Prophet Muhammad is still being seen in dreams, the Prophet said, ‘whoever has seen me in a dream, then no doubt, he has seen me, for Satan cannot imitate my shape’. Bukhari ( 9:104)
We have a fresh opportunity to reflect about Prophet Muhammad in dreams . At this point Professor Iain Edgar -Senior Lecturer- isn’t going to talk about his views of Prophet Muhammad in dreams only but dreams in the Qur'an too.
He is a social anthropologist at Durham University.
He is a leading expert in the field of dreams , dreaming, and a specialist in altered states of consciousness and mental health. Starting his career in social work, Dr. Edgar received a PhD from the University of Keele, where he studied under Prof. Ronnie Frankenberg. His thesis Dreamwork, Anthropology and the Caring Professions: A Cultural Approach to Dreamwork discusses a wide range of psychodynamic possibilities and develops a method to work with dreams within a professional care environment .
Iain R. Edgar's Publications Books: authored
Edgar, Iain 2011. The Dream in Islam: From Qur'anic Tradition to Jihadist Inspiration'. Oxford: Berghahn Books .
Edgar, I.R. 2004. Guide to Imagework: Imagination-Based Research Methods. London: Routledge .
Iain R. Edgar 1995. Dreamwork, Anthropology and the Caring Professions: A Cultural Approach to Dreamwork. Aldershopt: Avebury .Books: edited
Lyon, Stephen M. & Edgar, Iain R. 2010. Shaping a Nation: An Examination of Education in Pakistan. Karachi: Oxford University Press .
Drackle, D. & Edgar, I.R. 2004. Learning Fields Vol.2 Current Educational Practices in European Social Anthropology. Oxford: Berghahn Books .
D. Drackle, I. Edgar & T. Schippers 2003. Learning Fields Vol. 1 Educational Histories of European Anthropology. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Iain R. Edgar & A. Russell 1998. Anthropology of Welfare. London: Routledge .
Edited works: contributions
I.R. Edgar 2004, Imagework in Ethnographic Research, in S. Pink, L. Kurti & A. Afonso, Working Images; research and representation in ethnography. (London: Routledge) 90-106
Edgar, I. R 2004, Imagework method and potential applications in health, social sciences and social care research: journeying with a question, in Rapport, F, New Qualitative Research Methodologies in Health and Social Care Research (London: Routledge) 123-138
I.R. Edgar 2003, Line-ups, in P.Rice & D.McCurdy Prentice Hall, Strategies for Teaching Anthropology Vol 3. 1-4 .
Edgar, Iain R. 1996, The tooth butterfly: rendering a sensible account from the imaginative present, in A James, J Hockey & A Dawson London After Writing Culture (London: Routledge) 71-85 .
Q: It is known that fields of your Interest is dreams, what made ?you take up understanding of the importance of dreams?
Iain Edgar: I think my mother used to tell me small pre-cognitive dreams when I was little, helping her in the kitchen. Then when I was 19, in 1967, I had what seemed to be a decisive dream about my early adult identity as a student at York University, UK. Occasionally interesting dreams came along such as the night before my first child, Nicholas, was born. Significantly, around the time I was going to study a therapeutic community for adolescents in Surrey, UK, I had a series of very interesting dreams which I wrote us as a chapter in my 2004 book: 'Guide to Imagework: imagination-based research methods'. London: Routledge. Then I decided to run a dreamwork group with a now deceased friend and over the year we ran the group there was so much that happened of great interest. We used many experiential methods to work with dreams such as artwork, psychodrama, guided visualisation, gestalt et al. I realised that the dream content and especially the interpretive processes as well as having great benefit for the group and the individuals as they showed directly how participants 'made' cultural sense out of their dreams! I wrote up this study as Dreamwork, Anthropology and the Caring Professions: A Cultural Approach to Dreamwork. Aldershot: Avebury, 1995 and began lecturing in social anthropology at Durham University. After 9/11 I began to study the immense field of Islam and dreams leading to my recent book: ‘The Dream in Islam: from Quranic Interpretation to Jihadist Inspiration’ Berghahn Books, Oxford, 2011.
