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Abstract

Muslim near-death experiences (NDEs) have been rarely reported by comparison to the incidence of NDEs reported in other groups. Recently, after Kreps (2009) found no NDEs in a sample from Pakistan and Kashmir, he concluded Muslim NDEs may even be nonexistent. However, in Arak City, Iran, we easily identified 19 Iranian Muslims who reported having experienced an NDE. Thirty participants claiming to have memories from a period of unconsciousness associated with a close brush with death completed a Persian translation of Greyson’s (1983) NDE Scale as well as background and semi-structured questions. Of these, 19 (63%) scored 7 or higher on the NDE Scale, Greyson’s crite-rion for a valid NDE. The presumed \ NDErs were 10 female and 9 male; aged 16 to 65 years old with a mean age of 33; ranging in education from no high school diploma (5%), to high school diploma (37%), to bachelor’s degree (58%); reporting NDE circumstances of accident (58%), attempted suicide (16%), illness (11%), natural disaster (11%), and emotional trauma (5%); and reporting time since NDE ranging from less than one to 20 years with a mean of 8 years. Although low reliability precluded further statistical analysis of the data or comparison of them to results of previous Western studies, our informal assessment was that both the contents and aftereffects of the Muslim NDEs were quite similar to those of Westerners. We concluded that NDEs are not particularly rare in Muslim groups and that their similarity to Western NDEs suggests they may be a cross-culturally universal and transpersonal phenomenon.
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Month/Year: 2010 Pages: 265-272
Article Author: Scott M. Young
Article Title: Near-death experiences among a sample of
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BRIEF REPORT
Near-Death
Experiences among
aSample of
Iranian Muslims
Cheryl Fracasso,
M.S.
Saybrook [lniuersity
SeyedAli Aleyasin,
Ph.D.
IslamicAzad University, Ashtian Branch, Iran
Harris
Friedman,
Ph.D.
Walden University
M.
Scott Young,
Ph.D.
Universityof South Florida
ABSTRACT:
Muslim near-death experiences (NDEs) have been rarely reported
by
comparison to
the incidence of NDEs reported in other groups. Recently, after
Kreps
(2009)
found no NDEs in a sample from Pakistan and Kashmir, he con-
cludedMuslimNDEs may even be nonexistent. However, in Arak City, Iran, we
easilyidentified 19 Iranian Muslims who reported having experienced an NDE.
Thirty
participants claiming to have memories from a period of unconscious-
nessassociated with a close brush with death completed a
Persian translation
cf'Greyson's(1983)NDE Scale as well as background and semi-structured ques-
tions.Ofthese, 19 (63%) scored 7 or higher
on
the NDE Scale, Grayson's crite-
Cheryl Fracasso, M.S., is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Say-
brookUniversity. She serves as adjunct faculty member for the University of Phoenix;
ResearchAssistant at Saybrook University with Stanley Krippner, Ph.D.; and Associ-
ate Managing Editor of the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies. Seyed
AliAleyasin, Ph.D., is a faculty member with the Department of Clinical Psychology
at IslamicAzad University, Ashtian Branch, in Iran. Harris Friedman, Ph.D., is a
practicingclinical and organizational psychologist who was affiliated with Walden
Universityat the time of the study; he now is Research Professor (Retired) of Psychol-
ogy
at the University of Florida, Professor Emeritus at Saybrook University, Senior
Editorofthe InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies. and Associate Editor of
TheHumanistic Psychologist.
M. Scott Young, Ph.D., is Research Assistant Professor
inthe Department of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida.
Correspondenceregarding this article should be sent
to
Ms. Fracasso; email:
cherylfracasso@hotmail.com.
JIJIUMl
0{ NtOT·DeothSludie,. 29(1), Fall 201002010 lANDS
265
266
JOUR, 'AI.
or .
'EAR·DEATH
STUDIES
rion for a valid NDE. The presumed :-lOErs
were
10femaleand 9male;aged16
to 65 years old with a mean age of 33; ranging
In
educ lion feomnohIghschool
diploma (5%), to high schoo! diploma
(37~,).
to bachelor's degree(5 );reporting
NOE cn-cumstance of accident (5S',), attempted suicide (16%), illness(11'1)
natural disaster (ll
~l),
and emotional trauma
(5~); and
reporting
time
s~
DE ranging from less than one to 20 years with. mean of years,Although
low reliability preclud d further statistical analysis of the data orcomparison
of them to results of previous Western
tudies,
our informal asses mentwas
that both the contents and aftereffects of th ~Iuslim NOE werequitesimilar
to those of Westerners. We concluded that NOEs are not particularlyrare
in
Muslim groups and that their similarity to Western l"OE sugge
ta
theymaybe
a cross-culturally universal and transpersonal phenomenon.
