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Dreaming in Christianity and Islam

Dreaming in Christianity and Islam: Culture, Conflict, and Creativity

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Dreaming in Christianity and Islam
    Book Description:

    Throughout history to the present day, religion has ideologically fueled wars, conquests, and persecutions. Christianity and Islam, the world's largest and geopolitically powerful faiths, are often positioned as mortal enemies locked in an apocalyptic "clash of civilizations." Rarely are similarities addressed.

    Dreaming in Christianity and Islam,the first book to explore dreaming in these religions through original essays, fills this void. The editors reach a plateau by focusing on how studying dreams reveals new aspects of social and political reality. International scholars document the impact of dreams on sacred texts, mystical experiences, therapeutic practices, and doctrinal controversies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4824-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Lee H. Butler Jr.

    The sharing of dreams and dream interpretations is a tradition that runs deep within many communities and cultures the world over. Within those communities where dreaming has been most valued, there is a belief that an individual’s dream is like an epistle from God that benefits the entire community. This has been particularly true in contexts where an individual’s sense of social responsibility is the care of the entire community. The dream is understood to be a message that reflects the condition of and hope for the community.

    Resident in the consciousness of most Americans are these words: “I have...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Throughout history, religion has provided the ideological fuel for a seemingly endless plague of wars, conquests, persecutions, and bloody conflicts. In the current era it is barely possible to read a newspaper or watch a television newscast that does not contain some reference to religiously motivated terrorism or angry tensions between religions. The contemporary world’s two largest and most geopolitically powerful religions, Christianity and Islam, are the subjects of this book, which we have written at a moment in history when these traditions appear to be mortal enemies locked in an apocalyptic clash of civilizations. We are hardly the first...

  5. PART ONE Dreaming in Christianity

    • 1 Divine Dream Dilemmas: Biblical Visions and Dreams
      (pp. 17-31)
      BART J. KOET

      The biblical traditions frequently mentioned dreams and visions as vital means of human-divine communication, and these traditions form the foundation for understanding Christianity’s approach to dreams. As expressed in the wisdom attributed to the wise King Solomon: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18).¹ However, this might lead us to the hasty conclusion that all dreams were understood to come from God. It is often assumed that in ancient times every dream was believed to come from God or the gods. In early Greek culture, Homer’s epic poems theIliadandOdysseypresented dreams as coming from...

    • 2 Early Christians and Their Dreams
      (pp. 32-42)

      The attitudes of early Christians toward their dreams were spiritually and psychologically complex. Taking together positions of theologians and churchmen, visionaries and martyrs, we can see that dreams were an important but difficult phenomenon.

      The early Christians were surrounded by views different from their own, in many instances views that directly threatened their religious beliefs. Theirs was an emerging religion surrounded by more established views, and this included ways of viewing dreams and making dream interpretations. The period of late antiquity was rich with methods of divination about future events through dreams, beliefs about the supernatural that lived in between...

    • 3 Discerning the Voice of God: Case Studies in Christian History
      (pp. 43-56)

      This chapter presents case studies of three dreams that the dreamers claimed were experiential encounters with God. Throughout Christian history, religious leaders have used discernment to distinguish between dreams that would be accepted as spiritually valid and those that would be rejected. In considering these case studies of dreams from Christian history, this chapter explores the discernment methodology used in each case to determine whether the experience was from a divine source.

      The chapter begins with a section providing an overview of dream typologies of early Christianity and introduces the distinction between visual symbolic dreams and auditory message dreams. The...

    • 4 Dreaming through the Bible with Luther and Calvin
      (pp. 57-70)

      The two most influential men in the history of Christianity from the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century to the present day are Martin Luther and John Calvin.¹ The attitudes and perspectives these two Protestant theologians take toward dreams in the Bible add to our understanding of the role of dreams and dreaming in Christianity.²

      In this chapter’s context, dreams are the nightly experiences human beings have while asleep. That eliminates visions, revelations, auditions, and some other experiences that, though closely related to dreams, are not nearly as universal. It is this universality of our nightly dreams that makes dreams...

    • 5 Dreams and Visions of the Dying
      (pp. 71-78)

      As a Presbyterian minister providing spiritual care services at a hospice, I have heard many dreams that patients have experienced just before dying. This has intrigued me because the effect on the patient was always the same—a reduction in fear, a growing acceptance of approaching death, and even a sense of anticipation of what may lie ahead. With my clients’ and their relatives’ permission, I have recorded several of these dreams in writing.

