Dreams and Spirits
Islamic Customs and Etiquette
Question asked by .
Answered by Jhangeer Hanif

My mother dreamt a few days before that my father who died in 2000 was very sick telling her to distribute the meat of a goat costing less than five thousand among the poor. I also dreamed of my father telling me to go to the mosque for offering the prayer. My questions are: ‘What is the Sharī‘ah ruling on dreams? What is the state of the spirit while we are asleep? Can the spirit of the deceased contact their living near relatives and request or instruct anything? I am anxious to know about this. Please help me and pray for my correct understanding of Islam.


One sentence answer to the question is that the Sharī‘ah is silent on matters related to what a person sees in a dream. However, in order to elaborate on the issue, I will try to present some details.

It is known from the Qur’ān that dreams and visions were one of the means through which Allah would reveal His will to His Messengers. The dream of the Prophet Abraham (sws) about sacrificing his son for Allah’s sake (37:102) and the dream of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) about the battle of Badr (8:43) bear witness to this fact. But as far the as the dreams of other people are concerned, we find nothing in the Qur’an to substantiate if  what a person sees in his dreams is actually from the Almighty. This, however, does not suggest that what a person watches in his dream will not come true at all. The narratives recorded in the Qur’ān about the Prophet Joseph (sws) who interpreted the dreams of his fellow prisoners and of the Pharaoh and how those dreams simultaneously came true show that they do sometimes have a reality behind them. The point that must be borne in mind is that while dreams of Allah’s Messengers were an absolutely reliable means for knowing the will of the Almighty, since they were saved from the influences of Satan and His accomplices, our dreams can have no religious bearing whatsoever upon us because of our susceptibility to Satanic influences. In this regard, the guidance provided by the Prophet must be kept in mind:

The Prophet said: ‘If anyone of you sees a dream that he likes, then it is from Allah, and he should thank Allah for it and narrate it to others; but if he sees something else, a dream that he dislikes, then it is from Satan, and he should seek refuge with Allah from its evil, and he should not mention it to anybody, for it will not harm him. (Bukhārī, 9.114)

 Like thanking Allah for every blessing, the Prophet (sws) wants his followers to be grateful for having a good dream. But nowhere has he established for his followers to comply with what they may see in a dream. Consequently, it can safely be concluded that dreams have no religious bearing upon us no matter what.

As far as the question regarding the status of the spirit while a person is sleeping is concerned, it must be understood keeping in view the stance of the Qur’an in this respect as well as practical experience. The Qur’an mentions that Allah takes the souls of those who fall asleep and then return to them when they wake up provided their period of life has still not expired:

It is Allah that takes the souls [of men] at death and those that die not [He takes] during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death He keeps back [from returning to life] but the rest He sends [to their bodies] for a term appointed. Indeed in this are signs for those who reflect. (39:42)

We also know from practical experience that the soul of a person does stay with him while sleeping. Had the soul been taken out literally from a person’s body, he would not be able to dream or move his body or inhale or breath. Sometimes, we even hear people talk on an issue during our sleep and start to dream about the topic under discussion. Thus, the conclusion is that God does take control of our souls when we are asleep but the true nature of this ‘taking control’ is from among the matters that are humanly not possible to figure out. The Qur’ān (3:2) terms them as Mutashābihāt. 

The answer to your last question is in the negative. The Qur’ān explains that when a person dies, his soul is placed beyond the barrier of Barzakh where it shall stay till the Day of Judgment.

Before them is a Partition (Barzakh) till the Day they are raised up. (23:100)

 Hence, there is no way that any deceased could contact his relatives in this world.

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