Monday, May 26, 2008

Interpretation of dreams in Islamic Wisdom Tradition

Dream in Islam1.
On many occasions Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, after finishing the morning prayer in the mosque, he would face the companions and ask, "Who amongst you had a dream last night?" So if anyone had seen a dream he /she would narrate it. The Prophet would say: "Ma sha'a-llah" (God has willed it) and he would continue interpreting the dream.

Thus dream interpretation, specially in group was practiced from the very time of the Prophet, which tradition is also carried and practiced in many sufi orders and has distinguished place in Islamic wisdom tradition.

2.
Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, "Nothing is left of Prophethood except glad tidings." Those with him asked, "What are glad tidings?" He replied, "True dreams / visions."
- Sahih Al-Bukhari

The Prophet Muhammad mentioned that after he was gone prophecy would come only through true dreams. Based on this and other statements, early Muslims created what might be called a theology of dreams. Dreams were regarded as an important means used by God to guide the faithful, especially after the cessation of Quranic revelation.

Abu Hurayrah narrated that Messenger of God, Muhammad said, "There are three types of dreams: a righteous dream which is glad tidings from Allah, the dream which causes sadness is from Shaitan, and a dream from the ramblings of the mind." - Sahih Muslim

Thus according to the Sunnah dreams are broken into three parts :
Ru'yaa - good vision or dreams, Hulum - bad dreams and Dreams from one's self (psyche).

3.
Abu Bakr, one of the most dear heart companion of Prophet Muhammad was also considered the best interpreter of dreams after the Prophet. According to a tradition, the Holy Prophet said that he was enjoined by God to relate his dreams to Abu Bakr. Whenever the Prophet Muhammad had a dream, he would relate it to Abu Bakr. Whenever Abu Bakr had a dream, he would likewise relate it to the Holy Prophet.

They would then exchange views, and arrive at an agreed interpretation about the dream. In early Islam, interpretation of dreams was regarded as a spiritual exercise, and it was held that only those who had pure hearts and possessed an inward vision could have meaningful dreams and interpret their significance. (credit)

On one occasion, the Holy Prophet saw in a dream that he was driving a herd of black sheep. Then he found himself driving a herd of white sheep. After some time the two herds were inextricably intermingled and all attempts to separate them were of no avail. Interpreting the dream, Abu Bakr said that the black sheep signified the Arabs while the white sheep signified the people of other regions. The dream indicated that Islam would spread to other regions beyond considerations of color and creed.

4. Prophet Muhammad's dream of Christ and Anti-Christ
Messenger of God, Muhammad said, "I saw myself (in a dream) near the Ka'ba last night, and I saw a man with whitish red complexion, the best you may see amongst men of that complexion having long hair reaching his earlobes which was the best hair of its sort, and he had combed his hair and water was dropping from it, and he was performing the Tawaf (circumbulation) around the Ka'ba while he was leaning on two men or on the shoulders of two men. I asked, 'Who is this man?' Somebody replied, '(He is) Messiah (Christ), son of Mary.'

Then I saw another man with very curly hair, blind in the right eye which looked like a protruding out grape. I asked, 'Who is this?' Somebody replied, '(He is) Messiah, Ad-Dajjal (Anti Christ).'" - Recorded in Bukhari, Narrated by 'Abdullah bin 'Umar

5.
(Extracts from Dream Yoga, In Yoga Journal, January/February 1997 Issue By Peter Ochiogrosso)

Sufis appear to take a more serious interest in dreams as guideposts along the spiritual path. The interpretation of dreams, including dreams that involve dialogues with one's teachers, have formed an important aspect of some Sufi orders since their earliest days. The 12th-century Sufi Najm ad-din Kubra (1145-1220) worked extensively with dream interpretation, citing the "constant direction of a shaykh who explains the meanings of one's dreams and visions." And Baha ad-din Naqshband of Bukhara (d. 1389), who lent his name to the Naqshbandi Order of Sufism, was renowned as an interpreter of dreams. It is even said that he would accept a dervish only after he had had a dream indicating that the person was an appropriate disciple.

Listen to your DreamLlewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a London-born member of the Naqshbandis now living in northern California and the author of several books on Sufism, dream work, and Jungian psychology, including In the Company of Friends: Dreamwork Within a Sufi Group (Golden Sufi Center). When asked if Sufism employs specific techniques for dream yoga, he replies, "No. If one thinks of the dream as being an inner wisdom that wants to communicate with you, you just have to learn to listen. I'm a great believer that if a dream wants to be heard, it will make itself heard. People say that they forget their dreams when they wake up. But if you have a really important dream, you will remember it. The Higher Self within you will make you remember it."

