“Verily, As‑Salaah (the prayer) prevents from Al‑Fahsha’ (i.e. great sins of every kind, unlawful sexual intercourse) and Al‑Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed)”
Al-Haakim narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Jibreel came to me and said: ‘O Muhammad, live as long as you want, for you will die. Love whomever you want, for you will leave him. Do whatever you want for you will be requited for it. Remember that the believer’s honour is his praying at night, and his pride is his being independent of people.” Classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 73.
Yahyaa ibn Mu’aadh said: “The medicine of the heart is five things: reading Qur’aan and pondering the meaning, having an empty stomach, praying at night (qiyaam al-layl), beseeching Allaah at the time of suhoor, and keeping company with righteous people.”
Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir said: “There is nothing left of the joys of this life except three: qiyaam al-layl, meeting one’s brothers in faith, and praying in congregation.”
Thaabit al-Banaani said: “There is nothing I enjoy more than qiyaam al-layl.”
Yazeed al-Riqaashi said: “A lot of tahajjud brings delight to the worshippers, and a lot of thirst (i.e., fasting), brings joy when they meet Allaah.”
Al-‘Allaamah Ibn ‘Abd al-Haadi said, describing the qiyaam of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah: “At night he would keep away from people, and spend that time only with his Lord, beseeching Him continually and reciting Qur’aan, repeating different kinds of acts of worship by night and by day. When he began to pray, his body would start to tremble, leaning to the left and right.”
Going to sleep early. Sleeping straight after ‘Ishaa’ is the advice of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and a good and healthy habit. One of the ahaadeeth that describe its virtues was narrated by Abu Barzah al-Aslami (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to prefer to delay ‘Ishaa’, and he did not like to sleep before it or talk after it. (Reported by al-Bukhaari).
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar reported that al-Qaadi ‘Ayaad said, concerning the phrase “He did not like to sleep before it”: “Because that could lead to one praying it too late, or delaying it until after the preferred time, and talking after it could lead to one sleeping before Fajr and missing it, or missing qiyaam al-layl.”
Ibn Raafi’ said: “ ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) used to wave his stick at the people when darkness fell, and would say, ‘Get up and go, may Allaah help you to pray qiyaam at night!’”
Another matter that has to do with sleep is choosing a suitable bed, not one that is excessively luxurious or soft, because that makes a person sleep too much and become negligent, and causes laziness and carelessness. ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “The pillow of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) on which he slept at night was made of leather stuffed with palm fibres.” (Reported by Abu Dawood and Ahmad. Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4714).
Ishaaq ibn ‘Abd-Allaah said: “Taking a nap is one of the deeds of good people. It revitalizes the heart and helps one to pray qiyaam al-layl.”
Al-Hasan al-Basri passed by a group of people in the marketplace in the middle of the day, and heard the racket they were making. He said, “Do these people take a nap?” It was said to him, “No.” He said, “I think their nights must be bad.”
Sufyaan al-Thawri said: “You should eat little, so that you will be able to pray qiyaam al-layl.”
Ma’qal ibn Habeeb saw some people eating a lot, and said, ‘I do not think that our companions want to pray qiyaam al-layl.”
Wahb ibn Munbih said: “There is no son of Adam dearer to his shaytaan than the one who eats and sleeps a lot.”
Striving against oneself to pray qiyaam al-layl. This is one of the best means of helping oneself to pray qiyaam, because human nature is inclined towards wrongdoing, so the one who follows his own inclinations will be led to doom and destruction. Allaah has commanded us to strive against our own selves, as He says (interpretation of the meanings):
“And strive hard in Allaah’s Cause as you ought to strive…” [al-Hajj 22:78]
“And as for those who strive hard in Our Cause, We will surely guide them to Our Paths. And verily, Allaah is with the muhsinoon (good-doers).” [al-‘Ankaboot 29:69]
“Their sides forsake their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend (charity in Allaah’s Cause) out of what We have bestowed on them” [al-Sajdah 32:16]
Fadaalah ibn ‘Ubayd (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The mujaahid is the one who strives against his own self for the sake of Allaah.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Hibbaan. Al-Saheehah, 549).
According to the hadeeth of ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Aamir (may Allaah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When a man from my ummah gets up to pray at night, striving against his own self to get up and purify himself, there are knots on him. When he washes his hands in wudoo’, one knot is undone. When he washes his face, another knot is undone. When he wipes his head another knot is undone. When he washes his feet, another knot is undone. Then Allaah says to those who are veiled (in the Unseen): ‘Look at this slave of Mine, he is striving against his own self and asking of Me. Whatever My slave asks of Me shall be his.” (Reported by Ahmad and Ibn Hibaan. Saheeh al-Targheeb, 627).
Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir said: “I struggled against my own self for forty years until it became right.” Thaabit al-Banaani said: “I struggled for twenty years to make myself pray qiyaam al-layl, and I enjoyed it (qiyaam al-layl) for twenty years.” ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez said: “The best of deeds are those which we force ourselves to do.” ‘Abd-Allaah ibn al-Mubaarak said: “The souls of righteous people in the past used to push them to do good deeds, but our souls do not do what we want them to do except by force, so we have to force them.” Qutaadah said: “O son of Adam, if you do not want to do any good except when you have the energy for it, then your nature is more inclined towards boredom and laziness. The true believer is the one who pushes himself.”