Q: Certain Hadiths indicate that dreams consist of three parts, and early Muslim scholars also recognized three different kinds of dreams: false dreams, patho-genetic dreams, and true dreams, Could you elaborate on that, please?
Iain Edgar: I am happy to elaborate a little upon this profound question; many societies seem to have a 'big' dream tradition and many of them have a threefold division of dreams into good, bad and unimportant ones; perhaps that is rather similar to how we categorise our daytime experiences also?!
The dreaming self in Islam
Three kinds of dreams are recognized in Islam by the Prophet and by later dream writers such as Ibn Sirin: First come true spiritual dreams, ruyan inspired by God; ruyan is only used for these kinds of dream; second come dreams inspired by the devil; third are largely meaningless dreams from the nafs (Ego, or the lower self as described in Islamic psychology). This third kind of dream, hulm, could be caused by what had been eaten and by what was desired by the dreamer, so producing “a medley of dreams, muddled, jumbled dreams, mere hallucinations, and nightmares’ (Gouda 1991: 4).
The appearance of the Prophet Muhammed in a dream is of particular importance. The hadiths say that if the Prophet appears in a dream, then it is a true dream. For example, a hadith reported by Bukhari (1979: 9:104) relates that the Prophet said, ‘whoever has seen me in a dream, then no doubt, he has seen me, for Satan cannot imitate my shape’.
Nile Green (2003: 287-313) writes in his excellent overview of dreams and Islam, ‘Yet dreams of the Prophet have formed one of the earliest and most lasting expressions of Islamic piety……whilst dreams of the Prophet continue to be important to believers in this modern day’. Many people I spoke to confirmed this. For non-Muslims, the conviction that to dream of the Prophet is to have received a true guidance from God could be seen as opening a Pandora’s Box. However, there are safeguards: The Prophet must be complete in his shape, and no true dream can advocate behaviour contrary to the teachings of the Qur’an and the hadiths.
An Imam in Peshawar gave two examples of this from his own experience. The first involved a lawyer who went to him for help in interpreting a dream of the Prophet rolled up in a carpet. The Imam responded by saying “you are a corrupt lawyer,” presumably as the body and energy of the Prophet were circumscribed. The second example was of a man who had a dream in which the Prophet had said he could drink alcohol. The Imam asked him if he was a drinker and the man said “yes,” to which the Imam replied that it was not the Prophet he had seen, but a self-justification for his drinking alcohol.
It would be incorrect to consider that only the appearance of the Prophet complete in a night dream should be taken as true. As we will see many Muslims consider that other figures from the Islamic narrative are deemed as sacred figures. quotes a well known tradition in Islamic dream lore, ascribed to probably the reported dream interpreter Ibn Sirin that the appearance of a dead person in a night dream should always be taken as a true dream. Their truthfulness is because they reside in the ‘world of truth’ (dar al-haq).
I write in my book more generally about how societies classify dreams of which this quote is a part (p19):
Dream interpretive theories are often developments of proceeding societies’ theories, as is the case in Islamic dream theory, which has strong roots in, particularly, the dream theory of the ancient Greeks, notably contained in the Oneiocritica by Artemidorus.
Also, Islamic dream theory has roots in the dream traditions of Ancient Egypt and Assyria, and from Judaic and Christian theories of dreaming. For example, Macrobius, a Late Antique dream theorist, presents five different and hierachically ordered categories of dreams ranging from the true and the revelatory (oraculum and visio) to the false and mundane (visum and insomnium). Yet mediating this opposition of true and false dreams, Macrobius (Kruger 1992) suggests a middle type of dream (somnium) in which truth is represented in fictional, allegorical and metaphorical form. The Islamic theory of true and false dreams is congruent with, and possibly derived from, earlier dream interpretative theories. Arguably then, what is most distinctive about Islamic dream theory and practice is not its tri-partite classification, but the Prophetic example and its historical and cultural location in the Islamic worldview.
Q: I hope you did not suggest that Pandora’s . I think we should avoid such grand generalizations. It depends a lot on a majority of non-Muslims.
