following discussion has been taken from the course forum (Revelation of Qur’an)
of studying Islam (www.studying-islam.org)
one of our sister sites. While Jhangeer Hanif is the moderator of this
discussion, Siddiq Bukhary has compiled it for publication in the journal.
Why would dreams and visions be inappropriate to reveal divine books?
Ayesha: I can
not think of a reason why.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
I used to believe that the number of total formal prayers was fixed during mi‘raj. Thanks for clarifying that.
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?
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.