Problems and Solutions
Book by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
Praise be to Allaah, we praise Him and seek His help, and we seek refuge with Allaah from the evil of our own selves and from our evil deeds. Whomever Allaah guides, no one can mislead, and whomever Allaah leaves astray, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah alone, with no partner or associate, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
“O you who believe! Fear Allaah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims) with complete submission to Allaah.” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:102 – interpretation of the meaning]
“O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person, and from him created his wife, and from them both He created many men and women, and fear Allaah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allaah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.” [al-Nisaa’ 4:1 – interpretation of the meaning]
“O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allaah and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds, and will forgive you your sins. And whoever obeys Allaah and His Messenger, he has indeed achieved a great achievement.” [al-Ahzaab 33:70 – interpretation of the meaning]
Some brothers have asked me questions in various talks and lectures, including questions about a number of problems, “diseases of the heart” (spiritual problems) and very real obstacles that they are facing. I answered these questions and enquiries in a series of studies entitled Shakaawaa wa Hulool (Problems and solutions).
This series has been reviewed for publication, and I now present it to my brothers in the hope that this action may be included in those referred to in the hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Whoever relieves a believer of some of the distress of this world, Allaah will relieve him of some of the distress of the Day of Judgement… Allaah will help His slave so long as the slave is helping his brother.” (Saheeh Muslim) I ask Allaah to give my brothers and me the strength to do good deeds and to avoid evil, and to save us on the Day of Regrets, for He is the Best of those who are asked, and He is Able to do all things.
A brother complained: “I miss salaat al-Ffjr on most days, and I hardly ever pray it at the right time. Usually I do not wake up until after the sun has risen, or at best I wake up after the time for praying fajr in jamaa’ah. I have tried to wake up at the right time, with no success. What is the solution to this problem?”
All praise be to Allaah. The solution to this problem, like others, has two aspects: theoretical and practical.
The theoretical aspect may be further broken down into two points:
(1) The Muslim should know the great status of salaat al-fajr in the sight of Allaah, may He be glorified. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever prays the dawn prayer in congregation, it is as if he had prayed the whole night long.” (Muslim, p. 454, no. 656; al-Tirmidhi, 221).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also said:
“The most burdensome prayers for the hypocrites are salaat al-’isha’ and salaat al-fajr, but if they only knew what they contain, they would come even if they had to crawl.” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, al-Musnad, 2/424; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 133).
“Whoever prays fajr is under the protection of Allaah. Do not put yourselves in a situation where Allaah has to call you to account for your negligence.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani, 7/267; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 6344).
“Angels come to you in shifts by night and by day. They meet at salaat al-fajr and salaat al-‘asr, then those who had stayed with you at night ascend, and are asked by the One Who knows better than they: ‘How did you find My servants?’ They say, ‘We left them when they were praying, and we came to them when they were praying.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 2/33).
“The best of prayers in the sight of Allaah is the dawn prayer on Friday, in congregation.” (Reported by Abu Na’eem in al-Hilyah, 7/207, and in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 1566).
According to a saheeh hadeeth: “Whoever prays al-Bardayn will enter Paradise.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 2/52). Al-Bardayn are fajr and ‘asr.
(2) The Muslim should understand the seriousness of missing salaat al-fajr. This is explained by the hadeeth already quoted:
“The most burdensome prayers for the hypocrites are salaat al-’isha’ and salaat al-Fajr…”
In al-Saheeh, it is reported that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both) said: “If we did not see a person at fajr and ‘isha’ prayers, we would think badly of him.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer, 12/271. Al-Haythami said, the men of al-Tabaraani are muwaththaqoon (trustworthy). al-Majma’, 2/40). They thought badly of a person who was absent from these two prayers because regular performance of them is an indication of a person’s faith and a measure of his sincerity. Other prayers may be easier to do because they are more convenient to a person’s circumstances and fit in with his work and his sleep, but only those who are determined and sincere, people whom one hopes are good people, will be able to pray fajr and ‘isha’ regularly in congregation.
Another hadeeth which indicates the seriousness of missing salaat al-fajr is: “Whoever prays fajr is under the protection of Allaah. Do not put yourselves in a situation where Allaah has to call you to account for your negligence, because whoever finds himself in this situation will be sorted out and then thrown on his face in the Fire of Hell.” (Reported by Muslim, p. 454).
These two points are sufficient to guarantee that the Muslim’s heart will burn with the concern to ensure that he does not miss fajr. The first motivates him to strive to earn the reward for fajr, and the second acts as a warning that will deter him from committing the sin of negligence.