No doubt you heard about some Christians dreamt of the prophet Muhammad, here is one
There are some of non-Muslims who saw the prophet.
Christian sees Prophet Muhammad in Dream
I saw the Prophet in my dream - umar my path to Islam roadside2islam
mexican brother umar explains how he saw the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his dream and explains how he came to Islam
A Jewish woman saw the prophet too. From En.Wikipedia
In 627 or early in 628, Safiyya married Kenana ibn al-Rabi. treasurer of the Banu Nadir; she was about 17 years old at that time. Safiyya is said to have informed Kenana of a dream she had in which the moon had fallen from the heavens into her lap. Kenana interpreted it as a desire to marry Muhammad and struck her in the face, leaving a mark which was still visible when she first had contact with Muhammad.
The best way to understand the role of dream of the Prophet in Islam is to examine what role dreams play in a different country.
Iain Edgar: …………
Q: No doubt you know Ibn Sirin was renowned for his Ta'bir al-Ru'ya and Muntakhab al-Kalam fi Tabir al-Ahlam, a book on dreams, have you read his book?
Iain Edgar: Yes I have read several versions published in different continents:
The work of the historical figure of Ibn Sirin is the mostly commonly used Islamic dream dictionary, the first port of call for millions of Muslims worldwide, even being reported as the most popular book purchase at the 2007 Algerian book fair! The work attributed to Ibn Sirin is partly based on earlier dream dictionaries from before Islamic times, such as that of Artemidorus (1992), the ancient Greek dream interpreter. Clear similarities as well as differences occur.
Whilst Ibn Sirin is the named author and is thought to have died in 728 C.E. Lamoureaux (2002: 19-25) has made an extensive study of the dream interpretation texts and concluded that Ibn Sirin is not the actual author of this most famous Islamic dream dictionary.
Lamoreaux writes that later dream interpretation authors drew on anecdotal traditions of Ibn Sirin’s dream interpretive practices and he has subsequently been credited with having divine powers in this field. Moreover, hundreds of dream manuals have been ascribed to him in a variety of languages. Lamoreaux concludes that there is evidence that Ibn Sirin took a great interest in dream interpretation and that there are traditions that state that the prophet Joseph initiated Ibn Sirin in his dreams into a mastery of dream interpretation. Also, that Ibn Sirin ‘put into circulation’ (Lamoreaux 2002: 24) a significant tradition of dream in interpretation in Islamic lands. I have studied three contemporary versions of Ibn Sirin’s work published in London, Karachi and Delhi and find them almost indistinguishable (see later in my 2011 book: referenced above).
Q: You published The Dream In Islam: From Qur'anic Tradition to Jihadist Interpretation. I don’t know what would you want to add?
Iain Edgar: I can't think of anything substantial to add! The work by Mittermaier, Amira, Dreams that Matter: Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010; is an excellent ethnography of a contemporary Egyptian poetry group and their dreaming in Cairo.
Also I am studying the first the videos on Arabic TV showing discussions by Shaykhs about reported pre-cognitive dreams of the deaths of Gadafi and Bashir. No doubt in some quarters dreams concerning events relating to the Arabic Spring are important: perhaps they could be collected via the web?
Q: I can't help telling you about Nur ed-Din Zangi's
One night Nur ed-Din Zangi 1146 - 1174. saw the Prophet Muhammad in his dream. The Prophet Muhammad was pointing out towards two persons of reddish color and saying i.e. save me from these two persons.
Nuruddin woke up and was perplexed. He did ablution, performed his salat and went back to sleep. He again saw the same dream. He woke up and again offered his salat and went to sleep. He saw the same dream the third time. He lost his sleep and described his dreams to his advisor, Jamal-ud-Din Al-Musali. The advisor said to him, “Why you are sitting here? You should go to Madina immediately. He added, “Please do not related your dream to any other person”. Nuruddin started his journey towards the Madina the next morning. He took twenty persons with him including the advisor. They carried many expensive gifts with them for charity. They reached Madina in sixteen days. Nuruddin entered the Prophet’s Mosque and offered salat.
