“Spirits are like microbes”: Islamic revival and the definition of morality in Moroccan exorcism

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© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. This article analyses the revitalisation of Islamic exorcism in Morocco since the 1990s and how its practitioners legitimise it as a ritual largely adapted to theological orthodoxy. The rhetoric of these exorcists on spirit possession defines certain afflictions as an intromission of the genies (jnun) into the body by physical mechanisms, comparable to the processes undertaken by microbes. From interviews and observation of ritual exorcism of Moroccan faqihs in Tetuan and Barcelona, I analyse their techniques and the way they legitimise them. I conclude that the moral intervention of religious specialists through Koranic recitation becomes effective throughout a dynamic worldview that reinforces old basic assumptions about a physical intercourse between jnun and humans. At the same time, with the revitalisation of the ritual, many Koranic exorcists incorporate new rhetorics to demonstrate scientifically the materiality of the jnun and their effects on the possessed bodies. But Moroccan Koranic healers not only rework definitions of affliction and legitimise the physical agency of the jnun, they also contribute to define gendered experiences of the body as far as women are conceived as the favorite and weakest victims of the genies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-63
JournalContemporary Islam
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Body
  • Exorcism
  • Islamic revival
  • Koran recitation
  • Spirit possession


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