Dr Shaikh Abu Ibrahim Sa’ud ibn Ibrahim ibn Muhammad
ash-Shuraim (Imam of Makkah)
O people! The son of Adam has a great desire and an enflamed interest regarding the unseen, whether it is related to the past or the future, and refusing to accept that such a phenomenon exists, is ignoring a fact of life. People’s obsession with such phenomena is related to how close they are to the Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam) and Qur’an which firmly addressed this subject and clarified it, as Allah says, which means, “(He is) Knower of the unseen, and He does not disclose His (knowledge of the) unseen, Except whom He has approved of as messengers, and indeed, He sends before him (i.e. each messenger) and behind him observers” (Al-Jinn: 26-27).
It is no wonder that the further people are from the time of prophet hood, the more confused they become and mix facts regarding the issue of the unseen, and the more eager people with weak souls become to know the unseen. Some believe in illusions as facts, others accept what fortune-tellers say, and others guess and speak about the unseen during all times while the verses from the Qur’aan are recited before them day and night, like the saying of Allah, which means, “Say, ‘None in the heavens and earth knows the unseen except Allah and they do not perceive when they will be resurrected.’” (An-Naml: 65) as well as the sayings of the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam), like the Hadeeth where he said, “Five things only Allah knows, and he recited the verse (the meaning of which is) “Indeed, Allah (alone) has knowledge of the hour and sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs. And no soul perceives what it will earn tomorrow and no soul perceives in what land it will die. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (Luqman: 34)”
Thus, it is not possible to know the unseen or address it, except through what Allah has told us, or what He revealed to His Messenger (Sallalhu ‘Alayhi Wasallam). Anything other than this would be guesses and illusions, or a mixture of words conveyed to people by some Jinn.
Islam removes confusion and illusions from the mind and guides those who stray from the straight path. Believing in the unseen cannot be equated with believing in fantasies.
Those who survive this phenomenon, get trapped by their eagerness to know the future, which they think is a major factor in deciding the stability and instability of their lives, so they try to reach that through dreams. You might meet a brother (in faith) or a friend and be greeted with a gloomy or cheerful face, but you would be surprised to discover that this disposition is due to a dream which they have seen in their sleep.
Slaves of Allah! This issue is not only the concern of individuals or common people, but many eminent figures join them in this concern. Dreams have disturbed many great people, and other dreams came as glad tidings to many others. Some dreams became the concern of nations, like the dream of the king of Egypt, which the Qur’an told of in the story of Prophet Yoosuf, peace be upon him. His dream included both glad tidings and warnings at the same time; it gave glad tidings of the increase in provisions for seven consecutive years, then warned against famine for the following seven years.
Slaves of Allah! Dreams have had great importance in people’s lives before and after Islam. Educated people and intellectuals might differ in the way they view dreams and judge their issue. Philosophers have rejected that dreams have any meaning at all and claimed that dreams result from the reactions which take place in the body and reflect the state of mind. Some psychiatrists have a negative stance towards dreams, which is actually very close to that of the philosophers. They refer it to the mood of people and certain parts of their memory which become hyper during sleep, making dreams purely biological.
On the other hand, Islam and its scholars have followed the prophetic path in dealing with dreams, and have judged dreamsaccording to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. They have ruled that true dreams are from Allaah, some warn and others bring glad tidings. Ibn Mas’ood, may Allaah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said, “Prophecy is finished but tidings remain” people asked, ‘What are these tidings?’ He Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam replied, “A true dream which a man sees, or others see for him” (Bukhari & Malik). These tidings could be good or bad as Allah says, which means, “So give them tidings of a painful doom” (Al-Inshiqaaq: 24).
Slaves of Allah! These dreams are the ones which the truthful and trustworthy Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam said about them that, “At the end of time, the believer’s dream will rarely be incorrect; the more truthful a person is, the truer his dreams are; and the dream of a faithful believer is a part of the forty six parts of Prophecy.” (Bukhari & Muslim).
In this era, many people’s hearts have little attachment to Allah. Belief in divine decree, pre-destiny and that whatever Allah wants happens and whatever He does not will not happen, and that everything happens with His command…all these aspects of belief have become weak in people’s hearts. Due to this, their hearts have become more attached to the issue of dreams, and in this way, they have differed from the righteous generations of our Salaf. They have started talking about this issue more and relying on it, until it has reached a level where it has overwhelmed people’s discussions in their gatherings, on satellite channels and religious inquiries, so much so that people ask more about dreams than they ask about matters of religion, and what should and should not be done by a Muslim.
These practices take place while people are heedless of what they should do regarding dreams, and how they should deal with them based on the prophetic instructions, which one should not transgress nor ignore. The Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam left us with a clear religion, and he sufficed us regarding the issue of dreams, talking about it, getting attached to it, seeking to find out its interpretation or relying on it. People’s increased inquiries about dreams is a form of transgressing the limits set in the Sunnah and an imbalanced approach to the issue.
