Islam and Freud

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Lubna Rehman

Freud’s Dream Interpretation in the Light of Islamic Dream Ideas Questions about dreams, about why do we have them and what do they mean are questions that have been a subject of debate for centuries. On the one hand we have scientists who believe that we dream for physiological reasons alone and that dreams are essentially mental nonsense devoid of psychological meaning: "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." The idea that dreams are nothing more than "meaningless biology". On the other hand we have a coalition of Freudians which includes Dr. Fleiss who found his dream interpretations “quite accurate” and other dream analyzers who committed to the view that we dream for psychological reasons and that dreams always contain important information about the self or some aspects of one's life which can be extracted by various methods of interpretation. This camp says that "an uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter." The third camp is the one occupying the middle ground, that believes both of the extreme positions on the function and meaning of dreams to be partly right and partly wrong. Its proponents such as Alfred Adler argue that dreams may have both physiological and psychological determinants, and therefore can be either meaningful or meaningless, varying greatly in terms of psychological significance. Allan Hobson was also for a psychological meaning of dreams but he thought no need to lock it under layers of secretive subconscious meanings. The fourth and another important camp about dreams in the Muslim faith. In the Qur’an, as in the Jewish Torah and the Christian New Testament, dreams serve as a vital medium by which God communicates with humans. Dreams offer divine guidance and comfort, warn people of impending danger, and offer prophetic glimpses of the future, offer a valuable source of wisdom, understanding, and inspiration. Satan also plays a major role in dreams by bestowing dreams that cause grief or even purely sexual dreams (unlike Freud’s sexual ‘interpretation’) which requires the dreamer to take a bath. Trying to cover up the cultural chasm between Islamic and Western traditions, this paper is an attempt to highlight and contrast the Islamic and Freudian ideas of dream interpretation. The simple fact is that all humans dream, and thus dreaming itself is a bridging phenomenon between the two traditions.Freud thought that the function of dreams was to allow the release of repressed thoughts and impulses which cause excitation in neural activity. The only way that the wish could be subdued is by the release of the “nervous energy” that was caused by it. Also, Freud noted that “though the number of symbols is large, the number of subjects symbolized is not large. In dreams those pertaining to sexual life are the overwhelming majority...They represent the most primitive ideas and interests imaginable.” Therefore, the same “dream symbol” meant that they both had the same repressed wish.| Part of what made people skeptical about Freudian theories is this notion of universal dream symbolism. That is, if two people have the same visual imagery in a dream, is it the case that it has the same meaning? Some scientists dismiss the notion of meaning all together.| Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley, two Harvard University scientists stressed that the motivating force for dreaming is not psychological but physiological. Muslims on the other hand have been paying close attention to their dreams for nearly 1500 years, and their insights and observations have many significant points of contact with the theories developed by Western psychologists over the past 150 years. With the very definition of who the Islamic interpreters of dreams are, Muslims can discard the very existence of Freud’s ideas. Sunnah says that the interpreters of dreams are either Prophets or their followers. Or else, they have to be good, pious and knowledgeable people who know the Quran, the...
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