We Dream, Therefore God Is!

Epigraph:

He (Allah) is the Knower of the unseen; and He reveals not His secrets to any one, except to him whom He chooses, namely a Messenger of His. (Al Quran 72:27-28)

I-think-therefore-I-am-Descartes

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Cogito ergo sum (French: Je pense donc je suis; English: “I think, therefore I am“) is a philosophical Latin statement proposed by René Descartes. The simple meaning of the phrase is that someone wondering whether or not he or she exists is, in and of itself, proof that something, an “I”, exists to do the thinking. However, this “I” is not the more or less permanent person we call “I”. It may be that the something that thinks is purely momentary, and not the same as the something which has a different thought the next moment.[1]

The phrase became a fundamental element of Western philosophy, as it was perceived to form a foundation for all knowledge. While other knowledge could be a figment of imagination, deception or mistake, the very act of doubting one’s own existence serves to some people as proof of the reality of one’s own existence, or at least that of one’s thought.

The statement is sometimes given as Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum (English: “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am”).[2]

A common mistake is that people take the statement as proof that they, as a human person, exist. However, it is a severely limited conclusion that does nothing to prove that one’s own body exists, let alone anything else that is perceived in the physical universe. It only proves that one’s consciousness exists (that part of an individual that observes oneself doing the doubting). It does not rule out other possibilities, such as waking up to find oneself to be a butterfly who had dreamed of having lived a human life.

Descartes’s original statement was “Je pense donc je suis”, from his Discourse on Method (1637). He wrote it in French, not in Latin and thereby reached a wider audience in his country than that of scholars.[citation needed] He uses the Latin “Cogito ergo sum” in the later Principles of Philosophy (1644), Part 1, article 7:

Ac proinde hæc cognitio, ego cogito, ergo sum, est omnium prima & certissima, quæ cuilibet ordine philosophanti occurrat.

English: This proposition, I think, therefore I am, is the first and the most certain which presents itself to whoever conducts his thoughts in order.

At that time, the argument had become popularly known in the English speaking world as “the ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ argument,” which is usually shortened to “Cogito” when referring to the principle virtually everywhere else.

Human knowledge needs to be somehow well grounded in reality to distinguish it from myth, superstition and prejudice.  Even though the Greek, the Chinese, the Arabs, the Muslims and many others practiced science before the Western civilization in Europe, Rene Descartes perhaps best articulated the foundation of our scientific tradition, in “I think, therefore I am.”  It would be a reasonable speculation that others may have provided similar articulations before him, but his expression has gained broad acceptance in the Western civilization. So, it is helpful to understand our scientific tradition grounded in reproducible human observations, which in turn are  grounded in “I think, therefore I am!”

But, do not forget that in addition to thinking while awake, we all also dream when sleeping.  What does that mean for us or what ramifications it has on a larger scale?   “Dreaming, a common and distinctive phenomenon of sleep, has throughout human history given rise to myriad beliefs, fears, and conjectures,” says Encyclopedia Britannica, “both imaginative and experimental, regarding its mysterious nature. While any effort toward classification must be subject to inadequacies, beliefs about dreams nonetheless fall into various classifications depending upon whether dreams are held to be reflections of reality, sources of divination, curative experiences, or evidence of unconscious activity.”[1]

Cave of Hira: Where Revelation of the Holy Quran started

By providing a faculty of dreaming to almost every human on planet earth, God has provided a metaphor for True dreams and Revelations.  Every human can easily understand and conceptualize, the idea of True dreams, because of his or her own limited experience with dreams, in at least healing of emotional wounds and new insights and intuitions every so often. The very first verses of the Holy Quran, revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, served as grounding the truth of Islam in Revelation and human observation at the same time:

Convey thou (Muhammad) in the name of thy Lord Who created,
Created man from a clot of blood.
Convey! And thy Lord is Most Generous,
Who taught man by the pen,
Taught man what he knew not.
Nay! man does indeed transgress,
Because he thinks himself to be independent. (Al Quran 96:2-8)

Hira

A close up of the cave of Hira

Sir Zafrulla Khan, the President of the UN General Assembly in 1962–1966, explains how the Holy Quran grounds Revelation from the Divine and human observation at the same time, by highlighting its style of reasoning, ‘From the Physical and Tangible to the Spiritual and Intangible.’  Khan writes in Islam: Its meaning for the modern man:

