Muslims 'still rely on dreams'
The traditional practice of using night dreams to make major life decisions is still widely used by modern Muslims across the world, a study has revealed.
For many believers, marriage, business decisions, career choices and politics are all influenced by the centuries-old tradition of Istikhara, or Islamic "dream incubation" where a person concentrates on a problem before sleep and later analyses symbols that come into their head overnight.
Durham University anthropologist Dr Iain Edgar has studied the phenomenon and is speaking about his research at the British Science Festival.
Interviews with 60 Muslims in the UK, North America, Europe and Pakistan were carried out to study whether the practice was still current.
He said: "Dreams have always had a very important role to play in Islam - the Koran shows that the prophet Mohammed was a great dreamer.
"Dream interpretation in Islam is a spiritual way of divining the future and submitting oneself to the personal unconscious and the will of Allah.
"Muslims are often reticent about the use of Istikhara, but through our studies we found evidence of its widespread use amongst a wide variety of Muslims, living in different areas of the world and with different socio-economic backgrounds.
"In Western culture, we say 'let's sleep on it' when we have difficult or stressful decisions to make, and often things will seem clearer in the morning. Istikhara is a spiritual version of this practice."
Researchers found anecdotal evidence that dream interpretation was widespread.
One example came from a Pakistani woman living in the UK, who did Istikhara about her daughter's future marriage. She dreamt of a good looking bowl of dates, which did not taste very nice, imagery which she interpreted as anticipating the outcome of the marriage.