The practical aspect of dealing with this problem includes a number of steps which the Muslim can take in order to get used to performing salaat al-fajr regularly in congregation. These steps include:
Sleeping early. According to a saheeh hadeeth, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to dislike sleeping before ‘isha’ and talking afterwards. The Muslim should not sleep before salaat al-’isha’ because it is obvious that most of those who sleep before it will spend the rest of the night feeling so tired and heavy that it will be as if they are ill.
Also, the Muslim should not talk after ‘isha’, and the scholars have explained the reason why doing so is disliked: it is because doing so leads to people staying up late, which in turns leads to the fear that they will sleep and miss qiyaam al-layl, or the correct or preferred time for fajr prayer.
The kind of talk that is disliked after ‘isha’, as the commentators explain, is that in which there is no clear benefit, but if there is some benefit – such as studying and gaining knowledge, learning stories of righteous people, speaking to a guest, spending time with one’s wife and family, speaking to travellers and taking care of them and their luggage, or any other permissible reason – then there is nothing wrong with it. This has no connection with the reasons for which many people stay up late nowadays, to do wrong and commit sin! So the Muslim should sleep early, so that he can wake up refreshed to pray fajr and avoid the kind of late nights that make him too tired to get up and pray fajr in congregation.
It is a fact that people differ with regard to their need for sleep, so it is not possible to dictate a set number of hours that people should sleep, but each person should stick to the time that will give him enough sleep to wake up refreshed for salaat al-fajr. If a person knows from experience that sleeping after 11 p.m., for example, will mean that he cannot get up for fajr, then from an Islamic point of view he should not sleep any later than that… and so on.
Making sure that one is clean (taahir) and reciting adhkaar (prayers) before sleeping. This helps a person to get up for fajr.
Having a sincere intention and being determined, when going to sleep, that one will get up for fajr. But a person who goes to sleep hoping that the alarm will not go off, and that no one will come and wake him up, will not – with such a corrupt intention – be able to get up to pray fajr whilst he still has this bad intention.
Remembering Allaah as soon as one wakes up. Some people may initially wake up, then they go back to sleep again. But if a person remembers Allaah straight after waking up, this will loosen one of the knots of Shaytaan, and will motivate him to get up. When he performs wudoo’, his determination becomes stronger, and Shaytaan is driven further away, and when he prays, his shaytaan is defeated, his balance (of good deeds) becomes heavier, and he will feel happy and energetic.
Seeking help from one’s family and friends to pray fajr, and encouraging one another in this regard. This is essential, and is undoubtedly included in the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meanings):
“… Help you one another in al-birr and al-taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety)…” [al-Maa’idah 5:2]
“By al-‘asr (time). Verily! Man is in loss, except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth and recommend one another to patience.” [al-‘Asr 103:1-3]
The Muslim should encourage his wife, for example by waking her up to pray fajr, and she should encourage him, no matter how tired and exhausted he may be. Children should also seek their father’s help to wake up, so he can wake them when it is time for the prayer. No father should say “They have exams, they are tired, let them sleep, poor kids.” It is a mistake to think that be doing this one is being a kind and merciful parent; true parental mercy means that the father wakes them up to worship Allaah. “And enjoin al-salaah (the prayer) on your family, and be patient in offering them (the prayers)…” [Ta-Ha 20:132 – interpretation of the meaning].
Just as family members should help and encourage one another to pray fajr, so brothers in Islam can also help one another. For example, university students living in the same residence or neighbours in the same neighbourhood can help one another by knocking on a neighbour’s door to wake him for prayer and helping him to worship Allaah.
Praying to Allaah to help him to wake up to pray fajr in congregation. Du’aa’ is one of the greatest sources of strength and success in all things.
Using various means of being woken up, such as alarm clocks. These should be put in the most appropriate place. Some people put the alarm clock next to their head, and when it rings, they turn if off at once and go straight back to sleep. Such a person should put the clock a little further away, so that he can feel that it is really waking him up.
One can also arrange to receive alarm calls from the telephone company, and no Muslim should think that it is too much to pay for this service if he needs it, because this is spending in the way of Allaah, and waking up to obey the command of Allaah cannot be measured in terms of worldly wealth.
Throwing water in the face of the person who is sleeping. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) praised the man who gets up at night to pray, and wakes his wife, and when she refuses to get up, he throws water in her face; and he praised the woman who gets up at night to pray, and wakes her husband, and when he refuses to get up, she throws water in his face. (Reported by Imaam Ahmad in al-Musnad, 2/250; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3494).
