Night Worship

It is an indescribable source of pleasure for the servant to be together with Almighty Allah in the depths of the night. It is also a means to unparalleled mercy, forgiveness and grace because Allah is pleased and content with such deeds. The Holy Qur’an states:

“Their sides eschew their beds as they call on their Lord in fear and ardent hope. And they give of what We have provided for them”(As Sajda, 32:16)

The mysteries, wisdom and prosperity that our Lord has bestowed upon the night become apparent according to the state of one’s heart. Such divine favours as the Ascension and revelation, and also manifestations of divine revenge, have all taken place more often during the depths of night which is an indication that one should take extra care at this time of day.

For the believers who have aspired to draw nearer to Allah, the night is a peerless blessing due to the serenity and prosperity of the stillness of night time. It has been stated in a hadith:

“There is a certain time in the night in which if the Muslim makes a wish for good in this world or the next at this hour, then Allah grants it. This time occurs every night” (Muslim, Musafirin, 166).

Khaja Ali Ramiteni (q.s) has said:

“It is when three hearts unite that the desire of the believer is granted; the sincere heart of the believer, the heart of the Qur’an which is chapter Yasin, and the heart of night which is the time just before dawn. Those who appreciate the value of this blessing find a most prosperous grounds for supplication, worship and turning towards their Sustainer, when all of creation has laid down to rest and there is a deep stillness throughout the world. Almighty Allah praises those happy slaves as follows:

“The part of the night they spent asleep was small and they would seek forgiveness before the dawn”. (Az Zariyat 51:17-18)

The night is the time to abandon the soft and sweet beds for the sole purpose of gaining Allah’s good pleasure. It is the time to enter the divine presence solely out of love and ecstasy. Consequently the prayers that are performed during the peaceful atmosphere of the night, and the Qur’an that is recited and the glorification that is performed have great importance in terms of approaching Allah. Worship that is carried out during the night is like meeting with an Exalted Lover and conversing with Him. Staying awake while everyone else is asleep, and entering the merciful atmosphere of Allah, the Most Dignified Protector, is to be included amongst the exceptional slaves who form an assembly of love and mercy.

The rush to do night worship is relative to the intensity of rapture and love of Allah felt in the heart. Certain worshippers who have tasted the spiritual pleasure and delight of night time worship have said: “I do not fear death, until it comes between me and my night prayers”.

How can someone who claims to love their Lord in truth, sleep in deep heedlessness until the morning? This is why to bring life to the pre-dawn is an expression of the sincere love and reverence felt by the slave for his Lord. On the other hand a night passed in heedlessness or one confined to sleep is considered fruitless and an irreparable loss, just like the rain that falls in the desert.

Thus the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) advised Abdullah bin Amr bin As  as follows:

“Abdullah! Do not be like such and such. Because though he used to continue in his night worship, he has now abandoned it” (Bukhari, Tahajjud, 19).

Thus it is a great loss and source of harm to refrain from doing tahajjud in the night.

Benefitting from the night begins with “seeking forgiveness”; and continues with surrounding oneself in the spiritual atmosphere of tawheed, sending blessings upon the Prophet (salawat-i sherif) and remembering Allah. Remembrance during the pre-dawn, which is like the meeting of the slave with his Protector is, in regards to bringing the heart back to life, a singular opportunity not to be missed, and a need which cannot be overlooked. For just as our bodies have need for physical nourishment so too does our soul need spiritual sustenance. Almighty Allah places more value on the remembrance done during the pre-dawn than at any other time. It is stated in the Qur’an:

“Prostrate to Him during the night and glorify Him throughout the long night. These people love this fleeting world and have put the thought of a Momentous Day behind their backs”. (Man, 76:26-27)

Amr bin Abasa  narrates:

I asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

“O Messenger of Allah! Is there a time out of all times that is more virtuous than others in terms of drawing nearer to Allah?”

He answered:

Yes, the time at which the slave is nearest to his Lord is the middle of the last part of the night. If you have the capacity to be of those people who remember Allah at that time, then do so. Because the prayer at that time is witnessed (the angels are present during them)”. (Nesai, Mawakit”s Salat, 35).

