Finding difficulty in performing voluntary night prayer
Fatwa No: 343654

  • Fatwa Date:9-1-2017 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 11, 1438
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum, Shaykh. A few days ago, I sent you a question regarding my inability to pray voluntary night prayers after sleeping. I told you that I still do not know why given that I checked all the ways that help one to pray at night. I think these are good. However, I was reading some quotes of righteous Imams in Islamqa.com of Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid, like, for example:
Thaabit Al-Banaani said, “I struggled for twenty years to make myself pray Qiyaam Al-Layl (voluntary night prayer), and I enjoyed it for twenty years.”
Now my question is: What does this quote actually mean? Does it mean that this righteous Imam could not pray Qiyaam Al-Layl for twenty years and then started praying? Or does it mean that he was not regulary in it? Or what does it mean? Do you know from other righteous Imams or pious predecessors who were unable to perform Qiyaam Al-Layl for a period and then later did do it?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

First of all, we say that the wording that we have come across in most of the sources, some of which were narrated by Thaabit, is his statement, "I struggled with prayer for twenty years, and I enjoyed performing it for another twenty years." It does not say, "I struggled with Qiyaam Al-Layl."

Ibn Rajab mentioned it in Lata'if Al-Ma’arif with the wording, “I struggled with the night prayer...

Al-Ghazaali mentioned it in Al-Ihyaa’ from Thaabit Al-Bunaani with the wording, “I struggled in reciting the Quran for twenty years, and I enjoyed it for another twenty years.

It might be that they narrated it by meaning (not verbatim).

According to the first wording, it appears to us that the meaning is struggling with one’s own self in achieving Khushoo’ (humble submissiveness) in prayer and avoiding Waswasah (Satanic whispers) and striving to ponder over the recitation and the mention of Allah, and it does not mean that he used to abandon the prayer sometimes. This is similar to what was reported by Muhammad ibn Al-Munkadir, who said, “I struggled for forty years until I became righteous;” meaning: I struggled to adhere to the Commands of Allah until righteousness became second nature to me.

If we assume that Thaabit  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him meant Qiyaam Al-Layl, then perhaps it was difficult for him to perform Qiyaam at first as he was a human being, and naturally a human might be lazy and negligent, and then if he struggles against his own self while being patient in doing so, then Allah will guide him and enable him. Allah says (what means): {And those who strive for Us - We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.} [Quran 29:69]

We do not know of any one among the Imaams of the righteous predecessors who was reported to find it difficult to perform Qiyaam and then started to perform it, and we have not come across any narration about this.

It was reported that some of them did not use to stand in night prayer and when they learned about the excellence of Qiyaam, they observed it regularly.

It was reported in Saheeh Al-Bukhari that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said about Abdullah ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, “Abdullah is a righteous man. If only he stood for night prayer.” Then Naafi’ said, “Afterwards, he (Abdullah ibn ’Umar) kept frequently praying at night.

In another narration, Abdullah ibn 'Umar narrated about himself prior to this, “When I went to sleep, I did not get up until the morning [i.e. until Fajr time].

For more benefit, please refer to fatwas 267454 and 19808 about the means that help, Allah willing, with performing Qiyaam Al-Layl.

Allah knows best.

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