Jihadis driven by dreams: study


London : Dreams motivate and drive the jihadi movement in the Middle East and elsewhere, concludes social anthropologist Ian Edgar after researching the reported dreams of many of the best-known Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Support TwoCircles

Edgar, from Durham University, interviewed individuals in Britain, Pakistan, Northern Cyprus and Turkey to identify the key features of the inspirational night dream known as ruya.

He also reviewed transcripts including that of Osama bin Laden, who has spoken of dreams in the context of his concern that “the secret (of the 9/11 attacks) would be revealed if everyone starts seeing it in their dreams.”

Edgar identified four key themes, that jihadis are inspired by dreams; it legitimises their actions partly on the basis of dreams; it can be more real than reality; and it connects the individual to a mythical past.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival Friday on the cultural significance of sleeping and dreaming, Edgar said: “Islam is probably the largest night dream culture in the world today.

“The dream is thought to offer a way to metaphysical and divinatory knowledge, to be a practical alternative and accessible source of inspiration and guidance, to offer clarity concerning action in this world.

“It has been suggested that dream narratives are cynically adopted for propaganda purposes”, said Edgar. “This could of course be the case for some individuals but the range and number of reported narratives I have researched strongly argue against this.

“Even if reported jihadi dream narratives are fabricated, the fact that Muslims often believe them and are mobilised to jihad partly on their account is of significance.”

The understanding of dreams offers an insight into the deepest recesses of the self, and the emerging self, Edgar said.