Someone once confided in me about his wife's pledge to never again see her own mother. The wife had been ill for quite some time and the doctors were not able to explain why. Eventually she decided to seek advice from a spiritual figure, a sheikh, who then told her to perform solat istikharah. The sheikh told her that the cause of her illness will be revealed in a dream immediately after. What she saw in her dream on the same night she'd performed istikharah was her own mother! And since she had absolute faith in her sheikh, she began to believe that the cause of her prolong illness was indeed her mother. She believed her mother had put black magic (sihir) on her because she was still displeased with her for marrying someone she did not approve.
I know of other people who dreamnt about marrying certain individuals, again upon performing solat istikharah. And again, since they believed these were 'clear signs' from Allah, they were convinced that the persons they saw in their dreams were destined to be their future husbands or wives. From then on, they put themselves under tremendous pressure waiting to be married to the identified persons, ignoring and rejecting marriage proposals from other individuals. Once the pressure became unbearable, they revealed their dreams to the persons they dreamnt about, hence passing the pressure to them to accept their 'destinies'.
There are quite a number of studies on dreams in Islam (click here to access an entire book by Dr. Umar Azam who wrote his doctoral thesis on the subject). As explained in a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, there are generally three different types of dreams, (1) righteous dreams (rahmani) which are from Allah, (2) dreams that causes sadness (syaitani) which are from the devil, and (3) dreams from the ramblings of the mind (nafsani).
Many people are quick to conclude that just because the content of their dreams were positive, they must fall under the first category of gladtidings from Allah. What more when they had these dreams immediately after solat istikharah, a practice based on a number of authentic ahadith.
I will never question the authority of these hadith but I would definitely question our abilities to truthfully understand and interpret dreams. Interpretation of dreams is a complex art, much more complex I'm sure that just putting on the keywords like what we have here. Some dreams may have a negative manifest content, but the interpretations and meaning behind them could very well be positive. Some dreams may seem to indicate we should decide in a certain way but the interpretation may actually be an advice to decide completely the opposite.
To believe, or not to believe? In the end, I believe one should consult more than one spiritual figure to really understand his/her dreams. I do believe there are people of impeccable levels of spirituality among us but they are not infallible. At least, ask for a second opinion.
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