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Dreams: Robert Fisk - Visions that come to men as they sleep

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  • Zafar Khan
    Robert Fisk: Visions that come to men as they sleep For many extreme Muslims, dreams are a serious affair. Osama bin Laden is a dream-believer Saturday, 26
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 27, 2008
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      Robert Fisk: Visions that come to men as they sleep
      For many extreme Muslims, dreams are a serious affair.
      Osama bin Laden is a dream-believer
      Saturday, 26 January 2008


      As a little boy, I had a recurring nightmare and it
      always featured my grandfather's dog. Arthur Rose had
      a Labrador called Sir Lancelot – Lance for short – and
      I adored this dog. I think he liked me too, because we
      raced around Arthur's great lawns together and when I
      tried to trip him up, he tried to trip me up and when
      I lay on the ground, he would sit with his back to me
      and bang his heavy, powerful tail into my face.

      But in my nightmares I would be confronted by a
      hostile Lance – no friendly Lab now, but a biting,
      barking wolf-like creature, his face contorted with
      hatred. He would torment me until my cries of fear
      brought my father to my bed. He would shake me
      repeatedly until I freed myself from this fearsome,
      phantom dog.

      We westerners tend to regard dreams as a haphazard
      phenomenon wrought by the sleeping diminution of a
      still working brain, a coma of flotsam thrown up by
      our daily experiences. But for many extreme Muslims,
      dreams are a far more serious affair. The Prophet
      Mohammed received his message from God – the Koran –
      after a series of dreams lasting six months, and there
      are those who believe that the entire text of the
      Koran was received by the Prophet in a dream-like

      Dreams, in other words, were no mere reflection of the
      idle human brain but could be a direct communication
      from God. Dr Iain Edgar of Durham University's
      Anthropology Department has sent me the results of his
      own investigation into this phenomenon, the experience
      of the "true dream" – ruya in Arabic – which, he
      believes, "is a fundamental, inspirational, and even
      strategic, part of the contemporary militant jihadist
      movement in the Middle East and elsewhere."

      Describing Islam as "probably the largest night dream
      culture in the world today," Edgar quotes a hadith
      (saying of the Prophet) in which Mohammed's wife Aisha
      says that the "commencement of the divine inspiration
      was in the form of good righteous dreams in his sleep
      ... He never had a dream but that it came true like
      bright of day." An 8th-century dream writer from Basra
      in southern Iraq, Ibn Sirin – who wrote Dreams and
      their Interpretation – divided dreams into the
      spiritual (ruan), those inspired by the devil, and
      "dreams emanating from the nafs (which means "running,
      hot blood") – an earthly spirit that dwells in the
      dreamer's body and is distinct from the soul."

      I fear that my grandfather's ferocious Labrador must
      be placed among the latter. But these ideas should not
      be trifled with. Mohammed Amanullah presented a paper
      at Berkeley three years ago which stated that half of
      the 12 Muslim staff in the religious studies
      department at a Malaysian university reported "true"
      dreams, 50 per cent of which revealed the Prophet. One
      hadith quotes the Prophet as saying that "whoever has
      seen me in a dream, then no doubt, he has seen me, for
      Satan cannot imitate my shape."

      Osama bin Laden certainly is a dream-believer. Not
      only did he once tell me that one of his "brothers"
      had a dream that he had seen me in a Muslim gown,
      bearded and riding a horse, and that this must mean I
      was a "true Muslim" – a possible attempt at
      recruitment which I swiftly turned down – but
      following September 11, he was quoted as saying that
      "Abul-Hassan al-Musri told me a year ago: 'I saw in a
      dream, we were playing a soccer game against the
      Americans. When our team showed up in the field, they
      were all pilots!' He (al-Musri) didn't know anything
      about the (9/11) operation until he heard it on the
      radio. He said the game went on and we defeated them.
      That was a good omen for us."

      Yosri Fouda, an al-Jazeera journalist who interviewed
      al- Qa'ida planners Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid
      Shaykh Mohammed in 2002, reported that al-Shibh spoke
      of experiencing many dreams about the brothers before
      the attacks. "He would speak of the Prophet and his
      close companions as if he had actually met them."
      Al-Shibh was to recall that "Mohammed Atta [one of the
      leading September 11 hijackers] told me that Marwan
      [el-Shehdi] had a beautiful dream that he was flying
      high in the sky surrounded by green birds not from our
      world, and that he was crashing into things, and that
      he felt so happy."

      Fouda notes that "green birds" are often given
      significance in dreams; green is the colour of Islam
      and flying birds are a symbol of heaven. Edgar notes
      that bin Laden's recounting of the dream in which the
      luckless Fisk was seen as an imam has me mounted on a
      horse which – according Iain Edgar – symbolises a
      "person's status, rank, honour, dignity, power and
      glory." Well thanks, but no.

      Richard Reid, the British would-be shoe bomber,
      referred to a dream in which he tried to hitch a ride
      in a pick-up truck which was full and was forced to
      travel in a smaller car. The truck presumably
      represented the four aircraft used on September 11
      from which Reid was excluded, and the car was the
      American Airlines plane on which Reid was forced to
      try to "catch up" with his 19 comrades.

      Zacarias Moussawi, the Frenchman of Moroccan origin
      who may have been the intended 20th hijacker, found
      that his own dreams of flying a plane into a tall
      building became a significant issue in his 2006 trial
      in the US. Rahimullah Yusufzai, by far the wisest
      journalist reporting in Pakistan, was told by the
      Taliban that its founder, the one-eyed Mullah Omar,
      "gets instructions in his dream and he follows them
      up." A dream was the genesis of the Taliban's
      foundation. Mullah Omar once telephoned Yusufazai to
      ask for an interpretation of a dream in which a "white
      palace" was on fire. He knew that Yusufzai had been to
      the White House. Did it look like the White Palace?
      This was before September 11.

      Extraordinarily, Qari Badruzzaman Badr, a Guantanamo
      ex-prisoner, recounted to the Daily Times in Lahore
      how "many Arabs had dreams in which the Holy Prophet
      personally gave them news of their freedom ... One
      Arab saw Jesus who took his hand and told him that
      Christians were now misled. Later the other prisoners
      could smell the sweet smell of Jesus on his hand."
      Jesus, in other words, a major prophet of Islam, is
      telling the Muslim prisoners that the Christians are
      misled. As Edgar comments: "What a transcendence of
      their oppression this dream message must have seemed!"

      But there are false dreams. A Peshawar imam recounted
      how a man told him that the Prophet said he could
      drink alcohol. But when the man admitted that he
      himself drank alcohol, the imam said he had not seen
      the Prophet, only a self-justification for drinking.
      Alas, I fear there is no hope for us infidels!

      More on Dreams at:
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