After becoming involved in the practice of Sufism 23 years ago when he met his teacher, Irina Tweedie (herself the student of an Indian Naqshbandi), Vaughan-Lee took a doctorate in Jungian psychology, a field that most dream workers find much more congenial and useful than its Freudian counterpart. "Much of the work on the Sufi path is psychological," Vaughan-Lee says from his office in Inverness, California, "and Jung offers a wonderful model of the Western psyche.

In Western psychology, he offers the most complete spiritual approach to dreams." But Vaughan-Lee also discovered that "people on the spiritual path have dreams that are not just psychological, but which have another dimension. Many people will have ancient Sufi symbols in their dreams without consciously realizing from where they've come."

As an example, he cites a dream told to him by a young woman in Minnesota. In the dream, he says, "She was in a very loving embrace, and then she was taken into a warehouse where rows of old men were carding wool. They had long white beards, and as they ran their fingers through their beards, they carded this wool." The woman had been brought up as a Christian and did not enter the Sufi path until some time after having this dream. At the time, says Vaughan-Lee, "She had no conscious knowledge of what her unconscious knew only too well, which is the whole Sufi symbolism of wool [the literal meaning of the Arabic root suf] as having to do with the Path, and the melting of the Path having to do with becoming as soft as wool."

Vaughan-Lee distinguishes many different kinds of dreams, including mind dreams ("like a cow chewing the cud, the mind digests what has happened to us" in a way that is best forgotten); purely psychological dreams (which we should work with); archetypal dreams (which draw on the collective rather than the personal unconscious); past-life dreams; and warning or prophetic dreams.

Vaughan-Lee makes his biggest distinction, though, between psychological dreams and spiritual dreams, like one in which the ninth-century Sufi al-Bistami asked God, "What is the way to reach You?" God responded, "The renunciation of self. Renounce the self and just walk in a straight way." According to Vaughan-Lee, spiritual dreams "describe inner happenings that take us beyond the psyche into the inner chamber of the heart, where the lover and Beloved meet and merge in love's oneness."

At other times, students may receive teaching in the night "which comes through on a dream level but does not actually originate in the unconscious," says Vaughan-Lee. "It's on a different plane of consciousness. On the level of the soul, we may meet teachers or perceive higher realities, and sometimes we remember these experiences in the form of a dream." He recalls speaking at the Sufi Bookstore in lower Manhattan, located near the mosque over which the late Lex Hixon presided for many years. Lex had passed away only a couple of months before, and a number of his dervishes described dreams of receiving spiritual instruction from their shaykh after his death.

Vaughan-Lee stresses the value of interpreting dreams within a group setting. "The group can collectively affirm dreams that are bewildering to the mind and threatening to the ego," he writes. "This provides a tremendous reassurance, which helps the dreamer with any doubts that may beset him." Although Vaughan-Lee acknowledges that group dream work is "slightly unorthodox in most Sufi circles," I witnessed Lex Hixon (from an entirely different lineage) doing the same thing in his mosque. Most Sufi texts do say that the dervish should tell his dreams only to the shaykh, but Vaughan-Lee, who learned the group technique from Irina Tweedie, continues to use it, because "it is really pointing away from the idea that the teacher is the only person who can understand anything. It points back to the wisdom within everybody's psyche, from which the dreams come, and in a way gives a space for the inner wisdom of the dream, which everybody has within them, to be valued and accepted."

6.
The science of interpreting dreams is a subtle and difficult science. It is that part of prophecy that still remains after the expiry of the seal of the prophets. It is even recorded how many times a great dream interpreter like Ibn Sirin said: "I don't know", when being informed about a certain dream. One has to be a truly advanced person spiritually and one has to be quite knowledgeable to be able to give this science its due.

Those who really know about this science of dream interpretation have shared some of their insights with us. They have given us the advice (in general) not to talk about so-called bad dreams as telling about them may make them come true. Dreams can take place in different parts of the night and this gives us information if the possible realization of the dream may take place in the near future or in the distant future.

Then there is also this that prayers can change everything. By means of prayers a negative potential future may change into a positive one. Prayers are a very useful tool in this respect. There are people whose prayers are accepted by the Almighty. He will not refuse the prayers of these people. Allah may thus postpone things to the distant future. - Mohammed Siraj, Shared from Chishtiyya Sufi Group


# Further Resources:
. Meaning of Dreams in Islam: part1, part 2
. Dreams: According to Quran and Sunnah
. Search Dreams in Islam based on Ibn Sirin
. Dream Interpretation: Islamic resources
. The science of dream interpretation
. Dreams in Islam
. Bukhari, Interpretations of Dreams
. Golden Sufi
. Mystical Meaning of Dreams by Avraham Arieh Trugman
. The Early Muslim Tradition of Dream Interpretation
. Islamic ruling (fatwa) on interpretation of dream Pin It Now!

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