In short, if the believer can make use of the night purposefully, in the way advised by Allah and His Messenger, and benefit from the spirituality of remembrance, then his night can be brighter than his day. Likewise Bayazid-i Bistami has said:

“No mystery has been revealed to me until my nights have become like my day”.

For those who know the value of the night which is full of great bounty and thus bring it to life in the proper manner, the spirituality of the pre-dawn will reflect throughout their whole day. In respect to this, in order to properly benefit from the atmosphere of spirituality and prosperity of the night we need to project the model of the pre-dawn to our days and guard our days from sin.

Scenes of Virtue

In terms of benefitting from the prosperous atmosphere of the night, Almighty Allah commands His Beloved as follows:

“And stay awake for prayer during part of the night as a supererogatory action for yourself. It may well be that your Lord will raise you to a Praiseworthy Station”. (Isra, 17: 79)

After this divine command was revealed the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) never abandoned praying during the blessed and fruitful night, nor did he stop seeking forgiveness, reading the Qur’an and supplicating. He did this even during his times of sickness when he was weak and could not even stand on his feet. He did not neglect his tahajjud prayer and brought life to his nights even if sitting. (Abu Dawud, Tatavvu”, 18/1307).

The Blessed Prophet continued to pray his tahajjud prayer throughout his whole life. This was a total of 13 cycles, if the witr prayer is included, and 11 cycles during the final years of his life. He continued to pray 9 cycles of the prayer while he was sick and close to death.  (Abu Dawud, Tatawwu’ 26/1363).

***

The Prophet’s wife, Aisha  has informed us:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) never prayed more than 11 cycles of prayer in the night, neither in Ramadan nor at any other time. First he would pray four cycles which were indescribable in terms of beauty and length. Then he would pray four more. Don’t ask about their beauty and length (for they are hard to describe). Then he would pray three more. One time I asked him:

“O Messenger of Allah! Are you going to sleep without praying the witr prayer?”

“Aisha! My eyes sleep but my heart never sleeps,” he replied. (Bukhari, Tahajjud 16, Tarawih 1; Muslim, Musafirin 125).

This hadith is an indication of how the heart of the Prophet was with Almighty Allah, not just during worship but at all times.

***

Huzayfa  describes the state of the Prophet during worship one time when he was following the Prophet in a supererogatory prayer:

“One night I stood to pray with the Messenger of Allah. He began to read chapter Baqara from the Qur’an. “He will probably bow down when he comes to the one hundredth verse” I said to myself. When he came to the one hundredth verse he continued reading. “Maybe he is going to pray two cycles with this chapter” I thought to myself. He continued reading. “He will bow down when he finishes the chapter” I thought. However he still did not finish. He began to read from chapter Nisa. When he finished that he moved onto chapter Al-i Imran[1]. He was reading very slowly. When he came to a verse of glorification he would say “Subhanallah (Glory be to Allah). When he came to a verse about supplication, he would supplicate. When he came to a verse about seeking refuge in Allah, he would seek refuge in Allah. Then he bowed down. He began to say “Subhana Rabbiya’l a’zim” (Glory be to my Lord, Most Great) His bowing down lasted as long as his standing. Then he said “Sami Allahu liman hamida. Rabbena laka’l hamd” (Allah hears all praise. All praise is for you our Lord) and straightened up. He stayed standing for almost as long as he stood bowing down. Then he went into prostration. He said “Subhana Rabbiya’l ala” (Glory be to my Lord, most High). His prostration lasted almost as long as his standing” (Muslim, Musafirin, 203).

***

Aisha  has said:

“One night I realised that the Messenger of Allah was not beside me. I thought that he might have gone to one of his other wives. I began to look for him. After a while when I came back, I saw him either bowing down or in prostration saying the following:

سُبْحَانَكَ وَبِحَمِْدِكَ لَا اِلٰهِ اِلاَّ اَنْتَ

“(O Allah!) I absolve You of all faults and I praise You. (My Sustainer! There is no god but You”. Upon this I said to him, (a little embarrassingly):

“May my mother and father be sacrificed for you o Messenger of Allah! What have I been busying myself with and what have you…” (Muslim, Salat, 221).

***

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) desired that his entire community perform the tahajjud prayer, which is one of the most important means of spiritual growth. He began to instill this practice firstly into those close to him. One night he knocked on the door of his son-in-law and daughter, Ali  and Fatima  and said:

“Are you not going to perform the prayer?” He was persistent in his advice to them to benefit from the spiritual prosperity of the night.

