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Nightmares & Istikhara: What’s Going on with Me?

07 February, 2021
Q Salamu Alaikum. This question may sound odd. For the past couple of months I was suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Major Depression. (The PTSD was from an assault that happened a year ago). Due to the assault, I became angry with Allah (SWT) and completely abandoned my faith in Islam. I began to consider myself as an atheist. Simultaneously, I lost my mind. I said and did things that were out of my control. I could not think properly, and at times did not remember what I did or said when I had such 'episodes'. It became so much that I tried to commit suicide and survived resulting in being hospitalized and medicated. For months, I lived with another atheist who convinced me that my family was bad and for me to stay away from them. I listened but eventually returned home, and once I began praying, my condition improved drastically. What the meds could not do for me, praying to Allah (SWT) and dikhr (remembrance of Allah) did for me within a week! Anyways, I am hamduliAllah so much better now and do not need psychiatric medication anymore. However, recently these past few days I have had the constant urge to perform Istikara. I just do not know what for; all I know is that I HAVE to do it. Can you explain why that may be? It is a very strong feeling in my heart. I performed Istikara a day ago, but I went to the bathroom at night breaking my wudu and instead had a very bad dream of a boy being killed that I had foreseen in the dream. I had a book and whatever I read from it happened. The next day I did not perform Istikara, but had another dream in which a girl was covered in blood, in pain. She had parts of her body torn with her flesh hanging out. I distinctively remember her shoes; she wore converse and both feet had huge holes in them going through the shoes and into the flesh of their feet. It was so terrifying. Any reason for this? I would appreciate any answer you can give me.



Wa Alaykum Assalam,

Thank you for sharing a very deep and profound part of yourself with me and with others who can benefit from your experience.

Indeed, part of the process of PTSD includes dissociation with your own self.  You are working through the process of reconnecting all of the parts of yourself and re-integrating all that you were, all that you experienced and who you are now into a cohesive whole. You are reclaiming what you know and love, and trying to make sense out of everything.  Let’s begin with your need for istikharah.

Istikarah:  You have a need to become clear about who you are and how you are relating to your world and you want to know where to go from here; what your next step in your journey of life should be.

You feel a need for clarity.  You were exposed to brainwashing by an atheist; even if he did not mean to brainwash you, you betrayed your own self when you justified your behavior by turning your parents in to the “villains”.  It is likely that you do not agree with everything they believe, but in your heart you know that they are human beings and that no one really have all of the answers.

You would like to have some answers that are uniquely yours; and you also want to repair your relationships.   You do not know what you believe in your heart about Allah and theology, and you are seeking a truth that will make sense for you that will not force you to alienate yourself from those you love and who love you.

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Your psyche is healing itself.  Praying Istikarah is helping you to heal.  Your intuition is telling you that if you continue praying istikarah and open your heart and mind to the guidance of ALLAH, then you will find the truth that you are seeking inside yourself, and you will be able to live in a manner that is congruent with the faith that is inside you.

The nightmares are not a result of breaking your wudu’ before you go to bed.  The nightmares are a combination of your psyche attempting to heal your trauma and your subconscious trying to give you symbols to awaken you, to guide you in your process of healing and spiritual growth while being on your path of life. The psyche heals itself through dreams, so let’s look at the possible meaning of the different symbols that your subconscious is giving you:

Boy being killed that you had foreseen in the dream – You may be blaming yourself or be afraid that you are the cause of what happened to you. Or you may unconsciously believe that you hurt someone; possibly the person you were living with.

Sometimes, the person who we dream about is really an aspect of ourselves.  When we dream of a male, and we are female, this male (in your case, the boy) often represents the energy of action or assertiveness; the kind of energy that empowers us to move forward in our lives.  If this was a young boy, and not a man, then it is possible that you feel that you “killed” your own spirit, the part of you that might have been ready to jump into life and embrace the moment ready to move forward with whatever might come your way.  This is the energy that we feel when we are ready to begin a new phase in our lives.

So, this boy might either be symbolic of your unconscious belief that you hurt the person you were living with by leaving and going back home or you might be aware that you “killed” that aspect of yourself, and you want to awaken that part of yourself again. That you could read the future is symbolic of the fact that somewhere deep inside you, you knew what you were doing; there was a quiet awareness within you and you feel responsible for creating the events.

