Sufism and Dreams

A gypsy came to a Sufi master as he often received a small amount in charity from him. One day the gypsy told him about his dream, about which the master was very astonished. At the same time the son of an important official came to visit the Sufi, because the parents of the boy wanted the Sufi to give the boy regularly some pocket-money. He asked the young man if he wanted to exchange his pocket-money for the dream of the gypsy. The boy accepted the offer but was not happy with it. A little later he found out what the gypsy had dreamed. The gypsy had dreamed that he would become the Grandvizier and as the boy had bought his dream he later on became installed as Said Pasha in this position.

The dream of the gypsy is a true dream (ru’yaa saadeqa), which is the inheritance of prophecy for us in our days. Dreams are 1/46 part of prophecy. Why? Because nowadays true dreams still are possible. True dreams come from God Himself and are clear, so they don’t need any interpretation.

There are several types of true dreams:

1. They may give you an order to do something.
2. They may forbid you to do something.
3. They may give you a good tiding.
4. They may give you a warning.

Some interesting questions are:

· How can we have true dreams?
· Who can have true dreams?
· Who sends us true dreams?

There is a story concerning a prophetic dream:

The Caliph Ma’mun had a dream wherein he was inside the ka’aba. He urinated at two of the corners inside of it and later on he did the same outside of it at the two other corners. He felt ashamed of this dream, but still wanted to know its meaning. He told one of his servants to go to the famous Ibn Sirin and tell him the dream while pretending it was a dream of the servant. Ibn Sirin, however, made it clear that it had to be a dream of a member of the family of the caliph who had to come himself and tell the dream. When Ma’mun came and told his dream, Ibn Sirin told him that the meaning of the dream was that he would get four sons, two of whom would succeed him as caliph.

People have always tried to get positive dreams. One way is to avoid certain types of food (i.e. garlic, some types of beans). In Iran it is said that you will have confused dreams when you hang a sock near the pillow of your bed. In case you are drunk or – in case of women – during menstruation, in short during a state of impurity, you will not have true dreams. Only when you go to sleep in a state of ritual purity you may have true dreams. When you have realized outward purity then on top of this also inward purity is necessary as you only can have true dreams when you are honest and when you are a good person. When going to bed recite the Qur’anic sura’s 91-94, 109 and 112 and of course the two concluding sura’s as they may offer you protection. Lie down on your right side (the right side is considered to be positive), face Mecca and pray for a positive dream. A’isha, the wife of the Prophet, has prayed:

O, God!
I pray to You to receive a good dream,
A true and not deceiving one,
Of benefit and not harmful,
Which can be remembered
And will not be forgotten.

According to Jami a dream was the substitute of reality in the Baghdad of the 12th century:

A merchant went to shaykh Hammad and said: ‘I’ve prepared a caravan and am the owner of goods with a value of 700 dinar. The shaykh told him: ‘When you set out this year, your property will be robbed and you will be killed’. The merchant was very sad and after going to shaykh Hammad he went to shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani and told him the same. The shaykh however said to him: ‘Go! You’ll arrive safely and you’ll make a profit. I’ll have my guarantee for the same’.

The man went to Syria and sold his goods for 1000 dinar. He went one day to a certain spot because of the call of nature and put down the money near to him. He forgot the money afterwards and went home. There he fell asleep and there he had a dream in which his caravan got attacked by robbers, they killed the people and someone hit him so that he also died. He awoke full of fear and noticed traces of blood near his neck and felt the pain of a beating all over his body. Suddenly he remembered having left his money. He hurried back, found the money and on his return to Baghdad he said to himself that he would visit shaykh Hammad as he is the greater one and then I’ll visit shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani as his words have come true.

Suddenly he saw shaykh Hammad in the bazaar, who said to him: “Visit shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani at first as his words have come true. He prayed to God seventeen times that your killing which would take place in reality would happen during your sleep and that instead of losing your money you’d forget it”. Then he went to shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani who told him: “Shaykh Hammad has said that I’ve prayed seventeen times, but I swear by the honour of the One I pray to, that I’ve prayed seventeen times and again seventeen times and again seventeen times, in total up to seventy times that this would happen to you in your dreams”.

The events described by Jami in his ‘Nafahat al-ons’ show that a friend of God may alter destiny through a prayer and that its force also effects the world of imagination (‘alam al-khayal).

A common experience for all of us regarding imagination is the dream. Things of the imagination are themselves and also not themselves. When you see your friend in a dream then you see your friend, but it is not really your friend as well. Ibn al-‘Arabi speaks about visions when sleeping, when he described dreams, in order to differentiate them from visions when being awake.

