My path to Islam was long, long, long in coming and has been heavily influence by dreams that I believe with utmost certainty came directly from Allah.
I had been wanting to post about this and never found an opportunity, but now I have been prompted by a similar post by the Saudi Stepford Wife and an evening bout of insomnia.
Dreams are intensely personal and their meanings and symbols are often only intelligible to the dreamer. Why do I want to reveal something so personal? I want to demonstrate that a connection to God is possible and, in many ways, tangible.
My first dream about Islam actually came when I was twelve years old. I think I must explain that while I had a fairly multi-ethnic upbringing it was definitely mono-religious. The most religious variance I had seen was between my Non-denominational Christian mother and my Catholic Christian aunt and the most religious choice in my city was choosing churches. I had, to date, met only one girl who was Jewish and my knowledge of her religion extended mainly to the draedl that she brought to show and tell. Oh, and I read Anne Frank.
So to have the dream I had, with the detail that I had it in, meant it had to have come from a source other than experience.
In my dream I was standing in a perfectly square room lusciously carpeted with the pile all laying towards one direction. The walls were solid wood and unadorned except for one on my left side which was ornately carved into a screen of ivy and flowers, beyond which was another room that I knew was there without needing to have entered it. A room I knew was meant for women while I was rebelliously standing in the room meant for men with my head uncovered. I could feel the judging eyes of unseen peers upon me but I didn't care, what I was focusing my attention on was the overwhelming presence of God I felt. I could feel God's love for me and sadness at my choice to not cover my head. I could bear the judgement of the others but it was God's sadness that broke my heart.
All these years I can still feel those emotions and I can still see every detail of the dream. At twelve I didn't know what a headcovering was, nor what these odd rooms were, but it made a mark on me deeper than I will ever realize.
I also had a dream around the same time of french-kissing a dark-skinned man with what I would later realize was a sunnah beard. The fact of it is that the man in my dream looked remarkably like my husband- although I didn't know that yet. I remember the dream because 1- I had never french-kissed and the dream was incredibly vivid and tangible and 2- the man looked nothing like any men I had ever seen in my life. Why I was sent this dream I'm not entirely sure, except that it may have had something to do with recognizing my naseeb when I met him (alhumdulillah.)
My other two important dreams came after I was Muslim and in response to marriage istikhara I had been praying at the time. One was for a proposal I turned down and the other was for a proposal I accepted. And the reason that I am revealing both of them is because they have eerie similarities.
With the first dream I had been making istikhara for weeks and refusing to listen to what my heart was telling me the answer was. You know when you have one desire in your heart and you want your istikhara to back it up no matter what? Yeah. Like that, except God finally sat me down and gave me an irrefutable answer in the form of another vivid dream.
I was standing in a room getting ready for the wedding, in my wedding gown, with everyone waiting for me and all I had left were to put the gold bangles on. But they wouldn't stay on my wrists; I would slip them on and they would slide right off again and I began to get irrationally afraid, I felt there was no way I could get married without the bangles. I abandoned the effort and slipped out the door trying to find my way out but was discovered and brought to the auditorium where the wedding was to take place. The groom and the sheikh officiating were sitting and waiting for me on a platform at the top of a large flight of stairs (remember the stairs for future reference.) Feeling as if I were facing my doom I started up the stairs but as I ascended one by one my body began to get heavier and the effort to climb higher became greater until at the top I was climbing on my hands and knees, heaving my thousand-pound body up one stair at a time. When I got to the top and was about to take my seat next to the groom I panicked and, in a moment of distraction, made a break for it, racing down a back way and out the doors. My groom came after me and when I realized that there was no escape I collapsed into the grass and wished for oblivion. He came and laid down next to me as if we were jut companionably watching the clouds float by. Eventually I mentioned that we should probably go back and he just laughed and answered, "Why? We're already married." At which I felt like my life was over and the weight of the world was crushing my chest and then I woke up.
There was no misinterpreting that dream, but when I brought it to a local sheikh I found that in dreams bangles/bracelets are synonymous with religion. If the bangle is so tight you can't get it off it is a good sign meaning that it will be good for your religion, but if it won't stay on it means that which you were praying about is bad for your religion.
But I already knew it.
When it came to the decision to marry my husband I only made istikhara a few times but the dream I received in response was as obvious in its meaning as the other had been.
My dream began with me relaxing in an unending and perfect green field beneath an unblemished blue sky. Pretty much exactly the windows xp default wallpaper down to the giant hill, I kid you not. And this area I was contently chilling in was called Islam, as in thats what it was labeled on the map. Anyways, as I was hanging out I got a call from my family that my cousin (Oogie's older brother) had been killed on duty in Iraq and my family was in mourning. I knew I needed to be with them so I walked to the white marble wall that marked the border between Islam and Jahilya and hopped back into oblivion. In Jahilyah (its actual name in my dream) it was permanent dusk and there was no life, I immediately forgot about Islam and entered into a zombie-like state. I hooked up with my cousin (Oogie's younger sister) and began to go around with her from party to party. I never drank or partook in the sexual orgies and disgusting past times that marked everywhere I could see but I was a silent observer of it all. Eventually depression engulfed me and I left my cousin behind to wander looking for happiness (exactly like I had before I found Islam) until I realized that my phone had been incessantly ringing. I checked my voicemail and found messages from my husband-to-be saying that he knew I was not the person I had become, that what I was doing wasn't me, and that I needed to return. In that moment I remembered Islam and realized what spell I had been under and I set off back towards Islam. I came to the marble wall but getting back into Islam from Jahilya was going to be harder than leaving it had been. To leave I jumped a four-foot wall, but now between me and the wall, which had become now one hundred feet tall, was a gaping divide filled with hellfire. In order to cross the ravine and get over the wall I had to climb up a staircase of thin, razor-sharp silver wires. I dutifully began to climb and as I did the wires cut my hands and feet and I could look down straight into the hellfires and the demons waiting inside. But each step I climbed I shed my sins and my body became lighter until the wires no longer cut me and I felt as I were floating. I got to the top and rolled over to land back in Islam where my husband-to-be waited for me dressed in pristine white clothing. I clung to him crying about the terrible dream I had had about being stuck in Jahilya but he only brushed it away smiling with love into my face saying, "Don't worry habibty, it was only a dream. You are Muslim and you don't need to worry about a thing, its all over," and I woke up completely content.
From that moment I never feared the future with my now husband. I felt completely at peace with the decision to marry him and this peace has carried through to every part of our lives together.
God has granted me the supreme blessing of receiving my answers in such a concise manner. Not all istikhara is answered by dreams, not all of MY istikhara has been answered in dreams, but when it mattered I was given an answer there was no way I could deny.
Its been a long journey, but the blessings and rewards are great.
And I guess, if one is to believe my dream, Islam/Janna looks a lot like windows xp.
Also something I found out after I had that dream is that the soul must cross a bridge of razor thin wire between heaven and hell, each cut the soul receives removes a sin so by the time it reaches Janna it is pure.
I'm only reciting this from memory and not from an actual source as I find myself quite tired now and ready to go to bed.
To sleep, perchance to dream.