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Last Updated: 2011/05/18
Summary of question
What is the purpose of dreaming? Why has Allah granted us dreams?
What is the purpose of dreaming? Why has Allah granted us dreams?
Concise answer

Dreaming is one of the signs of Allah and a window to the unseen, a characteristic and natural trait that Allah has imparted to our bodies and souls.

Detailed Answer

Dreaming is one of Allah’s signs[1] and an opening to the unseen.

From one point of view, dreams are the state of transition from the outside world to one’s inner world and are one of the most important means of self-awareness.

The dreams one sees partially reflect his inner world, therefore continuously seeing nightmares is a sign of not being in a good spiritual state and that change needs to made in one’s life. On the other hand, good dreams are a sign of the person being in a good inner state of purity.

Based on this, one of the important benefits dreams have for a person is that they enable him to achieve self-awareness and to contemplate the world of their sub-conscience. The science of interpretation of dreams is in actuality the contemplation of one’s inner world and an effort to understand the mithali (imaginal) concepts of the world of dreams.

In the eyes of the sages, dreams are a divine gift which enables one to have a glance at the inner world and the world of the inside. If dreams didn’t exist as a natural phenomenon, accepting and understanding  the apostles’ and prophets’ claims about the next world and the unseen realms wouldn’t be easy for normal people. But by virtue of there being dreams, of which cover a spectrum of degrees and levels, many monotheistic realities and unseen teachings, although at a lower level, have become understandable.

One example would be the analogy between dreams and death. According to the Quran, sleep (manaam) is a temporary experience of death and the journey of the hereafter:

“Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those who have not died in their sleep. Then He retains those for whom He has ordained death and releases the others until a specified time. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect”.[2]

According to this verse, Allah, both in sleep and at death, takes (qabdh) the soul (nafs) of the person, the only difference between the two lies in their fates; the one sleeping is re-given his soul, while the other loses it forever.

This verse also shows that when those who reflect on and ponder about sleep and dreams, they reach many realities of the unseen and divine wisdoms.

Therefore,‌ just like death, dreaming is a natural characteristic and trait that has been given to the soul and body of man and from this point of view, both sleep and death are an experience of a higher life and in no way mean getting close to total destruction and annihilation, although both are exemplified by the weakening of the outer and material senses (of course, in death, the soul’s connection with the body is totally cut off); the only thing this indicates is the entrance of the person into a higher level of awareness.


‘True’ Dreams

One of the divine reasons for there being dreams has to do with inner guidance. From this point of view, dreams are a means for receiving divine guidance.

Dreams are of different types and degrees; one type is the ‘true’ dream (al-ru’ya al-saadiqah) or ‘good’ dream (al-ru’ya al-saalihah) which has a divine dimension to it and has been verified and emphasized on by the Quran and hadiths:

Ibn Abbas narrates the prophet of Islam saying:

“Be aware that nothing is left of the glad tidings of prophethood other than ru’ya saaleh (good dream) which the believer himself sees or others see about him.”[3]

Another hadith reads:

“The ru’ya saadiqah makes up one of the seventy parts of prophethood”.[4]

Also, in interpretation of the verse “لَهُمُ الْبُشْرى‏ فِی الْحَیاةِ الدُّنْیا...[5], the prophet of Islam has been narrated saying:

“What is meant by this verse is the ru’ya saalihah through which the believer is given glad tidings and makes up one of the sixty four parts of prophethood; whosoever sees such a dream should recount it for one who has affection for him. But if one sees a ‘non-saalihah’ dream (bad dream), it is from Shaytan so that he becomes upset; he should blow to his left side three times (i.e., put this bad thought away) and not recount it for anyone”.[6]

[1]وَ مِنْ آیاتِهِ مَنامُکُمْ بِاللَّیْلِ وَ النَّهارِ وَ ابْتِغاؤُکُمْ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ إِنَّ فی‏ ذلِکَ لَآیاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ یَسْمَعُونَ” (And of His signs is your sleep by night and day, and your pursuit of His grace. There are indeed signs in that for a people who listen) Rum:23.

[2] Zumar:42.

[3] Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 58, pg. 192, Al-Wafa’ Institute, Beirut, 1404 (AH).

[4] Sheikh Saduq, Al-Faqih, vol. 2, pg. 585, Jame’ah Modarresin Publications, Qom, 1413 (AH).

[5] Yunus:64.

[6] Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 58, pg. 191, Al-Wafa’ Institute, Beirut, 1404 (AH).

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