Throwing water in a person’s face is one of the means of waking a person for prayer that is prescribed by sharee’ah. In fact it is quite refreshing and energizing. Some people may become enraged when woken in this manner, and they may shout and swear and issue threats, so the person who is seeking to wake another should employ wisdom and patience, and remember that the pens are lifted from the record of one who is sleeping (i.e., his deeds are not being recorded while he is asleep) – so he should put up with any bad treatment, and not let this put him off trying to wake people up for prayer.
Not sleeping alone. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade any man to sleep alone. (Reported by Imaam Ahmad in al-Musnad, 2/91; al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 60). Perhaps the wisdom behind this prohibition is that a person could sleep too long if there is no-one to wake him up for prayer.
Not sleeping in remote places where it would not occur to anyone that someone could be sleeping there, such as a person sleeping on the roof of a house without telling his family where he is, or sleeping in a remote part of the house or student residence, so that no-one will know to wake him for prayer, but everyone will think that he is in the mosque when in fact he is fast asleep. Anyone who needs to sleep in a remote place should tell the people around him where he will be so that they can come and wake him.
Being lively and active upon waking. One should get up straightaway, and not wake up in stages, as some people do. A person could be woken up several times, and each time he gets up, but when his friend leaves, he goes back to bed. Waking up in stages usually ends in failure, and the only way to prevent falling asleep again is to get up straight away.
Not setting the alarm too early. If a person knows that there is still a long time to go until the time of the prayer, he may think, “I still have time, let me sleep a little more…” Everyone should know how to handle himself and avoid this situation.
Lighting a lamp when waking up – or, in our modern times, switching on the light. This has the effect of dispelling sleepiness.
Not staying up late, even to pray qiyaam al-layl. Some people may stay up late to pray qiyaam al-layl, then fall asleep a few minutes before fajr and be unable to wake up for the prayer. This happens a lot in Ramadaan – people stay up late and sleep a little while before fajr, so they miss the prayer. No doubt this is a grave error, because fard (obligatory) prayer should take precedence over naafil (supererogatory) prayer. So what about those who stay up late not to pray but to commit sin, or at best to do permissible things? The Shaytaan may make the idea of staying up late to discuss important matters attractive to some daa’iyahs (Islamic workers), then they sleep late and miss the prayer, thus losing much more than they gained.
Not eating too much before going to sleep. Eating too much makes one sleep deeply. The one who eats a lot gets very tired, and sleeps a lot, thus losing a lot. So one should try to eat lightly in the evening.
Warning about the misinterpretation of the sunnah to lie down after praying the sunnah of fajr. Some people may have heard the hadeeth in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When any one of you has prayed, let him lie down on his right side.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 420; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 642). It was also reported that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had prayed the sunnah of fajr, he would lie down, then Bilaal would call him to prayer, and he would stand up to pray. People may have heard these ahaadeeth, and be keen to follow this proven sunnah, but they do not understand how to do it properly. So a person may pray the sunnah of fajr, then lie down on his right side, and fall fast asleep until the sun rises. This is because of a lack of proper understanding. The lying down is not for the purpose of sleeping, and Bilaal used to come and tell the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) when it was time to pray. Moreover, as was reported by Imaam Ahmad and Ibn Hibbaan in a saheeh hadeeth, if the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) wanted to rest before fajr, he would put his head on his right palm, propped up on his elbow. (Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/298; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 4752). This kind of resting prevents one from falling fast asleep, because in this case one’s head is propped up on one’s palm and elbow, and will drop if one dozes off, thus waking one up again. In addition to this, Bilaal was entrusted with the responsibility of waking the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) for the fajr prayer.
Praying qiyaam al-layl late in the night, just before fajr, so that when one finishes witr, the call for fajr prayer is given, making the worship continuous. The night prayer should be offered during the last third of the night – which is the preferred time – and immediately followed by the fajr prayer, whilst one is feeling awake and energetic.
Following the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in lying down to sleep. So a person should lie on his right side, placing his right cheek on his right hand. This position makes it easy to wake up. The best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and this is better than sleeping in any other position which may make it difficult to wake up.
Helping oneself by taking a nap during the day, because this will help a person by making him need less sleep at night.
Not sleeping after ‘asr or maghrib, because this will make a person sleep late, and whoever sleeps late will find it difficult to wake up.
Finally, sincere devotion to Allaah is the best thing to motivate a person to get up for prayer, because Allaah is the One Who is controlling all means of help. If a person has that true sincerity and his heart is burning with devotion to Allaah, then Allaah will help him to get up to pray fajr in congregation, even if he goes to sleep only a few moments before fajr.