The shaykh tells that sleep consists of two parts: a part, which is a transition (in this part dreaming takes place and another part of the pure, real sleep. The second part is the part without dreams, which is – according to Ibn al-‘Arabi – only there for the rest of your body. In the first part, which forms a transition, the sense impressions are taken to the treasure chamber of the imagination (khezanat al-khayal), where the formgiving power (al-quwwat al-musawwera) stores its images. It is possible even for God to receive a shape in this treasure chamber of the imagination.

The soul can visit this treasure chamber and have a look at what is there. What is there is in conformity with your inward and outward possibilities. That is why someone who is blind from his birth cannot see in his dreams and the deaf person will not hear anything in his or her dreams.

One can say that life is a dream. This is also what the Prophet has stated and he added that we wake up when we die. In the Sufism dreams, especially good dreams as they are coming from God, play an important role. Ibn al-’Arabi refers to a tradition of the Prophet that a bad dream, as long as it is not told, flies above you, but falls down and becomes true when it is told.

The Prophet asked his companions each morning about their dreams. The Qur’an tells that God calls the souls to Himself when they die, but also during sleep. Sleep is therefore the brother of death, the difference being that the souls of the ones sleeping may be sent back to them.

Ibn al-‘Arabi – when bringing up the station of dreams – writes about dreams (when sleeping) and visions (when being awake). In both cases the senses must be turned off so that the subtle world can be experienced without difficulties. He speaks about:

· Dreams, which bring a good tiding (bushra)
· Dreams, which are a digestion of experiences when you are awake
· Dreams, which come from the devil.

This material comes from a German translation of the Fotuhat al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Inner Openings) of shaykh al-akbar, Ibn al-‘Arabi.

Other interesting subjects may be:

· Dreams of the Sufis
· Dreams of Chishtiyya, Naqshbandiyya, etc.
· Dreams warning you of a possible death
· Talks with the deceased
· Modern dream interpretation
· Lucid dreaming
· Learning by means of dreams
· Dreams of God
· Returning dreams
· When several people have the same dreams

One of the most devoted descriptions of dream experiences dealing with the relationship between disciples, their teacher and the Prophet comes from Asiye Hatun. She is a Turkish woman of the 17th century. She tells in simple words, that the heart of the seeker should be a clear mirror and also that the teacher is a mirror in which the seeker can see the manifestation of the beauty of God. She writes in one of her letters:

“In the night of the noble day of festival I saw that the most noble friend – God’s blessings and peace be upon him – and the great effendi (= her teacher) were sitting together. The friend of God was wearing a black turban on his blessed head. He was also wearing honey coloured clothes. I see him just as he has been described in the Helya-e-Šarifa (a description of the outer and inner qualities of the Prophet). The noble friend took out a golden coin and gave them to the great effendi, who passed it on to this insignificant person. I accepted it in my right hand and the golden coin became bigger in my hand. It changed into a great round mirror, its colour was golden and it was very much like a mirror but so extremely well cleaned and purified that it cannot be explained. When I took it in my hand I thought: ‘This is probably the mirror in which one can see the beauty of God, the Elevated’. The mirror stayed in my hand. I awoke”.

The colours in dreams have their own significances. The honey coloured clothing in the dream above is the sign pointing to someone who dedicates his life completely to piety and the sweetness of a spiritual life.

White: In all dreams of the world hereafter the angels and the blessed appear dressed in white as it is the colour of purity. At times such white clothes are a sign for something extraordinary important. White tents refer however to the place of living of the martyrs and therefore imply death. For more information on the meanings of colours see the book of Dr. Zahurul Hassan Sharib given at the end of this article.

Let us quote Mir Dard (d. 1785):

O, fool, when we die,
This will be confirmed;
What we saw, was a dream,
What we heard, was a fairy tale.

Nakhshabi, the Chishti Sufi, gives the following tale in his “Tuti Name”:

Zarifa, a beautiful woman, cannot have children. It is said that the gall of a peacock can cure infertility. The precious peacock of the king gets killed however, as no other peacock could be found. After eating the gall of the stolen peacock, Zarifa tells everything to Antar, her foster-brother. As a reward has been promised to the one who can give information about the stolen peacock, Antar in his greed decides to betray Zarifa.Therefore Antar asks Zarifa to repeat what she told him, while two hidden witnesses are listening to everything.

At the end of her explanation of what took place, however, the cunning Zarifa adds this: “It was already almost morning. Suddenly I awoke, and noticed that it was only a dream. As the peacock is a beautiful bird I hope that my dream is an omen for getting a really beautiful child that I’ll get. Of course it was a good dream, as it is a good sign to dream of a peacock”.

