How serious does our religion take our dreams? How should we evaluate our dreams for the real life and the future? Is it all right to take action upon a dream?
Dreams, and News from the future
Nearly everyone dreams every night. Some of those dreams seem to be quite confusing. Some happen to be just the reflections of the daily events. And some dreams involve things that have never been thought or dreamed about before. We can group our dreams into three regarding the sources of them:
2. Self related
Self-related dreams are the ones seen about the past, or the ones seen about the things the person wishes. Devilish dreams are the ones seen by the inspiration of the Devil. Divine dreams are the ones shown directly by Allah or his angels, and they have divine meanings. We will mainly mention about the divine dreams. Those dreams are also called loyal dreams or trusty dreams.
Before giving examples, we find it useful to mention an issue shortly: Freudian psychoanalysis does not take divine dreams into consideration. According to Freud, dreams are shaped by the inner or outer effects. Imagination gives shape to those effects. In our dreams there are traces of events that we live in the past. A child sees the things that he wants but cannot get, similarly, every man sees the desires that he could not satisfy in his dreams. Desires that are put in the subconscious because of religious beliefs or cultural pressure pop up in dreams. Dreams are especially like the symbolic appearance of sexual tendency.
When we look from an Islamic point of view, surely, it is not an acceptable idea to try to see a trace of sexual tendency in every dream, or thinking dreams take place only because of the effects of inner or outer surroundings. It may be correct to try to explain some dreams with subconscious, but it is not correct to explain every dream with it by making a generalization.
There are some dreams that are not reflections from the subconscious but are glitters that fall into the eye of the heart from ghayb (the unseen, unknown).
Thus, the view of the school of psychoanalysis can explain only some dreams, not all of them. Nearly everyone sees some divine dreams carrying messages and secrets, even if it is very rare. Dreams which exactly come true the other day or years after are not few. Those kinds of dreams occur as the things written in the Lawh Mahfuz (Preserved Tablet) are reflected onto the mirror of heart. Even though our senses are at rest, our imagination is active when we are sleeping. Therefore, things being reflected from the Lawh Mahfuz to our heart remain in our memory in the forms of symbols and shapes that our imagination forms. When we wake up, we remember those symbols and shapes.
An aspect of the loyal dreams is their giving consolation to the person and bringing divine good news. Prophet Muhammad talks about those kind of dreams as mubashshirat (glad tidings) and says:
"The Prophethood is over. After me there will come no any other prophet... However there will be " mubashshirat ". Sahabah (companions) asks "What is mubashshirat O Messenger of Allah". Prophet Muhammad says "Dream that a Muslim sees". It is a part from the parts of the prophethood." (Tirmidhi, Dream, 2)
The fact that the wahy (revelation) to Prophet Muhammad started in the form loyal dreams helps us understand the above hadith (word of Prophet Muhammad). As Hazrat Aisha informed, the dreams that Prophet Muhammad saw at the beginning of the wahy were clear and limpid like the light of the morning. (Bukhari, Bad'u'l wahy, 3).
When she was close to death, Hazrat Amina - mother of our prophet - tells his son:
My son, if the things informed to me in my dream are true, then you will be the person who will rescue the mankind.
In the holy Quran, especially in surah (chapter) Yusuf, dreams are mentioned quite often. In that surah, the first mentioned dream is a dream that Hazrat Yusuf sees when he was a child. In his dream, he sees eleven stars, the sun and the moon bowing to him. He tells his dream to his father. Then, his father says:
"And thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of sayings and make His favor complete to you and to the children of Yaqoub, as He made it complete before to your fathers, Ibrahim and Ishaq; surely your Lord is Knowing, Wise." (Yusuf, 6).
The interpretation of sayings that has been taught to Hazrat Yusuf is explained as the interpretation of dreams in a way. It is also explained as to understand the details of the divine message or to feel the consequences of the events that will happen.
That dream becomes true after long years. Hazrat Yusuf becomes the minister of finance of Egypt after long adventures. He summons his parents and siblings to Egypt. They show respect to his spiritual highness and psychical dominion. Then Hazrat Yusuf reminds his father the dream that he saw years before and says:
"O my father! this is the significance of my vision of old; my Lord has indeed made it to be true" (Yusuf, 100).
As it is seen, Hazrat Yusuf sees his parents and siblings in the form of symbols in his dream. Eleven stars represent his siblings, and the sun and the moon represent his parents. Their bowing down to him represents Hazrat Yusufs spiritual and psychical highness.
Hazrat Yaqoob, solved the language of the symbols in Hazrat Yusufs dream, and caught the divine message in that dream.
The second dream told about in surah Yusuf is the dream of two people in prison. One of them sees himself as squeezing grapes, and the other one sees birds eating bread on his head. They want Hazrat Yusuf who was in prison then because of a slander to interpret their dreams. Hazrat Yusuf firstly tells them about the tawheed truth (oneness of Allah). Then, informs them that the one who squeezes grapes will get his old job, and the other one will be executed. (Yusuf, 36-41).