KEY WORDS: near-death xperience, Muslim, Iranian, cro..
-culrural, transper-
sonal
Are near-death experiences (NDEs)
culturally
invariant, or are
they limited to only some cultural contexts? The an wer to this ques-
tion is crucial
in
terms of the radical implications of DEs for oneof
the most important human questions, namely the possibility ofhu-
man consciousness existing apart from a functioning brain. IfNDEs
are not culturally universal, they could be considered a cultural arti-
fact rather than a phenomenon with potentiaJJy more profound impli-
cations for humanity.
Research over the past 35 years has revealed that, among Western-
ers, about
25%
of people who survive a close brush with death report
an NDE characterized usually by a sense of reality or hyper-reality
and by one or more features such as an out-of-body experience (DBE),
movement through a tunnel, seeing and entering a light, having a
life review, meeting deceased relatives and/or a mystical being, and a
sense of being "sent back" (Zingrone
&
Alvarado,
2009).
Researchers
of non-Western cultures have also found NDEs with some of these
characteristics (e.g., Kellehear,
2008;
McClenon,
2005, 2006;
Pasri-
eha,
2008).
However, the NDE literature to date contains few cases of
Muslim NDEs (Holden, Greyson,
&
James,
2009,
p.
9).
Recently, Ibrahim Kreps
(2009)
attempted unsuccessfully to find
Muslim NDEs in Pakistan and Kashmir and concluded that Muslim
NDEs may be rare or even non-existent. He speculated that NDEs
may be "specifically designed for people who need them, and the need
in certain communities may not be as great because of the persis-
tence of traditional faith in an afterlife and a Creator" (p. 67). Conse-
quently, we conducted a study in Arak City, Iran to test whether or
BRIEF REPORTS
267
notKreps'sclaim that NDEs are rare to non-existent among Muslims
wouldbe confirmed.
Methods
Werecruited participants via announcements in four classes of about
25students each at Islamic Azad University, Ashtian Branch in Iran,
whereoneofus (Aleyasin) works, and via word of mouth after these
initial announcements. The class announcement stated we were
seekingparticipants who had a close brush with death through an
accident,illness, injury, or trauma, and that we were seeking to inter-
viewparticipants who may remember anything during their period of
unconsciousness.From the classes, almost immediately several stu-
dentsreported their own or a friend's or family member's NDE. The
numberofreports continued to snowball throughout the one month of
datacollection.The final total of initial participants was 30 Muslims
residingin Arak City, Iran, where Islam is the state religion.
Participants completed a translated Persian version of Greyson's
(1983)NDE Scale. The original NDE Scale is a 16-item multiple-
choiceinventory widely used to establish the presence of an NDE.
EachLikert-format item yields a maximum score of two points. For
example,question 1 asks: "Did time seem to speed up or slow down?"
Thepossibleanswers were "no" (0), "time seemed to go faster or slower
than usual" (1), or "everything seemed to be happening at once; or
time stopped and lost all meaning" (2).
The scale consists of four sets of categories that assess cognitive,
affective,paranormal, and transcendent ND E characteristics; par-
ticipants must score a minimum of 7 to meet NDE criteria from a
maximumof32 possible points. The NDE Scale has shown high rates
ofreliability and validity in differentiating NDErs from non-NDErs
amongsurvivors of a close brush with death (Greyson, 1983, 1997,
2001,2003, 2007). To assess for consistency, Greyson (2007) admin-
istered the NDE scale to 72 participants in 1980 and again 20 years
later and found that scores had not changed significantly.
To develop the Persian NDE Scale, we used a back-translation
method (Lin, Chen,
&
Chiu, 2005) to increase the accuracy of our
translated version to its English equivalent. In this process, some-
onetranslated the original measure into Persian and then sent that
translated version to a second person. The second person then issued
the translated Persian version to a third person who translated it
back into English. The back-translated version was then sent to a
26
JO R 'AL Of" 'EAR.DEATH TUDIES
fourth p rson who compared the original English version withthe
back-translated English version to establish that it wa accurately
translated. Using this widely accepted m thod, we determinedthat
our back-translated version was equivalent to the original English
version, although we think it import nt to note that nuancesareal.
ways lost in any translation.
