Dune and Islam

I’ve only recently cottoned on to the Dune novels or rather I should say novel (only two thirds of the way through the first one). I also saw the widely panned but i thought fascinating in its own retro way Dune movie by David Lynch. I read that there’s going to be a remake. A question to readers – are the obvious references to Islam in Dune widely known and how is that seen by its fans, especially in light of today/s events. They really are quite striking – the reference to the religion of the Fremen as being simple and concrete, the worldly prophet who is also a warrior and day to day ruler, the fact that the Fremen are desert people and speak of jihad and cleansing the world, etc.


15 Responses to “Dune and Islam”

  1. Sinclair Davidson Says:

    I think the references to religion are widely known and understood. I don’t know about a movie remake, but there was a TV series that was very good and close to the book. The Dune books written by Frank Herbert are very good IMHO, but I think his son and Kevin Anderson cashed in the franchise and I know I have gone off the series a bit.

  2. Peter Patton Says:


    It is ironic you mention this, as only this weekend, a bookworm and film buff friend of mine was urging me to see Avatar. He quickly got on to Dune, which he said was “ALL about Islam”.

  3. Peter Patton Says:

    Given that Dune was written in the 1960s, when knowledge of Islam in the West would have been pretty rare, Herbert was probably more innocently using artistic licence than had it been written more recently.

  4. charles Says:

    I’ve read the series, and it’s hard to miss if you have a vague knowledge of Islam’s history. One swept across the middle east, the other the universe.

    It gets worse later in the series. The society that produces biology to order (they supply the perfect women he falls in love with) is derived from an Islamic society ( the words are used), the big secret, they use the wombs of their deformed women to produce there products to order.

    Frank Herbert was no fan of islam.

  5. Chumpai Says:

    I read the original Dune last year and didn’t even see the Islamic connection. I saw the ‘jihad’ as an interesting take on how a personality cult might evolve in a universe that was anti artificial intelligence.

  6. daddy dave Says:

    my take is that Islam provides scaffolding in the same way that medieval Europe does for so much of the fantasy genre, such as Tolkein, Feist, as well as anything vaguely Dungeons-and-Dragons-y.
    But although it’s the backdrop, you don’t go to fantasy novels for insights into 14th century France, or to think deeply about the history of Roman Catholicism. In the same way, I don’t think Dune is really a comment on Islam; just a good story.

    By the way, I also read the next one, Dune Messiah, which was really bloody good. I started the third, Children of Dune, and was enjoying it as well but life got in the way (hence my moniker “daddy”) and I ran out of steam.

  7. Sinclair Davidson Says:

    The Frank Herbert books get better and better. Dune Messiah is the weakest.

  8. Legal Eagle Says:

    Personally, I think the first book rocks, and don’t like any of the series after that. I gave up after Children of Dune.

  9. Sinclair Davidson Says:

    After Dune itself, God-Emperor of Dune is my favorite

  10. Butterfield, Bloomfield & Bishop Says:

    No god Emperor is the worst.

    The others are quite good.

    What I found fascinating in a series was how much I enjoyed the last two although the ending was a bit Blake’s Eleven.

    I am reading them now and about to read some, not much of God Emperor.

  11. skepticlawyer Says:

    I read the first book, enjoying it greatly, but gave up 2/3 of the way through the second. Paul became too powerful and it seemed as though Herbert had already told all the ‘story’ there was to tell.

    That said, I can see why Herbert wanted to stay in the world he’d created: it is a marvel, utterly convincing and magical.

  12. Sinclair Davidson Says:

    Homer – the world is round, the sky is blue.

    errr, no sinkers …

  13. Steve Edney Says:

    I thought the books trailed off and stopped reading.

    Even reading this 20 years ago as a teenager I thought the references to jihad made it pretty obvious the islamic conection.

    I mean you have a desert people who go on a jihad, control the substance that while not actually fuel, is necessary to make interstallar travel (navigation) possible.

    I thought it was pretty heavy handed analogy to Islamic arabs controlling oil.

  14. Eudaemonion Says:

    I read Dune a long while ago, back in my high school days. I’ve avidly kept up with the series, the last two books being mildly disappointing a conclusion to the original series. I found it a rather good allegory of hydraulic empire (wiki it!), a phenomenon associated with the Middle East.

    Personally, I found the twisted versions of Islam depicted in the story disturbing. The Bene Tlielax, who use their women as production factories, are ostensibly, ZenSUFI.

    Mr. Herbert clearly was not a fan.

  15. mike Says:

    So lets see- desert check, nomadic tribesmen check, Religious fanatics check, wealth from a monopoly on a substamce required for traveling check, religious leader looking to cleanse decadent empire check.
    Sorry, just not seeing the connection.

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