ibshihi’s Mustatraf, we read about Afarit as a distinct class of being. They became identified as a dangerous kind of demons (shayatin) preying on women or spirits of the dead.

Islamic scriptures

The Chief-Ifrit sitting on the right listening to the complaints of jinn; Al-Malik al-Aswad, from the late 14th century Book of Wonders

The Chief-Ifrit sitting on the right listening to the complaints of jinn; Al-Malik al-Aswad, from the late 14th century Book of Wonders

In Islamic scriptures the term ifrit is always followed by the expression of the jinn. Due to the ambigious meaning of the term jinn, which is applied to a wide range of different spirits, their relation towards the genus of jinn remains vague. Nevertheless, the Afarit become later especially identified with spirits of the nether regions. However within the Islamic scriptures themselves, the term is apparently used as figure of speech, an epithet to describe a powerful or malicious spirit of undefined nature.

In the Quran itself, such an Ifrit is mentioned in Sura An-Naml (27:38-40), who offers to carry the throne of Bilqis to Solomon: An Ifrit from the jinn said: “I will bring it to you before you rise from your place. And verily, I am indeed strong, and trustworthy for such work.” However, the duty is not given to him, but to somebody who is endowed with knowledge of the scripture. An ifrit among the jinn is mentioned Bukhari, who tries to interrupt the prayers of the prophet Muhammed. and in the Muhammad’s Night Journey narratives recorded in the 8th century by Malik ibn Anas. In the latter account, the ifrit among the jinn threatens Muhammad with a fiery presence, whereupon the archangel Gabriel taught Muhammad a Du’a (Islamic prayer) to defeat it.

Islamic Folklore

In Islamic folklore the Afarit became a class of chthonic spirits, inhabiting the layers of the seven earths, generally ruthless and wicked, formed out of smoke and fire. But despite their negative depictions and affiliation to the nether regions, Afarit are not fundamentally evil on a moral plane; they might even carry out God’s purpose. Such obligations can nevertheless be ruthless, such as the obligation to blood vengeance and avenging murder. Ifrit can further be bound to a sorcerer if summoned.


Mask depicting Bes, ancient Egypt deity, sometimes identified with Afarit by Muslim Egyptians, early 4th–1st century BC (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)

Mask depicting Bes, ancient Egypt deity, sometimes identified with Afarit by Muslim Egyptians, early 4th–1st century BC (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)

Although Afarit are not necessarily a component of a person, but also an entity on its own, a common belief in Islamic Egypt associates Afarit as part of a human’s soul. Probably influenced by the Ancient Egypt idea of Ka, the Afarit are often identified with the spirits of the dead, departing from the body at the moment of death. They live in cemeteries, wander around places the dead person frequently visited, or roam the earth close to the place of death, until the Day of Judgment. A person who died a natural death does not have a malevolent Ifrit. Only people who are killed give raise to a dangerous and active Afarit, drawn to the blood of the victim. Driving an unused nail into the blood is supposed to stop their formation. Such Afarit might scare and even kill the living or take revenge on the murderer. However, not every person gives existence to an Ifrit after death: Martyrs, saints and prophets do not have a ghost and therefore no Ifrit.


In Moroccan belief, the Afarit form a more powerful type of demon, compared to the jinn and other supernatural creatures. They have more substantial existence, are greater in scale and capacity than other demons. Their physical appearance is often portrayed as having monstrous deformities, such as claw-like or thorny hands, flaming eyes or seven heads

Just as with jinn, an Ifrit might possess an individual. Such persons gain some abilities from the Ifrit, gets stronger and brave, but the Ifrit renders them insane. With aid of a magical ring, the Afarit might be forced to perform certain orders, such as carrying heavy stones.


A story circulates among the Shabak community in Northern Iraq, about an Ifrit, who incensed Ali by his evil nature, long before the creation of Adam. Consequently, for the Ifrit’s wickedness, Ali chained the Ifrit and left him alone. When the prophets arrived, he appeared to all of them and begged them for his release, but no prophet was able to break the chains of the Ifrit. When Muhammad found the Ifrit, he brought him to Ali. Ali had mercy on the Ifrit. He decides to release him under the condition, he surrenders to the will of God.


In One Thousand and One Nights, in a tale called “The Porter and the Young Girls”, there is a narrative about a prince who is attacked by pirates and takes refuge with a woodcutter. The prince finds an underground chamber in the forest leading to a beautiful woman who has been kidnapped by an Ifrit. The prince sleeps with the woman and both are attacked by the jealous Ifrit, who changes the prince into an ape. Later a princess restores the prince and fights a pitched battle with the Ifrit, who changes shape into various animals, fruit, and fire until being reduced to cinders. In the book, the word is used interchangeably with genie and marid, and the spirit is malevolent but easily tricked by the protagonist.

The blind poet Al-Maʿarri (973 – May 1057) describes the final abode of the pious Afarit as a paradise with “narrow straits” and “dark valleys”, between heaven and hell. He imagined a visit from an angel, who showed places of afterlife.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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