When some people see a dream, their lives become disturbed, and they become terrified and unable to relax until they find someone to interpret it for them so as to discover whether it brings glad tidings or evil news to him. If we stop at the limits which are set for us in the prophetic guidance, then such anxiety would not be felt, and people would not occupy themselves with this subject, which has become a way to attract audiences to the internet and satellite channels.
In order to discern the best way of dealing with this widespread phenomenon in our communities, let us listen to some of the etiquettes relating to this issue. Abu Salamah, (may Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘I used to see dreams and become sick because of it, until I saw Abu Qutaadah and told him about this.’ So he said to me, I heard the Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam saying, “Good dreams are from Allaah, and bad dreams are from Satan, so if of you see in your dream something which you dislike, then spit three times to your left and seek refuge in Allah from its evil, then it will not harm you” (Muslim). In another narration Abu Salamah, (may Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘I used to see dreams and they would feel heavier on me than a mountain, until I heard this saying of the Prophet, then it never bothered me after that’ (Muslim).
Slaves of Allah! We see that not everything one sees in his sleep is a good dream that needs an interpretation, because what people see in their sleep is one of the three types, as narrated by ‘Awf Ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said, “Dreams are of three types, some are from Satan to sadden the son of Adam, some are the result of what a person thinks about while he is awake so he sees it in his sleep, and some are one of the forty six parts of prophecy” (Ibn Majah). Imam Al-Baghawi said, ‘This Hadeeth proves that not everything which a person sees in his sleep in true and should be interpreted. The correct understanding is that some of it is from Allaah, and the rest are mixed up falsedreams which have no interpretation’.
An example for these mixed up false dreams is the story of the Bedouin who came to the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! I saw in my dream that someone beheaded me, and my head rolled and I started going after it “ So the Messenger Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam said: “Do not inform anyone nor talk to people about whispers that come to you in your dreams from Satan” (Muslim).
As we were instructed through the Sunnah, the way a believer should deal with this type of dream is to seek refuge in Allah from its evil and the evil of Satan; to spit three times to the left; not to inform anyone about it; to stand up and pray as much as he is capable of; and then switch to the other side when he lies down. Some scholars added that he should recite the verse of Al-Kursee (the throne) because the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam) informed us that Satan will not be able to harm the one who recites it.
Imam An-Nawawi (Allah be pleased with him)said regarding the way to deal with evil dreams, ‘One who sees an evil dream should follow all the etiquettes which were mentioned in the different narrations from the Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam, and even if he does only some of them, it will protect him from the evil of Satan with the will of Allah’.
The second type of dreams is that which results from a person’s whims and what he thinks about during the day and that which occupies his mind. For example, if he has been thinking about traveling or a trade, then he would see in his dream similar to what he was thinking while he was awake. These mixed up dreams are also ones that cannot be interpreted.
The only type left is the true, good dream from Allaah that brings good or bad tidings. It may be clear and not in need of an interpretation, as the dream of prophet Ibraaheem when he saw that he is slaughtering his son. Some may be ambiguous and need someone to interpret them, like the dreams that the mates of prophet Yoosuf saw in prison. This is the type which the Prophet sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam forbade us from telling except to scholars or wise people seeking their advice, the Messenger Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam said: “Don’t tell your dream except to a scholar or a wise person seeking his advice” (Tirmidhi).
All other dreams which one might see and it includes legislating things to be lawful or unlawful; performing certain acts of worship; deciding the night of Al-Qadr which the Prophet was informed with then later was made to forget it; or dreams which result in judging people, giving or depriving them of their rights, and whether they are truthful and honest people or not…all such dreams are mixed up dreams and doubts, which we should not rely on, according to the sayings of the majority of scholars, like Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim RH, Ibn Taymiyyah RH, An-Nawawi RH, Ash-Shaatibi RH and others. Ash-Shaatibi RH mentioned the story of the Caliph Al-Mahdi who wanted to kill the judge Shurayk Ibn ‘Abdullah RH. Shurayk RH asked him, ‘Why do you want to kill me, while it is unlawful for you to spill my blood?’ He replied, ‘I saw in my dream that I was talking to you and you were talking to me with your back to me, so I asked an interpreter, and he told me that this man (Shurayk) is one who visits you often and opposes you behind your back’ Shurayk said, ‘O leader of the believers! Your dream is not like the dream of (prophet) Yoosuf the son of (prophet) Ya’qoob, and Muslim’s blood cannot be shed based on dreams’ so Al-Mahdi bowed his head down and signaled him with his hand to leave, so he left.
Ibn ‘Asaker RH mentioned in the history of Damascus that some people saw Imam Ash-Shafi’ee RH in their dream saying to them, ‘Yoonus Ibn ‘Abdul A’laa lied on my behalf in narrating such and such Hadeeth, I did not narrate it’ Imam Ibn Katheer RH commented on this saying, ‘‘Yoonus Ibn ‘Abdul A’laa is a trustworthy scholar, and cannot be doubted simply because of a dream’.
