Sabahat Ali Rajput, Missionary
Covid-19 has left such a traumatic trail in its wake that it has hijacked our sleep.
At 0.125 microns, the virus has pronouncedly shaken the deepest foundations of economy and sent the bleeding edge of science spiraling back to the drawing board. The relentless hustle and bustle of our timetables – always competing with the microseconds of our clocks – have come to a screeching halt.
For the first time in a generation, we’ve stopped to smell the roses.
Still, the virus has also thrust upon us the occasion to ruminate and introspect, to the point that scores of people are reporting having seen more frequent, vivid, and disturbing dreams than ever before. Hashtag trends like #CovidDreams and #CoronaNightmares furnish some superbly fascinating insight into the more invisible tentacles of the novel Coronavirus. And why wouldn’t it? Every screen, discussion, update, alert, and notification has become about one thing.
Our neurological defence mechanisms are being forced to take over and try to make sense of this emotional and informational bombardment.
With the innumerable factors weighing in on our thoughts, what is the common denominator influencing our dreams?
Until Covid-19 rolled in unsolicited, we enjoyed a level of emotional, financial, and societal stability in most of the western world – the everyday hustle notwithstanding. But the novel Coronavirus has latched onto our minds parasitically. Like a dulling psychological ulcer, the total uncertainty of jobs, livelihood and life itself, is causing our minds to bleed out, and dreaming, psychologists argue, is nature’s self-regulating emergency patchwork.
Sander Van der Lindin, in The Science Behind Dreaming, concludes:
“Dreams seem to help us process emotions by encoding and constructing memories of them. What we see and experience in our dreams might not necessarily be real, but the emotions attached to these experiences certainly are. Our dream stories essentially try to strip the emotion out of a certain experience by creating a memory of it. This way, the emotion itself is no longer active. This mechanism fulfils an important role because when we don’t process our emotions, especially negative ones, this increases personal worry and anxiety. In fact, severe REM sleep-deprivation is increasingly correlated to the development of mental disorders. In short, dreams help regulate traffic on that fragile bridge which connects our experiences with our emotions and memories.”
While great strides are being made about the chemistry and parts of the brain responsible for conjuring dreamscapes, a gaping void sits unaddressed to satisfaction: what do our dreams mean, if anything at all? After all, not all dreams are based on memories. We often have dreams of places we’ve never seen, places which cannot actually exist in the physical world. We fly and eat foods we’ve never encountered. Such elaborate universes are fashioned through the agency of spectacular brain chemistry as are inconceivable and simply cannot be dubbed as convoluted memories.
Obviously, therefore, there is far more to dreaming than simply the recycling of memories. There are undoubtedly involved the creative faculties of the brain as well which give artistic and architectural expression to the minutest details in ways that we could never envisage while awake. Dreams transport us to panoramas and universes where the fabrics of time and space themselves are humbled. The realm of the impossible explodes like a supernova onto the infinitely elastic canvass of our minds, unravelling such picturesque and thorough worlds as are impossible to reproduce by our conscious mind.
Another side of the Looking Glass
All the major religions of the world have given far more credence and value to the meaning of dreams than modern science will allow. From Buddhism to Islam and beyond, dreams are portals at times – access to the unseen. From providing invaluable information about otherwise secret events unfolding on the other end of the globe to auguring outcomes swathed in the fabric of the future, dreams in the world of religion are hailed as precious gateways to thitherto unknown information.
The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (1835-1908) claimed to be the Promised Messiah (as) awaited by all major religions of the world. He penned thousands of pages about spirituality and wrote extensively about the reality of dreams at a time when the reigns of science were steering mankind toward the cusp of atheism.
He explained, for instance, that
“God Almighty has divided His wonderful universe into three parts.
First, the world which is manifest and can be felt through the eyes and the ears and other physical senses and through ordinary instruments. Secondly, the world which is hidden, and which can be understood through reason and conjecture. Thirdly, the world which is hidden beyond the hidden, which is so imperceptible that few are even aware of it. This world is entirely unseen and cannot be accessed by reason and theory alone. It is disclosed only through visions, revelation and inspiration and not by any other means.
…It is the way of Allah that for the discovery of the first two worlds we’ve mentioned He has bestowed upon man different types of faculties and powers. In the same way He has appointed a means for man to discover the third world: revelation, inspiration and visions.
Indeed, those who comply with the conditions for achieving them have, throughout mankind’s history, been recipients of true dreams and will continue to be.”
“The wonders of the third world (of revelation through dreams and visions) are endless compared to the other two worlds as the sun is against a grain of poppyseed. To insist that the mysteries of that world should be wholly accessed through rationality would be like shutting one’s eyes and insisting that visible things should become perceptible through the sense of smell.”
A Mysterious Portal for Knowledge
History is replete with innumerable instances where future events were vouchsafed to individuals in dreams. Perhaps the greatest collection of such dreams which unravelled impossible information to the ones who saw them exists in the records of Islamic history. From the time of its Holy Founder Muhammad (sa), the astonishing anecdotes run into millions. At times, two or more people have the same dream with such perfectly paralleled details as evoke true wonder for an unbiased onlooker.
