The sleep of the Pious Predecessors- aftrenoon nap‏

Some interesting studies continue to prove the benefits of taking a Qaylūlah or a Qā’ilah which are the two Arabic words for “siesta”.
Nap “boosts” brain learning power – BBC News

Taking a Qaylūlah in the early afternoon seems like a dream come true for many of us, due to the continual practice of it by our early Salaf and Khalaf. What might be surprising perhaps is that we don’t have a plethora of narrations (with a large number of scholars declaring them all weak – including the following two narrations – other than Shaykh al-Albani from the contemporaries) encouraging this rest-period from the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam) except that he said, “Take the afternoon rest (Qaylūlah) because it is the devils that don’t,” (Tabarani, Sahīh) as well as the statement of ‘Umar (radhy Allāhu ‘anhu) who said, “Take the afternoon rest,” (al-Adab al-Mufrad, Hasan-l’Isnād). It is important to realise here that the word Qaylūlah means to “rest in the afternoon” and doesn’t include sleeping per se, but yet “siesta” is still the most popular translation given for this word.

So for those who expect to get up for Tahajjud prayers, then the Qaylūlah during the early afternoon was seen as helpful as the “Sehri” meal to the fasting one. Likewise as the research above shows, by helping the memory and keeping the body fresh and rested, the students of knowledge and scholars should use the Qaylūlah to help them increase in ‘ibādah, memorisation and study.

It goes to follow then that we shouldn’t kid ourselves too much in trying to claim a desperate need for the Qaylūlah living in the West where often we go back to sleep after Fajr, the daytime temperature is cool or at least much cooler than the Middle East, where we go to sleep very late wasting lots of time after ‘Ishā and where unfortunately we seldom pray Qiyām’l-Layl i.e. the only reason we seem to have to take the siesta is to just get some extra sleep!

In contrast, the early Muslims from the Salaf would awake very early to pray Fajr in the Masājid and then remain awake for the rest of the morning, recognising that the morning is a blessed time for the Muslims, and is a particularly industrious time for all people who are disciplined enough to awake early. They would get the majority of their work and study done in the first half of a very hot day, and then around the zenith time of Dhuhr, at the intense heat, they would sometimes pray or sometimes delay the prayer due to the heat and take their Qaylūlah rest which could be anything from a number of minutes to an hour odd. This nap would allow for recovery from a busy hot day as well as rest before a busy night of ‘ibādah much later on. And remember, the early Muslims wouldn’t waste a single minute after ‘Ishā but would go to straight to sleep in order to wake up early for Tahajjud – unless there was a specific reason such as guests visiting, or specific studies as explained by Imam Ahmed (rahimullāh) himself.

Interestingly, we often welcome the winter period in Western countries with short days and long nights, not because we have only a few hours to fast during daylight and long nights to pray Tahajjud in but invariably because we get so much more time to . yes, sleep. And goodness, again, do we sleep!

The real problem here then is that we don’t arrange this sleep in our days and nights around what might please Allah, but rather what our jobs and schools dictate, or what the desires of our souls dictate. When we think about the warning of the companion Khawwāt b. Jubayr (radhy Allāhu ‘anhu), “Sleep in the morning is ignorance, in the afternoon a good habit, and at the end of the day idiocy,” (al-Adab al-Mufrad, Sahih’l-Isnād) then more than a few of us will empathise with the realities explained in this athar.

In explanation of the above athar, those who go back to sleep in the morning are utterly ignorant of the benefits of the morning, sleeping in the afternoon is a good thing, and that napping around Maghrib time is a recipe for disaster in that it might lead to missed prayers and a ruining of the system of the latter night-time.

Reflect again on these various times of the day in that not only do we miss out on certain times of potential barakah and opportunity, but also as some of the Imams mentioned that for example an early ‘Ishā often places us at risk of sleeping in sin. How? Well the blessing of going to sleep straight after ‘Ishā is that the prayer has erased the sins of the day before it as per the Prophetic Hadīth, thus you go to sleep “pure”. This is what was also indicated by the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam) when he commanded us not to speak after ‘Ishā but to go straight to sleep.

For those of us who aren’t disciplined in this art, the Summer time is a blessing because it helps us without us realising it! There’s not much talking to be done after an ‘Ishā at 11.30pm and Fajr at 3am so no wonder we’re all in bed by midnight! And that is a mercy from Allah jalla wa ‘alā even though we might not have deserved it, in that the majority of our day has had its sins erased by the late night prayer and we go to sleep as “pure” as humanly possible.

There’s so much to be said about sleep, the Sunnah and our habits but at least with the few words above, we might motivate ourselves to reflect more upon our living arrangements according to the Sunnah by utilising all the variables of environment, climate, season, working hours and customs that we all individually experience in whatever country we live in.
And Allah knows best.

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