Accepted Paper:

Dreaming, Islam and the Ahmadiyya Muslims in the UK  


Marzia Balzani (New York University, Abu Dhabi)

Paper short abstract:

The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork with Ahmadi Muslims in the UK and discusses Ahmadi understandings and interpretations of dreams in both personal and institutional contexts. The development of new organisational structures built literally on dreams will be explored to suggest how bureaucratic systems based on the dreams of charismatically endowed Khalifas link the mundane with the spiritual world and how such dreams serve to reinforce the faith of believers.

Paper long abstract:

The Ahmadi Muslim movement, founded in the 19th century by a charismatic leader, has been since then one of the most controversial movements within Islam. Yet Ahmadis remain the least known of all Muslim communities and in many Islamic countries they have been defined as heretics and subjected to persecution.

Despite hostility from other Muslim groups the Ahmadis have been able to establish resilient communities whose survival depends on the development of bureaucratically sophisticated organisational structures which sustain local communities and incorporate these into an integrated global media network. These structures, however, are ultimately dependent on their charismatic foundations and on the institution of the Ahmadi Khalifat.

This paper explores the role played by Ahmadiyya interpretations of dreams in sustaining these structures at personal and community levels. Dreams may lead to personal life-changing events and may also institute new organisational structures and offices in this global NRM. For example, the institution of Waqf Nau established by an Ahmadi Khalifa is based on a dream he had for the future of his community. This institution encourages parents to 'donate' a child to the cause of Ahmadiyyat, often before the child is born. The children born into Waqf Nau are selected for special training knowing that their lives are given over to community needs. Parents of such children may not make plans for them as they would for their other children.

Examples of dreams and their interpretations as understood within Ahmadiyya Islam will be developed from both historical and contemporary ethnographic data.

Panel W074
Imprints of dreaming