As we approach the final leg of Ramadan, it is vital that we “tighten” our “girdle” towards more worship, in all its forms, just as the Holy Prophetsa would. An effective and very important worship is Tahajud – the night prayer – especially in the month of Ramadan. If you have been struggling to wake up, here are 13 effective ways to get up for Tahajud without the aid of an alarm clock. These were devised by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud, may Allah be pleased with him, through the Holy Quran, sunnah and hadith and are available in the book Remembrance of Allah.
“One way – albeit not very useful in my opinion – is to use an alarm clock. It creates dependency and fails to produce the resolute will. If you go to sleep having resolved to get up for Tahajud, you will be in a state of worship all night. Being determined, you will get up. Those depending on an alarm clock, but lacking determination, will often shut the alarm clock to go back to sleep. When they get up, they generally feel sleepy in prayers. Their dependency prevents them from complete awakening and alertness.
“However, under certain circumstances, the alarm clock may be used by beginners or others. There are 13 methods that can help in getting up at night. Anyone who sincerely tries them will, God willing, benefit from them. There may be difficulties in the beginning, but in the end, these methods will prove useful. I have derived these methods from the Holy Quran and hadith. It is Allah’s grace that these points, which remained hidden from others, have been manifested to me.
“To save time, I will only give my conclusions without quoting the references.
“1. It is a law of nature that everything reverts to its original state if similar circumstances reappear. Often in old age, a person suffers from their childhood diseases. The same happens to birds and trees. This law can be helpful in cultivating the habit of getting up during the night. Perform zikr [reciting, reflecting and pondering over Allah’s attributes] for a while after Isha prayers. The more zikr you perform, the earlier you will get up for zikr before morning.
“2. Do not talk to anybody after Isha prayers. Although sometimes the Holy Prophetsa continued his conversation after Isha, as a general rule, he forbade it. There are two reasons: Firstly, if you start talking, you will sleep late and will not be able to get up early in the morning and secondly, if the conversation concerns things other than faith, your attention will be diverted. You should go to sleep while thinking of your faith; you will get up with the same thoughts.
“It is not forbidden to carry out office work or other important assignments after Isha, but in that case, it is better to spend some time in zikr before going to sleep.
“3. Perform wuzu (ablution) before going to bed, even if you are already in a state of ablution. It affects the heart and creates a special kind of freshness. If you go to sleep in that state of freshness, you will get up in the same condition. This is a common observation. Someone smiling at bedtime is generally smiling when he gets up; one who is crying will wake up crying. With ablution you will feel fresh at the time of sleep and when you wake up. It will also help you in getting up.
“4. Recite some zikr before falling asleep; this will cause you to wake up again for zikr during the night. The Holy Prophetsa used to perform zikr in the following manner before going to sleep:
“He would recite Ayat-ul-Kursi [Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.256] and the last three chapters of the Holy Quran; he then gently blew upon his hands and lightly passed them over his body three times. Then, he would turn towards his right and say:
‘O Allah, I put myself in Your protection, and turn my face towards You and assign all my affairs to You, with complete inclination and fear of You. There is no refuge or protection from You except towards Yourself. I believe in Your Book, which You have revealed, and Your Prophet that You have sent.’
“All believers should perform this zikr and then continue with another form of zikr until sleep takes over.
“An important recitation for this time is:
‘Subhanallahi wa bi-hamdihi, subhanallahil-Azim’ (Holy is Allah, with His Praise; Holy is Allah, the Great).
The condition in which a person goes to sleep stays with him all night. If someone sleeps while performing tasbih [glorification of God] and tahmid [praise of God] they will remain in that spiritual state all night.
“It is a common observation that ladies or children who are disturbed or are in pain at bedtime cry when they turn over onto their sides during sleep. Similarly, if someone goes to sleep reciting tasbih, they will recite tasbih when they turn sides. God Almighty says, ‘Their sides keep away from their beds; and they call on their Lord in fear and hope, and spend out of what We have bestowed on them’ (Surah As-Sajdah, Ch.32: V.17). To a casual observer, it may not appear that Muslims keep away from their beds.
“The Holy Prophetsa went to sleep and so do all the Muslims. But in truth, their slumber is not sleep; it is a form of tasbih. They appear to be sleeping, but in reality, they are not. Their sides keep away from their beds, as they remain engaged in the remembrance of their Lord.
“5. Resolve firmly at bedtime to get up for Tahajud. God Almighty has given man the power to make his mind obey his will. Philosophers have accepted this principle. Decide firmly that you will get up for Tahajud. While your body sleeps, your mind will be alert. It will wake you up at exactly the desired time.