Imam Dhahabi RH narrated that Al-Maroozi RH said, ‘I took Ibraaheem Ibn Al-Husari (a righteous man) to Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal RH, and he said to Imam Ahmad RH, my mother saw such and such a dream for you, and she mentioned you in Paradise. So Imam Ahmad said, dear brother, Sahl Ibn Salaamah was told the same by people, then he started killing Muslims. A dream should not deceive a believer’.
O people! If we want to be just, fair and sincere in our advice, then we should not put all the blame on the people who see thedreams, but we must also address those who interpret them, because they have a great responsibility towards people who see these dreams.
An interpreter should be a scholar in this great field of knowledge, and should be able to weigh the harms and benefits resulting from the interpretation. He should not take the lead in interpreting dreams, specially those who do it through satellite channels, and in big gatherings, because it is just like passing a fatwaa. The king said in the story of Yoosuf, as Allah says, which means, “And (subsequently) the King said, ‘ Indeed, I have seen (in a dream) seven fat cows being eaten by seven (that were) lean, and seven green spikes (of grain) and others (that were) dry. Oh eminent ones, explain to me my vision, if you should interpret visions.’” (Yoosuf: 43).
Ibn Al-Qayyim said RH, ‘A person passing Fatwaa, an interpreter and a doctor are exposed to the private hidden affairs of people, so they should conceal these things’.
Interpreters should not rush to interpret dreams, nor should they make people feel that their interpretations are facts. They should know the danger of this and the arrogance it could lead to. Ibn ‘Abdul Barr narrated that Imaam Maalik was asked, ‘Can anyone interpret dreams?’ he said, ‘How can people play around with matters related to prophecy’. Ibn ‘Abdul Barr also narrated that Imaam Hisham Ibn Sassan RH said, ‘Ibn Sereen RH used to be asked about one hundred dreams but he would not answer, but he would tell people, fear Allah while you are awake, then what you see in your dream would not harm you’ and he would also say, ‘I only say what I think to be the interpretation, and I could be wrong’.
If this was the saying of the leader of interpreters through the ages, how should people in our time act? We see a person asked about one thousand dreams, and not once would he say, I do not know, or say that they are mixed up false dreams.
Interpreters should also realize the danger of interpreting dreams through TV channels that millions of people watch or in big gatherings, for the following reasons:
First: It is dangerous because he is talking about the unseen, specially that no one can say for sure that what he is interpreting is going to take place or not.
Second: It is difficult to know the situation of the one who saw the dream through TV channels, and whether they are righteous people or not, which has a strong connection to how a dream is interpreted. Two men came to Imaam Ibn Sereen both saw that they were calling the Athaan (the call for prayer), so he interpreted it for the righteous man as performing pilgrimage according to the verse which means “And proclaim to the people the Hajj (pilgrimage); they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they w ill come from every distant pass” (Al-Hajj: 27), while he interpreted it to the other man that he will steal and his hand will be cut according to the verse which means “So when he had furnished them with their supplies, he put the (gold measuring) bowl into the bag of his brother. Then an announcer called out, ‘Oh caravan, indeed you are thieves.’” (Yoosuf: 70).
Third: Some people would not comprehend the way the interpretation was done through the screens, and ignorant people would think that it is a type of fortune telling which is prohibited, and the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam said: “Say to people that which they are acquainted with, or do you want that people reject what Allah and His Messenger say” (Bukhari).
Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood, (may Allah be pleased with him), narrated that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “If you talk to people with words which they cannot comprehend, then it will be a trial for them” (Muslim).
Fourth: Preventing evil precedes accomplishing benefits, and the evil of interpreting through TV channels is greater than the benefits for many obvious reasons. One reason being the fact that it is talking about the unseen and interpreting is like passing Fatwaa and our Salaf used to avoid that. And then the evil resulting from the interpretation of some dreams is also great. For example a girl will not succeed in her marriage or another case whose husband will marry a second wife in secret. What do you think the situation of these women would be? One is awaiting failure in life and will remain depressed, and the other will always doubt her husband? Some people take these interpretations without referring to trustworthy scholars to confirm them, which results in the expected problems.
Some people give the excuse that the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam) used to ask: “Who saw a dream?” (Saheeh Muslim) so that he can interpret it for them. We would answer saying,
· This was the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam, and his interpretations were undoubtedly true.
· His interpretations were in a mosque that was attended by a small number of people, not millions like the case of TV channels.
· The audience with the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam) were the companions whose wisdom cannot be compared.
· No one from the four rightly guided caliphs or those who came after them did that, and especially Abu Bakr RA for whom the Prophet (Salallaahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam) testified that he is knowledgeable in the field of interpretation.