This sincerity and devotion may cause some very enthusiastic people to find unusual ways to help themselves to wake up to pray, which is a sign of their eagerness and keenness. One of them may set a number of alarm clocks to wake him up, setting each one a few minutes later than the other, so that if he turns the first one off, the next one will wake him a few moments later, and so on. Another may tie a string to his wrist, with the other end dangling from his window, so that when one of his friends passes by on his way to the mosque, he can pull on the string and wake him for fajr prayer.
See what can be achieved with sincerity and determination, may Allaah guide you! But the bitter truth is that weakness of faith and lack of sincerity are widespread among people nowadays, as we can see from the small numbers of people to be found praying in the mosques at fajr, despite the fact that there are so many people living around the mosques in many neighbourhoods.
But no doubt there are people who sleep so heavily that it is almost like an illness, and they may be excused, because the matter is beyond their control. People in this situation should turn to Allaah for help, and do everything that they possibly can, and visit the doctor, to try to find a cure.
Finally, a word about a well known phenomenon: some people claim that there is a hadeeth which says that the person who wants to get up for fajr should recite the last part of Soorat al-Kahf before sleeping, and have the intention in his heart to get up at a certain hour, and this will make him get up at that time. They claim that this is a tried and tested method. Our response is that there is no such saheeh hadeeth, and this carries no weight whatsoever. The best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
This is a problem that is widespread, especially among the youth. Someone asked:
“Our gatherings with friends and colleagues are filled with too much laughter, and it goes to extremes. This phenomenon is becoming ever more widespread. What is the solution?”
In response, the solution to this problem has two aspects: theoretical and practical. The theoretical aspect may be further broken down into two points:
Firstly, we should know how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) conducted himself when it came to laughter, and he is the best example in this as in all other things.
It is reported in a saheeh hadeeth that his laughter was never more than a smile. (Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/97; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4861). According to another hadeeth, he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to remain silent for long periods, and laugh little. (Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/86; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4822). ‘Aa’ishah, may Allaah be pleased with her, said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) laughing so heartily that his back teeth showed; he would only smile.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 5098).
According to a saheeh hadeeth, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter kills the heart (i.e., spiritually).” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, no. 4193; Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 506). According to another report, he said: “… too much laughter corrupts the heart.” After knowing this, if a Muslim laughs to excess it is as if he is undertaking a journey that he knows will lead to his doom.
This is the theoretical response to this problem, in brief.
Before we turn to the practical aspects, we must point out that laughter is not haraam, and the Muslim is not expected to be dour-faced and stern and rigid. Laughter is something which is quite natural, and indeed Allaah says in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning): “And … it is He (Allaah) Who makes (whom He wills) laugh, and makes (whom He wills) weep” [al-Najm 53:43] But the problem which we are discussing here – excessive laughter – has a number of bad effects, including the following:
It makes gatherings explode with guffaws and echo with raucous laughter.
The believer’s heart is spiritually corrupted by too much laughter, and he opens his mouth too wide, instead of being serious and of sound character.
It leads to daa’iyahs (Islamic workers) making people laugh as a means of winning them over and having an influence on them, or so they claim. What they do not realize is that people gather around them only for the sake of laughter, and they do not benefit from them at all.
The problem is that some people use laughter as a safety valve or release from their stress and worries, resorting to an inferior means rather than what is better. I remember a young man who one day was suffering anxiety because he was behind in his studies, and was going through some family problems, and had other troubles as well. He went out of his house and bumped into a friend on the way, who asked him, “Where are you going?” He said: “I am worried and stressed out, so I’m going to see So-and-so, so he can make me laugh and forget my problems…” He did not realize that his friend’s ability to make him laugh was like a drug which makes people forget while they are under its influence, but when it wears off, everything is still as it was before.
The Muslim should know better, and should treat worries and stress in the way prescribed by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). When something was troubling him, he would pray (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4703), and if something distressed him, he would say, “Ya Hayyu ya Qayyoom, bi rahmatika astagheeth (O Ever-Living, O Eternal One, by Your mercy I seek Your help).” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4777). According to another saheeh hadeeth, when he was overtaken by worries and distress, he would say, “Ya Hayyu ya Qayyoom, bi rahmatika astagheeth. Allaahu rabbee wa la ushriku bihi shay’an (O Ever-Living, O Eternal One, by Your mercy I seek Your help. Allaah is my Lord, and I do not associate anything with Him).” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4791).
In the famous du’aa’ to relieve stress and anxiety, he said: “Allaahumma inni ‘abduka, wa’bnu ‘adbdika wa’bnu amatika… (O Allaah, I am Your slave, the son of Your slave, the son of Your maidservant…).”
