Dreaming Across Boundaries: The Interpretation of Dreams in Islamic Lands

Publication Year



Descriptions of dreams abound in the literatures of the Near East and North Africa. The Prophet Muhammad endowed them with a theological dimension, saying that after him “true dreams” would be the only channel for prophecy. Dreams were often used to support conflicting theological and political arguments, and the local chronicles contain many accounts of royal dreams justifying the advent of new dynasties.

This volume explores the context of these theological speculations and political aspirations through the medium of dreams to present fascinating insights into the social history of the pre-modern Islamic world in all its cultural diversity. Wider cultural exchanges are discussed through concrete examples such as the Arabic version of the Aristotelian treatise De divinatione per somnum. Some of the current scholarly assumptions about dreams being merely stylized expressions of social conventions are challenged by personal reports that express individual personalities, self-awareness, and spiritual development.

Table of Contents


1. Images for Foretelling: Two Topkapi Fâlnâmes
by Serpil Bagci
2. The Dream as a Narrative Device in the Shâhnâma
by Olga M. Davidson
3. Dream Accounts in the Chronicles of the Mamluk Period
by Yehoshua Frenkel
4. How Aristotle Came to Believe in God-given Dreams: The Arabic Version of De divinatione per somnum
by Rotraud E. Hansberger
5. An Early Muslim Autobiographical Dream Narrative: Abû Ja’far al-Qâyinî and his Dream of the Prophet Muhammad
by John C. Lamoreaux
6. Self-Reflection and Conversion in Medieval Muslim Autobiographical Dreams
by Hagar Kahana-Smilansky
7. Dreams in the Manâqib of a Moroccan Sufi Shaykh: ’Abd al-’Aziz ad-Dabbâgh (d. 1719)
by Jonathan G. Katz
8. Qur’ân and Hadith: A Struggle for Supremacy as Reflected in Dream Narratives
by Leah Kinberg
9. The Significance of Dreams and Dream Interpretations in the Qur’an
by Mohammad J. Mahallati
10. The Poor Man’s Prophecy: Al-Ghazâli on Dreams
by Eric Ormsby
11. The Dreams of Shaykh Safi al-Din in Late Safavid Chronicles
by Sholeh A. Quinn
12. The Image of ’Ali b. Abu Tâlib in the Dreams of the Visitors to his Tomb
by Khalid Sindawi

Series Title
Ilex Foundation Series
Ilex Foundation; Distributed by Harvard University Press
Boston, MA; Cambridge, MA
Cloth: 9780674028135; paper: 9780674021228