During the Early Muslim period, the study of dreams was not limited to the prophetic dreams of the Quran. Early Muslims created a theology of dreams. They interpreted these dreams according to the laws of their faith.
During the ninth century, an Islamic dream interpretation tradition, Ta’bir al-ruya, emerged. This tradition explains the meaning of seeing God in dreams. This is done through the interpretation of a dream’s content, which is not necessarily a direct translation of the dream’s message.
According to Islamic theory, dreams are a medium for the supernatural, providing Divine guidance. Some Muslim dreams are direct, others are a recompense for a deed, and others are a message from God. The Prophet’s dreams were often good and can influence events, while others are false and may lead people astray.
Some Islamic dream dictionaries offer directive interpretations without acknowledging the sources of the dream. Others, however, use the language of interpretation through meaning, or Ta’wil bil ma’na.
Early Muslims thought dream interpretation to be an orthodox theological discipline, and considered it a sanctioned practice. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged his followers to interpret their dreams. He used to ask them if they had dreams and if they would like to get an interpretation.
Using a tidbit of information from an unidentified source, I uncovered that the tidbit was a part of an unpublished document. While I have yet to figure out what is in that document, I have a sneaky suspicion that it could be the result of some nefarious tampering on the part of a former employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It has all the hallmarks of a shady document, from the aforementioned tidbit to the dubious sex of the document. This document has been sitting around since the early 1970s, waiting to be discovered by a curious amateur. Its nefarious tampering is not only tamperable but also detracts from the sex of the document, a naughty little bumblebee indeed. Thankfully, Ibn Ghannam, a tamperer of the caliber of the federal Bureau of Investigation, has a keen eye for such nefarious neds. I suspect that there may be a number of unlocked secrets at work in the document, a tampering former employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a tampering former government employee of the aforementioned former employee, and a tampering nefarious tamperer of the aforementioned former employee, to name but a few.
Hunayn b. Ishaq
Unlike in the West, in which dream interpretation is the province of religious practitioners, in Islam it has been the responsibility of mundane Muslims. Dreams were considered an important means of God’s guidance. Moreover, they were regarded as a more open channel of communication than humbler divinatory practices.
Dreams were also thought to be a form of prophecy. The prophet Muhammad received the earliest revelations in his dreams. However, he did not receive his Qur’an until he had woken up. In order to interpret his dreams, he consulted a shaykh, an expert in dream interpretation.
The most important contribution to early Muslim dream interpretation was a translation of Artemidorus’ Oneirokritikon. This was later enlarged into a more comprehensive treatise. This book is important because it is the earliest preserved example of Islamic dream literature. The earliest version of this book is found in a manuscript from the Middle Eastern mosques and libraries. This translation had a significant influence on later dream interpretation in Arabic.
Influence of Oneirokritikon on later Arabic dream interpretation
Throughout the centuries, dream interpretation has been a prolific area of literary production. In the Middle Ages, Muslims believed that dreams can reveal one’s character, and thus dream interpretation was of great importance. This was especially true in the tenth to eleventh centuries, a period when Muslim and Christian interpreters worked together. During this period, a number of manuals devoted to dream interpretation were produced. Many of these manuals are collections of common dream information, including meanings, symbols and social attitudes. These manuals provide a valuable picture of society at this time.
Two of the most important interpreters who contributed to dream interpretation during the Middle Ages were Hunayn b. Ishaq and Ibn Qutaybah. Hunayn translated Artemidorus’ Oneirokritikon into Arabic. His translation was highly influential in later Arabic dream interpretation. This translation was accompanied by a methodological introduction and examples of dream narrations. It was also edited by Ibn Qutaybah. This translation has influenced the development of dream interpretation in both Arabic and Arabic-based languages such as Persian, Turkish and Urdu.