The Quran speaks at every level; it seeks to reach every type of understanding, through parables, similitudes, arguments, reasoning, the observation and study of the phenomena of nature, and the natural, moral, and spiritual laws (18:55; 39:28; 59:22).  It reasons from the physical and tangible to the spiritual and intangible. For instance: “Among His Signs is this; that thou seest the earth lying withered, but when We send down water on it, it stirs and swells with verdure. Surely He Who quickens the earth can quicken the dead. Verily, He has power over all things” (41:40). Here, by quickening of the dead is meant the revival and rebirth of a people. As the dead earth is quickened by life-giving rain from heaven, a people that appears to be dead in all respects is revived and regenerated through spiritual water from the heavens, that is to say, through Divine revelation. This idea is expressed in the Quran in several places. Both resurrection and renaissance are explained with reference to the phenomenon of the dead earth being revived through life-giving rain (22:6-8). [2]

Anyone who has had an epiphany moment, a sudden yet luminous intuition from nowhere or has experienced a True dream has partaken from a portion of Revelation. These phenomena lie on a continuum of decreasing human contribution and increasing input from the Transcendent God.  However, unfortunately, most atheist philosophers generally do not address Revelation, when building a case for their philosophy. In this sense they shut the possibility to themselves and to their readers. They want to crib, cabin and confine reality into a paradigm where revelation is a taboo. In this background Emeritus Professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii, Prof Victor J. Stenger has devoted a chapter to ‘Revelation’ in his book God: the Failed Hypothesis.  Read further in May 2008 Alislam-eGazette: Revelation and Reason.

Like Descartes provided foundation for our observations, True dreams, which emphatically and precisely describe a future event, root another source of human knowledge firmly into reality, namely ‘Revelation.’  We Dream, Therefore God Is!  Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the previous international leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has precisely tackled this question, in his epic making book, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth.  He writes in a chapter titled, the Nature of Revelation:

In 1865 a German chemist, Friedrich August Kekule, was struggling to solve a problem in chemistry that had baffled all researchers. One night Kekule had a dream in which he saw a snake with its tail held in its mouth. This dream instantly put him on the right track leading to the solution of the perplexing question. Thus was unravelled the secret of the molecular behaviour in certain organic compounds, a discovery which created a revolution in the understanding of organic chemistry. He interpreted this dream to mean that in the benzene molecule, carbon atoms bond together to form a ring structure. This knowledge gave birth to the huge and highly developed field of synthetic organic chemistry producing a vast new range of synthetic materials. The contemporary pharmaceutical industry has become growingly dependent on synthetic drugs. Mankind is indeed indebted to that one dream through which Kekule resolved that problem.

Elias Howe was the first person to mechanize the process of sewing. He too received the answer to a problem that had frustrated him for a long time through a dream. In his dream he saw himself surrounded by savages, who threatened to kill him unless he designed a sewing machine. Being unable to respond he was tied to a tree and the savages started to attack him with arrows and spears. It surprised him to see eyelets on their spearheads. On waking from this dream, he immediately realized the solution, which led him to invent the prototype of the sewing machine that was to dramatically revolutionize the sewing industry. Through his dream he understood that he should consider placing the eye of the needle in its point.

It was this idea which helped him resolve a seemingly impossible task. It is difficult to visualize the sorry state in which man would find himself today without the blessing of this dream. What a revolution was created indeed by this revelation!

In view of many such experiences, one of the possible explanations that comes to mind is that revelation is a phenomenon arising from the subconscious. When the conscious mind is tired of pondering over intriguing problems before falling to sleep, it transfers those problems to the subconscious. During sleep the subconscious keeps reflecting on the data fed into it, and finally computes the much needed solution. Sometimes the solutions may be perceived through visions and sometimes heard in the form of verbal messages. This being so, would it mean that all types of revelation, in whatever manner they appear, are really messages from the subconscious without exception?

In the cases described above, it may well be argued that all the necessary pieces of information needed for the resolution of those problems were already in the conscious mind, the subconscious only proving to be a more powerful tool for synthesizing such information in some mysterious manner. Is this then the sum total of the entire human experience of inspirational revelation or are there other forms that lie beyond the scope of mental processes alone?

The major religions of the world believe that their prophets and also many other holy men received revelation from an external source called God. Others consider this to be a mistaken inference and do not accuse them of willful fraud, since they could genuinely have mistaken a purely internal experience for a message received from an external source. But if this was so, then the foundations of all the so-called Divine religions would be on very shaky ground. The truth of such claims could only be proved if ample external evidence supports it.

