I should be the last person to write this because I am the type of person who usually stays up UNTIL fajr (the morning prayer), but alhamdulilLah (praise be to God), I have been able to bring some changes in my sleeping pattern with the help of a few tips:
- Make the intention
- Go to sleep early and do not sleep during the day
- Set an alarm clock
- Tell a friend/parent to wake you up
- Maintain a regular sleeping pattern
If you have already applied the above tips, but it’s still not working, I’d like to dig a little deeper into the implementation of these points both physically and psychologically, and that will make a big difference, insha’Allah (God willing).
1. Make the intention – Make it a part of your life that as the night approaches, you become consciously aware that you have to wake up for fajr. Make fajr a part of your schedule just like other things, and give it priority. If you do not have the intention, then no matter what you do, it will not really help. For example, even if you set the alarm, if you do not intend on waking up, you will just turn it off and go back to sleep.
2. Go to sleep early and do not sleep during the day – Have your dinner early and force yourself to bed, even if your mind tells you that you have no sleep. Get rid of distractions, be it Facebook, your cellphone, etc, you know yourself best. Distractions will set your mind working again, and that only makes things more difficult. Instead, do something so boring that you automatically feel sleepy. For example, I make recordings of my professor’s class lecture and listen to it again when I can’t fall asleep. You can also read a book which helps some people fall asleep.
If you manage to wake up on time for fajr the first morning after, resisting sleep becomes the most difficult thing in life! You forget all the promises you made the previous night with only one thing in mind—how to get back to bed! This is the hard part—stay up no matter what. Bear the pain the first morning, take a small nap around 20 – 30 minutes in the daytime if needed (it’s sunnah!), and Insha’Allah, that night you can go to bed early.
3. Set an alarm clock – For those with cell phones, set the alarm at its loudest and keep the phone some distance away from you so that you have to get up and walk to turn it off. If you have a bathroom nearby it’s best to keep it there with the door open, that way the echos will hit your ears hard. For those who have an Android phone, I highly recommend using the app “Alarm Clock Xtreme.” It’s free and unlike normal alarm apps which automatically snooze after a few minutes, this alarm will not be silenced until either your phone runs out of juice, or you turn it off yourself. And that is not easy either! You can set it to give you math calculations to solve in order to turn it off, or entering a “captcha”—all things that are bound to get your mind working, and hence effectively breaking your sleep: http://bit.ly/HB5PfQ.
A piece of excellent advice I heard from Yasmin Mogahed—set your alarm tone as Qur’an recitation. The sound of Qur’an will reach out to your heart, and it will be more difficult to ignore.
But if you see that your sleep is so deep that nothing gets to your ears, you can make your bed less comfortable, for example, by sleeping on a plain surface instead of the soft comfortable mattress. That way your sleep is less deep, and more likely to break on hearing the alarm!
4. Tell a friend/parent to wake you up – The best way to do this in my opinion would be to make it more interactive. Don’t just let your friend wake you up—you should also take the responsibility of waking up someone else, be it another friend or a sibling. Once responsibility falls on your shoulders too, you will automatically feel more inclined to wake up on time.
5. Maintain a regular sleeping pattern – This is a tip that helped me a lot. A great way to maintain this is to make a game out of it, an expensive one rather. For example, you can arrange a game with your friend where if you don’t wake up for fajr, then you will have to pay him/her a certain amount of money, which goes to charity (an amount which isn’t so little that it’s insignificant to you, or so great that it puts you in financial crisis!). Say $100. So if you do not wake up for fajr, you pay $100 to charity that day, and if they do not wake up, they pay $100. Maybe you will end up paying 2 or 3 days, but believe me the next day and onwards, you are gonna be up before anyone else! And important thing to note, this money should be for charity only, not for personal gain!
Well that seems to be the end of the list right? But why continue further? Because that list lacks the number one tip of all. This is the ultimate advice, the one which if you are able to follow, all the other tips above are unnecessary. Before I get to it though, let me explain indirectly. If you had a final exam that starts at 8am and you go to sleep at 5am, will you be able to wake up for it? Oh you bet! If your work starts at 6am and being late means you will lose your job, will you be late? Never!
The reason why is because when something has value and importance to us, no matter what our condition is, no matter what the situation is, we will find a way to do it. So perhaps the real reason why we are unable to wake up for fajr is because we do not give enough importance to the fajr prayer. We do not realize or ponder over the benefits of praying or the consequence of neglecting this prayer. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said that the first matter which we will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, the rest of our deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, the rest of our deeds will be bad. Praying fajr keeps us safe under the protection of Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exhalted is He), as Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said (Sahih Muslim). Prayer is one of the main foundations on which Islam is built.
In short, Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “So woe to those who pray, [But] who are heedless of their prayer,” (107:4-5).
Given all these things, is it really worth sleeping instead of praying fajr? The answer is told to us twice every morning in the adhan (call to prayer):
AsSalatu khairum minan-naum.
Prayer is better than sleep, Prayer is better than sleep.
If we are able to internalize the importance of fajr salaat and the consequences of missing it, we will automatically find a means of waking up for prayer, just like we would have woken up if it had been the time of our final exam or our jobs. But how can we value something if we do not even know anything about it? We can start by seeking knowledge about its importance.
But at the same time, knowledge is fruitless without huda (guidance), so let us sincerely ask Allah (swt) to help us, guide us and increase our imaan (faith) and love for this beautiful deen (religion).
Before ending, I would just like to say that I myself struggle lots with fajr salaat and still sometimes slip, so this is first and foremost a reminder to myself. I am in need of it as much as anyone else.