Much of the academic discourse on 'sacred spaces' is about visible spaces. Invisible spaces have not been studied much in these discussions. 'Invisible sacred space' refers to the sacred places associated with the 'invisible beings' that have been revered by humans for ages. Such places, like ''Jinn'' mosques, are constructed based on a kind of 'imagined sacredness' through which different rituals emerge.

Jinn, anglicised as genie, are 'invisible creatures' of early pre-Islamic Arabian religious systems and later found in Islamic mythology and theology. Jinna are not a strictly Islamic concept, they may represent several pagan beliefs integrated into Islam.

There is a popular 'Jinn' story about the spiritual attainment of Shah Waliullahi Dahlavi, an 18th century Sufi and theologian. He was performing namaz at the Feroz Shah Kotla mosque in Delhi when a 'Jinn' in the form of a snake appeared in front of him. However, unable to recognise that it was a 'Jinn', ' Dahlavi killed the creature. Dahlavi was brought before the assembly of the 'Jinn' for killing one of their offspring, but was declared innocent. The assembly acquitted him and released him. The gist of the story is that after this he became more famous and popular.

Other 'Jinn'-related stories and folklore all point to the common belief that such invisible beings can interfere in human affairs. Pilgrims who come to Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, nicknamed the city of 'Jinns', undertake ritual practices including 'writing to Jinns' to solve their problems. Feroz Shah Kotla, the seat of the 14th-century Tughlaq dynasty, is now known to be 'ruled by Jinns'.

Humans have been fascinated and intrigued by 'unseen/unknown creatures' since time immemorial. It must have been this curiosity that led humans to enshrine such creatures. 'Jinns' are said to be created from 'fire' that dwells in stones, trees, and buildings, capable of taking the form of humans and non-human animals.

Just as there are human and non-human beings on Earth, it is believed by many that there are both human-like and non-human beings among the 'Jinn'. They are said to live in the immaterial world known as 'Alamul Malakuth'. 'Jinns', who have physical needs like humans, have a subtle physical nature, so many things beyond human ability are possible. The main reason behind the debates about the existence of 'Jinn' is their invisibility.

'Jinns' are also believed to have the ability to possess and seduce humans. This belief is strengthened by the fact that another meaning of the word is 'Majnun', which refers to one who is delirious, is one who is possessed by the ''Jinn''.

Sufis, who act as mediators between 'Jinns' and humans, are said to reach the highest spiritual levels through constant contact. The role of material religious symbols and shrines in the transference of the 'Jinn' from the invisible realms to the visible realms must be discussed in detail.

Invisible Sacred Spaces

In most South Asian religious traditions, places of worship are consecrated. Mosques, churches, temples, alternative places of worship, mausoleums etc. are sanctified in this way. According to that belief, the holiest of these places of worship, built by humans, are considered the centre of the universe. By materialising religion through visuals, believers can easily approach it.

By visiting holy places inhabited by 'invisible spirits' that are said to be close to the divine realm, humans can interact with the unseen world and thereby feel closer to God. The dichotomy between visible/invisible qualities is seen to disappear where the 'Jinn's are dominated by invisible forces more than human forces.

Where do 'Jinns' Live?

'Jinns' are said to live in uninhabited abandoned places. Many believe that there are still many places in India where one can interact with 'Jinns'. Described by William Dalrymple as the 'City of 'Jinns', Delhi is believed to have been protected by 'Jinns' during the Mughal rule.

The city of 'Deoband', situated in present-day Uttar Pradesh, also has a 'Jinn' story behind its name. 'Deoband', means 'captured the jinn' in Hindi, because an old man from a nearby village is said to have 'bottled and captured' a Jinn, who had become a nuisance to the townspeople.

There are several reasons why 'Jinn' mosques are said to have sanctity, but there are a few places that are said to be 'demonic' in nature. When an extraordinary symbiosis between 'Jinn' and Sufi takes place in an ordinary place, the place is said to acquire sanctity.

There are two types of 'Jinn' mosques found in India. The first is said to have been built by the 'Jinns' themselves. The oldest mosque in Tamil Nadu, Keelakkara, 'Jinn' Masjid was said to be built by 'Jinns' in a single night under the orders of a Sufi named Swadaqatullah Qahiri. Qahiri, was the spiritual master of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, gave Dars, traditional religious mentoring, to humans and 'Jinns'. And it is believed that 40 'Jinn' visit his tomb every night, and long queues of believers and non-believers flock here daily.

The second type are the mosques that have become the abode of 'Jinn'. An example of this is the Feroz Shah Kotla mosque built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq. Most of the Dargahs and marble stones found in Delhi and elsewhere in India are decorated with lime paint. But Feroz Shah Kotla is a dilapidated, dark, palace remnant of a mediaeval sultan. Amidst these ruins, although there is no sacred burial ground or mausoleum, regular visitors can be heard saying that the main attraction here is the influence and influence of the 'Jinn' rather than the mausoleums.