Antar is doubting it all, but once again she confirms that it was only a dream. The two witnesses overhearing it all, tell the king that her brother was mistaken. The king believes what the witnesses tell him.

Every thinker in the Islamic world, and thus not only the Sufis, have paid attention to dreams. Because of the importance of dreams some people have also abused the same. The historian Ibn Khallikan wrote that the leader of the Berbers Ibn Tumart (d. 1131) cheated in order to win the Berbers of the High Atlas to the cause of Islam:

Ibn Tumart had a companion who was a great scholar in Islam. He told his companion to live amongst the Berbers while pretending that he was an ignorant man, and that did not know how to speak Arabic properly. After some time he visited his companion in secret and he did so at the time of the call to prayer. Ibn Tumart ordered him to address the crowd in fluent Arabic. Moreover he should tell them that he has had a certain dream. He had to tell the astonished people that he had seen two angels in his dream, who had given him knowledge and wisdom, after opening his heart. This ‘miracle’ of course had an enormous effect on the crowd. In this way Ibn Tumart was able to start a reform movement, known as the Almohads, which spread successfully in North Africa and Spain.

Ibn Khaldun, the father of sociology, of course also dedicated quite some pages to dreams. He tells: “Real dream vision is an awareness on the part of the rational soul, in its spiritual essence, of glimpses of the forms of events. While the soul is spiritual, the forms of events have actual existence in it, as is the case with all spiritual essences. The soul becomes spiritual through freeing itself from bodily matters and corporeal perceptions. This happens to the soul in the form of glimpses through the agency of sleep, whereby it gains the knowledge of future events that it desires and regains the perceptions that belong to it. When this process is weak and indistinct, the soul applies to it allegory and imaginary pictures, in order to gain the desired knowledge. When, on the other hand, this process is strong, it can dispense with allegory. Then no interpretation is necessary, because the process is free from imaginary pictures”.

“Since the external senses are corporeal, they are subject to weakness and lassitude as the result of exertion and fatigue, and to spiritual exhaustion through too much activity. Therefore, God gave them the desire to rest, so that perfect perception may be renewed afterwards”.

“The spirit, thus, withdraws from the external senses and returns to the inward powers. The preoccupations and hindrances of sensual perception lessen their hold over the soul, and it now returns to the forms that exist in the power of memory. Then, through a process of synthesis and analysis, these forms are shaped into imaginary pictures. Most of these pictures are customary ones, because the soul has only shortly withdrawn from the conventional objects of sensual perception. It now transmits them to the common sense, which combines all five external senses, to be perceived in the manner of those five senses. Frequently, however, the soul turns to its spiritual essence in concert with the inward powers. It then accomplishes the spiritual kind of perception for which it is fitted by nature. It takes up some of the forms of things that have become inherent in its essence at that time. Imagination seizes on those perceived forms and pictures them in the customary moulds either realistically or allegorically. Pictured allegorically, they require interpretation. The synthetic and analytic activity which the soul applies to the forms in the power of memory, before it perceives what it can, is what the Qur’an calls ‘confused dreams’.”

“Clear dream visions are from God. Allegorical dream visions, which call for interpretation, are from the angels. And ‘confused dreams’ are from Satan, because they are altogether futile, as Satan is the source of futility”.

The scholar Ibn Khaldun has also described a rather curious dream experiment. He writes: “Most of the (aforementioned perception by means of dream visions) occur to human beings unintentionally and without their having power over it. The soul occupies itself with a thing. As a result it obtains that glimpse while it is asleep and it sees that thing. It does not plan it that way”.

He then refers to ‘dream words’ which should be mentioned on falling asleep so as to cause the dream vision to be about the things one desires. He describes that “it consists of saying, upon falling asleep and after obtaining freedom of the inner senses and finding one’s way clear, the following non-Arabic words: (Ibn Khaldun then mentions some words which may be Aramaic. I should have been a more attentive student during Aramaic classes. I’ll send them to the highest bidder…)…”. You should then mention what you want and the thing you ask for will be shown to you in your sleep.

Ibn Khaldun continues thus: “With the help of these words, I have myself had remarkable dream visions, through which I learned things about myself that I wanted to know. However all of this is no proof that the intention to have a dream vision can produce it. The dream words produce preparedness in the soul for the dream vision. If that preparedness is a strong one, the soul will be more likely to obtain that for which it is prepared. A person may arrange for whatever preparedness he likes, but that is no assurance that the thing for which preparations have been made will actually happen. The power to prepare for a thing is not the same as power over the thing itself. This should be known and considered in similar cases”.

