How to Have Dreams of the Prophet
A letter to my daughter.
The following is a story that my father used to tell my siblings and me when we were children:
A man once came to a scholar and said to him, “More than anything, I want to have a dream of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). How can I do this?”
The scholar thought for a moment, then told him, “Go home and eat a big dinner of extremely salty fish. Add as much salt as you can to your dish, but do not drink a single sip of water for the rest of the day. “
The man was incredibly excited. He rushed to the supermarket and bought up the saltiest fish he could find to have for dinner. During dinner, his senses were overwhelmed with the saltiness of the fish. He really wanted a glass of water, but he remembered what the scholar had told him and stayed away from it.
For the rest of the day, he was miserable. The saltiness scratched at his throat and he felt more parched than ever. All he could think about was how good it would feel to down a cup of ice-cold water.
When he went to bed, he tossed and turned because of his thirst, but eventually fell into a fitful sleep. Then he dreamt he was standing under a beautiful waterfall – it soaked him from head to toe, and he cupped his hands together to drink from the sweet, pure water.
The man woke up in the morning, startled. He quickly rushed to the scholar and said with impatience, “You said that if I followed your instructions, I would dream of the Prophet, but I didn’t! Water was the only thing I dreamt of all night.”
The scholar turned to him and said, “When something occupies your mind, actions, and senses all day, you will naturally dream about it at night. You were preoccupied with your wish to drink water, so you dreamt of it. If you become preoccupied with learning about the Prophet and following his Sunnah, that is what will occupy your dreams, too.”
I take two lessons from this story:
One: Whatever occupies your day in terms of actions, words, and thoughts, will not only leak into your dreams and the subconscious spaces of your mind, but it will also become who you are.
Guard your actions and words carefully.
Sometimes we tend to believe that whatever is in our hearts is what dictates the kind of people we are. While that is true in the sense that our actions are judged according to our intentions, our hearts are extremely malleable. The heart quickly rusts if left alone.
It is just as our beloved messenger (saw) said:
“For everything there is a polish, and the polish for the heart is the remembrance of Allah.”
Doing good can come as a result of having a sincere heart, this is true. But doing good can also be about someone wanting to have a sincere heart. You can’t stop doing good because you don’t feel the results. Spiritual guidance doesn’t simply come knocking at your door. You have to put in the time to pray, read, learn, and reflect, and have the dedication necessary to see the fruits of your labour.
Two: Sometimes we aim for lofty and noble goals, but we aren’t willing to put in the time or effort to make those things a reality. We want to take the path of least resistance (even though it’s the resistance that often teaches us the most valuable lessons).
Those in history who have been the most successful – regardless of whether we are speaking about financial success or spiritual success – have often gone through serious difficulties that took years to overcome. Their dedication to their work or their path, and their willingness to keep moving forward even when logic told them they should give up, was paramount to their success.
It takes time and effort to reach the summits of progress and success that we admire from down below.
We always ask Allah (swt) to make our paths easy and to grant us success – but we also have to be willing to take the concrete actions necessary to achieve what we seek.
Anas ibn Malik reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I untie her and trust in Allah?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.”