Then he did salutation to the Prophet Muhammad and his companions. Nuruddin sat down in the mosque wondering what to do next. The advisor announced, “Sultan has brought lots of gifts for charity. These gifts will be distributed among the residents of Madina. Sultan granted a gift to each resident of Madina turn by turn. Sultan looked at each recipient very carefully to match the features with those seen in the dreams. Finally Sultan inquired, “Have all the residents visited me?” The answer from the residents was, “Yes, indeed.” Sultan said, “Are you really sure?” People said, “There are two pious Morrocans who do not accept anything from others. They rather feed the needy very generously. They fast regularly.
Offer tahajjud and offer salutation to the Prophet Muhammad day and night. They also visit Quba mosque once a week.” Sultan exclaimed, “Subhanallah”. Sultan then ordered that both of them be brought to him. The Morrocans said, “We are very rich and don’t need charity.” On insistence of the Sultan they were brought to him. Sultan recognized them and asked them, “Where do you come from?” They said, “We are Morrocans. We came here for Hajj and wish to stay here as neighbors of the Prophet Muhammad.” The Sultan said, “Why don’t you speak the truth?” At that they kept quiet. Sultan enquired about their residence. Their residence was near the Sacred Chamber. Sultan accompanied them to their residence. He found a lot of expensive goods lying there. Sultan kept roaming around the house alone till he removed an old piece of rug from the floor of the house. He saw a newly dug underground tunnel there leading to the Sacred Chamber. The men got terrified. Sultan said to them, “Now tell me the truth”. They confessed, “We are actually Christians. The King has sent us here as Hajji from Morroco. He gave lot of money to us so that we could remove the body of the Prophet. In order to achieve our goal we started residing in this house nearest to the Sacred Chamber. We dig underground tunnel at night and carry the mud in Morrocan bags to Baqee cemetery and spread the mud around the graves. When we reached near the Sacred Chamber a very fearful lightning struck and an earthquake shook the earth. Now you have arrived and caught us. We confess that we were about to commit the crime.”.
It is said that the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had returned to India from London in end 1934 on persuasion by prominent Muslim leaders, the new evidence proves that the Quaid decided to end his self exile after he dreamt of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) who asked him to go to India and lead the Muslims in their struggle for a separate homeland for the Muslims of South Asia.
I'd like to know how you found Dream Interpretation ?that written by Dr. Bilal Philips and how you like the Dream In Islam: From Qur'anic Tradition?
Iain Edgar: I read the Dream interpretation book by Dr Bilal Phillips (reference below) and found it to be the clearest exposition of the Islamic viewpoint on dreams and dreaming that I have studied. I quote a small section of my review of his book from my 2011 book.
Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips: Dream Interpretation according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: A.S. Nordeen 2001).
Philip’s book contains the clearest references to Dreams and the Qur’an and the hadiths. While referring to other key interpretative issues in Islamic dream interpretation Philip’s book also contains the clearest exposition of the difference between legislative and general dreams in Islam.
Most Islamic dream dictionaries give directive interpretations often without acknowledging any sources. Philips is critical of this approach and accordingly seeks to embed his interpretations in the narratives and examples of the Prophet Muhammed and some of his followers. As such his work acknowledges the central importance of the symbolic meanings contained in the Qur’an and the hadiths. Bukhari (1979) and Muslim (1987) contain many examples of prophetic dream interpretations. Also, Philips’s work contains sections on Islamic dream theory and practice, such as the threefold typology of dreams as being ‘true’, false (from the devil) or unimportant ego (nafs) dreams. Philips describes true dreams and waking visions as being the only form of revelation available now to humans following the completion of the Qur’anic prophecy by the Prophet Muhammed. Furthermore, this book includes a section on preparation for sleep, called ‘etiquette for sleep’.
The dream interpretation sections begin with the reminder of the Prophet’s common practice ask his companions about their dreams in the morning: Did any of you see any vision last night? (ibid 38) Dream interpretation is then distinguished from fortune telling which is forbidden in Islam.