The last dream in that surah is the dream of the sovereign of Egypt. The sovereign sees in his dream that seven thin cows eats seven fat cows.He also sees seven green and seven dry ears of grains. He tells his dream to people around him. They think of them as meaningless dreams because they cannot comment on them.
The person who got out of prison tells the sovereign about Hazrat Yusufs dream interpretations and is sent to the prison to have the dream interpreted. Hazrat Yusuf tells him the seven years of shortage and hardship following the seven years of wealth and abundance (Yusuf, 43-49). That interpretation causes Hazrat Yusuf to become the minister of finance making it clear that he is innocent. The dream comes true as he described.
From the dream of the sovereign, it is felt that the people who think about the future of their country get messages about the issue in their dreams.
In the Quran, there also are some dreams of Hazrat Muhammad. One of them is the dream that Hazrat Muhammad saw before the Battle of Badr. He sees in his dream that the enemy is little in amount and gives the good news to his companions. The verse is as follows:
"When Allah showed them to you in your dream as few; and if He had shown them to you as many you would certainly have become weak-hearted and you would have disputed about the matter, but Allah saved (you); surely He is the Knower of what is in the breasts." (al-Anfal (The Spoils Of War), 43).
Even though the enemy is large in amount, it is shown little to Hazrat Muhammad in his dream. This made the believers join the war with courage. From another point of view, their being shown little in amount represents that they are spiritually weak and without support. They were large in amount but they did not have high values and exalted goals. When we think about it, we see that their real situation was shown to Prophet Muhammad.
Another dream of Prophet Muhammad that is told in the Quran is about the entrance of the Muslims to Makkah. He dreamed Muslims as entering Makkah and making tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka'aba) on the year of the treaty of Hudaybiya, and told his companions about it. Therefore, his companions, who thought that it will happen that year, were returning in grief after the treaty of Hudaybiya, when came the surah of the Victory, relieving their grief. The part of the surah related to the dream says:
Truly did Allah fulfill the vision for His Messenger. Ye shall enter the Sacred Mosque, if Allah wills, with minds secure, heads shaved, hair cut short, and without fear. For He knew what ye knew not, and He granted, besides this, a speedy victory." (al-Fath (Victory), 27).
That dream came true as umrah (pilgrimage to Makkah performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year) after one year, and as the conquest of Makkah after two years.
Those exemplary dreams mentioned in the Quran include news from ghayb, holy consolation or glad tidings. The dreams of two men in prison and the dream of the sovereign of Egypt show that people other than the prophets may have dreams that include messages related to ghayb too.
When Sayyid Qutb, one of the contemporary interpreters (mufassirs), was in the U.S., he dreamed his nephew as having blood in his eye. When he asked for the situation of his nephew via a letter he learned that his nephew had an internal bleeding and was having medical treatment. The bleeding that could not be seen with naked eye was shown to his uncle in his dream who were continents away. (Qutb, IV, 197)
In history, there are many dreams which became famous. One of them is as follows:
The President of the U.S., Abraham Lincoln, sees in his dream that he is killed when watching a performance in the theater. He tells his dream to his friends. The other day when he is in the theatre, somebody enters the theater during an exciting scene of the performance and kills him with his gun. (April 14 1865)
Interpretation of dreams
Tabir (interpretation) of dreams means transferring the meanings of dreams from the symbolic world to the physical world that we live in.
Those who do not know how to interpret a dream are bound to wait in the shores of the symbolic world. Traffic signs tell something to the ones who know the meaning of them, but they remain as symbols to the ones who do not know about them. Similarly, the symbols and signs in dreams are like the letters and words of the symbolic world. They need to be translated by the ones who know that language. Knowing the symbolic language of dreams makes it possible to catch some divine secrets.
Imam Al-Azam Abu Hanifa sees himself as entering Prophet Muhammads grave and putting together his bones in his dream. He wakes up in excitement and thinks have I shown any disrespect to our Prophet? He does not talk about that dream to anyone for a long time.
Finally, he cannot bear it and goes to the famous dream interpreter Ibn Sirin. When he listens to the dream, he says, Sir, I congratulate you, your dream is very nice. You will put together the sunnah(the way of the prophet) of Prophet Muhammad.. Indeed, Imam Al-azam is recorded in history as the first sect imam.
One day, someone comes to Ibn Sirin and asks, I saw myself as eating figs in my dream, what is the meaning of it? Ibn Sirin says fig is a fruit; it means you will be honored.
Months later, another one comes, tells that he ate figs in his dream and asks the meaning of this. Ibn Sirin says Beware, you can get a beating nowadays.
After the man leaves, students of Ibn Sirin ask him Sir, months ago, another man came, then you interpreted the same dream as getting honored. What is the reason for the difference? Ibn Sirin answers smiling:
When the first man had the dream it was summer. Fig trees had fruits then. However, the second man had the dream in winter. Only dry branches left on the fig trees in winter. And it is only used for beating.
