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The Dream in Islam: From Qur'anic Tradition to Jihadist Inspiration

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The Dream in Islam

From Qur'anic Tradition to Jihadist Inspiration

Iain R. Edgar

178 pages, 2 tabs, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-235-1 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (May 2011)

ISBN  978-1-78533-222-7 $27.95/£22.95 Pb Published (April 2016)

eISBN 978-0-85745-236-8 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $27.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“The book stands out as noteworthy in one respect especially, because the author goes beyond the continual struggle between orientalists and anti-orientalists. One consequence of defining Islamic studies within this vicious circle is that a majority of the current generation of Islamic historians believes that the study of Arabic legal, theological or historical texts from the eighth to the nineteenth centuries is good enough to define ‘native’ Islamic civilisation. Edgar deconstructs that old approach, and brings to the task considerable expertise in social science methodology. Subsequent case studies on dream narratives will benefit immensely from his imagination-based research methods.” · Political Studies Review

“Edgar has brought to light a genuinely important phenomenon with potentially major consequences.” · Journal of Anthropological Research

“Edgar has done us all a tremendous service by devoting his considerable skills as a social anthropologist to the study of this fascinating nexus of dreaming, religion, politics, and interpretive philosophy… The dramatic appeal of Edgar’s book comes with his groundbreaking account as a source of inspiration for Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and their militant jihadist followers.” · Dream Time Magazine


The war in the Middle East is marked by a lack of cultural knowledge on the part of the western forces, and this book deals with another, widely ignored element of Islam—the role of dreams in everyday life. The practice of using night dreams to make important life decisions can be traced to Middle Eastern dream traditions and practices that preceded the emergence of Islam. In this study, the author explores some key aspects of Islamic dream theory and interpretation as well as the role and significance of night dreams for contemporary Muslims. In his analysis of the Islamic debates surrounding the role of “true” dreams in historical and contemporary Islamic prophecy, the author specifically addresses the significance of Al-Qaeda and Taliban dream practices and ideology. Dreams of “heaven,” for example, are often instrumental in determining Jihadist suicidal action, and “heavenly” dreams are also evidenced within other contemporary human conflicts such as Israel–Palestine and Kosovo–Serbia. By exploring patterns of dreams within this context, a cross-cultural, psychological, and experiential understanding of the role and significance of such contemporary critical political and personal imagery can be achieved.

Iain R. Edgar is a Social Anthropologist at the University of Durham, UK. He is the author of Dreamwork, Anthropology and the Caring Professions (Avebury 1995) and Guide to Imagework: Imagination-based Research Methods (Routledge 2004); and coeditor of the Anthropology of Welfare (Routledge 1998), Learning Fields volume I: Educational Histories of European Social Anthropology (Berghahn 2003) and Learning Fields volume II: Current Policies and Practices in European Social Anthropology Education (Berghahn 2004).

Iain Edgar and Abdur-Rahman Abuo-Almajd in dialog about Prophet Muhammad in dreams on
Subject: Anthropology (General) Anthropology of Religion
Area: Middle East & Israel



Foreword: Anthropological scepticism encounters dreamt realities following fieldwork in Pakistan
Dr. Steve Lyon

Ethnographic case studies from Pakistan
Feeding people
Dreaming of the Qur’an
Assumptions of validity and meaningfulness
Conclusion: the justificatory and motivational
Power of dreams


Chapter 1. context and history
Dreams as perceived metaphysical and divinatory knowledge in Islam
Dream Interpretation in Islam
The True dream across cultures
Promised land dreams in Palestine and Kosovo
Significance of night dreams to Muslims in general

Chapter 2. Methodology
Methodological issues in dream work
Methods Used in this Book: An Oversight
Sources studied: primary and secondary

Chapter 3. Istikhara: Islamic dream incubation
Case study from Sarajevo, Bosnia

Chapter 4. Sufism and dreams
Ethnographic study of dreaming in a UK Sufi centre
The sunday evening Zikr       
Shaykh Nazim in Northern Cyprus

Chapter 5. Militant jihadist dreaming in the Middle East and the UK
The patterns and threads running through Jihadist dream interpretation
Their understanding of dreams
Legitimating function
Connection to the Golden Age of Islam
Focus on manifest content of dreams
Dreams interpreted as world is interpreted
Dreams and events related
Dreams, politics and warfare
Dreams of al-Qaeda
Osama bin Laden
Zacarias Moussaoui
Richard Reid
Al-Zarqawi and other Iraqi Martyrs
Dreams of other Jihadists
Pakistani relations
Guantanamo Bay
A dream of a dead Mujahideen

Chapter 6. Dreams of Mullah Omar, Taliban Leader
Discussion and contextualisation
Conclusions to chapters three and four regarding jihadists’ Dream Reports

Chapter 7. Dream Interpretation Resources (dictionaries) in Islam
Features of dream interpretation
Range of sources studied
Ibn Sirin A.D. 653-728 A.H. (2000)
Dreams and their meaning in the old Arab tradition: Yehia Gouda

Dream Interpretation according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah: Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips

  • Sunnah Hadith interpretations
  • Word interpretation
  • Legislative and general dreams

Legislative and general dreams: Authentic Interpretation of the Dreams according to the Qur’an and Sunnah: Ahmeed Farid
The Dreamer’s handbook: sleep etiquette and dream interpretation in the light of the Sunnah: Muhammad Al-Jibaly
Conclusion concerning the principles of Islamic dream interpretation practice

Chapter 8. A Comparison of Islamic Dream Theory and Western Psychological Theories of the Dream

Conclusion: the night dream as the poor man’s prophecy!
Conclusions re Jihadist dream reports
The Imaginative Commonality of Islam

Epilogue: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Imagination, creativity, and political agency in the inspirational night dream in Islam
Elisabeth Kirtsoglou

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