Thursday, July 29, 2010

inception and islam

Inner Wakefulness

This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real
then death comes like dawn
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought
was your grief

A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived
and he dreams
he's living in another town
in the dream he doesn't remember
the town he's sleeping in his bed in
he believes the reality
of the dream town
the world is that kind of sleep

Humankind is being led
along an evolving course,
through this migration
of intelligences
and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness,
that directs the dream
and that will eventually
startle us back
to the truth of
who we are


'Man is asleep and when he dies he awakens'
-attributed to the prophet Muhammad

And nothing is the life of this world but a play and a passing delight; and the life in the hereafter is by far the better for all who are conscious of God. Will you not, then, use your reason? (Quran 6:32)

I saw the movie Inception this past weekend. It was a pretty enjoyable and thought-provoking film. For those that don't know, Inception is the latest entry in the genre of reality-bending films like Total Recall and the Matrix series. If you have already seen the film, you can follow some of the links below to see more detailed discussions and debates over what is "really" going on. If you haven't seen the film, I don't want to ruin it for you with spoilers. I'll just say that the film plays around with the distinction between dreaming and reality and that one of the more common ways to "wake up" from within the dream is to die.

One of the things which struck me about this film (as is hopefully evident from the various quotes at the start of this blog entry) is the extent to which Inception resonates with Islamic metaphysics. In other words, from the perspective of Islam (or at least, some of the mystics) our world is actually very similar to that of Inception. In fact, there are at least two interesting ways to make this correspondence. As suggested by the above quotes, either we are the dreamers and we wake up when we die. Or if you look at some explanations of wahdat al-wujud, then Allah (swt) is the reality and we are less real (dream-like projections) relative to Him.

On a related side note, one of the characters of the film is actually named Yusuf (played by Dileep Rao) who in the Quran (and the Bible) is known for his ability to interpret dreams.

Goatmilk: “INCEPTION – The Top Stopped Spinning”
The Volokh Conspiracy: Understanding Inception
Cinematical: Dissecting 'Inception': Six Interpretations and Five Plot Holes
Vulture: Inception’s Dileep Rao Answers All Your Questions About Inception

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