As it would be too extensive and laborious a task to verify the truth of all such claimants individually, we shall only attempt to apply this criterion to the Holy Quran. The foundation of most major religions rests in the belief that there is a Supreme Creator Who, having created man, never abandoned him and continued to take interest in his affairs. It is He Who imparts guidance through His messengers, whenever and to whomsoever He pleases. He reveals knowledge of His existence and expresses His will to mankind to shape their lives in accordance with His instruction. If this is true then revelation will have to be treated as an independent source of knowledge, distinct from mere psychic inspiration, and rationality would occupy only a second place compared to it.

The Holy Quran offers a precise criterion for the truth of Divine Revelation.  It is rooted in the demonstrable fact that humans do not have any direct knowledge of future:

He (Allah) is the Knower of the unseen; and He reveals not His secrets to any one, except to him whom He chooses, namely a Messenger of His.  (Al Quran 72:27-28)

One can quibble till the cows come home, whether a certain claim of a True dream or Revelation is genuine or not, but, any unbiased person will have to agree that a clear and well documented Revelation of an improbable future event has to be attributed to an All Knowing God.  We Dream, Therefore God Is!

If and when we have a collection of improbable yet true prophecies, the  claim becomes irrefutable. 

It is true that a great majority of dreams are not true and have no profound message.  But, we do not want to throw the baby with bath water.  We need to separate out the pearls from cow dung, in a manner of speaking.  Now, let me present an account of dreams as a source of divination, from Encyclopedia Britannica, for some broad and general ideas:

There is an ancient belief that dreams predict the future; the Chester Beatty Papyrus is a record of Egyptian dream interpretations dating from the 12th dynasty (1991–1786 bce). In Homer’s Iliad, Agamemnon is visited in a dream by a messenger of the god Zeus to prescribe his future actions. From India, a document called the Atharvaveda, dated to the 5th century bce, contains a chapter on dream omens. A Babylonian dream guide was discovered in the ruins of the city of Nineveh among tablets from the library of the emperor Ashurbanipal (668–627 bce). The Old Testament is rife with accounts of prophetic dreams, those of the pharaohs and of Joseph and Jacob being particularly striking. Among pre-Islamic peoples, dream divination so heavily influenced daily life that the practice was formally forbidden by Muhammad (570–632), the founder of Islam.

Ancient and religious literatures express the most confidence about so-called message dreams. Characteristically, a god or some other respected figure appears to the dreamer (typically a king, a hero, or a priest) in time of crisis and states a message. Such reports are found on ancient Sumerian and Egyptian monuments; frequent examples appear in the Bible. Joseph Smith (1805–44), the founder of Mormonism, said that an angel directed him to the location of buried golden tablets that described American Indians as descendants of the tribes of Israel.

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Not all dream prophecies are so readily accepted. In Homer’s Odyssey, for example, dreams are classed as false (“passing through the Gate of Ivory”) and as true (“passing the Gate of Horn”). Furthermore, prophetic meaning may be attributed to dream symbolism. In the Bible, Joseph interpreted sheaves of grain and the Moon and stars as symbols of himself and his brethren. In general, the social status of dream interpreters varies; in cultures for which dreams loom important, their interpretation has often been an occupation of priests, elders, or medicine men.[1]

I have collected the role of dreams in intuitions leading to development of science in an article: Al Aleem: The Bestower of true Dreams.

A thorough understanding of physiology of sleep and dreams, gives us back ground knowledge to judge the issue at hand of True Dreams and Revelations, with greater clarity: True Nature of Divine Revelations.

Ultimately the issues pertaining to our thinking and our dreaming impinge on our understanding of our soul and consciousness, which is a very detailed subject by itself and if you would like to take a detour, I am going to suggest a publication:  Alislam-eGazette publishes its landmark Volume about Soul and Consciousness

The practice of reductionism in science is helpful in studying small aspects of nature at a time and in making discoveries and precisely communicating with each other, but, at the same time it has the side effect of losing the forest for the tree and at times creates a situation of several blind men feeling different parts of an elephant and confusing the part for the total reality:

blindmenandelephant

In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.  The stories differ primarily in how the elephant’s body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes and how (or if) the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved.  The scientific tradition has certainly helped us in developing our technology and in knowing our world and we all accept Rene Descartes premise, “I think, therefore I am.”  If we deny revelation we are not only ignoring our dreams but also a large segment of human history and trying to explain it in secular colors, with only minimal success.  Any attempt to deny revelation only fractures human understanding and appreciation of reality and puts us in the state of blind men feeling parts of an elephant.  To a thinking and humble mind the conclusion, ‘We dream, therefore God is,’ is inescapable!  When we allow both human observation and the faculty of Revelation, we come up with a holistic view of our universe and our station and purpose in it.  There is no denying that acceptance of all claims of revelations or dreams, on face value, will lead to total chaos in human understanding.  Discrimination among dreams and revelations is clearly in order.  This is where our religions and religious freedoms come into play and different apologists want to make a case for their respective scriptures.  Unlike, human observation, true dreams or revelations of one person cannot be shared per se by another and are not reproducible.  So, each person has to confirm or refute the claim of different scriptures for himself or herself, but the struggle is worth the effort.