This looks a little similar to lucid dreaming. Ibn Sawdakin, the disciple of shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi has written a book containing teachings of his shaykh. He also deals with lucid dreaming: “The servant of God should use the power of his visionary concentration (hemma) in regard to his being present with God also during his sleep (manaam), so that he may control his imagination (khayaal) and may direct it by means of his intellect (yosarreffohu be’aqlehi), just like his control thereof while he is awake. When this being present with God becomes a reality for the servant of God and becomes his second nature, then he experiences the fruits thereof in the intermediate state (barzakh) and he will benefit greatly therefrom. That is why the servant should exert himself to be able to realize all of this as it will be very useful to him”.

The discourses (malfuzaat) of the Chishti shaykhs are an important source to find out about dreams among the Chishtiyya. Think for instance of the discourses of Nizamuddin Awliya which have been translated from the Persian “Fawaa’ed al-Fu’aad” as “The Morals of the Heart”. Next to that the book of Mir Khord (d. 1327) is quite interesting. He was forced to leave Delhi, but was unable to overcome his separation from his shaykh Nizamuddin Awliya. He meets Nizamuddin Awliya in his dreams, but still he cannot overcome his difficulties. They manifest thus in his dreams:

“He tries to kiss the feet of his shaykh, but gets rejected. Then his teacher reaches out his hand to him in order to renew his oath of loyalty but the majesty of his teacher is overwhelming to him and he is unable to ask anything. Then he experiences that his teacher has extended him a friendly invitation and then he overcomes his frustrations and gets closer again”.

Amir Khord tells that Nizamuddin Awliya appears 361 times in his dreams. That is why he quotes some lines from Amir Khosraw, who was the closest disciple of his teacher:

Is it you or is it a dream,
That I see the sun in the night?

He expresses the close relationship between teacher and disciple thus:

When I am awake I always pray for you
And when I am asleep I always see your dream image.

At times doubts get the better of him. Are these dreams real? But then Amir Khord then is reminded of the Prophet who has said that the devil cannot imitate his image, so he would then also be unable to hide himself in the dream image of his shaykh as he is a representative of the Prophet. Amir Khord decides thus:

The friend takes so much room in my narrow heart,
That there is no space left for any frustration.

There is a poem of Gökhan Evliyaoglu about dreams:

You are sleeping at night,
But in the dream it is day.
You are sleeping during the day,
But in the dream it is night.
What kind of riddle is this?
You are sleeping in the winter,
But in the dream it is summer.
You are sleeping in the summer,
But in the dream it is winter –
What is right and what is wrong?
They have died in this life,
But they have returned in a dream.
They died in a dream,
But they have returned in this life.
How did they leave?
How did they return?

Abu Bakr ash-Shibli died and was seen in a dream by one of his friends who asked him how God had treated him. Shibli answered: He wanted me to come near to him and then asked me: ‘Abu Bakr (Shibli), do you know why I have forgiven you?’
I said: ‘Because of my good deeds’.
God said: ‘No’.
I said: ‘Because of my pilgrimage, my fasts and my prayers’.
God said: ‘No’.
I said: ‘Because of my travels in order to acquire knowledge and my visits to the pious people’.
God said: ‘No’.
I said: ‘O, Lord! These are the acts which lead to salvation. I have preferred them over all other acts and I have thought that You’d forgive me, because of them’.
God said: ‘No’.
I said: ‘Why have You forgiven me?’
God said: ‘Do you remember that you walked through the alleys of Baghdad and that you found a cat which had become quite weak because of the cold. It went from wall to wall hoping to find some protection against the bitter cold. You raised it out of pity and put it in your coat to protect it. Because of this cat I have accepted you’.

Sufis often use stories to express certain ideas. Here is such a tale:

A king was dreaming that a fox appeared in his bedroom. In the morning the king asked all his emirs, viziers and astrologers to explain the meaning of the dream to him, but the interpretations given did not move his heart. That is why he made an announcement all over his kingdom that whoever would give the interpretation of his dream would receive a large reward and would be made happy.

Quite some time had passed since the announcement, but no one had come to the king to interpret his dream. The announcement reached further and further and was heard in every village and town, but it became clear that no one was willing to give the interpretation to such a dream. At last a farmer was told about the dream and with trust in God he left his village to offer an explanation to the dream. He had to cross a mountain pass in order to go to the king, as it was the quickest route to travel to the palace of the king. When he arrived at the mountain pass he noticed a dangerous cobra that made it impossible for him to continue his travel as it blocked the way. He said to the cobra: “Snake, get out of the way as I have to go to the king to interpret his dream to him!”

