Guess what, folks?
Dark on your way to uni. Dark on the way back.
Gloomy weather, miserable people, a chilling cold that no amount of whatever-spiced-lattes can amend…
And because the Sun is barely out, it’s our time, as Muslims, to shine.
So long Summer. This is Winter- the season of the believer.
A great scholar in our history, Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī said, “Winter is the best season for the believer. Its nights are long for him to pray in, and its days are short for him to fast in.”
Whilst we’re patiently waiting for Ramadhan to fix ourselves (more on that later this year), let’s try and kick up our spirits a bit by taking advantage of this time we have now…
The first of the two deeds Imam Al Hasan al Basri mentioned is qiyam al layl – “standing in the night”.
What this means is spending part of the night in additional prayers.
Everybody romanticises qiyam al layl until the alarm goes off and then they begin romanticising the warmth of their beds more (more on that, too).
So… what’s the fuss?
“The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer.” (Muslim)
“The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?” (Bukhari, Muslim)
This is a neglected part of our time where we have the opportunity to ask from Allah SWT. Whatever you’re asking for, the last third of the night is a well-known and well-established time for dua to be accepted.
In Surah Isra’, ayah 79, Allah SWT mentions
وَمِنَ ٱلَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِۦ نَافِلَةًۭ لَّكَ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًۭا مَّحْمُودًۭا
“And rise at ˹the last˺ part of the night, offering additional prayers, so your Lord may raise you to a station of praise.”
And who doesn’t want to attain a station of praise?
It’s also worth thinking about what sort of believer you want to be. In Surah Az-Zumar, ayah 9, Allah SWT mentions:
أَمَّنْ هُوَ قَـٰنِتٌ ءَانَآءَ ٱلَّيْلِ سَاجِدًۭا وَقَآئِمًۭا يَحْذَرُ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةَ وَيَرْجُوا۟ رَحْمَةَ رَبِّهِۦ ۗ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِى ٱلَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَٱلَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْأَلْبَـٰبِ
“˹Are they better˺ or those who worship ˹their Lord˺ devoutly in the hours of the night, prostrating and standing, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of their Lord? Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” None will be mindful ˹of this˺ except people of reason.”
We want to be from amongst the best of believers, and surely this is an action that can distinguish us.
In numerous ahadith, the Prophet ﷺ encourages praying in the night. The Prophet ﷺ said: “You should pray Qiyaam al-Layl, for it is the habit of the righteous people who came before you, and it will bring you closer to your Lord, expiate for bad deeds, prevent sin, and expel disease from the body.” (Tirmidhi)
As we aim to follow in the footsteps of our beloved Prophet ﷺ, we need to realise how much this prayer meant to him. It has been narrated that “The Prophet ﷺ used to offer night prayers till his feet became swollen. Somebody said to him, “Allah has forgiven you, your faults of the past and those to follow.” On that, he said, “Shouldn’t I be a thankful slave of Allah?” (Bukhari).
And finally, we mentioned how difficult it is to get out of bed for salah, and Allah SWT knows this about us.
In Surah Sajdah, Allah SWT mentions how the believer rises to pray after leaving their bed.
تَتَجَافَىٰ جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ ٱلْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًۭا وَطَمَعًۭا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَـٰهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
“They abandon their beds, invoking their Lord with hope and fear, and donate from what We have provided for them.”
Imam Ash-Shafi’ (a revered scholar in our tradition) even used to say “May you be destroyed. You are ever so soft and inviting.”, when referring to his bed.
The practical side of things
We can’t quite sum up all of the virtues and blessings of qiyam al layl, but hopefully you’re feeling a bit inspired.
To help you get going, we’ve compiled some tips to help you get started and hopefully stay committed.
- Make sure you have your fardh (compulsory) prayers nailed down!
The most beloved deeds to Allah are the fara’idh and that’s where we’d better start.
The Prophet SAW was asked: “Which deed is the dearest to Allah?” He replied: “To perform the (daily compulsory) prayers at their (early) stated fixed time.” (Bukhari)
So don’t run before you can walk 🙂
- Sleep early – you didn’t need to hear this one from us.
Isha’ happening earlier now is quite a relief, so make use of it before you regret it in the summer months. Complete your tasks and sign off for the day with Isha’ and the athkar before sleeping (remembrances).
Aisha reported: “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, would not sleep before evening prayer and he would not stay up after it.” (Sunan Ibn-Majah)
- Start small – remember: “If you get up for night prayer, start with two short raka’at.” (Muslim)
These two raka’at could make a huge difference.
- Give yourself enough time to wake up. If you’re making the effort, you want to reap as much benefit as you can. Allow yourself enough time to wake up properly, make wudu’ and complete your two raka’at.
When the Prophet ﷺ used to wake up for tahajjud, he recited the dua
- Build a connection with Allah through other good deeds and leaving of sin. Draw closer to Him in all ways and you’ll feel your heart incline even more. Ibn Mas’ud, a companion of the Prophet ﷺ was asked, “I cannot pray at night.” He said, “Your sins have prevented you.”
Similarly, Sufyaan ath-Thawri said, “I was deprived of the night prayer for five months because of a sin I committed.” It was said, “What was it?” Sufyan said, “I saw a man weeping and I said to myself: This one is showing off.”
So to ensure you are able to offer this prayer, ask for Allah SWT aid, and know that your own sins can be the barrier.
- Push yourself (and remember you don’t have to enjoy an act of worship for it to be accepted).
Sufyaan ath-Thawri said: “For twenty years I waged Jihad against myself. I struggled all throughout to remain standing in prayer at night. For those twenty years I never tasted the sweetness of the night prayer. It was only after that that I found comfort and sweetness.”
So it might be tough at the start, but that’s where the reward lies.
- At the same time, do not overburden yourself. You have uni. You have your limits. So make sure you don’t set unrealistic standards (and remember, these might jeopardise your consistency).
Whilst it’s important to keep going, it was narrated by Abu Huraira that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Verily, the religion is easy and no one burdens himself in religion but that it overwhelms him. Follow the right course, seek closeness to Allah, give glad tidings, and seek help for worship in the morning and evening and a part of the night.” (Bukhari)
- Make the Witr prayer your last prayer of the night. “The Witr prayer is offered in units of two raka’at. If you fear that dawn is near, conclude with a single rak’ah so the night prayer will be of an odd number.” (Bukhari)
Ensure it is prayed before the time of Fajr commences.
- And when you’ve done all of the above (or followed whichever route that worked for you), keep it up!
Remember: “The most beloved of actions to Allah are those which are done persistently, even if they are little.” (Muslim).
Getting started is perhaps the hardest part, so once you’ve established a routine, hold onto it.
In all, we’ve got to remember that tahajjud is not a shot in the dark.
Instead, it’s shooting an arrow that doesn’t miss (Imam ash-Shafi’).
Your Lord listens to you, and you are the closest to Him when in prostration (Sahih Muslim). He descends in a way that befits him, in the last third of the night.
He asks “who will ask of Me, that I may give him?”.
Your Lord is asking… so tell him.