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I sporadically encounter "Islamic dream interpretation", e.g., there are tools online such as MyIslamicDream.com, eDreamInterpretation.com, Islamic-Dreams-Interpretation.com and more can be found using Google.

This surprises me, as (a) there seems to minimal difference between engaging in dream interpretation and engaging in fortune telling, (b) dream interpretation is not haram, and (c) fortune telling is a sin (listed as a major sin by al-Dhahabi):

Say, "None in the heavens and earth knows the unseen except Allah, and they do not perceive when they will be resurrected." -- Qur'an 27:65

[He is] Knower of the unseen, and He does not disclose His [knowledge of the] unseen to anyone. -- Qur'an 72:26

"The Messenger of Allah said: 'Whoever... goes to a fortuneteller and believes what he says, he has disbelieved in that which was revealed to Muhammad.'" (sunnah.com)

Islam Q&A even likened fortune telling to shirk.

Question: How does dream interpretation distinguish itself from fortune telling?

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Dreams are considered one part of prophecy, see this hadith:

When the end of time draws near, hardly any believer will see a false dream, and the ones who see the truest dreams will be the ones who are truest in speech. And the dream of the believer is one of the forty-six parts of prophecy.

Ibn Majah; see also Muslim and the Muwatta.

A particular instance of a prophet who is remembered particularly for his prophetic dreams is Yusuf (in the Biblical tradition, he is called Joseph, and the story is quite similar); most of the 12th surah (entitled "Yusuf") is largely concerned with his life, and it starts by mentioning his dream.

Now this at least makes comprehensible the fact that dreams are not considered fortune telling per se - there is license in the texts that dreams can have divine origin, while fortune telling is never sanctified in the sources. It's slightly like the difference between sihr (witchcraft) and dua: dua is licensed (and even at least recommended) in the texts with the claim that you can get something out of them via unseen means, while sihr is condemned as putting your faith in something of the unseen for which no license was given.

That is the central reason why fortune telling is forbidden: it's a form of shirk, you would be believing that there is power or knowledge in a place where Allah has expressly said that there is none, so you would be associating those sources with Allah as having power or means of giving knowledge of their own.

Now what about dream interpretation: this is very speculative business, and you get as many opinions as you get interpreters. The practice of istikhara (which by itself has basis in authoritative texts) is strongly connected to dreams in muslim folklore (i.e. istikhara is islamic, its connection to dreams may be folklore only). The practice consists of a particular prayer to ask for guidance in a specific situation, and many muslims think that you will receive feedback about what you had in mind in form of a dream, usually something like "if you see a lot of green in the dream, that's good, if it's mostly red, that's bad". Mostly, scholars asked about specific dreams will only say things like "this sounds like the dream was more positive/negative, so go ahead with/abstain from what you prayed about". I have on the other hand never seen any texts (quran or ahadith) that even connote istikhara with dreams. In fact, there are articles that suggest that this connection is folklore only and has no basis in the religion.

Bottom line: dream interpretation has a basis in the texts, fortune telling does not. Dream interpretation is quite unreliable, but nevertheless highly regarded, and prophetic dreams are often seen as one of the signs of a wali (friend of god). In particular, there seems to be a lot of trust in awliya (plural of wali) who claim prophetic dreams among the more "intoxicated" sufis.

  • Satisfactory nice information is provided in your answer. – Faqirah Nov 20 '16 at 4:17
  • abou the links , i don't think we can interpret a dream with such dictionaries . there is signs in dreams people who knows dream interpretation know how to get them .... ! – Mustapha Elbazi Nov 20 '16 at 7:06
  • @MustaphaElbazi If you have references for that, I would be interested to see them posted in a separate answer, that might be relevant. – G. Bach Nov 20 '16 at 9:46
  • @G.Bach i have only some arabic discussions here : ahlalhdeeth.com/vb/showthread.php?t=238397 i heard just some informations about this from people and scholars i can't get references .... !! just keep in mind that interpret a dream isn't easy and it need knowledge not only a dicconary :) in the story of yousef : And thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of narratives and complete His favor upon you and upon the family of Jacob – Mustapha Elbazi Nov 20 '16 at 11:11
  • @Medi1Saif any help here ? :) – Mustapha Elbazi Nov 20 '16 at 11:12
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The perception of dream interpretation and fortune telling in Islam

Dream interpretation in Islam is considered as a "science" (maybe here a better translation is a specific kind of knowledge, which one can learn or can be gifted by Allah) the basis for this interpretation from the Quran: for example it says about Yusuf ():

And thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of narratives ... (12:6)

So Allah has chosen Yusuf for prophet-hood and especially gifted him for dream interpretation. And again

... that We might teach him the interpretation of events. ... (12:21)

this was repeated and finally you find it a 3rd time:

My Lord, You have given me [something] of sovereignty and taught me of the interpretation of dreams. ... (12:101)

Note that in all 3 verses dream interpretation is related to teaching which means that this is something one can learn!