The cobra then told him: “Hey, farmer! All the others have been unable to give the correct interpretation of the dream to the king. Why should you be able to offer a right interpretation? I am however willing to tell the true interpretation to you, but under one condition, namely that you give me half of the reward you get from the king”.

The farmer accepted this condition and the snake gave him the interpretation of the dream and then left. The farmer travelled on and reached the court of the king. After receiving the permission of the king he told him the interpretation of the dream: “Your majesty, you have seen a fox in your dream. A fox is a cowardly animal and very sly and treacherous. This implies that among your people slyness, treason, hypocrisy and deceit have increased. In case you do nothing about it, then your government will pay the price and suffer”.

The king was certain in his heart, that this was the correct interpretation of the dream. He gave rich presents to the farmer and did his utmost to make him happy. Then he sent him back to his village and tried to repair the wrongs in his kingdom. When the farmer was on his way back, he thought it better to return by another way so that he did not need to give half of his presents to the snake. Thus he returned home without meeting the cobra.

The king, however, had a second dream. He saw a sword in his palace. He again wondered about the meaning of this dream. He then sent his people to the farmer to fetch him in order to get an interpretation of this dream.
The king, however, had a second dream. He saw a sword in his palace. He again wondered about the meaning of this dream. He then sent his people to the farmer to fetch him in order to get an interpretation of this dream.

The king immediately sent some men to fetch the farmer in the morning. When the farmer was told about the royal command he was thinking that now his secret would come out. The previous time the cobra had helped him, but he has not been true to his promise. He, however, decided to take the same way so that he might meet the snake again. He went on his way and arrived at the pass. He saw that the snake was not there, but he saw its tracks. He sat down and started to call out to the snake. The cobra immediately came to the farmer and said to him: “Bravo, you cheating friend! If you did not want to give me part of the reward, fine, but why did you not show yourself to me? Why are you here?”

The farmer, repenting his behaviour, told the snake about the second dream of the king. The snake thereupon said: “I’ll give explain to you the meaning of this dream, but under the strict condition that this time you’ll surely give me half of the reward you’ll get”. The farmer consented to this and after hearing the interpretation went on his way to the king.

When the farmer arrived in the company of the king he told the king: “May you live long, noble king! The meaning of the sword has to do with the shedding of blood. Your enemies are encircling you with drawn swords. Kill them with your sword or else they will destroy your realm!” The king realized that this was its true meaning and he again presented a reward to the farmer as well as a sword.

The farmer went back home in a happy mood, but infidelity took a hold of him. He was reluctant to give half of the reward to the snake. He decided to kill the cobra with his sword. When he came to the mountain pass he took his sword and tried to kill the cobra, but the snake escaped and hid itself quickly. The farmer arrived in his house in a good mood. A very pleasant life started from that time on for him.

Then it so happened that the king had another dream…

The king immediately sent some men to fetch the farmer in the morning. When the farmer was told about the royal command he was thinking that now his secret would come out. The previous time the cobra had helped him, but he has not been true to his promise. He, however, decided to take the same way so that he might meet the snake again. He went on his way and arrived at the pass. He saw that the snake was not there, but he saw its tracks. He sat down and started to call out to the snake. The cobra immediately came to the farmer and said to him: “Bravo, you cheating friend! If you did not want to give me part of the reward, fine, but why did you not show yourself to me? Why are you here?”

The farmer, repenting his behaviour, told the snake about the second dream of the king. The snake thereupon said: “I’ll give explain to you the meaning of this dream, but under the strict condition that this time you’ll surely give me half of the reward you’ll get”. The farmer consented to this and after hearing the interpretation went on his way to the king.

When the farmer arrived in the company of the king he told the king: “May you live long, noble king! The meaning of the sword has to do with the shedding of blood. Your enemies are encircling you with drawn swords. Kill them with your sword or else they will destroy your realm!” The king realized that this was its true meaning and he again presented a reward to the farmer as well as a sword.

The farmer went back home in a happy mood, but infidelity took a hold of him. He was reluctant to give half of the reward to the snake. He decided to kill the cobra with his sword. When he came to the mountain pass he took his sword and tried to kill the cobra, but the snake escaped and hid itself quickly. The farmer arrived in his house in a good mood. A very pleasant life started from that time on for him.

Then, it so happened that the king had a third dream… The king saw a cow in his dream.

