The Early Muslim Tradition of Dream Interpretation

By John C. Lamoreaux

Subjects: Islam
Series: SUNY series in Islam
Paperback : 9780791453742, 256 pages, May 2002
Hardcover : 9780791453735, 256 pages, May 2002

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Table of contents




Dream Interpretation and Divination
Context, History, and Disciplinary Boundaries
Scribes and Selective Mediation
The Structure of This Study


1. From Anecdote to Formalism


Khallal and the History of Dream Interpretation
The Legacy of Ibn Sirin
Kirmani and the Beginnings of a Written Tradition of Dream Interpretation
The Dream Manual of Ibn Qutaybah
The Dream Manual of Sijistani


2. The Fracturing of the Tradition


Hunayn b. Ishaq and the Arabic Version of Artemidorus
Qayrawani: A Shari ah-Minded Interpreter of Dreams
The Dream Manual of the Litterateur Dinawari
Kharkushi: Sufism, Dream Interpretation, and Tradition
Ibn Sina: Philosophy, Dream Interpretation, and the Legacy of Hellenism


3. Homogeneity and Imitation


The Contours of the Early Muslim Oneirocritic Tradition
The Contents of the Early Muslim Oneirocritic Traditions


4. Dream Interpetation and Orthodoxy


Finding a Koranic Foundation for Dream Interpretation
Dream Interpretation and the Prophetic Traditions
Dream Manuals and Their Readers: The Case of Andalusia
The Diary of a Hanbali Interpreter of Dreams


5. Dream Interpretation, Hellenism, and Non-Muslims


Dream Interpretation and the Christians of Late Antiquity
The Dream Manual of Ps. Achmet
Bar Bahlul's Book of Signs




Dream Interpretation as an Islamicate Discourse
Dream Interpretation as an Ecumenic Discourse


Appendix. Early Muslim Dream Manuals




Explores dream interpretation among the early Muslims, who saw dreams as a type of prophecy.


Reportedly, the prophet Muhammad told his followers that after he was gone prophecy would come only through "true dreams." Based on this and other statements, early Muslims created what might be called a theology of dreams. Dreams were regarded as an important means used by God to guide the faithful, especially after the cessation of Koranic revelation. However, since these dreams were often symbolic, they required interpretation, and early Muslims wrote numerous manuals dedicated to deciphering their meaning. Utilizing manuscripts preserved in Middle Eastern mosques and libraries, this book offers the first comprehensive account of the early Muslim tradition of dream interpretation. In addition to describing how and when the tradition developed, author John C. Lamoreaux discusses the social context in which dream interpretation arose and its role in the intellectual life of the time. He demonstrates that early Muslims considered dream interpretation a fully orthodox theological discipline, one sanctioned both by the Koran and the example of the prophet Muhammad.

John C. Lamoreaux is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University. He is the author of John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus: Annotating the Areopagite, with Paul Rorem.


"The book is tightly structured, and both information and arguments are lucidly presented … [it] is remarkably clean, as well as handsome, in addition to being a valuable work of scholarship." — Journal of Near Eastern Studies

"…provides a detailed survey of the orthodox Muslim dream literature up to the end of the eleventh century." — Speculum

"This is an outstanding scholarly work of impressive scope and depth that is also a fascinating read. Lamoreaux makes cultural history exciting." — Alan Godlas, University of Georgia