So often, I see timestamps for messages I've been sent or blog posts of young Muslims, and a tinge of sadness stabs my heart. Even now, I'm looking at my computer clock flashing 11:33pm and a voice deep inside of me says, "It's too late...hurry and get some sleep so you can wake up for fajr."
The culture of young people in this country is that of the night. The world of young people comes alive post-10:00pm. Parties, clubs, exam cramming sessions, internet chatting, video gaming...it's all done way after ishaa prayer, and this culture is interfering with our effectiveness as Muslim youth.
First and foremost, this night life is preventing us from waking up for fajr. And even if we are waking up for fajr, we're so out of it that our prayers are not heartfelt.
Failing to wake up for fajr or failing to pray fajr in any meaningful manner is no small matter. My best friend gave me an analogy to crystalize just how much we lose when we miss fajr prayer. She said, "Imagine that every morning right before fajr time, someone came to your front door and left a bag of $10,000.00 on the porch. What would you do if you knew it was there? Would you lie in bed and keep pressing snooze on the alarm? Or would you fly out and grab that bag of money?"
Of course, I knew my answer. But what was even more disturbing was when I considered if the amount was less, say $100 each morning, $50, $25, $10, $1. One dollar on the porch would be an extra $365 per year. And the only thing I had to do for that extra cash was to get out of bed and go get it.
When I thought about how easily I would get out of bed for $1 each day, I became dismayed at our reticence to wake up for fajr when we know that the reward for each of our fajr prayers far exceed $1 per day or even $10,000.00 per day. And yet, when that alarm goes off at 5:30, throwing off our sheets to grab that prize is the farthest thing from our thoughts. Even if we do get out of bed, it's usually begrudgingly.
What would you do if you knew that, for example, your favorite football player, celebrity, or world leader was going to knock on your door at 5:00am tomorrow? Would you be lying in your bed dreading the alarm? No way! You would be up, in the lounge, getting cleaned up and looking sharp for this opportunity! You would have your house cleaned up and your bed made!
But when Allah (swt), tells us that He is going to come to meet with us each morning, we ignore Him. He's at the front door, knocking. Allah (swt) wants to spend time with you, to listen to you, help you, spend quality time with you. But we're sleeping through this miracle.
And even if we do wake up and go make wudu, we look beat. We're sporting oversized sweat pants with tshirts that don't match. We're wearing crazy looking enormous hijabs wrapped sloppily around our heads, green and red and orange all at once. We throw our hands back, "Allahu Akbar"...yeah right. Think about that. Allahu Akbar. Allah is the greatest and yet we come to a meeting with him looking like we picked out your clothes while blindfolded. Would you open the door for LaDanian Tomlinson or Tiger Woods looking like that? Then why for Allah?
The culture of the night must be purged from our ummah. The stories of the Prophet have wisdom behind them. He accomplished more in twenty years than you or I will ever accomplish, even if we live 120 years. And yet, his sunnah was to sleep soon after ishaa. After the night prayer, he would start settling down, bringing quiet into his household and his community. He slept early and awoke before fajr so as to catch the last 1/3 of the night and use it wisely to gain Allah's blessings.
Fajr wasn't the Prophet's first event of the day. By the time fajr came in, the Prophet (pbuh) had already begun.
It's ok to be different. It's ok to tell people that you can't go out late because you have to sleep and wake up early for prayers. Think of all that will improve if you reject this midnight culture. You will have a better relationship with Allah. You will get your studying done sooner and therefore, you won't be cramming and stressing last minute. You'll also be healthier, more rested and in much better emotional spirits. And you'll be closer to following the Prophet's sunnah, which has innuerable benefits.