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Qiyam Al-Layl and Tahajjud Prayer

Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

category: Prayer

source: Islam-QA.com

reads: 15323

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Qiyaam al-layl is an act of worship that connects the heart to Allaah, may He be exalted, and enables it to overcome the temptations of life and to strive against one’s own self, at the time when voices are stilled, eyes are closed in sleep, and sleepers are tossing and turning in their beds. Therefore qiyaam al-layl is one of the measures of sincere determination and one of the qualities of those who have great ambitions. Allaah has praised them and distinguished them from others in the Qur’aan, where He says (interpretation of the meaning): "Is one who is obedient to Allaah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say: 'Are those who know equal to those who know not?’ It is only men of understanding who will remember." [al-Zumar 39:9]

Qiyaam al-layl is "sunnah mu’akkadah" (confirmed Sunnah), which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) urged us to do when he said, "You should pray qiyaam al-layl, for it is the habit of the righteous people who came before you, and it will bring you closer to your Lord, expiate for bad deeds, prevent sin, and expel disease from the body." [Reported by al-Tirmidhi and Ahmad]

According to a hadeeth, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "The best of prayers after the prescribed prayers is qiyaam al-layl."

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) always had the habit of praying qiyaam al-layl, and never gave it up, whether he was travelling or staying at home. Even though he, among all the sons of Adam, would be the one to have all his past and future sins forgiven, he prayed qiyaam al-layl until his feet became swollen, and when he was asked about that, he said, "Should I not be a grateful slave?" [Agreed upon]

This is how the noble salaf were, may Allaah have mercy upon them. Abu’l-Darda’ (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: "Pray two rak’ahs in the darkness of the night for the darkness of the grave." Ahmad ibn Harb said: "I am astonished at people who know that the delights of Paradise lie above them and the horrors of Hell lie beneath them. How can they sleep in between them?"

When 'Umar ibn Dharr saw that night had come, he would say: "Night has come, and night has dignity, and Allaah is most deserving of reverence."

For this reason, al-Fudayl ibn 'Ayaad said: "I met some people who feel ashamed before Allaah to sleep for too long in the depths of the night. Such a person may be resting on his side, and when he moves, he says to himself, 'This is not your right. Get up and take your share of the Hereafter.’"

Al-Hasan said: "We do not know of any deed more difficult than the struggle to stay up at night or to spend money." It was said to him, "Why do the mutahajjadeen (those who pray Tahajjud at night) have the most beautiful faces?" He said, "Because they spend time alone with the Most Merciful, so He adorns them with some of His light."

The women of the salaf also used to strive to pray qiyaam al-layl with energy and determination. Where are the women of our own age when it comes to such great deeds?

'Urwah ibn al-Zubayr said: "I came to 'Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) one day to greet her, and I found her praying and reciting the aayah (interpretation of the meaning), 'But Allaah has been gracious to us, and has saved us from the torment of the Fire’ [al-Toor 52:27], repeating it and weeping. I waited for her, but I got bored of waiting, so I went to the market for some things I needed, then I came back to 'Aa’ishah, and she was still praying and reciting this aayah and weeping."

Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Jibreel said to me, 'Go back to Hafsah, for she fasts a lot and prays a lot at night (qiyaam al-layl).’" [Reported by al-Haakim, Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4227]

Mu’aadhah al-'Adawiyyah, one of the righteous Taabi’aat spent her wedding night, along with her husband Silah ibn Ashyam, praying until Fajr. When her husband and son were killed in the land of jihaad, she would spend the whole night in prayer, worshipping and beseeching Allaah, and she would sleep during the day. If she felt sleepy whilst she was praying at night, she would tell herself: "O soul, there is plenty of sleep ahead of you."

When Habeebah al-'Adawiyyah prayed 'Ishaa’, she would stand on the roof of her house, wearing her chemise and khimaar (i.e., covered in proper Islamic dress), then she would say, "O my God, the stars have come out, people have gone to sleep, and kings have closed their doors, but Your door is open. Every lover is alone with his lover, but here I am standing before You." Then she would start to pray and talk to her Lord until the time of suhoor. When the time of suhoor came, she would say, "O Allaah, this night is ending, the day is coming, and I wish I knew whether you have accepted this night (of worship) from me, so that I could congratulate myself, or if it has been rejected, so that I might console myself."

'Amrah, the wife of Habeeb al-'Ajami, prayed qiyaam al-layl one night whilst her husband was asleep. When the time for suhoor came, and her husband was still asleep, she woke him up and said to him, "Get up, my master, for the night has gone, the day has come and ahead of you lies a long road with little provision, and a small group of righteous people who have gone before us, and we are still here."

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