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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

Chapter 7 - The Transcendent Image


Chapter 7 explores the ephemeral image, transcended on the journey to truth. Emphasis on inward mimesis and perception through spiritual training shifts the art-historical emphasis on material objects toward a recognition of the importance of dreams, visions, and dematerializing images in Islamic discourses. The similar functions of the trope of the image and the dream image underscore their functional interchangeability as well as the reality often ascribed to dreams and visions over materiality. This emerges in uses of the image as identification; in Prophetic visions proving his miraculous journeys; ibn Arabi’s interpretation of sleep as a metaphor for exile in the Quranic parable of the Cave of the Seven Sleepers; and in the theorization of sleep and dreams as enabling an interface with reality impossible in the waking or material world. The resulting valorization of meaning over matter suggests a mode of preservation rooted in ideas rather than physical forms, accepted as inevitably perishable. Similar tropes of the image in Nizami’s Shirin and Khosrau, and Rumi’s story of the Three Princes, suggest that the image should be approached with neither love nor hate, but with indifference.

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