      Most of the dreams shared certain core themes, three in particular. First, the characters that appear in these dreams are often people the dreamer knows and...

  6. PART TWO Dreaming in Islam

    • 6 Dreaming in the Life of the Prophet Muhammad
      (pp. 81-97)

      This chapter presents the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings about dreams based on the earliest available sources of information about his life and works. In Islam the Qur’an is the primary source of religious knowledge and authority. The secondary sources of guidance are the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad, compiled in texts known ashadithbooks. Two of the compilers of these works were particularly meticulous and sensitive when compiling their works. These hadith books, known asal-sahihain, have been carefully studied by Islamic scholars and are very popular among ordinary Muslims. The other hadiths, known asal-sunens, carry less weight...

    • 7 Islamic Dreaming: An Analysis of Its Truthfulness and Influence
      (pp. 98-110)

      The Arabic language has two terms for “dream,”ru’yaandhulm. Some scholars maintain that ru’ya is used for good dreams that a person sees during sleeping, while hulm is used for false dreams that come either from Satan or the human mind.¹ Other scholars claim that dreams have no real existence and are therefore not important, with no relevance for human life.² However, according to the main tenets of Islam, this dismissive idea is not sound, because many Qur’anic verses andhadithsof the Prophet (peace be upon him) indicate that dreaming occupies a special position in Islam.³ Allah...

    • 8 Healing and Dreams in Islam
      (pp. 111-122)

      According to many Muslim scholars, the first revelations came to Muhammad in the form of dreams. Allah (God) used dreams as a direct channel to convey his messages to the Prophet Muhammad (Qur’an).¹ Thus, like the verses of the Qur’an, dreams are sacred and should be treated with the utmost respect and seriousness and should not be altered or fabricated; otherwise the consequences, according to the Prophet, will be severe. Throughout their history Muslims have looked to dreams with great interest and concentration. The Qur’an andhadithsdescribe how Muhammad received personal reassurance, religious instruction, and military strategies through dreams....

    • 9 Istikhara and Dreams: Learning about the Future through Dreaming
      (pp. 123-136)

      Istikharais a ritual practice that has been highly valued by Muslims (particularly those in Sufi circles) who desire to live according to the rules of the Islamic religion. In its simplest terms, Istikhara is used when a Muslim is unsure of whether or not to perform an action in waking life. In such cases people frequently ask God to send them a sign concerning the outcome. Then they pray and go to sleep. If they see the color white or green in their dream, or important religious personages, or if they envision peace and tranquility, or pleasant, beneficial or...

    • 10 Dream and Spirit in Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyahʹs Qitab al-Ruh
      (pp. 137-142)

      This chapter examines the relationship between dreaming and the human spirit in the theological writings of the great medieval scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah. He discussed many dreams for that purpose in hisBook of Spirit(Qitab al-Ruh). Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah used these dream discussions to prove the existence of the human spirit, to explain its status after death, and to promote the unity of the Muslim community.

      Ibn al-Qayyim’s original name was Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr. He became well known as “Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah” because his father was the principal of the ‘al-Jawziyah school in Damascus (a prominent Muslim theological...

    • 11 The Jinn: Companion in the Realm of Dreams and Imagination
      (pp. 143-154)

      Popularized as the wish-granting genie in the story of Aladdin and the magic lamp, the jinn are shape-shifting spirits belonging to the oldest strands in the religious tradition of the Arab world. The jinn were worshiped by some of the Arabs,¹ but unlike the pagan gods and goddesses that were eliminated with the coming of Islam, the jinn were incorporated in the Qur’an, with a wholesura(chapter) named after them.² No longer deified, the jinn were established as spirits made from fire, belonging to God’s creation. As a society’s formal structure changes, gods can take on the form of...

    • 12 Women and Dream Interpretation in Contemporary Iran
      (pp. 155-164)

      In my experience as a woman growing up in the Islamic Republic of Iran, it has not always been easy for me to find positive and empowering portraits of feminine spiritual energy. In a patriarchal society such as Iran’s, one can clearly observe the unequal treatment of men and women in many areas of life. Beyond that, there is an underlying imbalance of masculine and feminine energy that is not always as noticeable at first glance. The hidden aspect of patriarchy has an even wider effect on men and women alike and the society as a whole and yet is...