This is a concept which has to be understood properly before we move on to a discussion of the practical ways of dealing with the problem of excessive laughter, which can be dealt with in the following ways:
Remembering death, the grave, the Last Day and its reckoning, the bridge over Hell (al-siraat), the Fire, and all the other terrors of the Hereafter. The way to remember all these things is to read the texts that describe these scenes and to study the details and commentaries, as well as sitting with people who are ascetic (zaahid) and whose hearts are devoted to Allaah.
Thinking about the situation of the Muslims and how they are suffering because they have strayed from their religion; they are behind in all fields of life, facing oppression, hardship and destruction, and subject to the plots of international conspiracies. When the Muslim thinks long and hard about this situation, it needs must have an impact on how much he laughs and cries.
Feeling the weight of his great responsibility towards his ummah, which is need of huge efforts to save it from the danger of falling. If this becomes his main concern, he will start making active efforts to reform his family and friends, and his society, as much as he can. He will not have the time for cracking stupid jokes or for excessive laughter or trivial pursuits.
Avoiding mixing with jokers who are well-known for making people laugh and trying to be funny, and keeping away from gatherings where they are present, whilst also trying to advise them and the people who sit with them. We have already referred to some Islamic workers who use the tactic of making people laugh as a means of winning people over, and in some cases the general public may say, “Where is the shaykh who makes us laugh? We want the shaykh who makes us laugh!” This is a step backwards, which we hope the ummah will avoid, because the Religion of Allaah is great and strong. Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings): “Verily! This (the Qur’aan) is the Word that separates (the truth from falsehood…). And it is not a thing for amusement.” [al-Taariq 83:13] and: “…Hold fast to that which We have given you…” [al-Baqarah 2:93]. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much, and you would go out to the hills, beseeching Allaah for help.” If we really understood what is required of us, and what lies ahead, we would never even sleep peacefully.
Resisting the urge to laugh as much as possible, as well as tying to stop others from laughing. There may be a gathering where the people are accustomed to laughing and chortling most of the time. So the Muslim must first suppress his own laughter, just as he suppresses a yawn, then he should advise the other people present and help them to control themselves. It takes a persuasive, determined and serious person to do this. There is a lot of goodness in people, praise be to Allaah, and they are ready to respond to the one who wants to reform them and improve them. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as telling them how bad it is to laugh and make others laugh, because it can lead to lies and falsehood when the “comedian” cannot find a true story to tell, so he makes up a tale from his imagination to make people laugh. This is the kind of person who was warned by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Woe to the one who talks and tells lies to make people laugh… woe to him, woe to him!” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7136). It can also make him an unstable person who is held in low esteem by others, because the person who makes people laugh is despised by them, even if he thinks otherwise. They have no respect for him at all, and the same applies to the person who laughs too much.
Changing the subject that led to the laughter, and introducing another, useful subject. If you see that the people have gone too far with their laughter, try to bring them to their senses, using a proper method, and introduce a serious topic and help them to make good use of their time, by reading a useful book, discussing an important topic, exchanging ideas, or suggesting some charitable project or other good work that Allaah likes and is pleased with. As a last resort, if you have done all that you can to advise them correctly, get up and leave the gathering, to protect yourself from corruption. “… and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another…” [al-An’aam 6:164 – interpretation of the meaning].
A person may ask: “I am suffering from many insinuating thoughts (waswaas) about the nature of Allaah, may He be glorified. There are thoughts going around in my mind that I cannot utter because they are not befitting to Allaah, and they keep coming back to me, when I am praying and at other times. It is so bad that I doubt my faith, and wonder if I am even a Muslim or not. What is the cure for this problem?”
A number of ahaadeeth have been reported from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) which contain the answer to this problem, al-hamdu Lillah.
The Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Shaytaan may come to any one of you and say, ‘Who created Allaah?’ If any one of you experiences this, let him say, ‘Aamantu billaahi wa rasoolih (I believe in Allaah and His Messenger),’ and that will drive him away.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1657). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Shaytaan may come to any one of you and ask, ‘Who created the heaven?’ and he will say, ‘Allaah.’ The Shaytaan will say, ‘Who created the earth?’ and he will say, ‘Allaah.’ Then the Shaytaan will say, ‘Who created Allaah?’ If any one of you experiences this, let him say, ‘Aamantu billaahi wa rasoolih.’” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1656).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever experiences anything of this waswaas, let him say three times, ‘‘Aamantu billaahi wa rasoolih,’ and that will drive (the Shaytaan) away.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 6587).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Shaytaan may come to any one of you, and say, ‘Who created such-and-such? Who created such-and-such?’ until he asks, ‘Who created your Lord?’ If this happens to anyone, let him seek refuge with Allaah and let him stop these thoughts.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7993).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The people will nearly ask too many questions, so that one of them may say, ‘Allaah created all of creation, but who created Allaah?’ If they say this, then say: ‘Allaah is the One, Allaah is the Self-Sufficient Master. He begets not, nor was He begotten; and there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him’ [al-Ikhlaas 112:1-4, interpretation of the meaning], and spit (drily) to your left three times, and seek refuge with Allaah from the Shaytaan.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 8182).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Think about the signs of Allaah, do not think about Allaah (Himself).” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2975)
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Think about the creation of Allaah, do not think about Allaah (Himself).” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2976)
From these texts we may summarize the following six ways of overcoming these insinuating thoughts:
The person who is experiencing such ideas should say, “Aamantu billaahi wa rasoolih (I believe in Allaah and His Messenger).”
