Being itself a collection of myths, it comes as no surprise that the Quran endorses various kinds of myths and folk tales. The existence of Jinn, Angels, the Jinx, the belief in magic and the random interpretation of dreams are only some of those fables endorsed by the Quran. None of this folklore was invented by Islam; they have been known by ancient nations for centuries. But humanity moved on and dismissed those as nonsense old folk-tales. However, it is impossible for Muslim societies to make such a forward move, because Allah’s words in the Quran have sanctified them as truth. So, as per Islam, there is nothing wrong with those myths; they are as real as their own existence. After all, Muslims believe there is nothing in the Quran that can be disputed or doubted, it is absolute truth.
This article focuses on the interpretation of dreams, based on my own experience in the Middle East. I suspect that other Muslim societies are no different as far as belief in such myths and nonsense is concerned.
Dream and Ro’ya
All people, of all races and beliefs, have dreams when they sleep. When they wake up, they may, or may not, remember their last dreams, but they get on with their lives without making a big fuss. Most pf the dreams are ignored by all, some leave a pleasant feeling on dreamer’s mind, while others, the so-called nightmares, can be terrifying. Some drugs that work on the brain, or some evening meals, can influence the quality of dreams. The fact remains that most people ignore their dreams and consider them as just parts of natural sleep and get on with their normal lives.
Muslims are different from the rest of mankind because Islam teaches them otherwise. They classify dreams into two groups: The ordinary Dreams, which is apparently a work of the Satan, and the Ro‘ya (Arabic: vision), which is an Islamic dream that is encrypted with a signal that has a significant relevance to daily life. ‘Ro’ya’ is considered to be from Allah and usually involves some kind of Islamic activity, like being in a mosque or performing prayers or the appearance of a sheik who might give some instructions. It is up to the involved person to make the distinction between an ordinary dream and a Ro’ya, but if in doubt they can ask a sheikh for help. In either case personal bias is unavoidable.
Muslims in general deal with their dreams very seriously; the more religious they are the more seriously it is. There are clergymen who made good fortunes from the business of interpreting other people’s dreams. it is sad that in Muslim societies, there are far more publications about dreams’ interpretations than about scientific subjects such as the evolution theory. When I visit the Middle East I get overwhelmed by the number of TV channels that dedicate regular programs hosting clergymen to interpret the viewers’ dreams. What is shocking is that everybody seems to be satisfied that this is how it should be: the producer, the host, the sheikh and the viewers.
It is sad to say that, in many Muslim societies, people make life decisions based on dreams. Marriages may get cancelled because of dreams. Even divorces and breaking up of families are sometimes based on dreams. The same is true for travel arrangements, career progression, purchases and financial decisions, you name it…
Islamic teachings and dreams
Islam is the main reason behind this backward culture that has prevailed in Muslim societies. Both the Quran and hadith promote this backward thinking and, of course, all Muslim Imams. I know some people keep comparing the Quran to the Bible and other scriptures and ask: “why single out the Quran if all scriptures contain nonsense?” I would like to say to those people that there is no comparison; the Quran is a book of instructions that Muslims must follow, while the others are books of descriptions.
The best-known Quranic dream happened to Ibrahim, Allah’s best friend, who is better known as Kalilul Arrahman (Arabic: the friend of Allah). Apart from Ibrahim, Allah did not select any other human as a friend (1).
Ibrahim had a dream that he was practicing the famous Islamic art of beheading on his own son Ismail (according to the Muslims’ story). Being a good Muslim and an experienced prophet, Ibrahim understood the encrypted signal in that dream. He woke up and without any hesitation grabbed a knife and set on to slaughter his son. Just like classic films, the story had a happy ending, as Allah intervened in the last second calling for Ibrahim to stop. It turned out that the entire story was a practical joke that worked well on gullible Ibrahim. Allah admitted he was only testing his friend and was not serious at all about that particular dream. Another person would be charged with attempted murder, but not Ibrahim. Allah actually commended his friend’s reaction. Because Ibrahim was already in the beheading mood, Allah dropped a lamb to him to slaughter instead of his son (2). The consequences of the above dream could have been disastrous; the entire Arab race could have been made extinct before they even existed because Ismail, later, became the father of the Arabs.
The Quran endorsed dreams in other areas as well. In surat Yousef (3), the Quran sets examples that demonstrates to Muslims how correct ‘interpretation’ of dreams can have significant impacts on people’s lives. Apparently Yousef was talented in dreams’ interpretation. As would be expected, Mohammed too promoted this culture of dreams. In an authentic and well known hadith, narrated in both Sahihs of Bukhari and Muslim, Mohammed said: ‘those of you who see me in their dreams, it is as if they see me for real, because the Satan can not impersonate me’.