  7. PART THREE Two Traditions in Dialogue

    • 13 Books on Dream Interpretation: Artemidorus and Kutbuttinzade
      (pp. 167-174)

      Today we have available to us several documents on the practice of dream interpretation that date back many centuries. The oldest known book on dream interpretation is an Egyptian text known as the Chester Beatty papyrus, housed in the British Museum; it dates back to the thirteenth century b.c.e. Documents on dream interpretation have also been found among artifacts of the ancient Assyrians. The most striking text was written on clay tablets during the reign of Emperor Asurbanibal, from 669 to 626 b.c.e., and the surviving copy was placed in the Assyrian Imperial Library. This oldest library on the Asian...

    • 14 Conversion Dreams in Christianity and Islam
      (pp. 175-187)

      This chapter addresses the unusual characteristics of dreams that are instrumental in religious conversions, focusing on two cases studies of conversions to Christianity and on two case studies of conversions to Islam.

      Conversion may be understood as a multistage process involving context, crisis, quest, encounter, interaction, commitment, and consequences.¹ Not infrequently the catalyst for the conversion is a mystical experience.² For example, in Ali Kose’s study of conversion to Islam of native Britons, he found that 14 percent of the converts reported having a mystical experience before embracing Islam.³

      The stages of conversion are interactive and iterative. However, in this...

    • 15 A Comparison of Islamic and Western Psychological Dream Theories
      (pp. 188-199)

      In one essential respect there is an ontological gap between Islamic and most Western psychological theories of the dream, and that is their differing conceptions of the self and of what Western psychology views as the unconscious. The unknown hinterland of the self in Islam and also in Christianity is deemed to be the house of God, the Godhead, from which the voice of the Lord, the Prophet, Satan, and shatan can all be heard, often in dreams. No such spiritual ontology defines the broadly secularist concept of the hidden worlds of the psyche in Western psychology. Freudian psychology, in...

    • 16 The Typical Dreams of Jordanian College Students
      (pp. 200-216)

      In this chapter we look at dream patterns of college students from four countries based on their answers to the typical dreams questionnaire (TDQ).¹ Developed for use in a study of the dream patterns of Japanese and U.S. college students in the 1950s and recently extended with a study of Canadian college students, the TDQ is a very simple social scientific research tool consisting of a series of yes-or-no questions regarding various types of dreaming experience and content. When large groups of people provide answers to the TDQ, a number of fascinating patterns emerge that bear directly on the claims...

    • 17 Dreams of Muslim and Christian Children
      (pp. 217-225)

      The richness of dreams in Christianity and Islam continues to inspire many believers in the contemporary world. As this collection and other works demonstrate, this richness is reflected in the considerable literature on dreams in these religious traditions.¹ In addition to studies of dreams throughout history and in scripture, research has explored the dreams of contemporary believers, usually adults.² While Judeo-Christian scripture does not attribute dreams to young children, contemporary research has revealed that some children report dreams to which they assign a divine connection. Robert Coles shows that some Muslim children have dreams that they believe came from Allah,...

    • 18 Discussing Dreams in a Prison in Amsterdam
      (pp. 226-235)
      BART J. KOET

      When I started working as a prison chaplain in the Bijlmer prison, the biggest prison of Amsterdam, the second inmate who came to my room was a man who had killed his wife under quite sad circumstances. He came from somewhere in the region of the Mediterranean Sea. He told me his life story as an introduction to our pastoral relationship. At the end of the meeting he said, “I want to tell you my dream.” He added, “People in the West do not believe in dreams, but you are from the church and you have to believe in dreams.”...

    • 19 The Ambiguities of Privilege
      (pp. 236-248)

      What, if anything, do dreams and dreaming have to do with humanity’s collective survival or our ongoing and evolving relationship with the Divine? This ancient question becomes increasingly immediate and urgent whenever human circumstances, both individual and communal, are perceived to be even more troubled, unprecedented, and uncertain than “usual.” Among the kinds of events that have contributed to this heightened sense of chaos, uncertainty, and increasingly urgent spiritual need in past eras are: particularly horrific and sadistic individual crimes; lengthy, costly, seemingly unending wars; and social unrest, particularly the rise of previously ignored and “invisible” minority populations and their...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 249-252)

    We have reached the conclusion of this book, but we have only begun the process of stimulating Christian and Islamic communities into a greater awareness of the powerful role of dreaming in their own religious traditions and the traditions of other people. Indeed, we believe the Christian-Muslim dialogue on dreams should expand to include Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and all the rest of the world’s religious and spiritual communities. Our book has focused on Christianity and Islam because they are the world’s two largest faiths, between them accounting for three billion people or approximately half the planet’s population; and because...

    (pp. 253-256)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 257-264)