Of course dream interpretation has some basis in sunnah too as for example this hadith shows.

Fortune telling doesn't have this relation at all. And is rather related to kufr (to emphasize the sin) as you may find in sunan abi Dawod, sunan ibn Majah, Jami' at-Tirmidhi and considered a sinful act as stated in sahih Muslim. See also fatwa islamqa #114820.

On the importance of asking people of knowledge

Yes indeed if people ask anybody about dream interpretation they would get a random answer, but this isn't the right way! however it became very common among Muslims these days to ask anybody about an interpretation of their dreams. But this can't be done by anybody and also shouldn't be done as we are frowned upon (if not prohibited) to say or give fatwa about things we don't know (about) by Quran:

And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. ... (17:36)

In the commentary of ibn Abi Zayds ابن أبي زيد القيرواني ar-Rissala كتاب الرسالة (the commentary is called: al-fawakih ad-Dawani) by Shihab ad-Dyn an-Nafrawi شهاب الدين النفراوي you may read the following comment (My own translation take it with care):

ولا يجوز له تعبيرها بمجرد النظر في كتاب، كما يفعله بعض الجهلة، يكشف نحو ابن سيرين عندما يقال له : أنا رأيت كذا، والحال أنه لا علم له بأصول التعبير، فهذا حرام؛ لأنها تختلف باختلاف الأشخاص، والأحوال، والأزمان، وأوصاف الرائين، فعلمها عويص يحتاج إلى مزيد معرفة بالمناسبات،

It is not allowed to interpret dreams by only taking a look at a book (research etc. in a book on the topic), as it is made by some ignorant, exposing ibn Sirin when saying: I've seen (in my dreams) this and this, and in reality he has no knowledge of the ways and rules of dream interpretation, because this is prohibited (haram); because the interpretation differs by the difference of characters, circumstances, times (and time periods), the descriptions of those who reveal their dreams, so knowing it is difficult and need more and deeper knowledge with the cases.

ولذلك سأل رجل ابن سيرين بأن قال له: أنا رأيت نفسي أؤذن في النوم. فقال: له تسرق، وتقطع يدك. وسأله آخر، وقال له مثل ما قاله الأول، فقال له: تحج. فوجد كل منهما ما فسر له به. فقيل له في ذلك، فقال: رأيت هذا بِسِمَة حسنة, والآخر بسِمَة قبيحة.

That's why a man asked ibn Sirin by saying: I've seen myself announcing (or calling) for the prayer (performing adhan). Ibn Sirin said to him: you'll steal and your hand will be cut. And another questioner asked him the same of what the first asked and he told him: You'll go on pilgrimage. And both of them have encountered what they have been told. So he people asked him about it and he answered: I've seen this one with a good characteristic and that one with a bad characteristic.
- - - - - (source islamweb #68655 & #1142)


Maybe you ask yourself what is the source of each of these interpretations?
The key word here is the verb أَذَّنَ (in the text أؤذن)!
Here's the one for the future thief (12:70):

... Then an announcer called out, "O caravan, indeed you are thieves."

And for the future Hajj (22:27):

And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass -


So from this I conclude (and Allah knows best!) that it is necessary for the dream interpreter to see the questioner and have an impression about him to give a helpful and accurate interpretation.

Imam Malik was asked: Can anybody interpret dreams? And he answered: Does anybody play with prophet-hood? (as quoted by ibn Abd al-Barr أبو عمر بن عبد البر) as a side note to the known hadith which makes a connection between true dreams and prophet-hood.

There's also a hadith in sunan abi Dawod and sunan ibn Majah which seems to emphasize on asking people of knowledge or at least people of trust. other ahadith are emphasizing on not asking more than once and not telling a dream more than once because the first interpretation is crucial -if it was correct if not none will be able to interpret correctly-. What is the relationship between Ilham and leg of a bird?

Please note that the book about dream interpretation which is attributed to Mohammad ibn Sirin and widely spread in Muslim world is hardly authentic. Most scholars say that it is not from ibn Sirin and its hardly trustworthy.

For further details on dream interpretation I refer to some fatwas from islamqa #6537 (EN) and (available only) in Arabic #117665 and #115945.

My main source was this article from islamweb #274978.

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