Friday, December 13, 2013

The Early Hours

Sprinters of the 100m dash confide to us that the most critical factor in their race is the start. The difference between a winner and loser often boils down to a perfect start. The same is true for the rest of us. All we have in our control is the day we live. We can’t change the past and we can’t lose sleep over the future. The only thing we can do is get today right and the way to get it right is to start it right. If we resolve to do this day after day, weekday and weekend, work day and holiday, etc. we have set ourselves up to succeed in life.

The early hours, i.e. hours before fajr are the most productive hours you can spend awake. The mind is fresh, the heart is receptive, the soul is tranquil as the night and there is no one / nothing to disturb your train of thought. In a life full of appointments, it is a “me time” no one should consider squandering. Once you fall into the routine of waking up for in the early hours and sleeping right after ishaa, you have set yourself up to live a most productive life. To help me achieve this routine, the first thing I do after waking up is to have a shower to completely rejuvenate myself. I excuse myself for all appointments after ishaa, even those on the weekends and encourage my family to go to bed early as well.

It is the best time to submit to Allah (SWT), express regret for the past (seek forgiveness),  plan for the present day and articulate one's aspirations for the future (make supplications).

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said: ‘In the last third of every night our Rabb (Cherisher and Sustainer) (Allah (SWT)) descends to the lowermost heaven and says; “Who is calling Me, so that I may answer him? Who is asking Me so that may I grant him? Who is seeking forgiveness from Me so that I may forgive him?”‘ [Sahih al-Bukhari]

By taking time out to pray qiyaam ul lail regularly, one is resolving to spend one's days (and thus one's life) for Allah (SWT) in the pursuit of goals and aspirations that are pleasing to Him (SWT) and not chasing after one fleeting mirage after another by being a slave of others, the dunya or one's nafs.

Waking up early is a natural routine followed by so much of Allah’s (SWT) creation. In the past, with the absence of electricity which extended the days into nights this was the routine of the pious people of our salaf. Slaves used to commiserate each other if their master’s family did not wake up to pray tahajjud every day. Muslim scholars were able to write books during these hours. The polymath, Ibn Sina, used to spend his day carrying out his duties as the vizier of Amir Shams Ad-Dawla of Hamadan, while writing famous encyclopedias like the Cannon of Medicine and Book of Healing in the early hours. When he faced a mental block, he used to pray for inspiration to Allah (SWT). Those nine years were the most productive of his blessed life.

As opposed to those who wake up late and spend the whole day running from appointment to appointment, chore to chore, deadline to deadline, etc. a person who uses his early hours for praying, studying and planning the day has the day under his control. He has control over his time and as time is life, he has control over his life. Thus he can begin to achieve the responsibilities of vice-regency that Allah (SWT) has meant for the son of Adam (AS). This routine also minimizes anxieties and other psychological maladies that are so common in today’s lifestyle.

Waking up at this time was only obligatory on the Prophet (SWAS) and not his Ummah. This is a mercy from Allah (SWT) as He (SWT) is best aware of man’s nature and his weaknesses. Nevertheless, those of his Ummah who have high aspirations cannot properly achieve them while fulfilling all their responsibilities without adopting this important sunnah in their lives. A productive Muslim has no choice but to be a morning person.

Ever wonder why the Prophet (SWAS) did not need to go on a "vacation" or the Sahaba (RA) long for the "weekend"? It was partially because of this routine, in which one does not "burn out" but achieves all multifaceted goals with optimum effort. Every day was productive, every minute was cherished and used wisely. There was no question of taking "breaks" as the whole life was integrated and holistically structured to constantly achieve without the need for discontinuities.

If one wants to be a high achiever and leave a legacy in life, one must learn to use time wisely. By waking up before fajr, one can plan one's day out perfectly – the day being all that he has control over. A life spent with this routine, will not only be according to nature, it will be most productive. Some of the most productive thinking time is before dawn. A wise Muslim will make it his daily habit to use it to achieve all his goals without burning out, bi-izn Allah.