Flashes of ultimate reality: dreams of saints and shrines in a contemporary Pakistani Sufi community
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographic and textual analysis, this paper explores the importance of dreams of Sufi masters and sacred shrines as models for Muslim selfhood and sainthood, tools for spiritual development and markers of spiritual attainment among a dynamic group of Sufis in contemporary Pakistan.
Paper long abstract:
In today's Pakistan, Sufi ritual practice takes place at diverse times and in myriad locations—from private homes to large, public tomb-shrines. It even extends into the dream world of sleep. For Muslims both past and present, dreams are much more than nocturnal hallucinations. As a medium for both revelation and inspiration, they impart vital ontological, epistemological and spiritual truths. Sufi dream theory draws on a rich premodern heritage. Even so, its logic and practice diverges sharply from the classical science of Islamic dream interpretation (ta'bir). As flashes of ultimate reality (bushra), Sufis view dreams as a litmus test of a seeker's spiritual potential. In twenty-first century Pakistan, the Chishti Sabiri order (tariqa) is a living Sufi tradition that traces its teachings and lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad. Grounded on the intimate relationship between a master (shaykh) and disciple (murid), the order's pedagogy rests on a detailed and disciplined routine of ritual practices. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and textual analysis, this paper explores the importance of Sufi saints and sacred shrines in Chishti Sabiri dream work. I argue that dreams and dream interpretation serve as models for Muslim selfhood and sainthood, tools for spiritual development and markers of spiritual attainment. My analysis examines Sufi dream theory, the ritual use of dreams in both private and public spaces (including Sufi tomb complexes), and the techniques for interpreting dreams as both a sign of individual psychology and a window to the realm of divinity.
Muslim saints, dreams, and veneration of shrines