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About dreams and dreaming in Islam (I)

Dreams are said to occur in the Rapid-Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep when brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake. REM…

Dreams are said to occur in the Rapid-Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep when brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake. REM sleep is revealed by continuous movement of the eyes during sleep. Dreams may also occur at other stages of sleep even though such tend to be less vivid or memorable than dreams in the REM stage. Dreams can last for just few seconds or as long as twenty minutes. It is said that a dreamer is likely to remember what he dreamt of if he is awakened during the REM phase.

Dreams come in different forms. They range from normal and ordinary to the bizarre. Dreams could be exciting, frightening, adventurous or sensational. Dreams are so generous that they turn the poorest of the poor (within seconds in a dream) in to the richest or one of the richest persons. Some people are made multi-millionaires several times in their dreams. Dreams give wife or wives to an unmarried man and make a barren to bear children. Such are the kinds of beautiful dreams from which a person wakes up to yearn for. Dreams turn sorrows or distress into joy as they also turn fortunes into misfortunes. They turn the healthy into a sick person. The affluent could also become wretched in a dream.

The events in dreams are generally outside the control of the dreamer, except in lucid dreaming where the dreamer is “self-aware”. Lucid dreaming is the conscious perception of one’s state while dreaming. In this state, the dreamer may often (but not always) have some degree of control over his or her own actions within the dream. Nonetheless, a dreamer’s ability to control aspects of the dream is not necessary for a dream to qualify as “lucid”. A lucid dream is when a dreamer knows he is actually dreaming. As for sensational or wet dreams, they occur mostly in teenagers.

In the late 19th century, Sigmund Freud (a personality theorist and psychotherapist) developed a theory that the content of a dream is driven by unconscious wish fulfillment. He calls dreams as the “royal road to the unconscious”. He theorized that the contents of dreams reflect the dreamer’s wish fulfillment. Dreams generally function for varying purposes. They allow the repressed part of the mind to get a sort of satisfaction through fantasy. Dreams also regulate mood. Freud suggests that bad dreams enable the brain to learn and gain control over emotions that result from distressing experiences.

Abandonment, anger, fear, joy, and happiness are some of the emotions experienced in dreams. However, the most common emotion in dreams is anxiety, which usually sprouts from nightmares. A nightmare is an unpleasant dream that can cause a strong negative emotional response from the mind. Such a dream may contain situations of danger, discomfort, psychological or physical terror. A person who suffers nightmare may wake up in a state of distress and may be unable to return to sleep immediately. If a Muslim wakes up from a nightmare or bad dream, the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) recommends that he should seek refuge with Allah from the Shaytan and indeed all evils by reciting the following supplication three times and spitting to his left side (after each recitation): “A’udhu bi-llahi mina sh-Shaytani r-Rajimi wa min sh-Sharri Kulli darri”.

A Muslim in this nightmarish condition is advised to change his sleeping position from the side upon which he was lying to another side of his body. The dreamer after a nightmare is advised not to disclose whatever danger or unpleasant scenario he/she saw in the dream to anybody. The dreamer shall thus be protected by Allah against whatever he saw of fear in the dream. All the six authentic compilers of hadith report on the authority of Abi Qatadah (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “The good dream is from Allah and the Bad dream is from Shaytan…” If, on the other hand, a dreamer wakes up from a pleasant or friendly dream, the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) recommends that he should give gratitude to Allah (SWT) and may thereafter (if he so wishes) disclose the contents of the dream to others but preferably to his beloved ones only.

It is related on the authority of Anas bn Malik that the Prophet (SAW) said:

The good dream of a man who is Salih (righteous) is the forty-sixth part of prophecy”. It is similarly reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (RA) that when the Prophet (SAW) left the Subhi (early morning) prayer, he would say, “Has any of you had a dream last night? All that will remain of prophecy after me will be the true dream”. Abu Hurayrah (RA) further relates that he heard the Prophet (SAW) say, “All that will be left of prophecy after me shall be the “Mubashshiraat”. When the people asked the Prophet (SAW) about what the “Mubashshiraat” are, he replied saying,  “the true dream of a man who is Salih (righteous)”. It is also related on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (AS) that the Prophet (SAW) said, “whoever sees me in the dream shall (come to) see me while awake; or (it is) as if he had seen me while awake. The Shaytan, certainly, cannot take my shape”.

The discourse continues from here next week, insha Allah. May Allah (SWT) put us among the righteous whose dreams are as described by the Prophet (SAW), amin.

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