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IslamiCity > Articles > Sleep from an Islamic Perspective
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Islam has great interest in sleep, and sleep is considered as one of the signs of the greatness of Allah. Sleep is mentioned frequently in the Quran. For example, a well-known verse says, "And among his signs is your sleep by night and by day and your seeking of His bounty, verily in that are Signs for those who hearken"

Sleep from an Islamic Perspective
1/16/2014 - Science Religious - Article Ref: NH1306-5475
Number of comments: 3
Opinion Summary: Agree:3  Disagree:0  Neutral:0
By: Ahmed S. BaHammam
US National Institution of Health* -


Detailed discussion of dreams in the Muslim culture is beyond the scope of  this article. Instead, we provide an overall summary of the importance of dreams  in Muslim culture. Muslims in general have great interest in dreams and dream  interpretation. In general, Muslims consider dream to be a kind of supernatural  perception. One Hadith states that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "A good dream vision  of a pious man is a forty-sixth part of prophecy" [SM 2263]. It has also been  reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "A good vision (ru'ya) is from Allah and a  bad dream (hulm) is from Satan; so if one of you sees anything (in a dream which  he dislikes), he should spit on his left side thrice and seek refuge with Allah  from its evil, and then it will never harm him" [SB 3118).

Oneiromancy is a traditional type of dream interpretation that is common in the  Muslim world. In general, Muslims have much higher regard for dreams and dream  interpretation than people from Western societies.[4] Muslim countries  traditionally used the terms Tabir or Tafsir for "dream interpretation", and  dreams continue to play an important role in the lives of modern Muslims.[32,33] Muslim interest in dreams and dream interpretation has not been well  documented in the English literature, and most Western dream researchers are not  familiar with the rich traditions of dreams and dream interpretation in Islam.[4]  The theories, insights, and observations of dreams proposed by Muslims over the  past 1400 years correspond with many of the recent theories developed by Western  psychologists during the past 150 years.[4] Traditionally, Muslims believe that  dreams appearing in the last third of the night are more truthful. This correlates  with the current scientific understanding that the longest periods of REM sleep  occurs during the last third of the nocturnal sleep period, when dream imagination  is most active.[4]

The Quran uses several terms to refer to dreams, such as ru'ya (vision) [verses  17.60, 37.105, 48.2], hulm (dream) [verses 21.5, 52.3], manam (sleep) [verse  37.10], and bushra (tidings) [verse 10.6]. Because of the central role of the  Quran in the Muslim faith, discussions of dreams are fundamental to Islamic dream  interpretation. Dream description plays a major role in three Suras (chapters) of  the Quran:

1.Sura 12, Yussuf (Joseph): This Sura provides a condensed version of the story of  Joseph and some of the best known references to dream interpretation.

2.Sura 37, As-Saffat (Ranks): This Sura focuses on Allah's command to the Prophet  Abraham to sacrifice his son.

3.Sura 8, Al-Anfal (Spoils): This Sura describes a dream of Prophet Muhammad  (pbuh). "(And remember) when Allah showed them to you as few in your (i.e., the  Prophet's) dream; if He had shown them to you as many, you would surely have been  discouraged, and you would surely have disputed making a decision. But Allah saved  you" [verse 8.43]. This verse describes the experience of the Prophet (pbuh) the  night before a particular battle (Badr), when the Muslim army was across the  valley from its enemy.

The night journey (Laylat al-Mi'raj) in Sura 17 (Al-Isra) says, "Glory be to Him  (Allah) Who took His slave (Muhammad) for a journey by night from Al-Msajid Al- Haram (in Mecca) to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem) whose surroundings We have  blessed, that We might show Him (Muhammad) some of Our signs" [verse 17.1]. Some  Western scholars who have written about dreams in the Quran consider this journey  as one of the dreams of Muhammad (pbuh).[4,34] However, although this journey  occurred in a short period in one night, in the Muslim faith, this miraculous  journey is considered to be a physical journey, not a dream. In particular, the  body and soul of Muhammad (pbuh) travelled from Mecca to Jerusalem and then  ascended to heaven. This led him to the wonders of heaven, where he met with many  prophets and messengers who had gathered to meet him, and He led them in prayers.  Therefore, we will not discuss this journey as a dream.

Some interpreters of the Quran have interpreted verse 39.42 ("It is Allah who  takes away the souls (Wafat) at the time of their death, and those that die not  during their sleep. He keeps those (souls) for which He has ordained death and  sends the rest for a term appointed. Verily, in this are signs for people who  think deeply") as Allah seizing souls during death and sleep (dream). For  instance, the Islamic scholar, Al-Qurtubi (1214-1273 C.E.), noted that true dreams  are visions experienced while the soul is separated from the body during sleep,  whereas nightmares and lying dreams occur when the soul has returned to the body,  but before it has again taken firm root.[11]

Numerous Muslim philosophers have proposed theories of dream interpretation. Ibn  Arabi (1164-1240 C.E.) proposed a metaphysical system that merged Islamic theology  and Greek philosophy.[4,35] Ibn Sirin (653-728 C.E.) is the best-known dream  interpreter in Islamic history,[4,36] and his method of dream interpretation  reflects the fact that dream interpretation is important in the Quran and Hadith.  He proposed that the interpretation of dreams depends on the personal  characteristics and life circumstances of the individual.[4] Ibn Khaldun, a great  Muslim scholar and thinker (1332-1402 C.E.), considered dream interpretation to be  a science.[37] In the monumental Muqaddimah (An Introduction to History), he  classified three types of dreams: (i) dreams from Allah (Allah), which are clear  and unmistakable in their meaning and content; (ii) dreams from Angels, which are  received in the form of allegory and require interpretation; and (iii) dreams from  Satan, which are confused dreams that are futile.[2,37]


In the past few decades, there has been a significant increase in  our knowledge of sleep physiology, sleep disorders, and the importance of sleep.  Islam and other ancient religions also provide significant information about the  historical and cultural views of sleep, and these precede modern scientific  studies by hundreds or thousands years.[1,2] The Quran describes different types  of sleep, and these correspond with different sleep stages identified by modern  sleep scientists. About 1400 years ago, Muhammad (pbuh) stressed the importance of  sleep for good health and the Quran stresses the importance of the alteration of  night and day. A nap (Qailulah) is a well-established cultural practice in the  Islamic culture. For some Muslims, the nap has religious dimensions. Modern sleep  scientists acknowledge the beneficial effect of short naps. Muslims have been  following certain sleep habits for hundreds of years, following the instructions  and practices of their Prophet (pbuh). Modern sleep scientists currently recommend  many of these same practices. Dream interpretation is an established science in  the Muslim literature and Islamic theories of dream interpretation correspond with  many theories currently proposed by modern sleep scientists.[4]

We suggest that sleep scientists examine religious literature to understand the  views, behaviors, and practices of ancient people in regard to sleep and sleep  disorders. Such studies may help to answer unresolved questions in sleep science  or lead to new areas of inquiry.


This paper was partially supported by a grant from the  University Sleep Disorders Center, King Saud University and King Abdulaziz City  for Science and Technology.


Source of Support: University Sleep Disorders Center, King Saud University and  King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology

Conflict of Interest: None declared.


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Articles from Annals of Thoracic Medicine are provided here courtesy of Medknow  Publications


 Prof. Ahmed S. BaHammam is professor of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine; director Sleep Disorders Center, College of Medicine, King Saud University.

Source:  National Center for Biotechnology Information - National Institute of Health

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