There are dream sections in hadith books in which Prophet Muhammads dream interpretations are present. Hazrat Muhammad used to talk with people around him after the morning prayers, he used to talk about his dreams and interpret the dreams of other people in those sessions. We will mention some of them as examples:
Once Hazrat Muhammad says: Milk has been served to me in my dream. I drank it until I was full, and gave the rest to Umar.
Sahaba asked what does it mean O Messenger of Allah? Hazrat Muhammad said, science (ilm).
Once Hazrat Muhammad says in his dream, he saw an ugly and messy woman and she went to the such-and-such land of the Jewish people leaving Madinah. He interprets it as: The contagious disease seen in Madinah will end; the same disease will be seen in the land of the Jewish people soon.
One of the sahaba asks: O Messenger of Allah, I dreamed myself as my head going in front of me separately from my body, what does it mean? Hazrat Muhammad replies: The devil (Satan) seems to make fun of you, do not ever tell that dream to others!
Sometimes Hazrat Muhammad interpreted dreams based on the names. He narrates a dream as follows:
Some dates named taba were served in Uqba bin Nafis home. When sahabah asked O Messenger of Allah, what does it mean? he said:
Exaltation will be ours in the world. Glory will be ours in the afterlife. We will be ok from now on.
Hazrat Muhammad used names when interpreting that dream. The phrase be all right from now on takes place as taba amruna in the original hadith text. Hazrat Muhammad explained the meaning based on the name of the date.
For example, if someone sees in his dream a friend named Mateen (meaning strong) and asks him I cannot see brother Tawfeeq (meaning success), I wonder, where is he?, and his friend Mateen says him brother Tawfeeq passed away, do you not know?, then we can guess some meanings from the names in that dream. Probably the person having the dream will not be successful about an important problem. However, failure should not lead him to despair; he should be strong. If the same person knocks on brother Tawfeeqs door some other day, and brother Tavfeeq opens him the door, from that time on the door of success is open to that person, and he will be successful.
If someone sees in his dream that a good friend of him named Ismat (meaning chastity) falls from a cliff and dies, he can take it as a message that he committed a sin or will do so. If another time, he sees Ismat as alive; he can take that as recovering from the bad effects of that sin.
The Language used in dreams is symbolic. Those symbols may differ from person to person. Nearly everyone forms his own alphabet of dream, and dreams with those. For instance, it may not carry the same meaning to dream a pig or a dog for a Muslim and a Christian. It is because dog and pig are dirty for a Muslim, whereas they are cute for a Christian.
When we see a dog snarling at us in our dream, it may be a sign for somebody who will ask for trouble or at least it symbolizes our own nafs (self, soul).
It is because the nafs of man never calms down, it wants to lead the person to sins. Someone seeing himself going after a donkey in his dream should check himself asking, am I going after the illegitimate desires of my nafs? Someone seeing a white bird flying on his head may reach to some extraordinary facilities on those days.
Someone missing the train in his dream sees the sign of a missing opportunity. Someone who knows the train and the pain it gives to miss the train can see such a dream. Someone who never saw a train in his life cannot see that dream. The meaning of missing an opportunity is reflected in his dream in a way that he knows.
Is it all right to take action upon a dream?
Even though loyal dreams show us the way, direct us and sometimes give consolation, dreams are not considered as a source of information. It is because mostly someone can know that his dream was loyal only after the dream comes true. As a matter of fact, there are many dreams seemingly nice but never come true during the lifetime of the person and remain as a reflection of the persons wishes to his dreams.
In the Quran, Hazrat Abrahams dream is narrated. He sees in his dream as sacrificing his son. When he tells it to his son, he says with submission O my father, do what you are commanded; if Allah please, you will find me of the patient ones. (The Rangers, 102-107). Hazrat Abraham attempts to do it. However, because the divine willing was not the sacrifice of Ismael, but the test of the father and son, Hazrat Abraham is honored with a ram coming from the skies and he sacrifices it instead of Ismael.
At this point, we should not forget this aspect:
Dreams of the prophets are wahy (revelation) (Bukhari, Wudu, 5).
Therefore, Satan cannot interfere their dreams and give inspirations. However, there is no such a guarantee for other people. So if someone sees as sacrificing his son in his dream, he can not take action upon his dream. If he does, he becomes a murderer.
A dream cannot oblige another person to do something. For instance if someone says I saw in my dream that Hazrat Prophet wanted you to do these things, it is not considered as evidence for others. It may lead to abuse by malicious people. So, the person being said Hazrat Prophet wanted you to do this holds the right to say Then I will do that when I see the same dream.
As Imam Rabbani also pointed out, it is not right to act in accordance with the dreams and to depend on them. (Mektubat/Letters, Letter 32)
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