He should seek refuge with Allaah from the accursed Shaytaan, and say three times, “A’oodhu billaahi’l-Samee’ il-‘Aleem min al-Shaytaan il-rajeem, min hamzihi wa nafkhihi wa nafathih (I seek refuge with Allaah, the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing, from the accursed Shaytaan, and from his slander and evil insinuations).”
He should spit (drily) to his left three times.
He should stop thinking about whatever it is that is on his mind, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Let him stop.” This is an important tactic, because continuing to allow the Shaytaan to influence one in this way can only make it worse. The Muslim must stop these thoughts, as much as he is able, and keep his mind busy with something useful and beneficial.
He should recite Soorat al-Ikhlaas (Qul huwa Allaahu ahad), because it describes attributes of the Most Merciful and is considered to be equivalent to one-third of the Qur’aan. Reciting this great soorah will guarantee an end to these insinuating thoughts.
He should think about the creation and blessings of Allaah, not about His nature, because his weak human mind can never comprehend the nature of Allaah. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “… and they will never compass anything of His Knowledge” [Ta-Ha 20:110]
We have received so many questions about this problem that we know it is crying out for a solution. So many people are wasting so much time in staying up late at night.
But the truth of the matter is that this phenomenon is not homogenous. There are three kinds of staying up late:
(1) Staying up late to worship Allaah. This is the worthy kind of staying up. It includes staying up for reasons that are of benefit to the Muslims in general, such as engaging in jihaad and guarding the borders of Islam, as well as staying up to pray (qiyaam al-layl) and read Qur’aan. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “They used to sleep but little by night [invoking their Lord and praying, with fear and hope].” [al-Dhaariyaat 51:17].
We should not forget, in this context, the great Sahaabi who was guarding the Muslims at night, and spent his time on guard duty praying. He was struck by an arrow fired by the mushrikeen, and his blood began to flow, but he kept on praying, enjoying his contact with his Lord.
It is reported that some of the scholars used to discuss hadeeth until the sun came up. Some of the sincere da’iyahs (callers, Islamic workers) still stay up at night discussing matters that keep those who care about the ummah awake. An example of this is what happened with Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hameed ibn Baadees and Shaykh al-Basheer al-Ibraaheemi, the founders of the Muslim scholars’ organization (Jam’iyat al-‘Ulama’ al-Muslimeen) in Algeria. During their time in Madeenah, they used to stay up all night, until fajr time, discussing the state of the Muslim ummah and the bid’ah, myths and backwardness in which it had ended up, and planning how they would rescue Algerian society from this sorry state.
This kind of staying up is entirely worthy, so long as it does not lead to the neglect of something more important or more obligatory. Some people may stay up for a legitimate purpose, then miss fajr prayers. This is a mistake.
(2) Staying up for a permissible reason. This is fine, as long as it does not lead to the neglect of something obligatory. This includes, for example, travellers staying up to talk to one another, in order to relieve the tedium of travel. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would stay up to talk to one of his wives and keep her company, when they were on a journey.
This also includes talking to one’s guests and keeping them company.
Also included is the staying up involved in modern-day shift work, created by the demands of materialistic circumstances. No doubt some of the interests of the Muslims demand the work of people at night, such as those who work in the security forces, in hospitals and airports, in supplying electricity, and so on.
(3) Staying up to commit sin, such as staying up to watch movies, to play haraam games such as cards, or to consume the flesh of others by gossiping and backbiting and slandering, and other kinds of sin. This kind of staying up is haraam, and those who do it are sinners who deserve the punishment of Allaah. Their number has increased in modern times, for the reasons mentioned by the poet:
“Youth, idleness and good health,/ corrupt man in such a bad way!”
It is important to distinguish between one type of staying up and the other.
