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Dreams and Visions in Islamic Societies.

Dreams and Visions in Islamic Societies.

Edited by Ozgen Felek and Alexander D. Knysh. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2012. Pp. xi, 322. $80; paperback $24.95.

Dreams and Visions in Islamic Societies, with fifteen chapters and contributors, makes a helpful contribution to classical Islamic studies and diverse Sufi experiences. The introduction discusses the role of dreams within Muslim communities: "The Prophet is quoted as declaring that with his death 'the glad tidings of prophecy' would cease, whereas 'true dreams' would endure.... One Western scholar says dreams and visions are, 'A form of divine revelation and a chronological successor to the Koran'" (2). In principle, "each good Muslim could expect guidance from God in dreams" (2). This makes the role of dreams all the more enticing for Muslims and for Christian missionaries interested in their use and interpretation in Muslim lives as messages from God.

In her chapter "Dreaming the Truth in the Sira of Ibn Hisham," Sarah Mirza assesses the fifteen distinct dream narratives found in Ibn Hisham's Sira (A.D. 833), the earliest extant biography of Muhammad. Mirza summarizes the dreams' central themes: "the favored nature of the Prophet's lineage, the miraculous protection of the Prophecy, and the Muslim community falling within the Abrahamic line" (15). "All of the dreams are assumed to be prophetic by their hearers and acted on as such" and "are communal experiences that serve to activate the community" (15).

The dreams covered in the book reveal diverse and sometimes contradictory themes: personal piety (46), epistemology (184, 216), sectarian dogma (e.g., the uncreatedness of the Quran, 36), paradise (193), Shariah (128-29, 173), revival (265), martyrdom (145), apocalyptic and conquest themes (54), and visions of Allah (54, 202-3) and Muhammad (42). The dreams are judged to have created spiritual and emotional bonds in society (160). The study reaffirms safeguards to Muslim orthodoxy in that "all dreams are basically ascribed to God, except for those in which Satan exercises his influence" (289).

All the dreams discussed or inter-preted in the book strengthen some aspect of the Muslim faith. Dreams that lead people away from Islam, however, are widely reported, so their omission from a book that deals with dreams and visions in Islamic societies suggests a lack of intellectual rigor. Dreams in which Muslims encounter Jesus and that lead to conversion to Christianity would seem to require some sort of treatment in a book such as this. The book is an interesting venture into the dream genre; however, it should be considered more a devotional treatise of belonging to confessional movements in which the authors participate, rather than a solid and rigorous scholarly survey of its topic.

Joshua Lingel, President of i2 Ministries (Islamic Initiative;, is coeditor of Chrislam: How Missionaries Are Promoting an Islamized Gospel (i2ministries, 2011).

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Author:Lingel, Joshua
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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