According to one of the Prophet’s companions dreams have a need to be interpreted: ‘The dream flutters over a man as long as it is not interpreted, but when it is interpreted, it settles’. ‘and I think he [the Prophet Muhammed] said, ‘Tell it only to a beloved friend or one who has good judgement’ (ibid 43). Only good dreams should be interpreted for otherwise false dreams will confuse or even lead them astray. Interestingly, Good dreams are to be interpreted positively as events may be influenced by the interpretation, much like the Western psychological notion of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Philips writes: ‘Indeed, dreams occur according to how they are interpreted. It is like a man who raises his leg and waits for when to put it down. So, if any of you has a dream, don’t relate it except to a confidante or a scholar’ (ibid 44).
Only prophets can always correctly interpret a dream (ibid 46). Moreover, good dreams should lead to action. For example, when someone sees himself doing something ‘commendable‚ it is permissible’ (ibid 48)‚ to carry out such an act in reality. Here we see the continuing theme of the relationship between manifest dream content and reality events, that is such a characteristic feature of Islamic dream theory and practice.
Finally, Philips emphasises the central importance of the Islamic holy texts for dream interpretation: ‘The foundation of all Islamic knowledge is revelation contained in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Since good dreams are also a form of revelation from Allah, any legitimate attempt to interpret the symbolism of dreams should rely primarily on the symbolism found in the Qur’aan and the Sunnah’ (ibid 49).
Further references to Dr Phillips's book are on pp 99-105 of my 2011 book
You write as to what I think of my book: 'The Dream in Islam: from Qur'anic Tradition to Jihaist Inspiration' Oxford and New York: Berghahn 2011. It is not really for me to say; I can later supply you with some links to published scholarly reviews; also Amazon Books has one review.
Q: Istikhara and the role dreaming played in it, Could you elaborate on that statement?
Iain Edgar: I enclose something I wrote earlier on this subject:
Istikhara: Islamic Dream Incubation
An important part of dream practice in Islam is the little-known phenomena of Istikhara. Istikhara has one main practice with either a focus on consequent daytime guidance or guidance through dream symbolism. In my research I have focused on Istikhara using dreams in the Islamic tradition (Edgar & Henig, 2010). I have found that Istikhara is a significant feature particularly in marriage choice but also sometimes in political and business decision making. Also, Istikhara was found in these studies to be practiced by young and old alike. Istikhara may have evolved from the Ancient Greeks in their Asclepion temples, where dream incubation and consequent interpretation was practiced particularly with regard to medical conditions. Social anthropologists have found variants of dream Istikhara in North and West African countries over the past 40 years
Istikhara is typically learnt from family members and, although the practice varies between countries and individuals, a follower would typically say two additional, specific prayers at night during which they would focus on the big question. They would then lie on their right side and attempt to hold the question as they sleep. Some followers would look for an answer the following morning, but in different traditions Istikhara would be done for seven nights. People who practice Istikhara rely on symbolism to make their decisions.
The colours white or green, imagery of important religious figures, or beautiful things would indicate that the proposed action was positive. The colors black, yellow, or red, an unpleasant person, or ugly things are viewed as negative. Once followers get an answer, they are bound to use the advice as it is viewed as the will of Allah.
Although Istikhara as daytime prayer for guidance for right action is sanctioned in Islam as the Prophet Mohammed is reported to have taught the practice to his followers, its adoption into dream incubation is arguable a widespread additional cultural practice thought to be legitimized for Muslims by the Prophet’s deep respect for potentially true dreams, al-ruya, from Allah.
Both Hidayet Aydar (2009) and myself have found the dream version of Istikhara practice widespread across Islamic countries and communities. My research has focused on interviewing members of the Pakistani community in the United Kingdom and in Pakistan, Turkey, North Cyprus, and Bosnia.
In some cultural settings today locally noted Muslims offer to do Istikhara, via dreaming, for others rather than just for themselves.
In Bosnia, we found Istikhara practitioners advertising for paying clients. In Sarajevo, we interviewed a 70-year-old female Istikhara practitioner who specialized in helping people with marriage choices and who reported a guide in her dreams, a young handsome man dressed in white, who assisted her.