The habit of staying up late at night has become widespread in our times for a number of reasons, including the following:
Staying up for worldly purposes, as in the case of some traders and businessmen who stay up late putting their affairs in order, or students who stay up to study. People in this situation should try to organize their time so that they will not need to stay up late and can thus avoid its bad consequences.
The nature of modern life and the social changes which it has wrought. Earlier generations used to slow down and go to sleep when darkness fell, but the presence of electricity in modern times had led to people doing many activities, kinds of work and social activities that they never used to do during the hours of darkness. In some cases, people’s nights have become just like their days.
Many people’s indulgence in the arts and media, by means of TV, radio, video, etc.
Many people make their visits to family and friends, or organize programs etc., at nighttime, because of the nature of their work and studies. So you rarely find anyone who will visit you during the day, except at the weekend. Even gatherings for the pursuit of Islamic knowledge are mostly held after ‘isha’ prayers.
Some people indulge to excess in idle chatter and trivial discussions, even disturbing others with their talk and laughter. This phenomenon is perhaps most obvious among students living in university residences, where some inconsiderate visitors stay up late talking about who said what, causing harm to themselves and others, then neglecting many of their duties.
Insomnia, which is often caused by indulgence in sin and being far away from Allaah. Being far away from Allaah means that a person can never feel content or at peace, but will be dogged by constant anxiety, alienation and confusion.
Problems with one’s family, money, studies or work, etc., also have a clear role in causing anxiety and insomnia, until they are resolved.
Also, we should not ignore the fact that there are those who are prevented from enjoying the calm of sleep by insomnia that is caused by the fear of Allaah and the keen desire to reform this enslaved ummah.
Having examined the types of staying up late, and explained the reasons for it, we may now turn to ways of treating this widespread problem.
Treatment from the theoretical point of view:
We should think about the physical harm that may be caused by staying up late and its detrimental effect on many of our interests, such as:
Neglect of Islamic duties, such as missing fajr prayer, whether by not managing to attend the prayer in congregation, or by missing the prayer altogether and having to make it up later, or by praying in congregation but without the necessary concentration because of feeling so exhausted that one is left fighting sleep and failing to understand what is being said. So a person may not even know what the imaam is reciting, or which rak’ah he is praying, or what he is saying at the various stages of the prayer. For this reason, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade conversing after ‘isha’.
Physical harm may result from making the night a time for activity and the day for resting, contrary to the natural rhythm which Allaah has created in the universe and in mankind. Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings):
“And [We] have made the night as a covering [through its darkness], and have made the day for livelihood.”
“Say: ‘Tell me! If Allaah made night continuous for you till the Day of Resurrection, who is an ilaah [a god] besides Allaah who could bring you light? …’”
“Say: ‘Tell me! If Allaah made day continuous for you till the Day of Resurrection, who is an ilaah [a god] besides Allaah who could bring you night wherein you rest? …”
So we find people who have gone astray and gone against their innate nature (fitrah) suffering from ill health. One hour of sleep at night is worth twice as many at any other time, as is well known from experience.
Many employees fall short in their work (as a result of staying up late). A man may come to work late, exhausted, and put in a poor performance, treating clients badly. It may be so bad that there is even doubt that his salary is entirely halaal, because of his shoddy work.
The same applies to students who stay up late, and come late to school or university the next day, not caring if they have missed their early classes and barely understanding anything that is said in the classes they do attend.
Staying up late may cause a person to sleep at inappropriate times, such as sleeping after ‘asr. The salaf (early generations of the ummah) used to dislike sleeping after ‘asr unless there was a need for it – but if it is necessary, there is nothing wrong with doing so. Moreover, sleeping after ‘asr can cause headaches, and make it difficult to get to sleep at night.
Staying up late makes it difficult to do some voluntary acts of worship, such as devoting the last third of the night to prayer, or getting up to eat suhoor prior to observing a voluntary fast – how can those who stay up late manage to do these things? There is no doubt that exhaustion would prevent them from getting up, and so they deprive themselves of a great deal of good.
Missing out on the blessing of getting up early in the day. Those who stay up late sleep until after fajr, thus missing out on the time of which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The early morning has been blessed for my ummah.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2841). These people cannot stay in the mosque until sunrise in order to remember Allaah, or go out early to earn their living during the time of blessing and virtue. This has become so widespread that in the mornings you can hardly see anyone who will open his store or business early.
When the wise person realizes the kinds of harm that result from staying up late, and the great loss that befalls him as a result, no doubt he will try his utmost to reform himself and make up for what he has missed. Thus he will take the first step towards solving the problem.
There follow a number of practical steps which can be followed by anyone who wants to solve this problem:
Trying hard to get used to sleeping early. Staying up late is basically a habit, and if anyone is prepared to struggle against his own self (jihaad al-nafs) with determination, he can win the struggle in a few days, by the grace of Allaah, and join the ranks of those who sleep early.