Regarding reliability of the Pel-sian NOE ale, George and
Mal
lery (2003) provided the following guidelines to evaluate Cronbach's
alpha; "
>
.9 - Exc lIent, >. - Good, > .7 . Acceptable,
>
.6 - Question.
able,
>
.5 - Poor, and <.5 - Unacc ptable" (p. 231). In developingthe
original NDE Scale, Greyson (19 3) found alpha of. fortheentire
Scale and. 75 for the cognitive, . 6 fo" the affective, .66 forthe
para-
normal, and .76 for th tran cendental component, thu ranging
from good to questionable. The Pel' ian ND E cale yielded .54forthe
entire Scale and .13 for the cognitive, .52 for the affective, .26forthe
paranormal, and .18 for the transcendental components, thus
rang-
ing from poor to unacceptabl . Thu , scor s from the Persian NDE
Scale must be interpreted with extreme ca ution and are not appropri-
ate for further statistical analyses.
We used a semi-structured qu stionnaire to a k about the after,
effects associated with participants' close brushes with death. For
example, long-term effects of NDEs commonly cited in the literature
include an increased sense of purpose and meaning in life; feelings
of love for, unity with, and compassion towards all living things; a
decreased interest in obtaining material items and/or money; a de-
creased fear of death; an increased desire to be of service to others;
and increased paranormal abilities (Atwater, 2003; Bush, 2007;Clark-
Sharp, 1995; Greyson, 1997, 2001, 2007; Moody, 1975; oyes, Fen-
wick, Holden,
&
Christian, 2009; Parnia, Waller, Yeates, &Fenwick,
2001; Ring, 1980; Sabom, 1982; van Lommel, van Wees, Meyers,
&
Elfferich, 2001).
We asked the following three exploratory questions; Were youable
to communicate telepathically or understand information telepathi-
cally within this state of consciousness? Do you have any special abil-
ities, such as enhanced psychic abilities as a result ofthis experience?
What are the main messages learned from this experience? Last, we
asked demographic questions regarding age, sex, educational level,
length of time since the close brush with death, and circumstances of
the close brush with death-type of accident, illness, injury, etc.
Regarding quantitative data analysis, for participants who scored
BRIEF REPORTS
269
7orhigher on the Persian DE scale, we calculated mean scores for
thetotalscale and the four subscales. We also calculated incidence of
specificNDE features, for example, percentage of participants who
reportedan OBE, seeing a light, life review, etc. For the exploratory
questions,we calculated incidence of affirmative responses and, us-
ingqualitative analysis (Denzin
&
Lincoln, 2005), identified themes
andcalculatedincidence of participants whose answers contained the
themes.
Results
Ofthe 30 total participants, 19 scored 7 or higher on the NDE Scale.
It
shouldbe noted that Greyson (1983) established the cutoff score of
7basedon the psychometric properties of the original Scale; consider-
ingthe poor reliability results for the Persian NDE, our assumption
mayhave been erroneous that 7 was also the appropriate cutoff for
thePersian version. However, in the absence of further psychometric
analysis of the Persian ND E Scale, we used the same cutoff score.
Thefollowingdata are for the 19 presumed NDEr participants.
Regardingdemographics, participants were 10 females and 9 males
whoranged in age from 16 to 65 years old, with a mean age of 33.
Tbirty-seven percent reported having a bachelor's degree, 58% re-
ported having earned a high school diploma, and 5% reported not
graduating high school. Fifty-eight percent reported their NDE oc-
curred through an accident, 16% through a suicide attempt, 11%
throughan illness, 11% through a natural disaster, and 5% through
an emotional shock from a trauma. Length of time since the reported
NDEranged from less than one year to 20 years ago, with a mean of
8years.
Regarding quantitative results, participants' total scores on the
Persian NDE Scale (1983) ranged from 7 to 23, with a mean of 14.47
(SD
=
4.48). Subscale scores were highest for Transcendental (M
=
4.16, SD
=
1.68), followed by Cognitive (M
=
4.11,
SD
=
1.73), Affec-
tive(M
=
3.32,
SD
=
1.94), and Paranormal (M
=
2.79,
SD
=
1.95).
Regarding incidences of specific features, 62% of presumed NDErs
reported encountering a light, 53% coming to a border or barrier they
couldnot cross and were "sent back" to life against their will, 42%
hearing an unidentifiable voice, 41% having a life review, 37% seeing
future scenes, 32% having out-of-body experiences (OBEs), 32% hear-
ing the voice of a definite mystical being, 26% seeing deceased rela-
270
JOUR AL OF NEAR.DEATH TUDIES
tives or religious (holy) spirits, 26 "coming to a border and makinga
conscious decision to return to life, and 21
%
sensing the presenceof
deceased relatives andlor religiou (holy) spirit .
