Abu Bakr al-Bassari, or Mohammed bin Sirin, known as Ibn Sirin, was one of the pioneers of the science of the interpretation of dreams in Islam, combining his linguistic knowledge, wisdom and insight which enabled him to become a leader in this "art" form, similar to Prophet Yusuf in his time.
Ibn Sirin was born in Basra in 33 AH (653 AD) and died in 110 AH (729 AD), where he lived for 76 to 77 years.
He was known for his friendship with the mystic hermit Hassan al-Basri (110-110 AH) who died only 100 days later, both of whom took a route no different from the other. But it is said that they parted ways for some unknown reason.
About his family
Ibn Sirin’s grandfather is from the region of Jerjeraya in central Baghdad, east of the Tigris River. He was born in the era of the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan, two years before he took the Caliphate.
His father was owned by Anas bin Malik who took him after the battle of Ain al-Tamar, which occurred in 12 AH, between the army of Khalid ibn al-Walid and the armies of the Sassanian and the Persians west of the city of Anbar, and where Khalid conquered the area in the days of the succession of Abu Bakr Siddiq.
His father Muhammad was a copper potter artisan and came to work in Ain al-Tamer. As for his mother, she was called Safia and she was owned by Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, before she was freed.
Abu Bakr took his name from his mother's former owner, the first caliph of Muslims following the death of Prophet Mohammed.
Ibn Sirin had a close relationship with his mother. He was very attached to her and never raised his voice in her presence.
Ibn Sirin grew up in an educational atmosphere where he studied under many companions, including: Zaid ibn Thabit, Amran bin Hossain, Anas bin Malik, Abu Hurairah and Abdullah bin Zubair.
Of his qualities
Ibn Sirin always dyed his hair with henna which was his distinctive mark. He was short and suffered from a slight deafness, but that did not prevent him from associating with people. He was known for his innocent humor and laughter.
In spite of his high spirits, he used to cry a lot at night in his house, and he used to sing poetry sometimes.
It is also known that he fasted a lot, he would fast one day and break the fast the next day. In addition, he was fascinated with sciences and scientists.
It has also been said that whenever he passed by the market, everyone would cheer. He would always help people which made him very respected among popular circles.
He fathered 30 children and among them only one, Abdullah survived, who paid his father's debt after his death, amounting to 30,000 dirhams.
His relationship with Anas bin Malik
His father’s relationship with Anas bin Malik was nothing compared to Ibn Sirin’s relationship with the man. He studied under him and traveled to Persia to learn from him. He was one of the writers of Malik and the two men have a strong relationship and a great affection for each other.
Before Anas died in Basra in 83 AH in the days of the rule of Al-Walid Ibn Abd al-Malik, he requested that Ibn Sirin should be the one leading the funeral prayers and washing him, but the problem was that Ibn Sirin was imprisoned at the time.
The prince gave a special amnesty for Ibn Sirin who got out of jail to execute the wishes of Anas and then returned to jail once again.
His main book is A Concise Guide for the Interpretation of Dreams is considered an important reference until today. Nevertheless, the references of Ibn Sirin in the interpretation is still vague to this day and has not been reviewed enough through studies to shed light on his talents in this area. What’s clear though is that he interpreted dreams based on direct semantic meanings.
He combined the interpretation with reading the human mind. He used to directly interpret the dreams of people in the markets and councils.
He was bold in interpreting dreams even to the rulers, which caused him many troubles but he didn’t care.
Leading a simple life
Ibn Sirin did not seek to gain fortunes from his innate instincts and in interpreting dreams. In his lifetime, he suffered much poverty and had many clashes with the Umayyad caliphate because he refused their gifts. So they put him in jail.
He used to work in the market during the day and spend the night praying and studying. He worked in the textile business because of his thorough knowledge of clothes, colors and trade.
He had a great knowledge in this field, but apparently he was not much interested in money or trade.
Ibn Sirin was a contemporary to al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafi (died 95 AH), and many of the princes and caliphs of Bani Umayya. Ibn Sirin refused to insult al-Hajjaj after his death and said that human sins are only judged by the Creator.
It was narrated that al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf saw in his sleep a vision, as if two fairies had come to him, and he took one of them in and ignored the other. So he wrote to Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan about it and Abd al-Malik wrote to him, "Congratulations, Abu Muhammad for the good tidings.”
However, when the news reached Ibn Sirin he said: “He is wrong, these are two signs of strife. He will witness one and miss the other,” and indeed, he did.