The king, of course, sent his servants to the farmer to ask him to interpret his third dream. The farmer saw no way out, as he was aware of his own tricks. He knew that he himself knew nothing and that it was all an outward show. He was wondering what to do, but in the end he again went full of repentance to the mountain pass to ask for help of the cobra. He had to call for a very long time and at last the snake came out in the open saying to him: “O, you traitor! You are a treacherous murderer! You really gave me something beautiful in exchange for my kind help… Why have you come this time?”

The farmer begged the snake to help him and said: “Please be so good as to forgive me my previous mistakes and explain only one dream. If you do not help me, then it will get me killed!” The cobra answered thus: “I’ll explain to you the meaning of the dream, but you’ve got to promise me that you’ll give me half of your reward”. The farmer promised to give him half of the reward and went to the king.

After greeting the king, the farmer told this to the king: “Your majesty! You have seen a cow in your dream. Have you ever heard of the proverb of the silent cow? You should know that your people have become kind and peaceful like cows. That is why there are no dangers any more”. The king, being very pleased with this explanation, gave him again many presents and sent him back to his home.

This time the farmer went to the snake and took his reward to share it with the cobra. He even put all of the reward in front of it. The snake however said: “My brother! I’m not greedy for rewards. I do not need all of this. I only wanted to test you. But you cannot be blamed at all as the condition of the kingdom influences its inhabitants. The first time treason could be found in the kingdom and that is why you tried to outsmart me. The second time there was the shedding of blood to be found in the kingdom and that is why you wanted to cut my head off with the sword. Now, as peace is dominant in the kingdom, you have come yourself to give me the reward. Have you not heard that the people get the king they deserve and that there is an interaction between the king and the inhabitants of his kingdom?

It was only yesterday, that I saw the farmer and the cobra in each other’s company again. It was clearly a meeting of two good friends.

Fariduddin ‘Attar’s book “Musibatname” has as culmination, that the seeker sees the Prophet in his dream. Some of the exercises of the Sufis in the 40 days retreat may also lead to such an experience. It is said that when you recite some verses of the Qur’an on the night before the Friday (you need to recite15 times sura Fatiha and the Ayat al-Kursi in two cycles of prayer and after the prayer you have to say the formula of blessings 1,000 times on the Prophet) then you may see the Prophet in your dream.

The Qadiriyya sufi Abd al-Ghafur Khan describes his own experiences in a booklet that appeared in 1965 in Hyderabad, Deccan. He writes: “Since my childhood I’ve very often recited the formula of blessings on the Prophet and it has been my life-long wish to see him in my dreams. For years I did not see him and my longing became stronger and stronger as my love for the Prophet became stronger every day. I started to read the books of the Sufis who wrote about this formula of blessings and I recited those formulas I loved the best”.

“Then the noble Prophet honoured me and I saw him in my dream, but it took place in several shapes and in peculiar ways, so that I was unable to tell about it, although I was known in the Deccan as an interpreter of dreams. Later on I also started to see the Prophet also when I was awake and during my contemplations, and still I was unable to explain anything about the same…”

“Then the Prophet honoured me by speaking to me and I was unable to understand if this talk took place in my dreams or in a waking state. Ten years passed, and I was unable to determine if this experience was a true one or a lie. At times I took it to be true and at other times I thought it to be false, but God guided me to the truth. I saw the Prophet in a dream and in his company was a beautiful, honourable woman. I did not wish to look at her as she might may be one of the wives of the Prophet. The Prophet (the ummi, illiterate) looked lovingly at me and smilingly said: ‘Give her your salaams as she is your mother (ummi) A’isha’…”.

Not all preparations are so effective as a certain young man received the advice from an Islamic scholar to fast and then he would see the Prophet in his dreams. He intensely fasted, but he only dreamed of food and never saw the Prophet. Another strange story deals with a Naqshbandi Sufi, called Hafiz Sa’dullah, who could arrange for everyone to visit the Prophet’s grave in Medina in one’s dreams. He promised a rich man that he would experience two visits. The man after paying 200 rupees visited the grave of the Prophet two times in one night. He then wanted to have a discount, but decided to accept having paid the full price J

Annemarie Schimmel told the following story regarding a dream: For several months she tried to change the mind of her ‘brother’ Ismail, an artisan from Konya, so that he would not travel to Germany. This dervish was so strongly living in the world of divine and human love, that life in a modern western city would give him too much of a shock. But now he was ready to fly away to the country he longed to visit and presented himself at the door of the apartment of Annemarie Schimmel in Ankara. He said, radiant from happiness: “Now everything will turn out to be all right. I’ve dreamed of Hazret-i Mevlâna. He was sitting on a throne and I was sitting at his feet. He was so nice to me, it was wonderful…”.

