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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Dr Iain Edgar: The 'Hooded' Person in the Islamic Night Dream

11th December 2008, 17:15 to 18:15, Seminar Room, Department of Anthropology

This is the sixth lecture in the Rhetoric of Personhood Seminar Series.

There is an interesting enigma at the heart of Islamic theology and psychology. The Prophet Mohammed believed in night dreams as being potentially a portal to the divine: al-ruya being true dreams from Allah.

1/46th of the Koran is believed to have been transmitted to Mohammed in such dreams and night dreams have been a decisive aspect of the Islamic narrative, particularly for Sufis, the mystical wing of Islam. In the Hadiths (i.e. Bukhari), the recorded sayings and actions of the Prophet Mohammed, ³Nothing is left of prophetism except Al-Mubashshirat,² which the Prophet explained as being ³the true good dreams that convey glad tidings.² In mainstream Islam, then, there is no future revelation to come other than through the oneiocratic vehicle of true dreams. Moreover, the Hadiths also state that if you dream of the Prophet Mohammed and he is complete in his shape and the Œmessage¹ of the dream is congruent with the teachings of Islam, then this is also a true dream. Hence in Islam to dream of the Prophet is a great honour and potentially life changing. Yet, in Sunni Islam, all depictions of the Prophet Mohammed are banned as the furore over the Danish cartoons of the prophet shows. The aim of this paper is to explore this enigma, with detailed ethnographic examples of purported Œtrue¹ dreams collected by the author, including examples from the leadership of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. I will also consider how this enigma may determine Islamic notions of selfhood.

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