Dreams and Visions in Islamic Societies

Edited by Özgen Felek & Alexander D. Knysh

Subjects: Islam, Religion, Dreams, Middle East Studies, Sufism
Paperback : 9781438439945, 334 pages, January 2013
Hardcover : 9781438439938, 334 pages, February 2012

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Table of contents

Note on Transliteration
Dreams and Visions in Islamic Societies: An Introduction
Alexander D. Knysh
Part I
Dreams in Biographical, Historical, Theological, Poetical, and Oral Narratives, and on the Internet
1. Dreaming the Truth in the Sīra of Ibn Hishām
Sarah Mirza
2. Dreaming Ḥanbalites: Dream-Tales in Prosopographical
Maxim Romanov
3. Numinous Vision, Messianic Encounters: Typological Representations in a Version of the Prophet’s adīth al-ru’yā and in Visions and Dreams of the Hidden Imam
Omid Ghaemmaghami
4. Dreaming the Elixir of Knowledge: How a Seventeenth-Century Poet from Herat Got His Name and Fame
Derek J. Mancini-Lander
5. Dreaming ‘Osmāns: Of History and Meaning
Gottfried Hagen
6. Sometimes a Dream Is Just a Dream: Inculcating a “Proper” Perspective on Dream Interpretation
Fareeha Khan
7. Dreams Online: Contemporary Appearances of the Prophet in Dreams
Leah Kinberg
8. Transforming Contexts of Dream Interpretation in Dubai
Muhammad alZekri
Part II
Dreams in Sufi Literature

9. Dreams and Their Interpretation in Sufi Thought and Practice            
Jonathan G. Katz
10. Behind the Veil of the Unseen: Dreams and Dreaming in the Classical and Medieval Sufi Tradition
Erik S. Ohlander
11. Witnessing the Lights of the Heavenly Dominion: Dreams, Visions and the Mystical Exegeses of Shams al-Dīn al-Daylamī
Elizabeth R. Alexandrin
12. Narrating Sight: Dreaming as Visual Training in Persianate Sufi Hagiography
Shahzad Bashir
13. (Re)creating Image and Identity: Dreams and Visions as a Means of Murād III’s Self-Fashioning
Özgen Felek
14. The Visionaries of a arīqa: The Uwaysī Sufis of Shāhjahānābād
Meenakshi Khanna

A wide-ranging consideration of the place of dreams and visions in Islamic societies from the pre-modern period to the present.


Dreams and visions have always been important in Islamic societies. Yet, their pervasive impact on Muslim communities and on the lives of individual Muslims remains largely unknown and rather surprising to Westerners. This book addresses this gap in understanding with a fascinating and diverse account, taking readers from premodern Islam to the present day. Dreams and visions are shown to have been, and to be, significant in a range of social, educational, and cultural roles. The book includes a wealth of examples detailing the Sufi experience. Contributors use Arabic, Persian, Indian, Central Asian, and Ottoman sources and employ approaches grounded in history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, religious studies, and literary analysis. This is an illuminating work, showing how ordinary Muslims, Muslim notables, Sufis, legal scholars, and rulers have perceived both themselves and the world around them through the prism of dreams and visions.

Özgen Felek is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Religious Studies at Stanford University. She is coeditor (with Walter G. Andrews) of Victoria R. Holbrook'a Armağan. Alexander D. Knysh is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan. His books include Ibn 'Arabi in the Later Islamic Tradition: The Making of a Polemical Image in Medieval Islam, also published by SUNY Press; Islamic Mysticism: A Short History; and Islam in Historical Perspective.


"This book provides a marvelous appreciative look at an important aspect of the art of narrative across many facets of Muslim community life, and the endurance of that art through the centuries. The stories communicate not only substantial elements of theological importance but a pervasive sense of the significance of personal relationships, especially affection for the Prophet, all told with much warmth and wit." — John Renard, author of Islam and Christianity: Theological Themes in Comparative Perspective