Sanctified Places

Out of the belief that various problems faced by humans can be solved by visiting 'Jinn' and 'Jinn' mosques, 'Jinn' places get a sacred status. Sufi rituals that have been taking place in the premises of these mosques for ages have also helped to reach this conclusion. Unlike other mosques, although it is not possible to see the Qur'anic verses and prophetic words that command special sanctity for 'Jinn' mosques. Beyond all that, the sanctity of 'Jinn' mosques should be understood in the light of the experience of the people who lived in these places.

If Dargahs become sacred places because of the Sufi saints within the Dargahs, 'Jinn' mosques become sacred places when the Sufi's proximity to the presence of unseen spirits and 'Jinns' is intertwined. That is why Sufis are said to be absent in the places described as being affected by the 'Jinns'. Incidentally Sufi scholar named Kizhisseri Muhammad Musliar, popularly known as Trippanachi Ustad, visited the mosque built by the 'Jinns' near Kondotti in Malappuram district. The coexistence of Sufis and 'Jinn' often becomes spiritual therapy.

Anand Vivek Taneja, an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Anthropology at Vanderbilt University argues that Sufis are distinguished from others by rootedness, while 'Jinns' with the special quality of other temporality are characterised by mobility. In other words, 'Jinn' places become sacred not because of the nature of the 'Jinn' but also because of the precise conceptual interaction between the 'Jinn' and the Sufis. All those who visit places of 'Jinn' desire the presence of 'Jinn' as well as expect Sufi intimacy.

In short, internal sacredness is given to 'Jinn' places by Sufi-'Jinn' presence, while external sacredness is given by other factors. 'Jinn' places are also sanctified by undergoing objectification. Candles, flowers, coins, threads, heat, and incense are all physical objects believed to bring sanctity to 'Jinns'.

'Jinns' are created from smokeless fire, as is the case with burning candles inside 'Jinn' mosques. Many of the pilgrims who visit Feroz Shah Kotla bring flowers and sandalwood candles. The fragrance inside the mosque adds to its sanctity. Chinese-American geologist Yi-Fu Tuan, discussing experiential views of places, stated that the smell of each place confers distinctive status on the place where it stands.

While describing the literary representations of smells, Douglas Porteous, who introduced a new concept of 'smellscape', noted that just as the sights of a particular place can attract human minds, the smells of those places can create different impressions on people. It is also noteworthy that in her book 'Sacred Scents in Early Christianity and Islam', which reviews olfactory approaches in various religious traditions, Mary F. Thurlkill coined the term 'sweet smell of sanctity'.

Smell can be understood as a special symbol that connects the human realms and the superhuman realms. Although traditional legal texts in Islam do not make much reference to the burning of incense near tombs, this practice is found near the tombs of most Sufis. The perfumes found in 'Jinn' mosques are also reflections of the sense of smell that has taken on a spiritual form.

Each of the objects enshrined on the walls of 'Jinn' mosques has its own sacred meaning. These objects represent the various needs of the pilgrims. Coins inscribed on the walls of 'Jinn' mosques symbolise economic prosperity and eradication of poverty. The threads tied on the walls are placed for a long-lasting married life.

Since each of the objects mentioned above are symbols of various needs of humans, the sacred spaces that contain these objects create an image in humans. Because of this these places acquire sanctity on an external level as well.

As the presence of 'Jinn's can be felt on Friday nights (and according to Arabian Calculation on Wednesday night). Pilgrims come to Feroz Shah Kotla to offer prayers and distribute sweets. They feel seeking God's favour this way will lead to the fulfilment of their wishes. Regular visitors to Feroz Shah Kotla claim that if they visit the mosque in the middle of the night, they can see the 'Jinns'.

Knowing that 'Jinn' can take the form of different creatures, visitors treat all creatures near the mosque with great care and affection. Pilgrims offering grains and sweets to the all creatures found in the precincts of the mosque, are a curious sight at Feroz Shah Kotla.

Epistles to the 'Jinns'

The requests sent to the 'Jinn' give a clearer picture of the sacred spaces constructed through the letters. Because letters are imaginary spaces that create sacred spaces verbally. Many people try to find solutions to their problems by writing letters to the 'Jinns' who are supposed to have a system of governance parallel to that of humans. These letters are pasted on the walls of the 'Jinn' mosques. It is interesting that some letters also contain photographs of the persons who are mentioned in them.

The relevant question is whether the 'Jinn' will be able to understand this human way of communicating ideas? Although 'Jinn' is said to be able to assume human form, linguistic discourses are mainly related to the mind. So a 'Jinn' then needs the help of Sufi mediators to understand the contents of the letter. This is why all letters begin with an address to a Sufi A. K. A Peer Baba.

'Madad' (divine help) is one of the words that appears several times in letters addressed to the 'Jinn', although in Sufi narratives. 'Madad' generally refers to asking for help in seeking relief from one's troubles. It is also worth noting that not all the writers of these letters are of any particular religious faith.

Rather than merely making spiritual demands, the subjects of the letters are varied. A letter from a Hindu devotee seeking blessings to build a temple and install idols there can be seen on the walls of Feroz Shah Kotla. Love fulfilment, happy married life, protection from death spells, freedom from debt, financial stability, achieving high marks in exams are all contents of letters written to 'Jinns'. Among these letters can also be found notes written to express gratitude if a wish is fulfilled after writing the letters.