The late and great Nabeel Qureshi spoke about dreams in his book or autobiography Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Here are some excerpts:
[From chapter 9:]
Abba had seen a dream. In our culture, dreams are carefully considered because, as a well-known hadith teaches, “The dreams of the faithful are prophetic.” In fact, dreams are the only means I know of by which the average Muslim expects to hear directly from God.
There is good reason for this expectation: dreams often did come true. Abba had many prophetic dreams. One example was when he was enlisted, he had to take a test for purposes of promotion to petty officer first class. The day of his test, he had a dream that he and five of his friends were in a battlefield under heavy fire. There was a fence in the distance, and they had to make it over the fence to be safe. All six of them took off running. Abba made it over the fence first, and another friend made it over after him. The other four didn’t make it.
[Quotation in the center of the page:] Dreams are the only means by which the average Muslim expects to hear directly from God.
A few weeks later, when he got his successful test scores back, he found out that the same five friends had all taken the test, and the only other one who passed was the one who made it over the fence in the dream.
Nani Ammi once had a recurrent dream about her father shortly after he passed away and was buried. He was knocking on her door and asking her for help, totally soaked by the rain. After having the dream on three successive nights, she decided to visit his grave. When she arrived, she found that an animal had burrowed a hole into his grave, and the monsoon rains had flooded it.
In my family alone, people have had clairvoyant dreams of sicknesses, miscarriages, births, deaths, and a host of other events. A dream was no matter to take lightly, especially one that might portend an avoidable calamity.
[From chapter 48:]
God had given me a dream. And I had no idea what it meant.
The quality of this dream was unlike any I had ever experienced. Even while in the dream, I had an awareness that this was a message from God. I don’t know how; I just knew. But the dream was cryptic, full of symbols I did not understand.
[Quotation in the center of the page:] Even while in the dream, I had an awareness that this was a message from God.
After waking, I remembered the dream with crystal clarity and none of the vague fuzziness that accompanies my other dreams. Though it was emblazoned on my mind, I did not know how long I would remember it, so I wrote everything down, my mind still reeling from this apparent revelation. This is what I wrote that day:
In the beginning of the dream there was a poisonous snake with red and black bands going around it, separated by thin white stripes. All it did was hiss at people when they stepped into the garden. The people in the garden garden couldn’t see it — it was far away and watching from a perch on a stone pillar. This pillar was across a chasm. The perch then became my vantage point for the first half of my dream.
In a garden-like area with hills and lush green grass and trees, there was a huge iguana, like a dragon. It would lie still and hide by becoming like a hill — no one who walked on it knew it was an iguana. If they had known, they would be scared, but the iguana liked the fact that no one knew. Then a giant boy came, and this giant boy knew that the iguana was an iguana, and he stepped on it, accusing it of being an iguana. The iguana got angry, so he reared back to bite the giant boy, who had stepped on its tail.
As the iguana was about to bite the boy, the boy had a huge cricket that challenged the iguana to a fight. My vantage point changes now, and I am directly beneath the iguana, looking up at its head. The iguana nodded and accepted the challenge, and as the cricket flew away to go to a fighting place, the iguana turned to me and tried to lunge at me and kill me. The cricket saw that the iguana was lunging at me, so he came back and bit its head off, decapitating it.
All morning, my thoughts were consumed with this dream. What did it mean? What were the symbols, and how did they fit together? … I began turning the words over in my mind. Cricket. Iguana. Cricket. Iguana. Cr . . . I . . . Cr . . . I . . . Christianity. Islam.
[From chapter 49:]
I shared the dream with Ammi, who told me she did not know exactly how all the symbols fit together, but it was a sign from Allah that ought to confirm my confidence in Islam. When I shared the vision and dream with David [Wood], he said there was no doubt that the dream pointed me to Christianity.
I remembered what David had said about the Joseph in the New Testament. God had given him “clear instructions” through dreams. That was what I needed. And, surely, if God wanted to guide me, a broken skeptic, He would know that I needed more.
“Three,” I said to myself. “Allah likes odd numbers, and the Christian God is triune. Why not ask for three dreams?” So I returned to Allah in prayer with a very specific request.
“Instead of just one dream, please give me three. If they all point to Christianity, then I will become Christian. Please, Lord, show me mercy. Please make the next dream so easy to understand that it requires no interpretation.” On the morning of March 11, 2005, I had a new dream to scrawl onto paper.
I am standing at the entrance of a narrow doorway that is built into a wall of brick. I am not in the doorway but just in front of it. The doorway is an arch. I would say the doorway is about seven and a half feet tall, with about six and a half feet of its sides being straight up from the ground, and there’s a one foot arched part on the top capping it off. The doorway is slightly less than three feet wide and about three or four feet deep, all brick. It leads into a room, where many people are sitting at tables that have fancy and good food on them. I think I remember salads, but I’m not sure. They were not eating, but they were all ready to eat, and they were all looking to my left, as if waiting for a speaker before the banquet. One of the people, at the other side of the door just inside the room, is David Wood. I am unable to walk into the room because David is occupying the other threshold of the doorway. He is sitting at a table and is also looking to my left. I asked him, “I thought we were going to eat together?” And he said, without removing his eyes from the front of the room, “You never responded.”
