Wa ‘Alaikum-Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu my Dear Sister in Islam,
Thank you for your question.
Dreams come from three sources: Allah (swt), Shaitan, and our selves (anxieties). Dreams from our own anxieties come from things like feeling in danger or that we will fail at something that is too demanding on us, or fear of something that is an unknown to us such as having to move or getting married. Even something that is not life-changing can make us so anxious that we play out our fears in our dreams. For example, we need to get to the airport on time for an early flight; we dream of being late, running madly for the plane, only to miss it.
Nightmares are from Shaitan. Nightmares are dreams that are so scary that we often make ourselves wake up from them in order to make them end. When we wake up, we are usually shaking in a cold sweat. We also wake up from them because we are trying to scream but no sound comes out of our mouths. So, we wake up to be able to scream. Dreams with snakes are usually from Shaitan, too, unless the snakes are not too scary, in which case the snake may be a symbol from Allah (swt) rather than an instrument of Shaitan to scare us.
Dreams from Allah (swt) are symbolic. A “symbol” or “sign” is something that does not mean anything in and of its self, but represents something else – something with greater meaning or significance such as ideas and feelings. Because ideas and feelings are not material things, they have to be represented by symbols. For example, words symbolize ideas. Numbers, too, are only symbols of the actual reality of a quantity of things. There are symbols that represent ideas like motherhood. For instance, a picture of a quintessential-looking mother is not about that particular mother but about motherhood. It makes us feel what we need from a mother – to be cared for, loved, and nurtured. So, when we see things in our dreams, we should look at them in this deeper way as they represent something which have significance in our particular life.
Conventionally, water in our dreams is supposed to represent life. So, when you dream about water, it probably does not mean that you need to drink more water, but that you have a thirst for something in life. Maybe you want to get closer to Allah (swt) or get married—something that would make you feel fulfilled in life. Because quenching our thirst for water feels so good and is life-saving, it is a powerful symbol when converted into the “idea” of quenching one’s thirst for something in life.
A train in our dreams probably does not mean that we are going to take a train trip. Rather, it probably means that we are going to have a major transition in our life or need to have one. Death in a dream does not necessarily mean we are going to die, although sometimes it is a premonition of that. Rather, it probably means that we are going through a shift in our life that is so significant that, when done, we will have a completely different outlook on life. Like what happens to us when we have a “rude awakening”, a realization that what we thought about something important to our lives turned out to the opposite of the truth about that thing.
In dreams from Allah (swt) we usually see the people we love or whom we have close relationships with—the people who matter to us. Dreams from Allah (swt) are usually peaceful as well while not necessarily happy. In other words, they are not scary like nightmares, but they often tell us things that we do not want to hear but need to hear because we need to change to improve or to protect ourselves. These dreams indicate that we are doing something wrong and need to stop going down a different path that has no “light” in it or is not right. Those can feel like negative messages. But, in truth, they are the blessings of Allah (swt) guiding us away from harm.
In addition, psychiatrist Carl Jung, one of the founders of our modern-day science of psychology, taught that dreams have two types of symbols in them: archetypes and ones relative to our personal experiences. Archetypes are the universals that we all experience in life, e.g., mother, father, mountain, horse. A mother symbolizes the nurturer, a father symbolizes a protector, a mountain symbolizes challenges, and the horse symbolizes a powerful force. Relative symbols speak to our personal experiences with a particular thing, person, or place. For instance, the city in which you got married could thereafter be used by Allah (swt) to symbolize marriage. That city in a dream would be a symbol only for you, not everyone.
The first person we ever loved could be used in that same way, i.e., to symbolize love. Your ex may be showing up in your dreams not to plague you, but only as a symbol of love. Do not take his appearance in your dreams on face-value, as himself. Read the dream according to what he meant in your life. What did you learn—about life, not about him—from your experience with him? Understanding the function of symbols may free you from Shaitan’s trick of using his image to plague you with fear—that you are doing something wrong in your present marriage to dream about your ex.
It interests me that your ex’s wife is sometimes in your dreams, too. That makes me think, even more, that they symbolize something other than themselves in your dreams. What role did they play in your life? Is their marriage happy, or superficial, or traditional, or…? Use that information to see what they could “mean” other than themselves. Seeing him as the meaning of how much you loved him makes you miss the point – what did your interaction with him do for you, for your understanding of life, and Allah (swt), and love and, and, and… That is what you need to look at. How have you grown from your experience with him?
May Allah (swt) make it easy for you.
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