Those who closely work with pre-modern manuscripts are well aware that each manuscript has its own idiosyncrasies and challenges. So does the Book of Dreams. It is a lengthy, yet interesting text not only for its content of dreams and other mystical experiences, but also for its structure and linguistic characteristics.
The language of the text is straightforward Ottoman Turkish with occasional Arabic phrases. However, the text contains a large amount of purely Arabic sections, as well. Thus, the Turkish and Arabic sections of the text are examined separately.
Turkish in the Book of Dreams
Since there was no standard established Turkish grammatical and spelling system at that time, there are major inconsistencies in the orthography of the text. Starting from the 16th century on, the linguistic features of the Chagatai Turkish and the Old Anatolian Turkish, used roughly from the 11th to the middle of the 15th centuries, diminished, and the Oghuz Turkish became the written language of the Ottomans. However, although the Book of Dreams was completed at the end of the 16th century, in 1592/1001, it preserves the major characteristic of the Old Anatolian Turkish. For example, the interjection “ey” is used as “iy” as in the Old Anatolian Turkish; both a rounded and unrounded version of the same suffix is used even in the same sentence. In addition, it contains some Eastern Turkish or Chagatai Turkish vocabulary, such as “iŋen” (much). Furthermore, the b sound in the beginning of certain verbs (i.e. “bolmak”) appears to be the reminiscent of the Oghuz Turkish of the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries.
Because of its linguistic characteristics, the Book of Dreams deserves a thorough analysis by linguistic scholars. Such study would be particularly important, for it would shed light not only on the educational and social background of the scribe, about whom there is very little knowledge, but also on the linguistic features of the Ottoman texts produced in the transition period from the Old Anatolian Turkish to the Classical Ottoman Turkish. The scribe’s use of spelling variants for the same nouns, verbs, suffixes as well as his use of double vowels for one single consonant vividly illustrates the changes occurring at this time in Ottoman Turkish. Since there is only one copy of the Book of Dreams, it is important that the reader be able to visualize the idiosyncratic linguistic and orthographical features of the text. The transliteration of the text published in Turkey discusses these features of the text in detail.
The text is vocalized throughout, except for a few words. In some cases, letters are double vocalized, suggesting that these words can be read in both ways.
The scribe often uses an abbreviation for “ᶜaleyhi’s-selām” (Peace be upon him) with the Arabic letters “ᶜayn” and “mim.” In a few cases, a blank space is left for a word presumably to be added later.
The Ottoman, Arabic and Persian spelling shows variations and inconsistencies. For example, in Ottoman Turkish, not only the stems but also the suffixes appear with different spellings, even in the same sentence.
Arabic in the Book of Dreams
Although the main language of the text is Turkish, a large amount of Divine Inspirations and Divine Calls are in Arabic, indicating their Divine source. Arabic comprises almost one fourth of the entire text. The Arabic phrases and sentences are often obscure and full of poor grammar, but usually contain well-known Qur’anic quotations that would be easily recognized by an audience familiar with Islamic discourse. Like the Turkish, the Arabic sections in the text demonstrate spelling variations. Furthermore, the gender harmony is inconsistent in Arabic adjective components. In classical Arabic, adjectives follow the nouns or pronouns that they modify, and reflect the state of definiteness, gender, and number. However, in the Book of Dreams, there are several cases when these modifying morphemes do not follow the rules accepted as standard.
The Arabic sentences show an informal style because Arabic appears to be the conversational language between the Divine and Sultan Murad. These Arabic sections contain Qur’anic verses and quotations. The direct quotations from the Qur’an can be categorized in three different forms, which are:
1) acknowledged Qur’anic quotations
2) slightly modified unreferenced quotations
3) and synthesized quotations from various Qur’anic chapters.
In the first mode, a Qur’anic verse is quoted with a simple acknowledgement that the Sultan was reciting a verse, or some people were reciting a verse, but with no references to the name of the chapter or the number of the verse:
O my fortune-blessed father, in a dream one witnessed that they were continuously reciting the Qur’an loudly in a great mosque. What they were reciting was this “Muhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men,” up to [the phrase] “of all things, Knowing.” Yet, my fortune’s blessing, they inserted “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” into the middle of the verse. And, between [sleep and] wakefulness, it became apparent that Bekir Agha came in and said, “The Shaikh said that he should sit in concealment so that no one may observe him.” (The Book of Dreams, 4r-4v:14)
In the second mode, an entire Qur’anic verse or part of it is quoted, but is not specified that this is a Qur’anic verse. The Sultan, for example, reports in a letter that he received a Divine Inspiration, and then quotes the verse with no words or implications that this is from the Qur’an. In the following account, a Qur’anic verse is inserted into Murad’s (non-Qur’anic) Arabic sentence:
“Upon groveling in the dust at the feet of his lordship my fortune-blessed father…. A Divine Inspiration came, saying, Murad, My glory, object of My desire, may the Two Worlds be with you. Be glorified, be exalted, he who strives diligently, the hearer, the seer! You are My friend in This World and the Hereafter. O He, O He other than Whom there is no God. My sultan’s will be done.” (The Book of Dreams, 53v:426)
The last part of the above sentence is from the Chapter Joseph:
“My Lord, You have given me [something] of sovereignty and taught me of the interpretation of dreams. Creator of the heavens and earth, You are my protector in this world and in the Hereafter. Cause me to die a Muslim and join me with the righteous.” (The Qur’an, 12:101)
While the verse is longer and mainly conveys the Prophet Joseph’s prayer, strikingly the Book of Dreams extracts this part from the verse, taking it out of context, inserts it in its own sentence, and presents it as if it was revealed to the Sultan from the Divine.