To the que tion, "Were you able to communicate telepathicallyor
understand information telepathically in this stat ofconsciousness?".
53% reported "yes" and 47% "no." To the question, "Do youhaveany
special abilities, such as enhanced psychic abilities as a result ofthis
experience?", 74% reported
Uyes"
and 26% uno." One
participant
reo
ported that her psychic abilities seemed to decrease after her
NnE.
Although we did not conduct a formal analysis of responses to the
semi-structured aftereffects questionnair , our informal ob ervation
was that the themes we found in our sample were roughly similarto
those commonly reported in Western samples. Regarding responses
to the final question about main messages learned from the :-IDE,we
found that each respondent indicated one of four main theme: spiri-
tual values are the most important aspect of life (47%), deatb is beau-
tiful and nothing to fear (26%), work on Earth was not yet finished
(21%), and the next world is more beautiful than this one (5%).
Discussion and Conclusion
Before turning to our conclusions, we will discuss limitations ofour
study. First, our sample size of 19 presumed NDErs was small and
from the localized area of
Arak
City; the extent to which our findings
may be generalized to all Muslims cannot be known. In addition,our
incidence of 63% NDErs (19 of 30) is substantially higher than tbe
approximately 35% incidence that resulted from an analysis ofretro-
spective NDE research over the past 30 years (Zingrone
&
Alvarado,
2009). This difference may be due to our recruiting not just survivors
of close brushes with death but survivors who remembered some-
thing from their periods of unconsciousness, to the snowball sampling
method we used, and to other possible factors (Greyson, 1998).In ad-
dition, the Persian NDE Scale yielded low reliability, which rendered
the quantitative results inconclusive and prevented further statisti-
cal analysis of them or comparison of them to results from previous
Western studies.
Despite these limitations, our data nevertheless contradict claims
that Muslims rarely or perhaps never experience NDEs. Clearly
Mus-
lim NDEs do occur, which leaves open the possibility that NDEs may
be culturally universal and may reflect trans personal phenomena
rather than merely materially- and culturally-based phenomena.
BRIEF REPORT
271
Inaddition, our preliminary observation of similarity of NDE fea-
tures and aftereffects between our sample of Muslims and previous
samplesof Westerners clearly warrants further research. Based on
ourexperience, researchers may be more successful when a local citi-
zenofstature conducts participant recruitment.
An
unanticipated finding from our study was that two partici-
pants reported concerns over post- integration issues: Both reported a
deepdesire to return to the realm they had experienced during their
NOEs.Each ofthese participants' NDEs occurred during a suicide at-
tempt,and both were in psychotherapy as a result. Thus, additional
research about Muslim ND Es may help not only to answer questions
aboutthe ultimate nature of consciousness but also to assist Muslim
NOErs who may be similar to Western NDErs challenged by NDE
aftereffects.
In conclusion, our results suggest that Muslim NDEs may actually
bequite common, as they are in the West, and may not be especially
different in their key features from Western NDEs and therefore not
heavily influenced by cultural variations, including prior religious or
spiritual beliefs. Future studies could focus on developing reliable
instruments to assess the incidence, characteristics, and aftereffects
ofNDEs using larger sample sizes of various representative Muslim
populations. Such research could enhance our knowledge of Muslim
NOEs and, if extended to yet other culturally diverse populations,
our understanding of NDEs globally.
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Acknowledgement
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ate her hard work.
... [6] NDEs differ according to the survivor's own cultural and religious background and are almost always described in terms of the person's religious beliefs. [6] A review of the literature revealed only one study examining NDEs in the Iranian context, where Fracasso et al. (2010) reported that NDEs are not rare among Iranian Muslims. ...
... According to the results, Iranian CPR survivors reported NDEs similar to those of other societies. These findings were consistent with those of Fracasso et al. (2010) who stated in a study on 19 Iranian Muslims that NDEs are not rare and Muslim people had experiences similar to those of Westerners. [14] Chandradasa and Wijesinghe (2017) stated Muslims who had stronger religious beliefs reported more NDEs than those who were less devout. ...
... These findings were consistent with those of Fracasso et al. (2010) who stated in a study on 19 Iranian Muslims that NDEs are not rare and Muslim people had experiences similar to those of Westerners. [14] Chandradasa and Wijesinghe (2017) stated Muslims who had stronger religious beliefs reported more NDEs than those who were less devout. [15] In another study in the Muslim context, Engmann (2013) reported NDEs like the experience of seeing light and OBE. ...