“Hayirdir insallah – hopefully it is something good!” – I said – but I should have suspected that Mevlâna, the great Jalaluddin Rumi with whom Ismail’s family since many generations has been connected and whom he himself loved so strongly, had indicated with this dream that the traveller would soon be in his eternal protection. A few weeks later, in April 1959, Ismail died in Germany.

At times you may dream of religious symbols. Ibn Saud was doubting if the Mohammed Asad – the countryman of “Der Arnold” – was sincere in his becoming a muslim. He then saw the Austrian reciting the call to prayer. “A dream in which the name of God has been praised, cannot be false”, said Ibn Saud. It was clear to him that Asad was really a muslim. You may link this to the event that in a dream during the lifetime of the Prophet it was made clear how the call to prayer might be performed. As this is a well-known story there is no need to repeat it here.

It is possible to see the Prophet in your dreams, yes, even God, although His appearance cannot really be described. It is said that when you dream of angels that you are going to perform the pilgrimage. When angels are seen in a market, then it is an advice to be honest in your measuring and weighing. Shaykh Ruzbihan-i Baqli (d. 1209) from Shiraz often describes dream visions in which angels appear.

· It is said that when you see Gabriel in your dreams it implies a positive development, happiness, success, long life and healing for those who are ill.
· A dream of Michael implies the division of food and subsistence.
· A dream of Azra’il implies that you have to repent over your sins, as your death is near.
· A dream of Israfil, who blows the horn on the Day of Resurrection, implies long life.

Dreams about Mecca and the pilgrimage are important. Dreaming of the Kaaba points to the leader of the Islamic community. In case the Kaaba is seen standing outside of Mecca, then the area where you are, is secure. If you perform the tawaaf, the circular movement around the Kaaba, then it implies righteousness and if you enter the Kaaba, then you may hope for forgiveness of your sins. In case the Kaaba is to be found inside of your house, then you’ll get a powerful position. Sufis like Ruzbihan have also dreamed of a Kaaba made out of light!

You may also receive signs in your dream pointing to your future pilgrimage. The Turkish dervish Asçi Dede explained a dream wherein the open door of the mosque of the Prophet in Medina was seen by him as a sigh that he would go to Arabia.

A Persian woman had saved 12,000 silver coins for her pilgrimage, but received in a dream from the Prophet the order to give the complete amount to his descendent ‘Ali Hamadani, who really came to visit her about a year later and who received all of the money saved. Sufyan ath-Thawri (d. 778) had performed 4 pilgrimages. He heard a young man sigh, as he had not yet performed a single pilgrimage. Sufyan ath-Thawri then asked the young man if he would exchange his sigh for the four pilgrimages he had performed. In a dream it was made clear that all four pilgrimages had been accepted by God.

In dream interpretations is the role of Jesus, ‘Isa, important. The Prophet himself had dreamed about him and had seen him as the most beautiful of all people (although you would think that Joseph would get this role?). He had seen Jesus in his (=Jesus’) rounds around the Kaaba. Nablusi gives Jesus much attention in his “Ta’tir al-anaam” and if you are interested in the why hereof you need to be patient as this may be described – if God so wishes – later on.

What are the reasons that Nablusi gives so much attention to Jesus?

1. When you see Jesus in your dream, then this is a blessing, with lots of good and much travelling performed with the pleasure of God. You may tend to become an ascetic and pious person, you’ll be satisfied with little and the gift of healing will be made to you (in Qur’an 5:110 Jesus is depicted as a healer).
2. When you see Jesus in your dream then it is said that nothing bad will come to your path during the coming year. When you strive for something, then you’ll get it.
3. When you dream often about Jesus you’ll become an excellent physician. A woman who is pregnant may have a son, which will become a very good physician. When you see Jesus and his mother in your dream then it points to a sign from God. It may also mean that at first people will accuse you of something and later on you’ll be cleared of all suspicion. This is based on Qur’an 19:29 wherein Maria is accused of adultery until the newborn son in his cradle claims that she is innocent.
4. A youth, who dreams of Jesus, will be raised as semi-orphan by his mother and will become a learned and pious human being. When you are ill and are dreaming of Jesus then you’ll recover. When you are unknown you may hope for a good outcome of your work just like Jesus at the end of times will bring things to a successful ending.
5. Many other positive aspects of seeing Jesus in your dream have been mentioned by Nablusi. It is very interesting that he always appears in dreams of powerful people and of Sufis. It often happens that people not only dream of the Prophet and his first two caliphs, Abu Bakr and ‘Omar, but that Jesus also appears in such dreams.