The third mode of the text’s use of the Qur’anic verses is that small extracts from different Qur’anic verses located in different chapters are connected to each other, making a new sentence as if they were all one, complete, original sentence. Yet, again, in “patchworking” with the Qur’anic verses, it is not specified that these are from the Qur’an (35:5 and 13:31):
“O my fortune’s blessing, O my fortune’s blessing, at this point a noble Divine Inspiration has come to me that “Indeed the promise of Allah is truth, and indeed, Allah does not fail in [His] promise and by My Glory you are happy in both worlds and by My Grandeur you are dear to Us and chosen; and for Us you are glorious, O knower of secrets and hidden things!” (The Book of Dreams, 18r:129)
Furthermore, a close reading of these “patchworked” Divine inspirations indicates that certain passages in different verses that are directed to a certain prophet, such as Muhammad, or Joseph, appear to be directed to Sultan Murad himself. In several Qur’anic quotations, the pronouns in the verses are changed. For example, as in the following account, while the verse is directed to the third person (him), it is the second person pronoun “you” in the quotation of the same verse:
“And We raised him to high station.” (The Qur’an, 19:57)
“O my fortune-blessed father, a Divine Inspiration came saying, “We raised you to a high station and granted you wisdom; We exalted you greatly and made you the master of the miraculous. Do as you are commanded, for your Lord is All-Knowing and All-Loving.” My sultan’s will be done.” (The Book of Dreams, 9r:53)
Methodology of Translation
Translating a text into another language is always risky, let alone translating a 16th century Ottoman text full of idioms, calques, foreign phrases, and loanwords into modern English. In translating the Book of Dreams, we take into consideration a number of aforementioned features both in Turkish and Arabic sections of the text. Additionally, long sentences are another challenge in translation. Of course, there are often multiple ways to parse a sentence. We attempt to remain loyal to the meaning of the original sentence structure as much as possible, although it occasionally causes vague and ambiguous sentences. When we feel that the translation does not make an understandable sentence due to the vagueness or the length of the original sentence, we divide long sentences into two or more sentences to be able to make them understandable in English without losing meaning.
There are six issues that must be addressed in translating the Book of Dreams: Numbering the letters, punctuation, abbreviations, vocabulary choice, spelling of the Turkish names, and the Qur’anic quotations.
Although the Ottoman text does not number the letters, we have numbered each account which had a subtitle in red in the original text. According to this numbering system, there are 1858 accounts in the text. In some cases, more than one “account” is recorded under a subtitle, starting with the formulaic opening and closing sentences. Yet, since these accounts do not have a subtitle, we prefer not to number them. If these accounts were counted as well, the numbers of the accounts would surpass 2,000.
To make it easily readable, we set each numbered account as a paragraph itself. In translating, we mark the folio numbers in the original text in a parenthesis in our translation. This numbering system is used in quoting from the text by showing the folio number and the account number following a colon: (12r: 1345)
Since the modern punctuation system used in Ottoman texts only began in the 19th century, the original text of the Book of Dreams does not have corresponding punctuation marks. Yet, the text has its own punctuation system. In the first two folios, a small circle of gold is left, presumably to be illuminated later, by the scribe. Occasionally, a little circle appears in red to separate different accounts from each other where there is no subtitle for a new account, or to change the topic. In our translation, therefore, we ignore the text’s punctuation system. Because numerous dialogues throughout the text make it hard to read, in our translation, we punctuate the text according to what best fits with the context. Indicating the beginning and end of a dialogues, we also use quotation marks to ease the reader’s task. Of course, adding these punctuation marks necessarily involves a certain amount of editorial judgment. Readers who desire a closer, more original reading of the text should simply ignore all punctuation and make their own judgments. We also follow modern English capitalization rules.
“ᶜAleyhi’s-selām” (Peace be upon him) is an abbreviation of an Islamic expression used to salute the Prophet Muhammad. Since the scribe of the Book of Dreams preferred the abbreviation of this expression (“a.m.: aleyhi’s-selām”), in translation, the English abbreviation is preferred wherever the scribe used it, as well. This abbreviation is shown with “pbuh” in the translation
One of the most challenging issues in translating is choosing the right word, because a word in one language might allow a certain amount of ambiguity, whereas the target language might only have words which indicate more specificity. Likewise, a specific word in the original language might have no exactly corresponding word in the target language. In such cases, we use our judgment based on the entire context of the text.
We prefer to keep the Turkish spelling of names. However, in order to help the reader in pronouncing the names, we add English spelling in the related entries in the Glossary.
In order to show the way the text includes Arabic sections, we show the original Arabic sections in blue and green. The green color indicates the Qur’anic verses and quotations to be distinguished from the other Arabic sentences. For the translation of the Qur’anic quotations, for which the chapter and the verse numbers are shown in the footnotes, we benefit from the translation offered on the following website: http://quran.com/).
Following the Translation of the 100 Dream Accounts, a short Glossary is provided for specific names, figures, places, and terms.