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12:4 Prophet Yusuf and Dreams

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Behold! Joseph said to his father: “O my father! I did see eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves to me!”

The original word for “stars”– kawkab – also means “planets.” From this, we may conclude
that if the earth is included, there are actually twelve planets, although as yet, only nine or
ten of them have been discovered. In the dream, Joseph is symbolized by the earth, which,
due to the significance it possesses as the habitat for humankind, is the “spiritual” center of
the solar system. It is explicitly stated in the Qur’ān several times that whatever there is in
the heavens and the earth, including the sun and the moon, has been made subservient to
God’s laws for the benefit of human beings (sūrah, 13: 33; sūrah,16: 12; sūrah, 31: 20).

While you sleep with your eyes closed, your ears deaf, your tongue silent, and your arms
and legs at rest, how do you travel, meet people, and do many things in a few minutes, or
even seconds? When you get up in the morning, you feel deeply influenced by that few
seconds’ adventure. Although Freud and his followers attribute dreams to the workings of
the subconscious mind, to thoughts and desires, or impulses and past experiences, how can
this explain dreams that inform of a future event with which one has had no contact or
even thought about?
When we sleep, our spirit enters the world of ideal forms or symbols where, to some extent,
past, present, and future are combined, without completely breaking its connection to the
body. It continues this connection through a cord. As a result, it may experience a past
event or witness a future one. However, since things in that world exist in ideal forms or
symbols, the spirit usually receives symbols that require interpretation. For example, clear
water in that world may correspond to knowledge in this world. The metaphors, similes,
and parables found in the Qur’ān and the Prophetic sayingsmay provide significant keys to
interpreting dreams. However, some dreams are so clear that no interpretation is needed.
Dreams are of three kinds. Two are included in the category of “jumbled dreams” (the
Qur’ānic expression in 12: 44). In these dreams, either the imagination gives form to the
deviations of a bad temper, or the mind remembers an exciting event which happened some
time ago, and produces it in a new and different form; and the dreams that a person has in
such moods are “jumbled ones,” as will be mentioned in verses 43–44, 47–49 of this sūrah.
Despite being jumbled, some of these dreams may also have some significant meaning, but
they need to be interpreted.
The other type of dream has nothing to do with the subconscious self. Such dreams carry
important messages: either they are glad tidings from God, which encourage us to do
good things and guide us, or warnings concerning the evils we have done or will do. Those
dreams, which we call true dreams, are very clear and unforgettable. In an authenticated
narration, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, says that true dreams are
one of the forty-six aspects of Prophethood. (That is, since God’s Messenger, upon him be
peace and blessings, had true dreams in the initial six months of his twenty-three years of Prophethood, true dreams are a type of Divine inspiration.) This means that true dreams contain elements of truth.

Several scientific or technological discoveries were first seen in dreams. Elias Howe, while
trying to figure out how to thread a sewing machine, dreamed that he was being held prisoner by a tribe who were thrusting spears at him. Puzzled and in mortal fear, he suddenly
saw holes at the top end of his captors’ spears. He woke up and made a little “spear,” with a
hole at the sharp end of the needle, and thus made sewing by machine possible. Niels Bohr,
who was studying atomic structures, dreamed of planets connected to the sun with threads
that were spinning around it. When he woke up, he conceived of a resemblance between
what he had dreamed and atomic structures.


Unal, Ali (2006). The Quran with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English. (surah 12 verse 4)

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