Waking up for worship

19 Apr

The Prophet (peace be upon him) often used graphic description to emphasize a point of importance. A vivid image of action and its effect often gets the meaning across to listeners of all types. The Prophet realized that his audience, and his followers in future generations, included people of widely different levels of education, understanding and imagination. Therefore, a graphic description always helped in making his meaning clear to all people. However, in all that the Prophet said, whether concrete or figurative, he maintained the truth and never deviated from it.

One hadith describes how difficult it is for a person to wake up in order to attend to worship, particularly voluntary night worship, or tahjjud.

Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: “When any of you goes to sleep, Satan ties at the back of his head three knots, saying ‘you have a long night to go, so stay asleep’. If a person wakes up and mentions God’s name, one knot is untied. When he performs his ablutions, another knot is untied. When he prays, the last knot is untied and he begins his morning feeling active and well pleased. Otherwise, he would begin his morning feeling lazy and depressed.[Related by al-Bukhari].

We see a very graphic image in this hadith, with Satan trying to persuade a good believer to sleep, rather than wake up for worship. He even ties three knots to keep him in bed.

  • Scholars say that these knots could be figurative or real. Most probably, this is figurative.
  • They are untied by mentioning God’s name, performing ablutions and prayers.
  • The description is very real.
  • Every time a person tries to wake up for night worship, or for Fajr prayer, he needs to exert a good effort, for the bed continues to beckon him to sleep.
  • Once he mentions God’s name he feels as if a weight has been removed from him and he is better able to act on his intention to wake up for worship

The situation is even clearer when we set our alarm clock to get up at a certain time for prayer. When it goes off we often try to silence it or put it in the snooze mood. Yet if we mention God’s name, we feel better able to get up. Ablution does not merely dispel the desire to go back to sleep, but it also gives us a feeling of refreshment. We can cope with the task ahead, even though we have had only half the length of sleep we normally need. After we have prayed, we are completely fresh. We even feel full of energy.

A person who yields to the temptation and stay asleep, thinking that the night has still a long time to go, may very easily miss his obligatory prayer of Fajr. As a result, his day will have had the wrong start. He feels that he has missed out on an important duty. If this is the result of sheer laziness, he blames himself for having his priorities wrong. He has preferred the warmth of his bed to a duty that would have earned him rich reward from God.

A believer knows that this present life is transitory. It serves as a pathway to the hereafter. Everyone will reap the results of their own deeds. To neglect prayers through sheer laziness does not enhance one’s position in the hereafter. Therefore, he must resolve to deal with this situation, so as not to allow himself to miss obligatory prayers through sleep. Even better, he should occasionally wake up for voluntary night worship. It will benefit him in both this life and the life to come.


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