On other occasions, people who have passed away appear in the dreamworld of the living and give them information about current world events and realities as were impossible to glean with the information available at the time. We have on record such a dream:
Thaabit bin Qais, may God be pleased with him, died fighting in the battle of Yamaama. He was clad in an expensive piece of armour which someone had taken off his dead body after he fell. A few days after his death, Thaabit appeared to a friend in a dream. He emphatically told him that he must act on what he, the martyred one, was about to tell him and mustn’t treat what he was saying as mere talk in a dream.
In the dream, Thaabit said to his friend, “When I fell fighting in the battlefield, I had on me a beautiful and expensive armour which a certain person took away from my body after I died. His tent is at the outskirts of the Muslim camp near the lodging for horses. The man has hidden my armour underneath a large saucepan which he has covered with a packsaddle blanket. You must go to the Muslim Commander, Khalid bin Waleed (ra) and request him, on my behalf, to recover the armour from that tent.
When you get the armour, then go to the Caliph of the Holy Prophet (sa) and request him to pay my debts off by selling this armour. Moreover, I hereby grant freedom to my slave. I repeat to you that you must not treat this as a mere dream.”
So moved and affected by this dream was Thaabit’s friend, that he acted upon the instructions given by Thaabit in the dream and approached Khalid bin Waleed (ra) who told him to go and find the armour, which was found exactly as directed in the dream. The friend then went to Medina and paid the debt of his deceased friend and arranged for the freedom of Thaabit’s slave.
Regarding such wondrous phenomena, the Promised Messiahas and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at has explained:
“ The greatest wonder is that sometimes one possessing the capacity for vision, through concentration, appears to another person, with the permission of God Almighty, at a distance of hundreds of miles in a state of complete wakefulness without his body moving from its place.
Reason holds that a person cannot be at two places at the same time, yet this impossibility becomes possible in the third world (of dreams and visions). In the same way, a person of understanding witnesses hundreds of wonders with his own eyes and is surprised at the denial of those who altogether reject the wonders of the third world.
I have witnessed the wonders and rare visions of that world with my own eyes approximately five thousand times and have experience of them happening to myself. It would take a large volume to record details of these experiences. One wonderful aspect of these experiences is that some matters which have no external existence come into being through Divine power.
The author of the Futoohaat and Fusoos (Ibne Arabi (rh)) and other great Sufis have recorded a number of their own experiences of this kind in their compilations. But as there is a great difference between hearing and seeing, I could not have obtained that certainty by merely reading these accounts which I have acquired through my own experience.” 
Still more flabbergasting are dreams where person A is commanded to do something to person B, while person B is told the same night that person A will carry out that action. An example of this follows:
A Muslim king had ordered a saint – Hazrat Imam Musa Raza – to be imprisoned. After some time, it so happened that in the middle of the night the King sent a very urgent message to his Prime Minister to reach the royal palace immediately without the least delay. The Prime Minister raced to the palace running bare-headed and without shoes. Perplexed and anxious, the Prime Minister asked the King what had happened. The King told him what he had just seen an overwhelmingly powerful dream.
“I saw a huge Abyssinian slave holding a hatchet in his hand. The slave commanded me to set Imam Musa Raza free immediately or he would kill me mercilessly.”
“Therefore,” the King urged, his voice dripping with desperation and insistence, “make haste at once to the royal prison with a purse of one thousand gold coins and tell the saint that he is free and may go and live wherever he pleases.”
Accordingly, the Prime Minister went straight to the prison. As he approached Imam Musa Raza, the saint stood up and said, “Before you say anything, you must first listen to the dream that I have seen just a while ago.”
The saint continued, “God Almighty has given me the good news that I shall be set free before the sun rises this morning.”
These were but some examples which convey the unquestionably powerful nature of dreams as means of otherwise impossible information and catalysers toward action. Many dreams are of a metaphorical nature – their meanings must be excavated and unearthed through spiritual regimen and the knowledge of dreams. Still, other dreams become apparent when they are fulfilled and the seer is reminded of the dream as though he is seeing it in broad daylight before him.
Hence, such experiences spread over the vast expanse of human history which are also alive and well today, do warrant an unbiased curiosity. For those who are gifted with the experience, there exists not a modicum of doubt that they mean so much more than a recycling of our own weltering void of unconscious thinking.
 Sander Van Der Lindin, The Science Behind Dreaming, Scientific American ©, published July 26, 2011, accessed online May 13, 2020.
 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Essence of Islam Vol. II, under “Revelation, Inspiration, Vision and Dreams.”
 Shah Wali Ullah Muhaddith of Delhi, Azalat-alKhifa ‘an Khilafat-al-Khulafa Vol. I Publishers: Muhammad Saled & Sons, Quran Mahal: pp. 179-180
 Malfuzat Vol. 10, original Urdu Edition, Published by Ash-Shirkatul Islamiyyah