The ruya, an inspirational night dream, is a fundamental part of the militant jihadist movement among Muslims, according to a study by Dr. Iain Edgar, a social anthropologist at Durham University.
The problem? He used the reported dreams of al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders who are, after all, in the business of inspiring terrorism. It may be that militant leaders do touchy-feely things like report their dreams accurately, but unlikely.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival on the cultural significance of sleeping and dreaming, Edgar said: "Islam is probably the largest night dream culture in the world today. The night 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."
Edgar interviewed individuals in the UK, Pakistan, Northern Cyprus and Turkey to identify the key features of the inspirational night dream. He also reviewed transcripts including that of Osama Bin Laden, who has spoken of the night dream 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 common themes from the reported dreams:
1) Militant jihadists are inspired by night dreams
2) Militant jihadists legitimize their actions partly on the basis of night dreams
3) The ruya can feel more 'real' than reality and will make the dreamer feel a connection to a mythical past
4) Since it's a dream, it feels to the dreamer like an endorsement of militant Jihadism
"It has been suggested that dream narratives are cynically adopted for propaganda purposes", says 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 jihadist dream narratives are fabricated, the fact that Muslims often believe them and are mobilized to jihad partly on their account is of significance". (1)
On the significance of the research Edgar said. "Overall, how Moslems, and people in general, understand their night dreams is a powerful tool in assessing their worldview and implicit key motivations. The understanding of night dreams offers an entrée into the deepest recesses of the self, and the emerging self. There is little doubt that one's lived world-view and unconscious, mythic world-view are predictive of one's sympathies and potential actions."
(1) What???? Well, if they are fabricated, this research isn't science. It isn't even anthropology. It's propaganda.