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The shaitan (shaytan) are a rebellious, malevolent jinn responsible for placing evil thoughts and deeds in the hearts and minds of men. They were said to be formed from the blood of a murdered person and the only way to stop their formation was to drive an unused silver nail into the blood. Possession by shayatin was a common theme in kuffar lore and the kuffar Bedouin would attempt to expel spirits of disease by wailing, shouting and drumming. Another known practice among the Semitic peoples to counter the actions of unclean spirits and shayatin was to fashion bowls out of clay and inscribe it with incantations in Arabic, Hebrew or Aramaic and put them in the corners of houses. These bowls were believed to catch and trap malevolent spirits.

The graves of evil people were where the shayatin would hold their maljis (meeting place) and were regarded as areas of ill fortunes. Along with these beliefs and practices, it is reported that the Arabs would name their children after animals (Asad, Ikrimah, Mu'awiya, Bakr, Dubayyah, al-Harith etc) in order to frighten evil spirits as well as making use of talismans and amulets. In Arabian polytheistic tradition, neglecting the worship of the gods was believed to leave a person open to attacks from evil spirits and disease; worshiping the gods however and offering at their altars, protected the worshiper from curses and shaitan. The word shayatan in Arabic is translated into 'adversary' and is cognate to the Hebrew noun satan (Accuser/Opponent), which is the general designation for any unclean and evil spirit.

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