[ALERT: This article can do you a spook. You have been warned.]
For centuries, people all over the world have been plagued with perhaps the greatest problem in the history of mankind: bad genies possessing people, and giving them all sorts of trouble.
A headache? It could be because you spent the past 8 hours reading comics, or it could be… A GENIE. Feeling snappy and irritable? Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, or maybe… a GENIE had took hold of you. Having inexplicably soft and bouncy hair? Maybe it’s the hot oil treatment, or maybe you’re… BORN WITH IT™. Or maybe you just had help from a genie.
Anyway, the point is, it’s hard for some people to tell for sure whether feeling crappy had something to do with Christina Aguilera. If you’re one of those people who spend their waking hours worrying about that, good news! Your worries might soon be over, as a team of seven researchers from Universiti Malaysia Kelantan had heard your desperate cries for help, and is working on a scientific solution.
OMGOSH HOW?!!? Well…
It involves annoying genies with traditional music and taking pictures of them
For the past two years, the team, led by a Prof Madya Yohan Kurniawan, had tried to sniff out genies camping out in humans by using an aura camera hooked up to a biofeedback plate hooked up to a computer. Wait a second, we hear you say. What the flippity-feck is an aura camera? Well, some people believe that a person’s life force wrap around the body in the form of a hazy cloud, and according to ‘gifted’ few who could see this, the cloud changes color like some ethereal mood ring.
So, in the spirit of replacing the workforce with robots, some enterprising guy built a camera-machine that can ‘see’ and photograph the auras of people, but the subjects have to sit in front of the machine and put their hands on a metal plate during the ordeal. Such innovation! But according to the recent news story, this groundbreaking invention costs a lot, as the UMK researchers bought theirs for RM15,000. Which is cool, because their research is totally covered by the Education Ministry’s Fundamental Research Grant Scheme.
“This equipment is a scientific way to prove the existence of genies in the human body through electrical change, seeing as the creatures were created from fire, as said in the al-Quran. The human body has seven auras from the head to the feet. Each of the auras have different electrical energy that will be detected by the equipment.” – Prof Madya Dr Yohan Kurniawan, translated from Berita Harian.
We’ve tried calling up Dr Yohan himself, but nobody picked up the phone despite repeated calls. But based on the news story, the experiment involved rounding up ten respondents who are known to have ‘saka‘ in them (kinda like an inherited pet genie, extremely useful and extremely clingy) and subjected them to recitals of Quranic verses and traditional music to rile up the spirits.
They then took pictures of the subjects using the aura camera, and they’ve found that agitated genies show up red on the photos, specifically over the head, throat and chest chakras.
“If one of the three auras becomes red based on the software connected from the electronic equipment to the computer, there is a possibility of genies,” – Prof Madya Dr Yohan Kurniawan, translated from Berita Harian.
Now, we know that this might either sound terribly awesome or downright stupid depending on how you look at the issue, so before we get to judging, you might be wondering… why genies? Just why? Well, for one thing…
Genies (or djinns) are an important part of Islamic belief (and medicine)
For most Muslims, as had been established in the intro, genies are a huge deal. Believing in their existence is compulsory, as genies fall under the Ghaibiyyat Matters, aka things that cannot be perceived with human senses. These include God, the angels, life after death, and other spiritual beings, including genies. The Quran mentions them as being made before man, out of smokeless fire, and there’s a whole chapter dedicated to them. Even the Prophet Muhammad was said to describe three types of genies:
“The Messenger of Allah said: ‘ The jinn are of three types: those with wings that fly through the air; a type that look like snakes and dogs; and a type that stops for a rest then resumes its journey.” – a hadith from Abu Tha’labah al-Kushani, taken from a book by Adam Asar.
[Before we get any further into genies, a disclaimer: beyond this point, our description of genies are based on both Islamic sources and folk beliefs, which can sometimes get tangled together, even for Islamic healers. So please don’t report us to JAKIM kay?]
They have a host of supernatural abilities, and some believe that there are almost as many genies as there are men. They live practically everywhere, from isolated deserts to garbage dumps, because apparently they eat leftovers. They have their own governments, countries, races and religions, with some of them even being Communists. At least, according to this Islamic treatment website, anyway.
Worries of genies seizing the means of production aside, to a lot of Malaysians they pose a real threat: they are known to sometimes cause disease to people, either by assisting an evil shaman (through santau or sihir, both black magicks) or because they have been angered by, say, someone pissing in a hole they live in. So it may not be surprising to know that our local academia have dabbled in the unseen before.
In 2014 the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia was said to have planned a forum regarding genies and sihir in modern medicine, although UKM had later denied their involvement in the forum. Come 2017, the Advanced Medical and Dental Institute of the Universiti Sains Malaysia planned a seminar to explain the scientific aspects of santau, but it was later scrapped. There were other serious, seemingly scientific attempts to address the genie menace, but…
Scientifically, it can be pretty hard to prove genies and black magic exist
To solve genie-related ailments, most Islamic medicine practitioners turn to something called the ruqyah therapy, which involves reciting verses of the Quran to people possessed by genies. In recent times, several psychiatrists and religious experts have been lobbying for its inclusion along modern medicine (rebranding it as “Islamic psychospiritual therapy“), but it’s hard when you can’t prove any of it scientifically.