Getting married. Many single young men are quite disorganized, staying up late together and encouraging one another to do so, as they have no wives or children to think about. But the one who is married feels his responsibility towards his wife and children, so he is keen to go back to them early so that they will not worry about him, or feel afraid if they need him in the middle of the night, when he is away. Anyone who has experience of this will understand.
Strengthening one’s feelings of responsibility in all areas will also be of help. When a man feels the burden of responsibility on his shoulders, he has no choice but to fulfil it. He will not be able to waste time, unlike those careless people who squander the vast treasure of time in trivial matters and have no appreciation for the value of time.
Adopting the habit of taking a siesta, instead of sleeping at the wrong times. Sleeping after ‘asr or before ‘isha’ is a harmful practice, as we have mentioned above. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) advised his ummah to take naps: “Take a siesta, for the shayaateen (devils) do not take siestas.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4431).
These are a few of the practical measures which one can take to combat the problem of staying up late. And Allaah is the One Who guides to the Straight Path.
A person may complain: “I get very angry very quickly. If there is the slightest provocation, I quickly explode and start to break things, swear, curse and issue threats of divorce. This problem has caused me so much embarrassment, and has made most people hate me, even my wife and children and closest friends. What can I do to rid myself of this awful disease and extinguish this devilish fire?”
Anger is a tendency that comes from the Shaytaan. Only Allaah knows how much evil and sin results from it. Hence Islam has a great deal to say about this negative characteristic and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) described remedies for ridding oneself of this problem and limiting its effects. These include the following:
Seeking refuge with Allaah from the Shaytaan. Sulaymaan ibn Sard said: “I was sitting with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and there were two men swearing at one another. One of them was red in the face and the veins of his neck were standing out. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘I know a word which, if only he would say it, this [anger] would leave him. If he said, “A’oodhu billaahi min al-shaytaan (I seek refuge with Allaah from the Shaytaan),”, this [anger] would leave him.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 6/377). He (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also said: “If a man gets angry and says ‘A’oodhu billaah (I seek refuge with Allaah),’ his anger will cease.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’ al-Sagheer, no. 695).
Keeping quiet. The Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If any one of you gets angry, let him keep quiet.” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, al-Musnad, 1/239; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 693, 4027). Anger usually makes a person lose control, often to the extent that he may utter words of kufr (Allaah forbid), or curses, or the word of divorce (talaaq) which will destroy his family, or foul language that will earn him the enmity of others. Keeping quiet is the way to avoid all of these evils.
Keeping still. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If any one of you gets angry, let him sit down if he is standing. If his anger goes away, (that is good), otherwise let him lie down.”
The narrator of this hadeeth was Abu Dharr (may Allaah be pleased with him), who told the following story: he was watering his animals at a trough, when some other people came along. He said, “Who among you will help Abu Dharr to water his animals and ....?” A man said, “I will,” but he broke the trough. Abu Dharr was standing, so he sat down, then he lay down. Someone asked him, “O Abu Dharr, why did you sit down then lie down?” He said, “Because the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said … [and quoted the hadeeth].” (The hadeeth with the whole story is reported in Musnad Ahmad, 5/152. See also Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 694).
According to another report, Abu Dharr was watering his animals at a trough when another man made him angry, so he sat down… (Fayd al-Qadeer al-Mannaawi, 1/408).
One of the benefits of this Prophetic teaching is that it prevents the angry person from doing something crazy and out of control. An angry person could inflict harm or even kill – as we shall see shortly – or he could destroy property and so on. Sitting down makes it less likely that he will explode in this fashion, and lying down makes it even less likely that he will do something reckless or harmful. Al-‘Allaamah al-Khattaabi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in his commentary on Abu Dawood: “The one who is standing is ready to move and destroy things. The one who is sitting is less likely to do so, and the one who is lying is not able to do anything of the sort. It seems that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded the angry person to sit down or lie down in order to prevent him from doing anything that he would later regret. And Allaah knows best.” (Sunan Abi Dawood wa ma’ahu ma’aalim al-sunan, 5/141)
Remembering the advice of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that a man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said: “Advise me.” He said: “Do not become angry.” The man repeated his request several times, and each time the response was, “Do not become angry.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath al-Baari, 10/465).
According to another report, the man said, “I thought about what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had said, and I realized that anger is the source of all evil.” (Musnad Ahmad, 5/373).
“Do not get angry, and Paradise will be yours.” (A saheeh hadeeth. Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7374. Ibn Hajar attributed it