Sleep Paralysis and Islam

Among the basic teachings of Islam, it is expected from Muslims to believe in Angels and Demons (Jinn) as creations by God like humans. Not only in Islam, but in many other religions including Christianity, believing in demons as a creation of God is fundamental part of people’s faith. According to Islam, God has created humans with water and sand, angels with light and demons with fire.

As the concept of Jinn is deeply rooted in Muslim societies, many Muslims mistake sleep paralysis with possession of body by demons. In reality, sleep paralysis is a medical condition in which the person is unable to move or speak for sometime while going into sleep or just waking up. It mostly happen to people who sleep on their back. The condition is temporary as within seconds or minutes, the person can feel himself/herself and can move or speak. As some people can also hallucinate during the paralysis due to the panic and fear resulting in experiencing weird stuff which makes them believe demons possessed them.

For example, some people can feel if someone is sitting on their chest, a common feeling by people suffering with sleep paralysis. While experiencing if someone is sitting on their chest, some people can also hallucinate animals, other people or creatures sitting on them which makes them believe if they are possessed by jinn.

As the belief in Jinn is mandatory in Islam which is taught from a very early age, Muslims quickly link sleep paralysis and resulting fear and hallucination with possession of Jinn. On top of that, in some third world Muslim countries like Bangladesh, religious leaders take advantage of low literacy rate of the masses to link sleep paralysis with possession of jinn. These so-called religious scholars than sell their services in order to help the victims to get rid of possessions of demons.

Is There Any Evidence in the Source Books?

Even though, many Muslims believe that sleep paralysis is actually a demon (Jinn) attack but in reality, there is nothing in the source books that can connect Islam and this common belief among Muslims. The source books like Quran and Hadiths (Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH) talked about demons as the creatures of God but the sources never linked the condition of sleep paralysis with possession of body by demons.

Even though, night is often associated with demons in religious texts, but there is nothing specific that can link sleep paralysis with possession of demons. Reports from many Muslims that they could feel better during their experiences when they recite verses from Quran also makes many people believe that sleep paralysis is actually an attack of jinn.

All in all, sleep paralysis is commonly linked to demons in Muslim world especially in third world countries but in reality, there is no actual evidence from the source books that can back this common belief. In reality, sleep possession is a medical condition and nothing more and requires a medical treatment. The top and educated religious scholars also rated sleep paralysis as a medical condition instead of a jinn attack.