A man said to Ibraaheem ibn Adham, “I cannot pray qiyaam al-layl, so tell me the cure for this.” He said, “Do not commit sin during the day, and He will help you to stand before Him at night, for your standing before Him at night is one of the greatest honours, and the sinner does not deserve that honour.”
A man said to al-Hasan al-Basri: “”O Abu Sa’eed, I sleep in good health, and I love to pray qiyaam al-layl, and I prepare water with which to purify myself, so why can I not get up?” Al-Hasan said: “Your sins are restricting you.” He said, may Allaah have mercy on him, “The slave who commits a sin will be denied the opportunity to pray qiyaam at night and to fast during the day.”
Al-Fudayl ibn ‘Ayaad said: “If you cannot pray qiyaam al-layl, or fast during the day, know that you are indeed deprived and restricted, chained by your sins.”
Qiyaam al-layl is an act of worship that connects the heart to Allaah, may He be exalted, and enables it to overcome the temptations of life and to strive against one’s own self, at the time when voices are stilled, eyes are closed in sleep, and sleepers are tossing and turning in their beds. Therefore qiyaam al-layl is one of the measures of sincere determination and one of the qualities of those who have great ambitions. Allaah has praised them and distinguished them from others in the Qur’aan, where He says (interpretation of the meaning): “Is one who is obedient to Allaah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say: ‘Are those who know equal to those who know not?’ It is only men of understanding who will remember.” [al-Zumar 39:9]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) always had the habit of praying qiyaam al-layl, and never gave it up, whether he was travelling or staying at home. Even though he, among all the sons of Adam, would be the one to have all his past and future sins forgiven, he prayed qiyaam al-layl until his feet became swollen, and when he was asked about that, he said, “Should I not be a grateful slave?” (Agreed upon).
This is how the noble salaf were, may Allaah have mercy upon them. Abu’l-Darda’ (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “Pray two rak’ahs in the darkness of the night for the darkness of the grave.” Ahmad ibn Harb said: “I am astonished at people who know that the delights of Paradise lie above them and the horrors of Hell lie beneath them. How can they sleep in between them?”
For this reason, al-Fudayl ibn ‘Ayaad said: “I met some people who feel ashamed before Allaah to sleep for too long in the depths of the night. Such a person may be resting on his side, and when he moves, he says to himself, ‘This is not your right. Get up and take your share of the Hereafter.’”
Al-Hasan said: “We do not know of any deed more difficult than the struggle to stay up at night or to spend money.” It was said to him, “Why do the mutahajjadeen (those who pray Tahajjud at night) have the most beautiful faces?” He said, “Because they spend time alone with the Most Merciful, so He adorns them with some of His light.”
When Habeebah al-‘Adawiyyah prayed ‘Ishaa’, she would stand on the roof of her house, wearing her chemise and khimaar (i.e., covered in proper Islamic dress), then she would say, “O my God, the stars have come out, people have gone to sleep, and kings have closed their doors, but Your door is open. Every lover is alone with his lover, but here I am standing before You.” Then she would start to pray and talk to her Lord until the time of suhoor. When the time of suhoor came, she would say, “O Allaah, this night is ending, the day is coming, and I wish I knew whether you have accepted this night (of worship) from me, so that I could congratulate myself, or if it has been rejected, so that I might console myself.”
Abû Al-Dardâ’ – Allah be pleased with him – said:
It is from a person’s knowledge and understanding that he sees to his needs first in order to turn to his prayer with a heart free of distractions.
Ibn Al-Mubârak in Al-Zuhd wa Al-Raqâ’iq Vol.2 p726
Abû Ishâq [Al-Fazârî] states:
The enemy was never able to stand up to the Companions of Allâh’s Messenger – Allâh’s praise and peace be upon him, so when the news of the defeat of the Romans came to Heraclius athe asked [his people], “Woe to you, tell me about these people who fight you, are they not humans like you?” They replied, “Indeed, they are.” He asked, “So are you more in number or them?” They replied, “We outnumber them greatly in all places.” He said, “So how is it that you are defeated whenever you meet them [in battle].” A senior and esteemed elder amongst them replied, “Because they stand in prayer at night, fast during the day, fulfill their agreements and promises, enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, they are fair and just amongst themselves; and because we drink wine, fornicate, commit sin, break our agreements, steal, oppress and do injustice, enjoin the committing of what angers Allâh and forbid what pleases Allâh the Mighty and Majestic, and we cause evil and corruption in the land.” Heraclius said, “You are the one who has told me the truth.”
Abû Bakr Al-Daynûrî, Al-Mujâlasah wa Jawâhir Al-‘Ilm 4:91.
May Allah, the Most High, the source of all good make us of those who conistently pray the night prayers in the way that please Him the Most High the Most.
Ameen. Indeed Allah (swt) Hears His Slaves who are in Need of His Help more than anything else.