A ghoul (from Arabic: غول, ghūl) is a demon-like being or monstrous humanoid. The concept originated in pre-Islamic Arabian religion, associated with graveyards and the consumption of human flesh. Modern fiction often uses the term to label a certain kind of monster.
By extension, the word ghoul is also used in a derogatory sense to refer to a person who delights in the macabre or whose occupation directly involves death, such as a gravedigger or graverobber.
Ghoul is from the Arabic غُول ghūl, from غَالَ ghāla, "to seize". In Arabic, the term is also sometimes used to describe a greedy or gluttonous individual. See also the etymology of gal and gala: "to cast spells," "scream," "crow," and its association with "warlike ardor," "wrath," and the Akkadian "gallu," which refer to demons of the underworld.
The term was first used in English literature in 1786 in William Beckford's Orientalist novel Vathek, which describes the ghūl of Arabic folklore. This definition of the ghoul has persisted until modern times with ghouls appearing in popular culture.
In Arabic folklore, the ghul is said to dwell in cemeteries and other uninhabited places. A male ghoul is referred to as ghul while the female is called ghulah. A source[who?] identified the Arabic ghoul as a female creature who is sometimes called Mother Ghoul (ʾUmm Ghulah) or a relational term such as Aunt Ghoul. She is portrayed in many tales luring hapless characters, who are usually men, into her home where she can eat them.
Some state[who?] that a ghoul is a desert-dwelling, shapeshifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary people into the desert wastes or abandoned places to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, drinks blood, steals coins, and eats the dead, then taking the form of the person most recently eaten. One of the narratives identified a ghoul named Ghul-e Biyaban, a particularly monstrous character believed to be inhabiting the wilderness of Afghanistan and Iran.
It was not until Antoine Galland translated One Thousand and One Nights into French that the Western concept of ghouls was introduced into European society. Galland depicted the ghoul as a monstrous creature that dwelled in cemeteries, feasting upon corpses.
Ghoul are not mentioned in the Quran, but in hadith. While some consider the ghoul to be a type of jinn, other exegetes of the Quran (tafsir) conjectured that the ghouls are burned devils. Accordingly, the shayatin (devils) once had access to the heavens, where they eavesdropped, and returned to Earth to pass hidden knowledge to the soothsayers. When Jesus was born, three heavenly spheres were forbidden to them. With the arrival of Muhammad, the other four were forbidden. The marid among the shayatin continued to rise to the heavens, but were burned by comets. If these comets didn't burn them to death, they were deformed and driven to insanity. They then fell to the deserts and were doomed to roam the earth as ghouls.
In one[which?] hadith it is said, lonely travelers can escape a ghoul's attack by repeating the adhan (call to prayer). When reciting the Throne Verse, a ghoul might decide to convert to Islam.
The ghoul could appear in male and female shape, but usually appears female to lure on male travelers to devour them. Al-Masudi reports that on his journey to Syria, Umar slew a ghoul with his sword. According to History of the Prophets and Kings, the rebellious (maradatuhum) among the devils and the ghouls have been chased away to the deserts and mountains and valleys a long time ago.
According to the prophet Muhammad, ghouls are demons or enchantresses of genies that hurt humans by eating or spoiling food to frightening travelers when they are in the wilderness.
Other Muslim scholars, like Abī al-Sheikh al-Aşbahânī, describe the ghoul as a kind of female demon that was able to change its shape and appear to travelers in the wilderness to delude and harm.
In ancient Mesopotamia, there was a monster called 'Gallu' that could be[weasel words] regarded as one of the origins of the arabic ghoul. Gallu was an Akkadian demon of the underworld responsible for the abduction of vegetation god Damuzi to the realm of death.
The word ghoul entered the english tradition and was further identified as a grave robbing creature that feeds on dead bodies and children. In the west ghouls have no specific and have been described by Edgar Allen Poe as "neither man nor woman... neither brute nor human."
Pickman's Model a H.P. Lovecraft short story, a ghoul is a member of a subterranean race. Their adherence to an exclusive diet of dead human flesh mutated them into beastial humanoids able to carry on intelligent conversations with the living. H.P. Lovecraft's Pickman's Model has ghouls set underground with ghoul tunnels that connect ancient human ruins with deep underworlds. H.P Lovecraft hints that the ghouls emerge in subway tunnels to eat on train wreck victims.