Dreams: Purpose of dreams

Question:

assalamu aleikum,
Why does Allah give us dreams?

Answer:

Wa `alaikum as salaam,

For the purposes of this question I assume you’re asking specifically about dreams that Allah (swt) gives up as opposed to those from shaytan since our Prophet (s) said in a hadith:

“A good dream is from Allah, and a bad or evil dream is from Satan; so if anyone of you has a bad dream of which he gets afraid, he should spit on his left side and should seek Refuge with Allah from its evil, for then it will not harm him” (Bukhari 54:513)

One cannot have an all-encompassing answer for why Allah gives dreams, since each dream is different for each individual.  However, here are a few examples from the Qu’ran and ahadith.

Dreams as a mercy:

At the battle of Badr:

{Remember in thy dream Allah showed them to thee as few:  if He had shown them to thee as many, ye would surely have been discouraged, and ye would surely have disputed in (your) decision: but Allah saved (you): for He knoweth well the (secrets) of (all) hearts. } (Surat al-Anfal, 8:43)

To portend the future:

When Prophet Yusuf(as) was in jail:

{Now with him there came into the prison two young men. Said one of them: ‘I see myself (in a dream) pressing wine.’ said the other: ‘I see myself (in a dream) carrying bread on my head, and birds are eating, thereof.’ ‘Tell us’ (they said) ‘The truth and meaning thereof: for we see thou art one that doth good (to all).’}

{He said: ‘Before any food comes (in due course) to feed either of you, I will surely reveal to you the truth and meaning of this ere it befall you: that is part of the (duty) which my Lord hath taught me. I have (I assure you) abandoned the ways of a people that believe not in Allah and that (even) deny the Hereafter.’}

{‘O my two companions of the prison! As to one of you, he will pour out the wine for his lord to drink: as for the other, he will hang from the cross, and the birds will eat from off his head. (so) hath been decreed that matter whereof ye twain do enquire’…} (Surah Yusuf, 12:36-37, 41)

and…

{“O Joseph!” (he said) “O man of truth! Expound to us (the dream) of seven fat kine whom seven lean ones devour, and of seven green ears of corn and (seven) others withered: that I may return to the people, and that they may understand.” (Joseph) said: “For seven years shall ye diligently sow as is your wont: and the harvests that ye reap, ye shall leave them in the ear,- except a little, of which ye shall eat.}

{“Then will come after that (period) seven dreadful (years), which will devour what ye shall have laid by in advance for them,- (all) except a little which ye shall have (specially) guarded.“}

{Then will come after that (period) a year in which the people will have abundant water, and in which they will press (wine and oil).”} Quran Surah 12:46-49

As a test:

Prophet Ibrahim (as) had the dream where he was commanded to sacrifice his son-

{And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offering you in sacrifice to Allah). So look what you think!” He said: “O my father! Do that which you are commanded, Insha’ Allah (if Allah wills), you shall find me of As-Sabirun (the patient).” (Surat as-Saffat, 37:102)

To show someone’s state:

Narrated Ibn `Umar: Allah’s Prophet (s) said, “While I was sleeping, I saw that a cup full of milk was brought to me and I drank my fill till I noticed (the milk) its wetness coming out of my nails. Then I gave the remaining milk to `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab.” The companions of the Prophet asked, “What have you interpreted (about this dream)? O Allah’s Prophet!” He replied, “(It is religious) knowledge.” (Bukhari 3:82)

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Um Haram told me that the Prophet one day took a midday nap in her house. Then he woke up smiling. Um Haram asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What makes you smile?” He replied “I was astonished to see (in my dream) some people amongst my followers on a sea-voyage looking like kings on the thrones.” She said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Invoke Allah to make me one of them.” He replied, “You are amongst them.” He slept again and then woke up smiling and said the same as before twice or thrice. And she said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Invoke Allah to make me one of them.” And he said, “You are amongst the first batch.” `Ubada bin As-Samit married her (i.e. Um Haram) and then he took her for Jihad. When she returned, an animal was presented to her to ride, but she fell down and her neck was broken. (Bukhari 52:144)

As a warning:

Narrated Salim’s father: In the life-time of the Prophet (s) whosoever saw a dream would narrate it to Allah’s Messenger (s). I had a wish of seeing a dream to narrate it to Allah’s Messenger (s). I was a grown up boy and used to sleep in the Mosque in the life-time of the Prophet. I saw in the dream that two angels caught hold of me and took me to the Fire which was built all round like a built well and had two poles in it and the people in it were known to me. I started saying, “I seek refuge with Allah from the Fire.” Then I met another angel who told me not to be afraid. I narrated the dream to Hafsa who told it to Allah’s Prophet (s). The Prophet (s) said, “`Abdullah is a good man. I wish he prayed Tahajjud.” After that `Abdullah (i.e. Salim’s father) used to sleep but a little at night. (Bukhari 21:222)

As a protection/cure:

Narrated `Aisha (r): Magic was worked on the Prophet so that he began to fancy that he was doing a thing which he was not actually doing. One day he invoked (Allah) for a long period and then said, “I feel that Allah has inspired me as how to cure myself. Two persons came to me (in my dream ) and sat, one by my head and the other by my feet. One of them asked the other, “What is the ailment of this man?” The other replied, ‘He has been bewitched” The first asked, ‘Who has bewitched him?’ The other replied, ‘Lubaid bin Al-A`sam.’ The first one asked, ‘What material has he used?’ The other replied, ‘A comb, the hair gathered on it, and the outer skin of the pollen of the male date-palm.’ The first asked, ‘Where is that?’ The other replied, ‘It is in the well of Dharwan.’ ” So, the Prophet went out towards the well and then returned and said to me on his return, “Its date-palms (the date-palms near the well) are like the heads of the devils.” I asked, “Did you take out those things with which the magic was worked?” He said, “No, for I have been cured by Allah and I am afraid that this action may spread evil amongst the people.” Later on the well was filled up with earth. (Bukhari 54:490)

These are just some of the examples of why Allah may show dreams.

And Allah knows best.

Yusuf Hussain

About Yusuf Hussain

Studied under Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani for the last 5 years, and prior to that another an Uwaisi Shaykh in Pakistan for two years from '93-96 and intensive self-study. Secular Education: 1997-2001 bachelors in Computer Science 2008-present masters of business adminstration
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