“6. The sixth method is only for those who are really strong in faith. Instead of performing Witr [three rak‘at prescribed as essential] after Isha, leave Witr for Tahajud time. In general, people are regular in performing the obligatory worship, but show slackness in the voluntary prayers. Witr are wajib – an essential act of worship, not obligatory but more important than the voluntary. When a wajib is combined with the nawafil [voluntary prayers] it will strengthen the resolve to observe both. The soul will not rest until the wajib has been observed. So, the voluntary prayers will also be observed. One who has already performed Witr may not get up for Tahajud even if he is awake. His soul will feel at ease. But if the Witr is still due, the soul will be restless and will awaken them. Only the strong in faith should practice this method; the weak ones may deprive themselves even of the Witr by doing so.
“7. The seventh method is also for those who have excelled in spirituality. They should start offering nawafil after Isha prayer and continue until they begin to doze off in prayers and are overpowered by sleep. Even though their total sleep will be reduced, they will find themselves awake at the time of Tahajud. This method is an exercise for the spirit.
“8. The eighth method has been practiced by many sufis. I have not felt the need for it myself, but it is beneficial nonetheless. If you get into the habit of oversleeping, then change the soft bed to a hard one.
“9. Have dinner several hours before going to bed. Eat before Maghrib prayer or immediately after it. Sometimes the spirit is active, but the body is not. The body acts like a yoke; if the yoke is too heavy, it strangles the spirit. The stomach should not be full at bedtime. It has an adverse effect upon the heart and makes a man lazy.
“10. Do not go to bed unclean. Angels associate with those who are clean; they do not approach the unclean. Once, the Holy Prophetsa was offered something with a strong odour. He did not eat it but permitted his Companionsra to do so. He explained to them that the angels, who visit him frequently, did not like such odours. Angels abhor filth.
“Once Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih Ira went to bed without washing his hands after dinner. He saw a dream; his older brother wanted to present him the Holy Quran, but when he was about to touch it, his brother withdrew it and said, ‘Do not touch the Holy Quran; your hands are not clean.’ Physical cleanliness affects purity of the heart. Those who are clean will have the help of angels to get up; the unclean will not be approached by them. So, keep your bodies clean.
“11. The bed should be clean. Many people ignore this matter. Remember that spirituality is directly influenced by cleanliness of the bed. Take special care in this respect.
“12. Husbands and wives should avoid going to sleep in the same bed. Amongst ordinary Muslims, this habit can harm spirituality, but it does not affect the spiritually advanced. The Holy Prophetsa slept in the same bed with his wives.
He possessed a lofty spiritual status and his spirituality could not be compromised. Ordinary Muslims should be careful. A carnal passion adversely affects spirituality.
“That is why Islam teaches:
‘…eat and drink but exceed not the bounds…’ (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.32)
“Why does Islam prohibit us from exceeding the limits? Because it harms spirituality. Couples with self-control will not suffer by sleeping together, but ordinary Muslims may find that it keeps their minds inclined towards passion. That hurts spirituality and prevents them from getting up.
“13. The last method is superior. It helps in getting up for Tahajud and saves one from many sins and weaknesses. Before retiring for sleep, ponder whether you have any malice or harbour any rancour or prejudices against someone. If so, remove it. The purification achieved by this exercise will enable you to get up for Tahajud. The heart should be completely clean at bedtime.
“Anybody who considers such thoughts to be of some worth should remind themselves that they may be free to indulge in them during the day, but they have no need for them at night. After all, they are not going to fight anybody during the night. Once rooted out, such thoughts will generally not recur. Even if they do, their damage will not be very serious. The result of a thing depends on how long it has been influenced by something else. If you wipe something with a sponge, it will dampen. But if you soak the sponge for a long time, it will get drenched. Thoughts that linger and are repeated in your mind all night will overpower your heart. Such thoughts cannot do much harm during the day because the mind is absorbed in other activities. But during the night, the mind is free to be influenced.
“Eliminate all evil thoughts against others which occur at bedtime, lest they become rooted. To shun them will not be difficult then. Moreover, should you breathe your last during the night; you will miss the opportunity of asking forgiveness for this sin. Once you eliminate the rancour, you will be free from it permanently. When you purify yourself at night, you will definitely be blessed with the opportunity of getting up for Tahajud.”
(Taken from the book, Remembrance of Allah, by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, pp.34-39)