Ibn al’Arabi – you will know that Jesus was his first spiritual teacher – saw him together with the four righteous caliphs (Abu Bakr, ‘Omar, Othman and ‘Ali) and Ibn al-‘Arabi was standing behind the Jesus as Jesus was to him the seal of the general friendship and he himself was the Muhammadiyya seal of friendship.

Someone saw Jesus in his dream and asked him for a seal ring. Jesus chose this inscription for this ring: “No god but God, the King, the clear Truth”.

Many Sufis have dreamed of Jesus, as his asceticism is an example to them. Ibn Khafif (d. 982) dreamed to see Jesus in the most important mosque in his place of birth. Because of Qur’an 3:49 [And Jesus said: “I’ll tell you what you eat and what you hoard in your houses”] he asked what his friend had eaten in the beginning of the evening. Jesus answered: “He has eaten fresh cheese yesterday and the remainder thereof is still in his house”. You will understand that the friend of Ibn Khafif was rather surprised to hear from Ibn Khafif what he had eaten and what he had hoarded.

A German woman, Gesine Auffenberg, has had this dream:

“It was a dream about a land wherein you see things with your heart. She was very depressed because of the death of her mother. In the dream – it was a dream about a desert – I saw for a short span of time the face of an old man and I knew that his name was Mohammad Osman and that he lived in Khartoum. I then went to Khartoum and tried to find Mohammad Osman. I asked for him at the market place and I visited graveyards, as I was unaware if he was still alive. I also asked questions about him from the dervishes.

It so happened that I was at the graveyard at the edge of the city of Khartoum, where the desert starts and the dervishes dance there at every Thursday. I was very tired. For three weeks I had been looking in vain for Mohammad Osman and now I only wanted to ask about him one final time and then return home. The dervish, I talked to in poor Arabic, had to laugh. He rubbed his head. Mohammad Osman was here only known as Mohammad Osman Burhani, who was the head of the brotherhood of the Burhaniyya. Thus I met Sidi Mohammad Osman Burhani. I immediately recognized him as he looked exactly like the man I had seen in my dream… He stayed to be my shaykh and teacher even after his death”.

When interpreting dreams by means of the traditional works of Ibn Sirin or an-Nabulusi we should be aware of their limitations, when it implies interpreting dreams of modern people. The commentary of Ibn Sirin is connected to dreams of Arabs living a millennium ago. There are also some modern Turkish books available, written by people like Ozkan and Tavasli, which are more useful to people who do not dream about camels, swords or angels. In these books you find interpretation of dream symbols ranging from one-eyed donkeys to warships and from parsley to bicycles.

Modern people may have dreams about a taxi, implying success in all that you do, or a bus, referring to a meeting with a friend you have not seen for a long time or you may dream that you board a bus, which of course means that you will travel (you see that modern dream interpretation is easy!). But how do you explain a dream about a bus station or a car park? You will have guessed that the first symbol means a long and difficult journey and the second, the car park, implies the tiresome feelings of unrest in your family.

A driver is the sign of a long journey, but may also means lack of patience and indecisiveness. When you drive yourself, then things go wrong according to our Turkish interpreters, as not only the traffic in Istanbul but all over the world is getting more and more chaotic. A motor gets a negative interpretation, as it is explained as a quarrel between acquaintances. To see a bicycle or to start to ride on it is not a good thing as it points to difficulties in matters of the heart. If you drive up a mountain then financial difficulties may come and when going in the opposite direction then you’ll receive an unpleasant message. There are also explanations offered of dreams about trains, tunnels, airplanes, telegrams, telephones, university, novels, drinks, and chocolate.

Of course sport is also a subject for dreams for modern people. I do not think, however, that the Turkish books on dream interpretation will make it clear that Holland will become the next world champion in soccer in the WC in Germany J

Later on perhaps more about the significance of colours in dreams.

PS: I’m making use of:

· Annemarie Schimmel: “Die Träume des Kalifen – Träume und ihre Deutung in der islamischen Kultur”. ISBN 3 406 44056 8. This is a very good book!
· German translations of Alma Giese on the ideas on dreams of Ibn al-‘Arabi in his “al-Fotuhat al-Makkiya” (The Meccan Openings): “Urwolke und Welt – Mystische Texte des Großten Meisters” ISBN 3 406 48055 1.
· Toufic Fahd: “La divination Arabe; ISBN 2.7274.01.46.9 I recommend this book very much to everyone interested in the subject matter.
Muhammad M. al-Akili: “Ibn Seerin’s Dictionary of Dreams”; ISBN 1-879405-03-2. Next to a dictionary representation of the meaning of dreams it has an interesting introduction.