To others of his Companions he said:

“Make efforts to wake up in the night. For that was the practice of those righteous people before you and it is a means of approaching Allah. (This form of worship) will stop you from sinning, is an atonement for your mistakes, and will remove the worries from the body”(Tirmidhi, Deawat, 101/3549). Stating so, he invited them to remain awake during the pre-dawn.

***

The mother of Solomon u, the son of the Prophet David, said to her son Solomon:

“My dear child! Do not sleep much during the night. For too much sleep during the night will render a person poor on the Day of Judgement” (Ibn-i Majah, Ikamet’us Salah, 174).

***

The following event related by Ibn-i Omar  evidently explains how the tahajjud prayer will keep a person far from the punishment of the hellfire:

“Whenever anyone had a dream during the lifetime of the Prophet, they would tell him about it. I dearly wished to have a dream and tell the Prophet about it.

At that time I was a single young man and I used to sleep in the mosque.

One time during one of my dreams, two angels came and took me to Hell. I saw that there were two columns built like the walls of a well. I was surprised as there were some people that I knew there. I began to scream:

“I seek refuge in Allah from the fire of hell. I seek refuge in Allah from the fire of hell”. At that time another angel came and said to me:

“Fear not, nothing will happen to you”

I shared this dream with my older sister Hafsa  and she related it to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Upon this the Prophet said:
“How beautiful and good a man is Abdullah! If only he prayed during the night as well…”

From that day on, Abdullah  spent a large portion of the night in worship and slept very little. (Bukhari, Ashabu’n Nabi, 19).

***

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh), in a divine hadith, has praised those believers who secretly give out, who wake up for tahajjud prayer and who strive earnestly in the way of Allah as follows:

“There are three types of people whom Allah loves. And there are three types of people who Allah detests. When it comes to the people that Allah loves:

A man approaches a group of people and asks them for something, not out of any familiarity to them but merely for the sake of Allah. They do not give him what he wants. One person from this congregation slowly moves to the back, without anyone realising and secretly gives this person what he wants. (He does it so secretly) that only Allah and the person he has helped know.

(When it comes to the second person): a group of travellers have been walking all night. They become so tired that sleep becomes dearer to them than anything else. They stop somewhere for the night. (All of them sleep). Only one of them gets up and supplicates to Me with humility and recites my verses.

(The third one is as such:) a person has joined a military expedition. They face the enemy but meet with a crushing defeat. Only this person moves on and continues to fight until he is killed or made victorious.

The three types of people that Allah detests are the old person who commits fornication, the poor man who is arrogant, and the rich man who is an oppressor”(Tirmidhi, Jannah, 25/2568; Nasai, Zakat, 75).

***

According to a report by Ali , the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“There are certain types of palaces in Paradise. The outside can be seen from the inside and the inside can be seen from the outside”. Hearing this, a Bedouin stood up and asked:

“Who are these palaces for o Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet replied:

“For the one who speaks his words sweetly and nicely, who is soft-spoken, who likes to feed others, who continues to fast and who performs the prayer for the sake of Allah while everybody is sleeping”(Tirmidhi, Birr, 53/1984).

***

Our most honoured teacher Master Musa (q.s) has informed us of the character of the  eminent guide Mahmud Sami Ramazanoglu. He speaks of his elevated character in the way of gnosis of Allah (knowledge of Allah) and servanthood and his state in bringing life to his nights as follows:

“Though the noble face and blessed countenance of Mahmud Sami Ramazanoglu was always smiling, his  heart would be inwardly weeping. He would shed tears for the community of Muslims and pray that they be freed from the hands of oppressors. He would cry for sinners to be saved and forgiven and his tears would flow inside.  When the Qur’an was recited, he would listen in awe, and sometimes his tears would trickle down his cheeks. During the time of the Pilgrimage while he was moving between Madina and Mecca, his tears could be seen dripping down like pearls from his eyes, while his companions were sleeping, under the light of the moon,. This scene was of such beauty that even poets and literaries found it difficult to describe”

***

The fervour for night worship of the late Musa Topbas, can be compared to the indescribable longing and desire a lover feels in anticipation of the meeting with his beloved. This state of his continued even during his days of illness when his body was suffering and ailing such that he lived at a continual peak of divine love. After an eye operation and when he had just woken up from the effects of the anaesthetic the first question he asked those around him was:

“What time is it?”