... The NDE is an experience wherein an individual comes close to death or clinically dies and is then resuscitated. While near death or being "clinically" dead, individuals often reportedly have experiences of: (a) exiting the body, going someplace (often into a light), (b) meeting individuals (often either deceased relatives, a being or beings of light, or a religious figure), (c) sometimes having a life review, encountering a barrier or being told to return, and (d) then returning to the body (Fracasso, Aleyasin, Friedman, & Young, 2010;Fracasso & Friedman, 2011;Fracasso, & Friedman, 2012;Fracasso, Greyson, & Friedman, 2013;Holden, Greyson, & James, 2009;Rominger, 2009Rominger, , 2010aRominger, , 2010b). While these experiences may also occur at times other than when in physical jeopardy, the most common occurrences reported are those where an individual is close to death. ...
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We are pleased to present this special edition on Dreams, Telepathy, and Various States of Consciousness. This edition includes a broad array of articles from well-known authors in the field that address topics such as anomalous experiences of mediums and advanced meditators, shamanic experiences, near-death experiences, experiences related to dreams and body wisdom, and the various ways that anomalous experiences can be conceptualized and categorized.
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Claims from those having near-death experiences (NDEs), as well as those sympathetic to such claims, challenge the prevailing assumption that consciousness is dependent on a functioning brain. Extant theories, both neurobiological and psychosocial, that attempt to explain NDEs are examined and found unable to adequately account for the full range of NDE reports, especially electromagnetic after-effects and out-of-body experiences with veridical perception. As a result, many leading NDE researchers have proposed that a new model is needed to explain how consciousness could possibly exist independently of the brain, mainly relying on theories from quantum physics. Our paper critically evaluates a range of extant neurobiological and psychosocial theories of NDEs, as well as examines theories that might offer more promise in fully explaining NDEs, especially those using insights derived from quantum physics. We conclude that the "hard problem" of consciousness is not yet solved, but that NDEs provide an important avenue for exploring the relationship between consciousness and brain, as well as possibly understanding a disembodied concept of consciousness.
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Near-death experiences (NDEs) have been described consistently since antiquity and more rigorously in recent years. Investigation into their mechanisms and effects has been impeded by the lack of quantitative measures of the NDE and its components. From an initial pool of 80 manifestations characteristic of NDEs, a 33-item scaled-response preliminary questionnaire was developed, which was completed by knowledgeable subjects describing their 74 NDEs. Items with significant item-total score correlations that could be grouped into clinically meaningful clusters constituted the final 16-item NDE Scale. The scale was found to have high internal consistency, split-half reliability, and test-retest reliability; was highly correlated with Ring's Weighted Core Experience Index; and differentiated those who unequivocally claimed to have had NDEs from those with qualified or questionable claims. This reliable, valid, and easily administered scale is clinically useful in differentiating NDEs from organic brain syndromes and nonspecific stress responses, and can standardize further research into mechanisms and effects of NDEs.
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Near-death experiences (NDEs), profound events reported by people who have been close to death, often include feelings of peace, a sense of being outside the physical body, a life review, and meeting apparent nonphysical beings and environments; and they often precipitate profound changes in attitudes and values. Research on NDEs has focused on their epidemiology, psychophysiological correlates, and aftereffects, most commonly including increased spirituality, compassion, altruism, appreciation of life, and belief in postmortem existence. NDEs challenge the conventional assumption that consciousness is invariably linked to brain processes. Scientific discussions of the mind–brain problem must take these data into account.
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As the worldwide population ages, and modern medical techniques for resuscitation advance, near-death experiences (NDEs) are more and more frequently reported. NDEs include more than the popular notions of moving through a tunnel or seeing a light at the end. They also include people, once revived, knowing things the knowledge of which can't currently be explained. Co-editor Janice Holden tells us, for example, about a woman who was brought to the hospital clinically dead. After revival, said she said that during her death state, she had "seen" a shoe on a ledge outside a sixth floor window of a second building of the hospital campus. A social worker checked. The shoe was still there, not visible from the street, and on the opposite side of the campus from where the woman had been brought in by ambulance. Great controversy exists in the medical and psychological fields surrounding such NDEs, which have been reported by adult, teen, and child patients after life-threatening crises including heart attack, stroke, blood loss from car accidents, near-drownings, anaphylactic shock, and attempted suicide. Are NDEs caused by physiological changes in the brain or are they biological reactions to oxygen loss or impending death? Are they a product of changing states of consciousness? Or are they caused by something else altogether? In this unique volume, experts from around the world and across the U.S. share the history and current state of NDE research, controversies in the field, and their hopes for the future of investigation into this fascinating phenomenon. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)