When I woke up from the dream, I immediately had an interpretation: the room was heaven, the feast was a feast in the kingdom of heaven, and it was a wedding feast of sorts. In order to get into the room, I had to respond to David’s invitation.
If there was one thing I did not get about the dream, it was the door. It was the most dramatic symbol in the dream, but what did it mean? Why was that the most vivid image? And why was it so narrow?
By this time, Ammi was becoming suspicious of my questions about dreams, and since this one had David in it, there was no way I could ask her what she thought it meant. I called David, though, to see what he thought.
“Nabeel,” he responded, “this dream is so clear it doesn’t need to be interpreted.” His words immediately reminded me of what I had prayed to God a few days earlier. Asking for more, he told me to read Luke 13:22.
Instead of Abba’s King James Version, I turned to a study Bible that David had given me the previous year as a gift. I had never even opened it until this point. It was a Zondervan NIV study Bible. When I arrived at the passage, in big, bold letters, the section heading read: “The Narrow Door.”
My heart skipped a beat. I had never seen this section of the Bible before. I carefully read it and reread it:
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ . . .
“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
I stopped reading and put the Bible down. I was overwhelmed. God had given me a dream that was so clear that I did not need to interpret it. The interpretation had been recorded in the Bible for two thousand years.
The narrow door was the door to salvation. Jesus was telling me to make every effort to enter into it, and I knew from the dream that I needed to respond to David’s invitation in order to enter and take my place in the feast of the kingdom of heaven. If I did not enter, I would be left standing outside, asking to come in.
[From chapter 50:]
I had asked for three dreams, though, and God is unbelievably gracious. In the early hours of April 24, 2005, I received a third dream.
I am sitting on the first step of a flight of white stairs in a masjid. The stairs go up, and they have ornate posts at the first step, with hand railings going up to the left. I am not sure of the material of the stairs, though I’m thinking either stone/marble or wood. I am facing away from the top of the stairs. I can see myself in this dream, and the angle of view is of my right side as I sit on the stairs and look forward, where I’m expecting someone to speak, possibly at a brown wooden podium, though I’m not sure. The room has green carpeting, and people are expected to sit on the floor, though I am on the first stair and feel nothing wrong with this. I expect people to fill in the section to my left, which is also to the left of the stairs. Nothing is going on in the right side of the room.
As the room gradually fills up, the imam sits down on the floor slightly behind me and to my left. He is wearing white and is looking in the same direction as everyone else. Since I expected him to be the speaker, and since he is a holy man and the imam, I am surprised and confused that he is on the floor behind me. Out of respect, I try to get off the stairs and sit behind him, but I am unable to get off the stairs. I feel as if I’m being held on the stairs by an unknown/unseen force. The force did not seem particularly brusque, nor was it particularly kind. It just held me on the stairs.
The dream ended with a sense of confusion, as I did not understand what I was to do, and I did not understand what everyone was waiting for and didn’t know who was going to speak after all.
For me, the dream was clear enough. I was on stairs that led out of the mosque. The Muslims I had always respected now sat behind and below me. Although I wanted to show them respect, I was no longer able to take my place behind them. I was now ahead of them, on the way out of the mosque. God was making sure of it.
What’s more, the imam was not actually the person we were all waiting for. We were waiting for someone else, someone of far higher authority. Perhaps someone who was not coming to the mosque after all. This dream, like the second dream, ended by showing me where I was, not what I would ultimately do. I was waiting for the one to come, but this time, I was confused because I was in the wrong place.
Since this dream portrayed a mosque and an imam, I felt comfortable asking Ammi to interpret it. Using Ibn Sirin once more, she said the stairs represented a rise in my status both in this world and the hereafter; my position on the first step meant I was only just beginning my journey; the empty mosque at the beginning meant I was pursuing religious scholarship; the full mosque toward the end meant I was going to be a wise teacher of religious knowledge and an effective counselor; the imam represented all Muslims in the ummah; and that he was wearing white represented their well-meaning hearts.
She could not explain why he was sitting behind me or below me, nor could she explain why he was sitting on a carpet. Seeing a man on a carpet means that man has gone astray and is likely to provide a false report. She concluded that the true meaning of the dream was hidden from her, but it was certainly one that held glad tidings for me.
When I shared the dream with David, his response was much more concise. “Stairs leading out of the mosque? Come on, Nabeel. Does God need to smack you with a two-by-four before you’ll become a Christian?”
He had a point. What was I waiting for now? I had three dreams and a vision. Individually, the last two were clear, and all four were powerful. Cumulatively, there was no question.
I now knew the truth: God was calling me to accept the gospel.