“The truthfulness of the dream is related to the sincerity of the dreamer. Those who have the most truthful dreams are those who are the most truthful in speech.”          The Prophet Muhammad*

Muslims believe in Prophets, all of the Biblical/Quranic prophets from Adam to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad, and tens of thousands of others, messengers from God to guide mankind.  It is said that Muhammad is the last of the Prophets, and there will be no others until the end of time, but something remains behind of prophethood.  And that something, that small remnant of prophecy left behind, is dreams.

Much like the story of Joseph’s dreams in the Torah, there is a long tradition of dream interpretation in Islam (and Judaism) and most observant Muslims believe that dreams have significance and will often seek out the pious to help interpret their dreams. Sometimes the dreams are clear signs, sometimes not. Sometimes they’re meaningful, sometimes just clutter.

A year or so after Adnan was convicted my mother, a devout woman often found mumbling prayers on a rosary or in prostration on a prayer mat, went for a pilgrimage to Mecca. When she returned she told us she prayed for Adnan there countless times and then had a clear dream. She dreamt that he emerged from an underground chamber, squinting in the light, after having been held captive there for a long time. She said it meant he would be exonerated and freed from incarceration. She also said he looked like he was in his mid to late 30’s.

I remember my chest constricting when I heard that. Adnan must have been 19 at the time. My mother was saying he could be in prison for another two decades. I refused to believe it, I cried and got angry and said no way, it was not going to take that long.  Yet here we are, 15 years later.

Before that, in the few months after Adnan had first been arrested, he told me of a dream he had in jail while awaiting trial. He dreamt that he was on a mountain that rose high in front of him and he saw Hae climbing up it, with her back to him. He called out to her but she didn’t turn back. So he started following her up the mountain, trying to get her attention in vain. That’s how his dream ended, with him climbing higher and higher to try and reach her. Adnan thought his dream was a reflection of his pain at her death, of not knowing what happened to her, of trying to speak to her one last time to find out.

In my heart, as he told me, I thought the dream sounded ominous. It seemed like he was also going to get lost to the world like Hae did, climbing up and away after her, leaving the world behind. I didn’t tell him that, instead I tried to comfort him.

For people of faith, whatever faith, we try to find reason in the terrible things that happen in the world. War, poverty, disease, hunger, death. Most of the time you find no reason other than people can be terrible, and to get through it you turn to God, you pray for peace and justice, you wait patiently until eternity when all will be well.  Prayers for Adnan were not just my mother’s business, they were my business too.

The path to Al Aqsa Mosque, in the heart of the Holy Land

The path to Al Aqsa Mosque, in the heart of the Holy Land

I had the honor of visiting Jerusalem twice in the past two years and each time I stepped inside the many different holy places and mosques I prayed for Adnan. I prayed for him at the Al Aqsa Mosque, at the Dome of the Rock, at the mosque of Umar the Caliph, at the mosque of Salahuddin, at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. There wasn’t a place where I didn’t pray for Adnan with my face to the floor, entreating God to have mercy, to let Adnan come home.

It is said that a traveler’s prayer is answered so I prayed for Adnan in my travels to and from these holy places. I asked others with me in these travels to pray for him. When I heard someone was going to Mecca, I would make a request to them to please pray for Adnan to be exonerated. I asked for prayers to be said for him at mosques, during the weekly Friday prayers. At this point hundreds of people, at least, who don’t know Adnan, have prayed for him.  And they’ve prayed for him in Pakistan, in Mecca, in Medina, in Jerusalem.

The tomb of the Prophet Abraham, in the divided Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi mosque

The tomb of the Prophet Abraham, in the divided Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi mosque. I took this pic with my phone, hand extended through the screen that keeps people out of the sanctuary. 

Earlier this year I hit a real low. A spiritual and emotional low on many levels, and on many issues, including Adnan’s case. I knew at that point that Sarah was still investigating, I didn’t know how it was going or what the end story would look like. I felt tired of praying and tired of everything. For the first time in my heart I felt like there was little hope, and maybe nothing would ever change. Maybe Adnan would die in prison and maybe those who loved him would die without ever having him home.

I heard then that a Sufi sheikh, a very pious and internationally known man, was going to be visiting the area. I had never particularly reached out to those who are known as the “awliya”, the friends of God – people who devote their lives to worship, prayer, and the service of others.  But I knew someone closely connected to this spiritual teacher and so I asked for an audience.

A much coveted appointment was made and I waited anxiously for a couple of weeks. I wanted to ask him to pray for Adnan and ask him if he could sense, on an intuitive and spiritual level, whether there was still hope.

Two days before I met the shaykh I was discussing my emotional exhaustion and depression with a good friend and a spiritual mentor, and that night I had a dream. I posted this on Facebook then:

I posted this on Facebook before Serial launched

I posted this on Facebook before Serial launched

The dream was very clear, and I still remember it like I just had it. I was driving, it was nighttime, I was alone.  I don’t know where I was going but all of the sudden the car ran out of gas. I realized my phone wasn’t charged, I couldn’t call for help, and all around the car I just saw darkness. I felt afraid but I got out to look around. About 100 yards ahead I could see a roundabout and beyond that a sign rising into the sky. It was my destination. I couldn’t believe it. I was despondent that I’d never get there, that I was literally lost in the dark, but now I was within sight and within walking distance. And so I started walking.

Two days later when I met the shaykh I took Adnan’s picture. He was a tiny, gentle, congenial man. Quiet, smiling, sweet. He stared at Adnan’s picture for a long time and then put it down on the table.  He nodded at me and said “he’s innocent, and he will come home”.

*PBUH. When Muslims mention the name of any Prophet, whether Jesus or Muhammad, we wish peace upon them. So you’ll often see the abbreviations “PBUH” after a name, which stands for “peace be upon him”.