It’s late at night. The family is fast asleep and there’s pin-drop silence in the house. At this very moment, pushing that duvet to go and perform wudhu can be a challenge. Centuries ago, sounds of water running – from many performing wudhu – could be heard and lights could be seen switching on in the middle of the night – yet today, a bird’s eye view will reveal darkness upon darkness.
Tahajjud is precariously becoming an ancient practice, especially at a time when Muslims are grappling with the notion of Islamic identity. The world can be a hard place to live in, and whether we realise it or not, living in it requires effort and strength. Whatever you’re endeavour, there is no doubt that there is and will be a struggle on your part. At times, these struggles start to become intolerable, such that we resort to giving up.
I recently spoke to a mother who shared with me details about the difficulties she was having with her teenage son. Being a parent is challenging, especially raising boys in an age of technology and instant gratification. As we spoke, I often tried recommending solutions through which maybe she could find some relief and answers. As the conversation continued, she eventually made me realise that when struggles become too difficult to withstand, it’s Allah’s way of inviting us to the prayer mat at a time when all others sleep deeply.
We’re all struggling in some way or another. At times, when we restrict ourselves to the world to find answers, it can cause more grief. We may find immediate solutions, but there will always be some form of grief, anxiety and uneasiness buried within us. What we need, is the drive to carry on. We need to find a way of gaining strength from an unlimited supply of strength. But above all, we need to look towards the non-tangible and spiritual realm of provisions to truly be given the courage, power and ability to live through our struggles. This is why tahajjud matters.
What is Tahajjud?
There are two types of prayers at night: qiyam al-layl or tahajjud. Qiyam al-layl is a generic term and refers to any form of prayer at night, whereas tahajjud specifically refers to the prayer at night which is performed after some sleep.
In one hadith, the Prophet ﷺ mentioned, “The best prayer one can perform apart from the obligatory prayers is one performed at night.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Emphasising the importance of tahajjud, the Prophet ﷺ said, “Every believer should pray at night, even if only as long as it would take to milk an ewe, and what is after the ʿishāʾ prayer is of the night.” [Al-Targhib wa Al-Tarhib]
The number of rak’ahs performed in the tahajjud prayer has not been defined. One may read as many as they wish and one can either lengthen or keep brief their recitation. The tahajjud prayer is usually performed individually, but one can also perform this in a group.
How Tahajjud Can Impact You
The Qur’an makes explicit mention of tahajjud and its significance. In one verse, Allah mentions, “And rise from sleep during the night as well—this is an additional prayer for you. Perhaps your Lord will raise you to an honoured position.” [17:79]
Our spiritual statuses desperately require attention and uplifting. The tahajjud prayer is a powerful way of giving us the ability to withstand the many obstacles and challenges we face today as Muslims. To reinvigorate one’s faith and have a more strengthened conviction in one’s identity as a Muslim, one should resort to tahajjud. Many scholars of the past have mentioned that the spiritual status of Muslims will continuously decline unless we start to perform tahajjud.
Tahajjud is also a fast-track way of becoming the best of people. In Surat al-Furqan, Allah lists a group of people that are defined as “Servants of the Merciful.” They are those who “walk gently on the earth” and those who “when the ignorant address them they respond with peace.” [25:63]
In a time when ignorance is widespread and many utter words without consequences, it can be easy to become angry and reactive. Ignorance is rife when it comes to Islam, which is why many of us end up hearing Islamophobic comments daily.
What’s remarkable is that immediately after this verse, Allah goes on to tell us about the next group of people that can be defined as “Servants of the Merciful.” In a way, there is a connection between those who respond with peace when the ignorant address them and those who perform tahajjud. He says, “those who spend the night in worship of their Lord, prostrate and standing.” [25:64]
Whilst the verse is referring to tahajjud, there is a strong emphasis on the act of prostration. Many other verses in the Qur’an allude to the importance of this one act of the tahajjud prayer, as it is the best way of drawing closer to Allah. These verses come together to tell us that true spiritual strength and status come from the simple act of tahajjud.
Tips For Developing a Habit For Tahajjud
- Make sure you eat well at dinner and avoid eating late or overeating. This can make your body feel heavy which can make it difficult to get out of bed. What’s more, overeating or eating late can suppress any desire to pray or enter into a state of spirituality.
- Protect yourself from major sins throughout the day. Certain mistakes we make throughout the day can prevent us from rising late at night. Imam al-Thawri said, “I was prevented from qiyam al-layl for five months because of a sin I committed.” He was asked, “What was that sin?” he said, “I saw a man crying and I criticised him to myself.” Try to identify what could prevent you from rising and seek to put a stop to that.
- Try to keep a distance from your electronic devices before going to sleep. Once you’re in bed, leave your phone at a distance so you’re not tempted to reach for it. Staring at your phone at night can cause high levels of exhaustion and even stress, which is one of the worst ways to end the day.
- Practise the Sunnahs related to sleeping. Start by performing wudhu before you get into bed. As was the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ, dust the bed before you get in. Start by sleeping on your right side and remember your du’as. It is Sunnah to recite ayat al-kursi, the last three surahs of the Qur’an, the last two verses of Surah Baqarah and the sleeping du’a.
Main Image Credit: Imad Alassiry (Unsplash)