When it was said to him

“Master! It is almost 3”, he said:

“Night worship is most crucial” and with the help of those around him he took his dry ablution (tayammum) and as if forgetting the painful state he was in, he offered his heart to his Sustainer and prayed two cycles of tahajjud prayer (by moving his eyes). He did this with indescribable pleasure and enthusiasm, and then he began to perform his regular remembrance of Allah and glorification. This state of his was like an explanation of the mystery of the following verse:

“Their sides eschew their beds as they call on their Lord in fear and ardent hope. And they give of what We have provided for them” (As Sajda, 32:16)

***

One day it was said to Ibrahim bin Edham:

“I cannot wake up for night worship, teach me a remedy for this”

He received the following reply:

“Do not rebel against Allah during the day and He will allow you into His presence during the night. To be in His presence during the night is the most elevated honour. Sinners are not worthy of this honour!”

***

Night worship is the most important means to attaining both spiritual and bodily health.[2] Night worship repels sickness, and bestows physical and spiritual strength, sagacity and majesty. How cautionary is the following event:

During the Battle of Yarmak when the two armies had approached each other, the Greek commander sent an Arab spy to determine the state of the Muslim soldiers. After the spy had carried out the necessary intelligence he was asked on his return:

“What is the state of the Muslims? What are they doing? The spy told them of what he had seen as follows:

بِالليْلِ رُهْبَانٌ وَبِالنَّهَارِ فُرْسَانٌ

“They are a nation worshipful by night and cavalrymen by day”

Upon this the commander gave the following response:

“If what you say is true, then to be under the earth (that is, dead) would be better than fighting them above ground”

***

The following event is similar:

No enemy was able to overpower the Companions of Allah’s Messenger during battle. Heracles, the Greek commander of the army that was defeated, said to his army in anger:

“Shame on you! Are the people you are fighting not human beings like yourselves?”

“Indeed they are”, they answered.

“Well are you greater in number, or are they?” he asked

“Sir, we are much greater than them in all respects” they answered.

“So what is wrong with you that every time you face them you meet with crushing defeat?” Upon this a wise, old man from amongst the Greek old men stood up and made the following analysis:

“They pass their nights in worship, they fast during the day, they keep their promise, they command to good and they shun evil, and they share everything amongst themselves…(and this is why we cannot defeat them)”

Upon this Heracles said:

“You have spoken the truth” [3]

***

In conclusion, the night is a unique time for keeping the mind and heart clear; the perception, emotions and  expression sharp; and the memory strong.  It is a fast and easy way to advance both physically and spiritually. The night time is an opportunity not to be missed for those who wish to prepare for the great duties that await them during the day. It is a time to brew the character of those pious, committed and conscious people, who struggle for the reformation of society. The true mysteries of the peace-filled night can only be revealed to those righteous believers who are able to bring life to their nights by intensifying their worship and reflection. The hearts of those slaves who possess these mysteries and wisdom can extend as wide as the heavens and earth and become mirrors for divine manifestation, enveloping themselves in knowledge of Allah.

O our  Sustainer! Save us from wasting our nights in ignorance and loss in this short fleeting life of ours. Bestow upon us some of the mysteries of the night! Rejuvenate our hearts with the showers of prosperity that fall during the nights which are brought to life.  Allow us to attain to the morning of the hereafter from this world which is like one short night, as true lovers having obtained Your Pleasure and let our souls taste the pleasure of union with You… Amen!

[1].     According to the explanation of this hadith, the Prophet e read first Baqara, then Nisa, then Al’i Imran. The reading of these in this order is not the same as the present order of the chapters in the Qur’an, which is Baqara, Al’i Imran, Nisa. (Commentators) of hadith explain the wisdom behind this in two ways: Firstly, the order of the chapters had not yet been determined at that time. Secondly, it is permissible to read the chapters in this order.

[2].     See Tirmidhi, Deavat, 101/3549

[3].     Ibn-i Asakir, Tarihu Dimask, ts., II, 97)