Of Camels, Sheep and the Prophet Muhammad:
A Dream Interpretation by `Abdu'l-Baha

By Necati Alkan

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #48
Center for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 10–13, 2003
(see list of papers from #48)

    Dream interpretation is an ancient and universal practice. Countless books have been written on the subject since the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks called it egkoimesis and the Romans incubatio. During the period of classical Islam dream interpration among ancient sciences was passed on to Islam and became sophisticated.

    Dreams (sing. ru'yá) and their interpration (ta`bír) had and still have a central place among Muslims, including the practice of istikhára for invoking dreams in order to arrive at a solution of a problem. It is moreover noteworthy that ta`bír was utilised for political claims and legitimation of rulers.

    Messengers and Prophets of God have received their revelations, good news and divine commands by way of dreams and visions. This is mentioned the Qur'án and ahádíth. In addition, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh had their first revelations through dreams. Also, the Báb's first followers, the Letters of the Living, became aware of Him via dreams.

    The theme of this paper is a short Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Ottoman Turkish to discuss the importance of dreams in the Bahá'í religion. There are Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá classifying dreams into several categories. He endorses some of those categories as kinds of inspirations or foreseeing what will happen in future. There are other Tablets that he has given interpretation to the dreams as the request of Bahá'ís that had such experiences.

    The dream under consideration is as follows: the addressee of the Tablet saw himself in the holy Ka`ba, the centre of Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca. He also dreamed of the Prophet Muhammad, riding a camel. And Muhammad was casting shadow with his blessed hand on a flock of sheep. However, only ten chosen sheep were particularly under His shadow or protection.

    'Abdu'l-Bahá explains various images in this dream according to Islamic ta`bír and His own interpretation.

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