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Dreams and Visions
Siddiq Bukhary

The following discussion has been taken from the course forum (Revelation of Qur’an) of studying Islam ( one of our sister sites. While Jhangeer Hanif is the moderator of this discussion, Siddiq Bukhary has compiled it for publication in the journal. (Editor)

Jhangeer Hanif: Why would dreams and visions be inappropriate to reveal divine books?

Ayesha: I can not think of a reason why.

Jhangeer Hanif: Since the matter is related to humans , a person can deliberate on the issue, and express what he/she feels about it. Of course, one is not forced to give too logical a response with bundles of evidence from the Holy Qur’an.

Aminah Star: If you are looking for a simple answer here is mine; Dreams and visions might be inappropriate to reveal divine books because they are not a reliable form of guidance. Dreams can be good or bad, and sway in different directions of thought.

Ayesha: The position of a prophet is different from that of an ordinary human being. If God can choose to communicate with a prophet through dreams and visions, and effectively so, why would the same medium be inappropriate to reveal divine books? We cannot expect any inaccuracy in the interpretation of dreams and visions by a prophet.

Jhangeer Hanif: The very nature of something being subject to interpretation renders it inappropriate for Divine revelation. It is for this reason that they were never used in revealing the divine books. For instance, the Prophet Abraham (sws) was not in reality commanded by Allah to sacrifice his son. The actual implication was indeed to sacrifice a lamb. Yet, in his ambition to surpass everyone in obeying Allah, he agreed to sacrifice his son lest he may act selfishly by twisting the dream to wrong interpretation, and thereby sacrificing a lamb instead of his son. Another fact that we must appreciate is that Allah does not force people to go in a particular direction. This is also true as regards the Prophets. For instance, Allah could have seized the hand of the Prophet Moses (sws) when he stuck the Egyptian, who died later. But Allah did not, as it is not the practice of Allah. Allah could have stopped the Prophet Jonah (sws) when he left his nation without having a leave from Allah and thereby got caught in the belly of fish. But Allah did not. So, Allah will not force His Prophets to interpret the dreams in a particular manner. Therefore, Allah has always given WORDS to mankind, which though are also subject to interpretation, these belong to their language—which they use daily to put across their thoughts. Dreams and visions, on the other hand, have never been used by humans as a means of communication.

Ayesha: Alright. That is thought provoking. How about dreams that do not need an interpretation as such? For example, the Holy Ascension of the Prophet (sws), that is to say, the incident of mi‘raj).

Jhangeer Hanif: As regards mi‘raj, my question is ‘do you think that divine guidance was given during the Holy Ascension?  We need to identify the objective. Then, everything will be clarified.

Ayesha: Let us take the example of the fixation of the number of prayers to be offered in a day as I have read in Ahadith.

Jhangeer Hanif: As it is clear that this incidence of mi‘raj took place in a dream, which is clear from the Holy Qur’an, we need to interpret the events metaphorically that the Holy Prophet (sws) viewed. For instance, the Holy Prophet (sws) saw that there were so many women in hell and that people guilty of different crimes were already being punished even when the Day of Judgment had not established. What these events signify?  Please allow me to explain to you my understanding. All these events were symbolic realities. They meant to teach the Holy Prophet (sws)—edification directly by the Lord. The underlying objective was also to teach the followers of the Noble Representative of Allah. Thus the allusion to the fixation of the number of five prayers is also a metaphor which meant to convey the message that we, the servants of Allah, should remember the Almighty throughout the day. It needs to be appreciated that the Muslims were already offering five prayers before the Holy Ascension. Not only the Muslims, the Prophets of Allah had always offered the obligatory prayer five times a day. The number fifty signify the reality that the sole purpose of creation of man is to remember, praise and glorify the Lord. As for other events quoted above, I’d say that these were also meant to warn all of us humans. Ladies should be careful not to spend time backbiting or causing other people to engage in never ending vendettas, and men should exercise care that they do not act dishonestly in their business and dealings. We, men and women, should keep in mind that the Hour is due to come very soon. And all hidden and secret intentions; and malicious and selfish actions would be brought to public—such that each and every member of our body would also testify to the ills we committed for personal interests and benefits.

Ayesha: I used to believe that the number of total formal prayers was fixed during mi‘raj. Thanks for clarifying that.

Jhangeer Hanif: I would also like to add that I do not reject the possibility that Dreams and Inspirations have no significance in the lives of common people. My point is that the dreams and inspirations of common people are subordinate to the shari‘ah and the common sense and reason. The event recorded in the Holy Qur’an about the dreams of the two prisoners can be cited as an example to show that dreams and inspirations do have some significance for common people as well. Yet, Allah has not given man any definite ability to interpret them. For that very reason, these dreams carry no religious significance whatsoever. We need to weigh whatever we feel, and therefore, judge in the scales of the Law, and sense and reason, therefore.

Ayesha: Are we saying that we know for sure that Allah ‘‘would not’’ give a certain common man the ability to interpret dreams accurately?

Jhangeer Hanif: We are saying that Allah has never actually promised to give ‘‘any man’’ the ability to interpret dreams accurately. As regards the Prophets of Allah, the only assertion is that their dreams/visions are from Allah and are clearly devoid of the influences of Satan. However, interpreting capability in their case too is subject to normal human endeavour—which is clear from the anecdote of the Prophet Abraham (sws). You see, in the Prophet Joseph’s (sws) case, he only proclaims with utmost surety to his father ‘‘that it is the demonstration of my dream’’ when he actually saw his brothers and father prostrating before himself. He was gifted yet he exhibited the air of surety when he beheld the demonstration. In a nutshell, the question is not that Allah ‘‘would not’’ give anyone this ability; rather the point is that Allah has not given this ability to anyone with cent per cent accuracy.





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