Epilogue

We Dream, Therefore God Is!

So, for any one who has himself of herself  experienced true dreams or one who believes in the institution of true dreams for historical reasons, based on the unparalleled influence of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, Moses and other Jewish prophets, may peace be on all of them, in human history, the inference is inevitable, “We dream, true dreams at times, therefore God is!”

Let me collect a few posts to demonstrate some of the prophecies in the Holy Quran:

A Quranic Prophecy against High Odds: The Roman victory against the Persians

May 2008 Alislam-eGazette: Revelation and Reason

Dr. Maurice Bucaille: ‘The Qur’an appears as a Challenge to Human Explanation!’

To see our collection of articles about Revelation, click here.

References

1. “dream”.  Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 03 Jul. 2012
<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/171188/dream>.

2. Source: Islam – Its Meaning for Modern Man

 

 

Categories: Highlight, ISLAM

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11 replies

  1. For this great contribution many readers get in to the depth of “We Dream, Therefore God Is! “ I am delighted. THANKS. May we become true servant of Creator and love his Creation.

  2. Great exposition, while many create or write their “dreams” in order to achieve the goals in life there are real dreams we see while in our sleep. We as Ahmadi Muslims also know of “kashf” said to be a live dream. Those of us who are familiar with dreams that have seen and after experienced their literal fulfillment are convinced doubt that there is God. True and pure dreams come as assurance as answers to our prayers that give us the absolute conviction in God that He exists and it dreams are a proof of His existence.

    In my Tabligh to a person when he related seeing a dream of Hazrat Masih-e-Maoud in course of Hajj at Mecca as if he was seeing the Holy Prophet, I submitted that was a clear evidence from God that Hazrat Masih-e-Maoud was a true representative of the Holy Prophet.

  3. Thank you so much everyone for your worth while contributions and comments. Let me now add something from the Bible. It lays down the criteria of true prophet hood and prophecy as it prophecies the coming of the Holy Prophet Muhammad:

    I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

    But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18: 18-22)

    This is from King James Version.

  4. This is not a dream this is a relationship that is really real. The truth is that we Live because God lives in us.

    God rich become poor so we could be rich in Him.
    We poor became rich because God gave us His Son so we could have life in Him.

    God’ son Jesus was born and entered into our humanity.
    Jesus died and rose again to be with His Father in heaven.His divinity
    He sent His Holy Spirit, the comforter to fill us with His life. The Grace filled Life. He is a personal God therefore is not a distant aloof God for dreamers only.

    • Dear Mike, although I had thorough Christian training as a child I am afraid I still cannot follow you.

      God cannot make us rich without ‘giving us his son’ ?

      We all will die one day and, Inshallah, proceed to heaven to be near God …

      Anyway, thanks for your comments. (May be someone else will understand them)…

  5. I have read your essay with respect and love. My delight and enjoyment urged me to pray for your extremely beneficial contribution to further explain the veracity of the holy Quran e Kareem. May Allah bless you in every way for being one of the Dai’a Ilallah preaching Ahmadiyyat True Islam expounded by the Promised Mesiah and His Khulafa, amen. An excellent contribution indeed.

  6. Zia, Sha – always show the context by citing the complete text, as I have here. Our christian Commentaries always, or ought, use the Context to explain the Part.

    Matthew Henry refers to 21,22 as ‘a right touchstone’ a measurement of, or test of Prophethood.- I am not going to give the reference to this article since I do not desire the Biblical cross-references to detract from or spoil what has been an engrossing article.

    I have broken my own rule here – by citing two word that place the verse in Context – (the proof of the pudding is in the eating)

    Matthew 7:16 – Wikipedia

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_7:16

    Matthew 7:16 is the sixteenth verse of the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This verse continues the section warning against false prophets. In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads: ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits.” a confirmation of the words of Moses by the prophet jesus

    A New Prophet

    15The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; 16 According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. 17 And the LORD said unto me, They have well [spoken that] which they have spoken. 18I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19 And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require [it] of him. 20But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that [is] the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, [but] the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. ( Deuteronomy 18: 15-22) ( JKV+ strongs Hebrew)

    Thank you for a most insightful article

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