Muslim families around the world, despite having different cultures and traditions, follow very similar daily routines. Our lives revolve around the worship of Allah. Our eating, our bathing, our dressing, and our resting all include some aspect of worship. For us, ideally, the activities of our days are not punctuated by worship; they are the worship, if we have the right intentions.
Every part of our lives, no matter how mundane, is connected to our relationship with Allah. Even our ways of dealing with our nighttime routines and sleep have been addressed in the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
The Nocturnal Norm
“Allah is the One who made for you the night, so that you may have rest in it,
and the day to let you see.”
(Surah Ghafir: 61)
Most Muslim families view the nighttime as the time for sleep. As the movement and familiar noises of the household wind down, and after the five daily prayers are offered, everyone rests. This was the general behavior of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and early Muslims. Aisha reported:
“The Messenger of Allah would not sleep before evening prayer,
and he would not stay up after it.”
(Ibn Mājah #702)
The darkness of nighttime is ideal for resting. That is when our bodies naturally produce melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone that is made by the pineal gland when we are not in bright light. We are at our healthiest when we get enough sleep, and we get enough sleep when our bodies are exposed to the optimum amount of darkness.
Not everyone sleeps at night, however, and not everyone who falls asleep stays asleep. Some Muslims must work essential jobs at night. Some have insomnia and are unable to sleep. Some are awakened by the demanding cries of babies or other pressing needs.
And some leave the comfort of their beds to offer additional devotion before the dawn prayer. For all of them, life and living do not stop with the setting of the sun or the twinkling of the stars. They have a “nightlife.”
While there are many permissible reasons why a Muslim might be awake at night, the best reason to be up is so that we can worship Allah.
"And some part of the night, keep vigil for it as an additional prayer for you;
maybe your Lord will raise you up to a praised position."
(Surah Al Isra, 17:79)
The Night Prayer is described in Surah Muzzamil, verses 1-6.
"O you wrapped in garments! Stand (to pray) all night, except a little. Half of it or a little less than that or a little more. And recite the Qur’aan in a slow, style. Verily, We shall send down to you a weighty Word. Verily, the rising by night (for Tahajjud prayer) is very hard and most potent and good for governing oneself, and most suitable for (understanding) the Word."
(Surah Al-Muzzammil, 73:1-6)
When We Have to Be Up at Night
If we find ourselves up at night, there are some beneficial practices we can do:
Abdullah ibn Amr reported that when the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was traveling and nightfall came, he said:
“O earth, my Lord and your Lord is Allah; I seek refuge in Allah from your evil, the evil of what you contain, the evil of what has been created in you, and the evil of what creeps upon you….” (Sunan Abu Dawood, #2603)
Remember Allah sincerely.
Ubadah ibn al-Samit reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Whoever wakes up in the night and says, ‘There is no God but Allah, alone without any partner. To Him belong the dominion and all praise, and He has power over all things. All praise is due to Allah, glory be to Allah, there is no God but Allah, Allah is the greatest, and there is no movement or might but by Allah,’ and then he says, ‘O Allah, forgive me,’ or he supplicates to be answered, then, if he performs ablution and prays, his prayer will be accepted.”
Wake up your household.
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
''May Allah have mercy upon a man who wakes up at night and prays, and awakens his wife. If she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face. May Allah have mercy upon a woman who wakes up at night and prays, and awakens her husband. If he refuses, she sprinkles water on his face.'' (Ibn Majah)]
The Nocturnal Family
When children become adults, they remember the special experiences that they shared with their parents. While they are still small, read to them about the Prophet's lifeand model his daily routines, peace and blessings be upon him. Pick special days and times and get everyone up at night to pray with you. Start with getting them up when they don't have school. Celebrate their participation in late-night or early-morning devotions.
Be age appropriate. When your children are older, task them with choosing the dates when the family will arise together for worship. Ask them to choose the verses from the Quran to read or talk about. Make worship at night a family practice. When we lay a foundation for family worship, then we help our children develop the habits of mind that will serve them when they have their own families.
Candice “Sister Islaah” Abd’al-Rahim reverted to Islam in 1976 and considers herself a student of knowledge. She has deep education credentials which include a M.A. in Teaching, Certificate of Advanced Studies (Post-Masters) in Administration and Supervision, B.S. in English, and experiences as a principal (in fact the first hijab public school principal in Maryland!), curriculum and staff developer, mentor, and classroom teacher of grades pre-K through 12. She is a former adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate School of Education and is a doctoral candidate in Islamic Sciences at the International Online University. Islaah’s contributions to the field have earned her honors in the Who’s Who of Distinguished JHU Alumni. She is wife, daughter, mother, and grandmother and is an active member of several Muslim communities in the Baltimore area.