“As a therapy that must be seen scientifically, there has to be more scientific research that becomes the baseline in Islamic psychospiritual policies and practices. What is more important is to come up with a definition of standard operating procedures according to local lens and culture,” – Datuk Prof Dr Azizan Baruddin, the director-general of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim), as reported by Malay Mail.
Prof Madya Dr Yohan’s research attempts to scientifically diagnose genies in a person, and the reason behind it is to avoid serious diseases being falsely attributed to genies.
“…this is because some had alleged that their sickness was caused by genies when it was not, and some were even afflicted with illnesses that cause weird behavior but had nothing to do with genies. Therefore, we want to help in ensuring the accuracy of information before treatment begins to avoid mistakes,” – Prof Madya Dr Yohan Kur Niawan, translated from Berita Harian.
A 2010 study in the Netherlands did find out that patients with an Islamic background often attribute their mental problems to genies, and this often complicates their treatment as they doubt that science-y treatments will help with their spiritual problems. If successful, Dr Yohan’s research may help our Islamic patients to accept conventional medicine instead of resorting to scientifically unproven treatments.
However, while his intentions may be in the right place…
There’s a chance the research had gone to pot with the use of an aura machine
According to an earlier symposium paper where Dr Yohan referred to his experiment as the SPIBAC method (Spirit’s Phenomena Based on the Aura’s Color), the equipment they used was the WinAura Pro, part of a product line designed to capture the auras of people in photographic form. The creator of this kind of aura photography (and consequently, all products related to it) is a guy named Guy Coggins.
However, here’s the stitch: these machines CANNOT actually photograph human aura.
“The cameras produces an electronic interpretation of what we believe the actual Aura would look like. Nothing exists in the world that can photograph the actual Aura. All Aura Imaging cameras on the market today work on the same basic biofeedback principles developed by Guy Coggins. They all give an electronic interpretation of the Aura.” – Aura Imaging‘s FAQ section.
Basically the camera photographs you, and the metal plate thingamajug (called a ‘biofeedback apparatus’) measures the electrical potential along the palm of the hand, then superimposes the resulting colors over the photograph. Crassly speaking, it’s like a Snapchat filter, but instead of dog ears you get colors based on how hard it is for electric to travel across your palm.
As for the colors… Guy Coggins was inspired by Dr Max Luscher’s studies on color preference and personality, and by combining that with the input of several ‘psychics‘, he came up with an interpretation system for the photos. For example, while Dr Yohan attributes ‘red’ to ‘genie’, according to the guide found on the website, it can also mean, along with like 20 other things, love of sports, sense of adventure, eroticism, power, and strength. But no genie.
The FAQ section also tells us that the machine cannot be used for medical diagnosis, and if you want to make some cash of the machine in the US, you should go to smaller psychic/New Age/hippy fairs, as all the bigger fairs probably have an aura photography booth already. Also, we found the listed price of the machine on eBay. It cost about RM5,000 (USD1,250).
To be fair, Dr Yohan did admit in the symposium paper that the aura machine cannot take pictures of a genie… so he suggested future researchers to use a thermal imaging machine instead. Anyways, in response to the recent news that brought Dr Yohan’s research to the public eye, some academics have lambasted the project, and urged the new Education Minister to investigate how such an unscientific research could be funded in the first place. So we may or may not see tighter fingers around research grants soon. Bummer.
Ahh. Modern science and the supernatural. Will they ever get along?
In some ways, the supernatural in Malaysia had caught up to modern science, like this case example we got from an Islamic treatment website:
In case you can’t read Malay, it was a man seeking help for his phone which was infested with black magic. He couldn’t turn it on without having terrible headaches, and despite having changed phones 5 times, the evil, like the Digi yellow guy, stayed with him. The ustaz then asked the man to download an mp3 of ruqyah readings and play it through the affected phone, and it works! No more headaches, except maybe regret over throwing away the past five phones.
On the other hand, we are still struggling to catch up to the spookies using our technology. A team of Malaysian paranormal investigators had, in a 2013 news feature, disclosed their use of equipment to detect paranormal entities through temperature fluctuation, sounds beyond the human hearing range and changes in the electromagnetic field.
Arguably, those sound a lot more scientific than auras,
so if you’re applying for a grant, give us a cut so maybe the researchers should have gone with that instead. Maybe the wrong things have been looked at, and whether you believe in the paranormal or not…
…we’re concluding with a lesson for the day: rubbing on a lamp probably won’t get your wishes granted, but it might get you a research… grant. Eheheheh.
[This article was co-written by a genie.]