With the onset of the Blessed Month of Ramadan, it is imperative that the Believer increases his worship to reap the barakah of this auspicious month. It is a month of excessive and abundant remembrance of Allah Ta’ala in the form of salaah, dhikr, recitation of the Qur’an, etc.
After the obligatory salaat, the crown jewel of salaah is known as the Tahajjud prayer. It is considered, by far, the most virtuous prayer of the day and night (of the optional prayers).
What does Tahajjud mean?
هجود Hujood means to sleep.
Now to put that in context, in the Arabic Language, many of the words that fall under the تَفَعُّل tafa3’ul syntax portray a meaning of refraining and abstention.
For example: إثم Ithm means to sin. When put in the تَفَعُّل pattern, making it تَأَثُّم Ta’aththum, it changes the meaning to: refraining/abstaining from sin.
Thus, تَهَجُّد Tahajjud means to refrain from sleep.
Now, refraining from sleep could linguistically indicate two things: It could potentially include the meaning of someone who stays awake and then remains a awake, thus ‘refraining from sleep.’
However, in this case, linguistically, tahajjud refers to a person who is sleeping, then rises up and shakes of his/her sleep whilst bearing great difficulty in waking up and the overwhelming desire to sleep.
The Pious and Tahajjud Salaah
Allah Ta’ala refers to this great prayer numerous times in the Qur’an highlighting the magnitude of the greatness and grandeur of this prayer in Islam.
While describing the attributes of His special chosen servants, Ibaadur Rahman, Allah Ta’ala says:
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا﴿٦٣﴾ وَالَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمْ سُجَّدًا وَقِيَامًا
And the servants of Ar-Rahman are those who walk upon the earth humbly and softly, and when the ignorant address them, they say a word of peace. And those who spend their nights in prostration and in standing.
Surah Furqan 63-64
In another verse, Surah Dhariyat 17-19, Allah Ta’ala praises His selected servants who shall be given a special reward on the Day of Reckoning. After rewarding these servants, an announcement will be made in the Heavens that, “Who were these servants that received such a special reward from Allah?”
كَانُوا قَلِيلًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ مَا يَهْجَعُونَ ﴿١٧﴾ وَبِالْأَسْحَارِ هُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ
These were the ones that would rest and sleep very little at night. And in the morning hours they would be seeking forgiveness from their Lord.
In another verse, Surah Sajadah 16, Allah Ta’ala praises the same servants:
تَتَجَافَىٰ جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ (١٦) فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَّا أُخْفِيَ لَهُم مِّن قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَاءً بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
Their sides (i.e sides of their shoulders) would remain distant from their beds, calling out to their Lord in both, fear and hope, and they spend that which we have bestowed upon them. So, no soul knows the coolness of the eyes of that secret reward that Allah Ta’ala has concealed and hidden for them.
The Command of Tahajjud upon the Beloved Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam
In Surah Israa 79-80, addressing the Beloved Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam, Allah Ta’ala speaks about the 5 daily salaat and connects it to the Tahajjud Prayer:
أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَىٰ غَسَقِ اللَّيْلِ وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا ﴿٧٨﴾ وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَّكَ عَسَىٰ أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَّحْمُودًا
(O Prophet of Allah), establish salaah at the tilting of the sun till the darkness of the night (referring to Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Ishaa). And also at the recitation of the morning (Fajr), verily the recitation of the Qur’an in the morning is witnessed (by the angels). And of the night, remain awake with the Qur’an as an addition unto you. It is hoped that Allah will raise you to the most praised station.
In the above verse, Beloved Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam, is commanded to add Tahajjud prayer to his schedule as a special request and for this, the reward for the Beloved Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam is Maqaam Mahmooda.
In fact, this concept of rising in the night was one of the first commands sent down by Allah Ta’ala. The first few ayaat that were revealed, Surah Muzzammil, commanded the Beloved Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam, in order to prepare him for the task of spreading the Deen:
يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّلُ ﴿١﴾ قُمِ اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا ﴿٢﴾ نِّصْفَهُ أَوِ انقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا ﴿٣﴾ أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا ﴿٤﴾ إِنَّا سَنُلْقِي عَلَيْكَ قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًا
O you who wraps himself, Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little, Half of it or a little less than that, Or add to it, and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation. Indeed, We will cast upon you a heavy word.
Nature of Tahajjud
Tahajjud Salaah is the most balanced prayer. It creates steadfastness and keeps one away from fitnah. Allah Ta’ala highlights this in Surah Muzzammil 6:
إِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ اللَّيْلِ هِيَ أَشَدُّ وَطْئًا وَأَقْوَمُ قِيلًا
(O Prophet of Allah), Verily the rising of the night is one of extreme strength and the one which is the most upright in word.
If one reflects, there is much to gather from this amazing Salaah. It is the epitome of putting aside one’s desires, for there are few harder tasks than shaking off one’s sleep to rise for Salaah. Secondly, it is a prayer that is done when everyone else is sleeping and in seclusion and secrecy. Thus making it a private affair between the servant and his Lord.
May Allah Ta’ala give us all tawfeeq to adopt this special prayer!