Dreaming has fascinated humankind since the dawn of recorded history.
They are a normal part of sleep — something we spend almost one-third of our life doing. Lately, dreaming is the most extensively studied cognitive state.
The branch of science that deals with dreams is known as Oneirology. Research of the brain has led to many new discoveries, and better understandings, of the science behind dreams.
All human beings who have been studied in sleep labs have brain activation in sleep. Periods of brain activation during sleep are associated with rapid eye movements in the sleeper. These rapid eye movements give the brain-activated phase of sleep its name: REM or rapid eye movement sleep. From this evidence, it is generally believed that everyone does, in fact, dream in sleep.
Viewing dreams from an Islamic perspective al Quran al Majeed has regarded dreams as a sign of Allah Ta’ala; it states:
And of His signs is your sleep by night and day and your seeking of His bounty. Indeed, in that are signs for people who listen. (30:23)
The Arabic word Manām connotes what one sees while asleep. Similarly, the Arabic repository has other words that define dreams more specifically. Abu Hilạal al ‘Askari in his magnum opus has differentiated between the two synonymously used Arabic words for dreams: ạl Rū̉yā and ạl Hul̊m, although both are associated with what a human being dreams of, the word ạl Rū̉yā has a positive connotation while the word ạl Hul̊m holds a negative connotation. In other words, ạl Rū̉yā is when a dreamer dreams of something pleasurable and ạl Hul̊m is otherwise.
Many Islamic sources have reported Rasulullah SAW stating:
“A Rū̉yā is from Allāh Ta’ala and a Hul̊m is from Satan.
Al Imam Ahmed al Mastoor SA has discussed the veracity of dreams at length in his Epistles of Ikhwan al Safa.
Subsequently, he has classified dreams into six different types:
1. Muddled dreams (ạḍgẖātẖu ạḥ̊lām)
2. Those that are self-reflections.
3. Those that arise due to disproportionate bodily humors.
4. Those that are results of astrological positions of heavenly bodies.
5. Those that are temptations of Satan.
6. Those that are in form of Ilhām and Tāyeed from Allah Ta’ala and his Mala’ikah.
- The Qur'an describes the dream stories of Nabi Allah Yūsuf AS, containing passages that are frequently referenced and relied upon by muslim scholars in the field (or science) of dream interpretation.
- The Qur'an further describes Nabi Allah Ibrahim AS receiving a Manām or vision, in which he is instructed to sacrifice his son.
Dream interpretation, or oneiromancy, has become an established science in muslim literature. Muslims use the Arabic terms Tabir or Tafsir to describe dream interpretation.
A number of muslim philosophers and thinkers emerged in the field of dream interpretation such as Ibn Arabi (1164-1240 C.E.), who devised a metaphysical system merging Islamic theology with Greek philosophy. Theories, understandings, and observations of dreams proposed by muslims over the past 1500 years correspond with many of the recent theories developed by contemporary psychologists.
The most famous dream interpreter in Islamic history is Ibn Sirin (653-728 C.E.).
Ibn Sirin's system for dream interpretation reflects the fact that both the Qur'an and Hadith Shareef teach Muslims to respect the spiritual and psychological significance of the Manām. Ibn Sirin thought that the interpretation of the content of a dream depends on the personal characteristics and life circumstances of the dreamer, as well as on the meaning of the dream itself.
When devastating earthquakes hit Anjar, India, in January 2001 one mumina behen recalls that on the night before the catastrophe, al Dai al Ajal Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA graced her dreams with his presence, and exclaimed to her, providing much needed strength and fortitude and foretelling her what was to happen:
Tame koi fikar na karo, me betho chu!
May Allah Ta’ala grace us all with the Sharaf of Deedar of his Awliyaullah AS through all the possible means. Ameen.