Dreaming the path: Ontological shifts in a Sufi order in Afghanistan

Annika Schmeding


This article examines dream practices among a Sufi community in present-day Afghanistan. The main argument revolves around the question of how preparing for, expecting, and communally negotiating the veracity of dreams stands in a process of individual and communal becoming that braids divine presence into the lives of Sufi disciples. The article is based on ethnographic field research among a community whose worldview is anchored in the cosmology of Ibn Arabi, during a time when the community is intent on deciding on a new leader through dreams. Their communication about dreams opens up a space of interaction, both within their ontological status of the barzakh [lit: barrier; isthmus between life and death; in-between; intermediary realm] as well as in the communal negotiation about who can have a dream and what the dream comes to mean in this social configuration. Rather than spontaneous events, dreams are a practice with multiple activities, processes, and ensuing states.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/730116