This does not mean that you are literally responsible for what happened; it means that you might be feeling like you need to heal yourself of these feelings by either acknowledging the part that you played in events, or clarifying distorted persecutions of unwarranted and false guilt.  Either way, these guilt feelings need to be resolved in a way which leaves you feeling revived and loved; not condemned.   You will regain and reclaim your innocence.  It is about making amends to yourself and others, who you may have hurt, by just apologizing, and then let it go and let it for God.  In this way, that energy will be reclaimed within you and you can move forward with your life.

The girl who is covered in blood and in pain is you. The blood symbolizes your life, what you have loved and what you have lost.  You are feeling this loss passionately, and you are working through your grief.

This is a good dream, because your mind is opening up and allowing your heart to heal from your grief now.  PTSD symptoms occur when the mind is stuck and not healing; the memories keep replaying themselves as if the past events are still occurring.  But the fact that you are now dreaming in this way means your mind is processing your feelings of loss and you are healing.  You feel safe enough to feel your feelings and to process them.  Do not be afraid of these dreams.  If you allow them to unfold your trauma, and loss, you will experience full recovery.

She had parts of her body torn with her flesh hanging out: You literally feel as if parts of yourself were torn away from you.  The different parts of the body are symbolic of the different parts of you that were torn out of you.  You are in the process of putting all of those fragmented parts of yourself back to together, so that you can feel like a whole person again.  The flesh hanging out is your deep wounded self being exposed to you so that you can heal: You are facing your trauma, your fear, your anger, your extreme emotions, and that which you have been too afraid up until now to allow yourself to know about yourself.  Your insides are being exposed to you now.  Now, you can heal.

Her converse shoes and both feet had huge holes in them going through the shoes and into the flesh of their feet: Given the meaning of converse as being an exchange of thought or opinions, or even looking at something from a different perspective means that you are now “thinking through” your life steps; life steps because these are your feet.  These are walking shoes, and you are reflecting on where you have been and where this has brought you.  The holes in your feet are symbolic of the holes that you feel in your soul.  The blood on your feet is symbolic of the regret that you feel for where you have walked.  You were on a path that did not serve your soul and you have suffered as a result of road you have travelled.  You are processing the grief and pain that this has caused you.

Do not be afraid to face these feelings.  When we have buried our feelings for a long time, and then they begin to surface, the experience might seem terrifying at first.  But these are the parts inside you that you need to connect with, so that you can once again feel like an integrated and whole person.  In reality, you are this integrated and whole person, you are just going through a process of making sense of all that is inside you and within you so that you can feel this truth.

This is how Allah heals us.  He has answered your prayers and Allah will continue to be with you and you continue this process.  Eventually your nightmares will fade and the symbols of your dreams will change as you make progress through this “dark night of the soul”.  You have already survived the worst of this “dark night” when you were in the depth of despair and completely disconnected from yourself.  You are coming back into your body now.  And it is now safe to be in your body.

It is very likely that you will have continued dreams and you will see yourself in our body at different stages of healing.  Eventually you will recognize yourself.  This will be you coming home to you.  One very strong message that I am getting from your dreams:  forgive yourself for the harm you have caused yourself- Allah has already forgiven you, insha’Allah, and Allah is with you through this process.  You are not alone, and you will be seeing brighter days ahead.  As the holes in your feet begin to heal, you will begin to walk again; likewise, as the holes in your soul begin to heal, you will become whole again, and you will be back on your spiritual path- walking on the way of grace.

I would recommend that you continue to pray Istikarah as long as you feel the need.  Do not worry about making mistakes.  Allah knows your heart.

I also suggest that you go online and look for tips on how to practice mindfulness and also learn about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  Mindfulness and DBT will offer you some very powerful psychological tools that will empower you to calm your mind, open your heart, and move through these very powerful fears and emotions. Mindfulness and DBT will also provide you with very empowering tools to use not only to manage your emotions when you do feel as you heal, but to be able to tolerate your negative emotions, hurt, and pain as you work through them.

You are a capable and brave soul; you are doing very good work! And again, Allah is with you through every step you take on this journey of healing that will connect you to Him in a very real and blessed way.  Finally, do not give up; write down your dreams in a journal. This will further help your psyche to heal, so that you can reconnect with your heart.  Keep a notebook, pen and lamp by your bed and write the dreams as soon as you wake up from them.  This will facilitate the process.  You will be amazed.



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About Maryam Bachmeier
Dr. Bachmeier is a clinical psychologist who has been working in the mental health field for over 15 years. She is also a former adjunct professor at Argosy University, writer, and consultant in the areas of mental health, cultural, and relationship issues.