The above hadith offers an interesting and definite Islamic explanation to the phenomenon of dreams, which science has been struggling to solve for centuries. In the above hadith, Mohammed asserts that dreams are actually the work of the Satan!
The above hadith is regarded seriously by Muslims who strongly believe that it is a blessing, and a good sign, for a Muslim to see Mohammed in his dreams. I am happy to say that I am one of those privileged people who were blessed by seeing Mohammed in their dreams. It happened to me decades ago, when I was in my twenties. When I woke up I was rather surprised that I was selected to join that blessed elite group of pious Muslims who dreamt about the prophet because I was not really that religious. I explained the incident on the basis that I had good intentions. Next morning I broke the good news to my relatives and friends and they all congratulated me. I remembered the dream vividly and did not get tired of repeating the scenario to everyone who asked.
Many years later, I had another dream that involved Mohammed. This time I was not very excited despite that the scenario of the dream was even a better one as it involved the morning prayers in a mosque. I was not very thrilled partly because I was living abroad, but mainly because Mohammed, in this dream, appeared to be completely different from the one I saw in my dream many years earlier!
Dreams and Ro’ya
Muslims regularly use claims of Ro’yas to promote their own agendas in social or political life. While in a visit to the Middle East, I visited the family of a deceased friend. His son introduced me to his newborn boy. When I asked why the boy was not given his grandfather’s old fashioned name, as was planned, he said they had to abandon that plan because his wife had a ‘Ro’ya’ that her son should be given this particular name. It doesn't matter if the excuse was honest or not, the fact is that similar stories involving marriages, divorces, travels and other aspects of life are common in the Middle East.
On the Islamic political stage, dreams have been used extensively to promote dirty political agendas. After Saddam Hussein stepped into the Islamic wagon in his later years, the Iraqi TV frequently filmed Imams narrating dreams that described Saddam as a Muslim hero and liberator of Jerusalem! During Morsi’s election campaign in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood Imams were busy narrating countless dreams endorsing Morsi. The craze continued after his election to remind people that, according to dreams, they should obey the president! Currently, FFI is posting a video, in which an Imam claimed that angel Gabriel was spotted in a pro-Morsi demonstration!!
Jinn and Majnoon
Islam endorsed most if not all myths of Mohammed’s time. Characters like Allah, Satan, Ibliss, Angels, Heaven and Hell make the foundations of Islam. Other myths like dreams, magic and Jinn all play important parts in Muslims’ lives. Simple Muslims often turn to TV stations to seek advice on what to do after certain dreams or how to deal with annoying Jinn.
From the Islamic point of view, mental disorders are considered to be caused by Jinn, precisely the non Muslim ones. Jinn are those imaginary creatures described in the Quran that exist in parallel to humans. In fact the word mad in Arabic, or ‘majnoon’, is derived from the word Jinn and means affected by Jinn! With the current competition to promote Islam, most TV channels offer the Muslim Imams free platforms to spread ignorance. Some Imams often demonstrate their skills on air, with carefully orchestrated scenes to prove to the viewers that Islam can succeed where modern medicine fails in treating mental illness. Other Imams appeared to describe their own encounters with non Muslim Jinn! they even beat them, on air, to cure certain diseases! It is beyond me that some TV stations conspire with imams and others to produce such a disgraceful lie. But without lies there would be no Islam.
It is sad that this kind of madness is allowed to continue and flourish in Islamic countries. Mosques, publications and the media are all involved in this hysteria, which is fiercely protected by the governments because it is all about protecting Islam, the so called religion.
This is a serious issue that calls for the intervention of the international community and organizations. Islam is like a toxic and addictive drug that works on the brain causing the affected patients to refuse any form of treatment. No matter how adherent to Islam they are, Muslims consistently believe they are not adherent enough. They relate their problems to the fact that they are not implementing Islam properly. I do not see the point of this war against drugs if Islam is not included as the most dangerous of all.
The Middle East was never completely free from the above folk tales, but I do not remember, as a young man, that TV and radio stations dedicated special airtime to dreams or how to deal with Jinn, if you happen to encounter one. I do not remember that newspapers dedicated special sections to teach similar Islamic ignorance. I do not remember seeing a doctor with long beard who prescribes camel urine as a treatment. Indeed I do not remember seeing a doctor with beard at all.
It all happened with the rise of Islam. What a disgraceful abuse of human minds.
- Q.4: 125
- Q. 37: 102-107
- Q. 12:36-41