Part 6c

Dream visions Icon

January 15, 2020

Real dream vision is an awareness on the part of the rational soul in its spiritual essence, of glimpse(s) 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) glimpse(s) through the agency of sleep, as we shall mention.

Through these, the soul gains the knowledge of future events that it desires and by means of which it regains the perceptions that (properly) 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). Such allegory, then, necessitates interpretation. 301

When, on the other hand, this process is strong, it can dispense with allegory. Then, no interpretation is necessary, because (the process) is then free from imaginary pictures.The occurrence, in the soul, of such glimpse(s) is caused by the fact that the soul is potentially a spiritual essence, supplemented by the body and the perceptions of (the body).

Its essence, thus, eventually becomes pure intellection, and its existence becomes perfect in actuality. The soul, now, is a spiritual essence having perception without the help of any of the bodily organs.

However, among the spiritualia, it is of a lower species than the angels, who inhabit the highest stage, and who never had to supplement their essences with corporeal perceptions or anything else.

The preparedness (for spirituality) comes to (the soul) as long as it is in the body. There is a special kind (of preparedness), such as saints have, and there is a general kind common to all human beings. This is what “dream vision” means.

In the case of the prophets, this preparedness is a preparedness to exchange humanity for pure angelicality, which is the highest rank of spiritualia. It expresses itself repeatedly during revelations. It exists when (the prophet) returns to the level of corporeal perceptions.

Whatever perception the prophet has at that moment is clearly similar to what happens in sleep, even though sleep is much inferior to revelation.

Because of this similarity, the Muhammad defined dream vision as being the 46th or the 43rd, or the 70th part of prophecy. 302

None of these fractions are literal. They are to indicate the great degree of difference between the various stages (of supernatural perception). This is shown by the reference to “seventy” in one of the recensions. The number “seventy” is used by the Arabs to express (the idea of) a large number.


In its beginning, the revelation took the form of dream visions for six months, that is, for half a year. The whole duration of (Muhammad’s) prophecy in Mecca and Medina was 23 years. Half a year, thus, is one forty-sixth (of the whole duration of prophecy). This theory cannot be verified. The given (figures) apply only to Muhammad. How can we know whether they also applied to other prophets?

Moreover, this (theory) describes the relationship of prophecy to dream vision in point of time only, and does not consider the true character of dream visions in relation to the true character of prophecy. If our previous remarks were clear, it will be realized that the fraction refers to the relationship between the primary preparedness general to all mankind, and the close preparedness limited to the (prophets) and natural to them.

The remote preparedness is commonly found among human beings. However, there are many obstacles and hindrances that prevent man from translating it into actuality.

One of the greatest hindrances is the external senses. God, therefore, created man. in such a way that the veil of the senses could be lifted through sleep, which is a natural function of man. When that veil is lifted, the soul is ready to learn the things it desires to know in the world of Truth (haqq). At times, it catches a glimpse of what it seeks.

Therefore, the Lawgiver (Muhammad) classified dream visions among “the bearers of glad tidings” (mubashshirat). He said, “Nothing remains of prophecy except the bearers of glad tidings.” Asked what they were, he said= “A good dream vision, beheld by - or shown to - a good man.” 303

The reason why the veil of the senses is lifted in sleep is as follows.304 The perceptions and actions of the rational soul are the result of the corporeal animal spirit. This spirit is a fine vapor which is concentrated in the left cavity of the heart, as stated in the anatomical works of Galen and others. 305 It spreads with the blood in the veins and arteries, and makes sensual perception, motion, and all the other corporeal actions possible.

Its finest part goes up to the brain. There, it is temperedby the coldness of (the brain), and it effects the actions of the powers located in the cavities of the brain. The rational soul perceives and acts only by means of that vaporous spirit. It is connected with it. (This connection is) the result of the wisdom of creation which requires that nothing fine can influence anything coarse. Of all the corporeal matters, only the animal spirit is fine. Therefore, it is receptive to the influence of the essence, which differs from it only in respect of corporeality, that is, the rational soul. Thus, through the medium of (the animal spirit), the influence of the rational soul reaches the body. We have stated before 306 that the perception of the rational soul is of two kinds. There is an external perception through the five senses, and an inward perception through the cerebral powers. All these perceptions divert the rational soul from the perception for which 307 it is prepared by nature, (namely, that) of the essences of the spiritualia, which are higher than it. 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. Such (rest) is accomplished by the retirement of the animal spirit from all the external senses and its return to the inward sense. This process is supported by the cold that covers the body during the night. Under the influence of the cold of the night, the natural heat repairs to the innermost recesses of the body and turns from its exterior to the interior. It thus guides its vehicle, the animal spirit, into the interior of the body. This is the reason why human beings, as a rule, sleep only at night.

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 before withdrawn from the conventional objects of sensual perception.

It now transmits them to the common sense, which combines all the 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 molds 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 its share of glimpses (of the supernatural), is (what is called in the Qur’an) “confused dreams.”

According to (the sound tradition of) the Sahih, the Prophet said, “There are three kinds of dream visions. There are dream visions from God, dream visions from the angels, and dream visions from Satan.”

This threefold division agrees with our preceding statement.

Clear dream visions are from God. Allegorical dream visions, which call for interpretation, are from the angels.

