Accepted Paper:

The role of night dream incubation (Istikhara) in contemporary Islamic public life  

Authors:

Iain Edgar (Durham University)
Janice Metcalfe (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on fieldwork in the UK and the Middle East, this paper outlines Ishtakara use in Islamic cultures today. Istakhara involves special prayers before sleep and meditation upon key life choices with subsequent dream interpretation. The paper will explore, with examples, the kinds of Islamic interpretative codes used.

Paper long abstract:

Islam is probably the largest night dream culture in the world today. In Islam, the night dream is thought to offer a way to metaphysical and divinatory knowledge, to be a practical, alternative and potentially accessible source of imaginative inspiration and guidance, and to offer ethical clarity concerning action in this world. Night dreams were one of the forms of revelation experienced by the Prophet Mohammed and the interpretation of 'true dreams', Al-ruya, are part of the belief and practice of Moslems throughout the Islamic world,

Recent studies of the role of night dreams in Islam (Edgar 2007) in the UK, Turkey, Pakistan and Northern Cyprus has shown that dream interpretation and Istikhara (dream incubation) is a significant feature particularly in marriage choice but also sometimes in political and business decision-making. Edgar has shown that dream interpretation is 'an inspirational part of the contemporary militant Jihadist movement in the Middle East'. Istikhara, Islamic dream incubation, was found in these studies to be practised by young and old alike.

Istakhara involves reciting special ritual prayers before going to bed and meditation upon life choices, such as marriage, before sleeping. In the morning the dreamer will try to interpret the meaning of their dream through using Islamic dream interpretation codes. The paper will outline and explore the range and the complexity of interpretative codes used and their relationship to western dream interpretative methods.

Panel W074
Imprints of dreaming