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Dreams have the ability to foreshadow our lives, and reveal the unknown and the underlying. They represent the mysterious power of our minds to gaze into the future. What the events witnessed in the dreams might suggest, or how they play out in our lives, make dreams a logbook of the future; the ground where the signal of future events is first given out.

The complex science of dream interpretation works on the premise that the dream has chronological precedence over the world of wakefulness in events connecting the two realms.

But in a unique event quoted in the Bahjat-al-Asrar, involving the 12th century Sufi master Abdul Qadir Jilani, we discover that the world of dreams can be upstaged, and this chronology reversed.

The legend recounts the case of a trader named Abu Muzaffar who had made plans to visit Syria with a merchant caravan. Once all his preparations for the journey were made, he visited his friend Sheikh Hammad, and after informing him of his plans, asked for the Sheikh’s prayers for his safe return. As Sheikh Hammad had other visitors, he asked Abu Muzaffar to wait until the other guests had left. Once the two were by themselves, Sheikh Hammad told him to postpone his plans.

The merchant had already made his investment in buying goods and the journey would have introduced him to some very resourceful merchants accompanying the caravan. He told his friend he could not delay it even by a day.

Then Sheikh Hammad told him that he must cancel the visit, for it would be an inauspicious one, with dire consequences for Abu Muzaffar. He told the merchant that he was destined to be robbed and killed by bandits during the journey. That was the future as it had been revealed to Sheikh Hammad through his occult powers.

As the merchant was returning from Sheikh Hammad’s house with a troubled mind, he crossed paths with Abdul Qadir Jilani. Seeing the distraught look on his face Jilani asked him the reason for it. Abu Muzaffar told him about Sheikh Hammad’s prediction, and that he had forbidden him from travelling. Jilani told him not to worry and to depart for the journey with an easy mind. He assured him that no harm would come to him.

The merchant followed Jilani’s advice, and departed for Syria as he had planned. During the journey the merchant made useful connections for his business, his goods found ready buyers, and he made a handsome profit. Finally, the caravan started its return journey. When it reached Aleppo, Abu Muzaffar discovered that he had misplaced his purse of gold coins. He searched but could not find the purse, and went to sleep with an uneasy mind.

Abu Muzaffar dreamt that robbers had attacked the caravan and looted their possessions. The caravan was accompanied by armed guards, but they were overpowered and killed. Abu Muzaffar and a few other merchants fought valiantly but they were outnumbered. One of the bandits finally put him to the sword. Abu Muzaffar awoke from the nightmare in terror and found himself alive and safe. He now remembered where he had kept the purse. Then he recalled the event as described to him by Sheikh Hammad, and marvelled at its significance.

When he returned to his city he wondered whether he should first call on Sheikh Hammad or Abdul Qadir Jilani. Abu Muzaffar did not have to make the choice: In the bazaar he ran into Hammad, who greeted him without showing the least surprise. When the merchant asked him about his prediction, Hammad told him that what he had seen destined for Abu Muzaffar was bound to happen, except his destined fate had been transferred from the world of wakefulness into the world of dreams by Jilani praying 70 times for him. He asked the merchant to visit Jilani and convey his gratitude.

How the world of wakefulness foreshadows the world of dreams, and how an individual’s realm of dreams becomes open to intrusion by others, are some interesting features of this legend. But by far the most interesting aspect is how the realm of dreams becomes a safe chamber into which an inauspicious destiny can be incarcerated and fully spent.

This monthly column explores the curious world of the myths and folk tales of South Asia.

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is an author, novelist and translator. He can be reached at www.mafarooqi.com

Also Read | Musharraf’s previous Lounge columns

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