“Confused dreams” are from Satan, because they are altogether futile, as Satan is the source of futility.

This is what “dream vision” really is, and how it is caused and encouraged by sleep. It is a particular quality of the human soul common to all mankind.

Nobody is free from it. Every human being has, more than once, seen something in his sleep that turned out to be true when he awakened. He knows for certain that the soul must necessarily have supernatural perception in sleep. If this is possible in the realm of sleep, it is not impossible in other conditions, because the perceivingessence is one and its qualities are always present. God guides toward the truth.

Dream words

Note= Most of the (afore-mentioned supernatural perception by means of dream visions) occurs 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 (of the supernatural) while it is asleep, and it sees that thing. It does not plan it that way.

In the Ghayah 310 and other books by practitioners of magic, reference is made to words that should be mentioned on falling asleep so as to cause the dream vision to be about the things one desires. These words are called by (the magicians) “dream words” (al-halumah). In the Ghayah, Maslamah mentioned a dream word that he called “the dream word of the perfect nature.” It consists of saying, upon falling asleep and after obtaining freedom of the inner senses and finding one’s way clear (for supernatural perception), the following non-Arabic words= tamaghis ba’dan yaswadda waghads nawfana ghadis. 311 The person should then mention what he wants, and the thing he asks for will be shown to him in his sleep.

A man is said to have done this after he had eaten but little and done dhikr exercises312 for several nights. A person appeared to him and said, “I am your perfect nature.”

A question was put to that person, and he gave the man the information he desired. 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, (the existence of such dream words) is no proof that the intention to have a dream vision can produce it.

The dream words produce a preparedness in the soul for the dream vision. If that preparedness is a strong one, (the soul)312a 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.

Other types of divination

Some people can foretell things before they happen. They have a special natural qualification for it which sets them apart other humans. They do not have a craft for their predictions. Nor do they get them with the help of astral influences or anything else.

Their forecasts are the necessary result of their natural disposition.

Among such people are diviners (‘arraf) are:

  • men who gaze into transparent bodies such as mirrors or bowls of water
  • men who examine the hearts, livers, and bones of animals
  • men who draw auguries from birds and wild animals
  • men who cast pebbles, grains of wheat, or (date) pits.

All these things are found among mankind. No one can deny them or be ignorant of them. Statements on supernatural things are also placed upon the tongues of the insane, who are thus able to give information about (supernatural things). Sleeping and dying persons, being about to die or to fall asleep, likewise speak about supernatural things.

Men who have followed Sufi training have, as is well known, as acts of divine grace, obtained perceptions of supernatural things.

How is the human soul is prepared for supernatural perception?

The soul is a spiritual essence which is the only spiritual being that exists potentially. It exchanges potentiality for actuality with the help of the body and bodily conditions. This is something everyone can attain to.

Everything that exists potentially has matter and form. The form of the soul, through which its existence materializes, is identical with perception and intellection.

The soul at first exists potentially. It is prepared for perception and for the reception of the universal and particular forms. Its growth and actual existence then materialize through keeping company with the body, through the things to which (the body) accustoms (the soul) when (the former’s) sensual perceptions are foisted upon (the latter), and through the universal ideas which (the soul itself) abstracts from the sensual perceptions of the body.

It intellectualizes the forms time after time, until perception and intellection become the actual form of the soul.

Thus, its essence materializes. The soul, then, is like matter, and, through perception, the forms come to it one after the other in an uninterrupted sequence.

This is why we find that a child in the earliest stages of his growth is unable to achieve the perception which comes to the soul from its essence, either in his sleep or through removal (of the veil of sense perception), 315 or anything else.

For the form of the soul, which is its very essence, namely, perception and intellection, has not yet materialized (in the child). Nor has the power of the soul to abstract the universals materialized. Later on, when the essence of (the soul) has materialized in actuality, the soul has two kinds of perception, as long as it remains in the body= one through the organs of the body, for which the soul is enabled by the corporeal perceptions, and the other through its own essence, without any intermediary.

The soul is prevented from the latter kind of perception by its immersion in the body and the senses, and the preoccupations of (body and senses). By means of corporeal perception, for which the senses were originally created, they always draw the soul to the external.

Frequently, however, the soul plunges from the external into the internal. Then, the veil of the body is lifted for a moment, either by means of a quality that belongs to every human being, such as sleep, or by means of a quality that is found only in certain human beings, such as soothsaying or casting (of pebbles, etc.), or by means of exercises such as those practiced by (certain) Sufis who practice the removal (of the veil of sense perception).

At such moments, the soul turns to the essences of the highest group (the angels), which are higher than itself. This is possible because in the order of existence the stages of the soul and the angels are connected with each other, as we established earlier. 317

These essences are spiritual. They are pure perception and intellects in action. They contain the forms and realities of the existentia, as was (just) mentioned. Something of those forms is then disclosed in (the soul). It derives some knowledge from them.

Frequently, it transmits the perceived forms to the imagination which, in turn, puts them into the customary molds. (The soul,) then, has recourse to sensual perception to explain the things it has perceived, either in their abstract form or in the molds into which (they were put by the imagination).

In this way, it gives information about them. This is how the preparedness of the soul for supernatural perception must be explained.


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