One Pakistani woman in the United Kingdom who did Istikhara about her daughter’s future marriage, dreamt of a good looking bowl of dates, which in the event did not taste very nice. She reported how this imagery anticipated the outcome of the marriage.
A Pakistani female student in her 20s studying in the United Kingdom told me how she did Istikhara to finally make a marriage choice. Her parents were opposed to the marriage, but she had known him for five years and was keen to continue the relationship. Her two friends and her mother also did Istikhara, as did a male family friend in the United States. The student dreamt of losing control of her car and crashing into the side of the mountain while the weather was bad. This nightmare experience and the other negative dreams and feelings of her friends and family convinced her that she should not marry this man.
Likewise, regarding her brother’s marriage, her grandmother did Istikhara and dreamt of her brother and his potential bride in a field with the woman wearing a green bridal scarf. This dream image was seen as a good sign and the marriage went ahead.
Typically, following the advice of an Istikhara experience the person gains confidence in his/her choice of action, and, as we know through the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy, a positive approach to any endeavour may beneficially affect the outcome.
Q: You do your best to contribute to the understanding of the importance of dreams, could you elaborate on that dreams in Jews and Christians?
Iain Edgar: This is a major subject and I know less about Judaism, Christianity and dreaming, as I focussed mainly on the Islamic Dream Interpretation Tradition. Perhaps it is helpful to mention a book on dreaming in other traditions:
Bulkeley, K. 2008.
Dreaming in the World’s Religions: A Comparative History. New York: New York University Press.
The three Abrahamic religions have the same roots in the reported experience of Abraham and his near sacrifice of his son: Isaac for the Christians and the Jews, and Ishmael for the Muslims; the foundational narrative of Abraham's sacrifice is connected to dreams in Islam, whilst in the Hebrew Bible God speaks to Abraham without the mentioning of dreams; so right at the beginning of these three great monotheistic Faiths there seem to be different evaluations of the role of dreaming; yet, dreams are still very important in the Jewish tradition, for instance in Jacob's dream of the ladder, and Joseph's ability to interpret dreams is narrated elaborately in both the Hebrew Bible and in the Qur'an. Moreover, Daniel is also a famous dream interpreter in the Hebrew Bible possibly being the only person said to have known what a person had dreamt before being told by that person (i.e. by King Nebuchadnezzar; Daniel 2-4).
Bulkeley writes well about the tension in the Hebrew Bible between dreams as authentic communications from God or delusions of the mind, a theme we see again in the Christian tradition.
Whilst the circumstances of the birth of Jesus are replete with God-sent dreams, Christianity in the main came after several centuries to regard dreams as potentially dangerous or false guidance.
As Bulkeley writes (168) the gospel of Matthew begins with Joseph, father of Jesus, receiving four heaven sent dreams that 'guided him in the care and protection of Jesus'. However, nowhere in the New Testament do we read of Jesus having or reporting dreams. By the time of the fourth and fifth centuries after the birth of Jesus dreams had become problematic; for instance, Augustine (who btw is said to have converted partly in the Jewish traditions on the basis of his mother's dream interpretations, cp. Bulkeley pp. 179-180 ) and Jerome led the way to re-brand dreams as delusional and potentially dangerous. However, today in many parts of the Christian world dreams are still seen as very important as for instance in the Eastern and African Christian churches (Cp. Jedrej, M. and Shaw, R. eds. Dreaming, Religion and Society in Africa, Leiden: Brill, 1992). Also for a comprehensive comparison of Islam and Christianity with respect to dreaming see: K. Bulkeley, K. Adams & P. Davis, eds. Dreaming in Christianity and Islam: Culture, Conflict, and Creativity. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Abdur-Rahnman: Sadly, there are people who demonize dream of the Prophet in Western Europe and some Muslims too. so it is not an overstatement to suggest that some people do this.
Those people get more attention than they deserve, and unfortunately they sometimes demonize dream of the Prophet for political advantage. It is an overstatement, however, to suggest that all non-Muslims -- or even a majority of them in most countries -- are equally guilty of this demonization, Thank you very much, Professor Iain Edgar.
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