Ayaat 1-4 ― Spend Your Night in Prayer with the Qur’an
In life when a person is tested he requires internal strength to fight the adversities. One’s physical strength is not enough. This Surah talks about the spiritual strength that each one of us and specially those working for the cause of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala require to tread on this path. Without spiritual strength or nourishment da’wah goals will not be achieved. The da’ee will lack the energy or zeal for calling people to the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. His da’wah will fail or be ineffective. Without this spiritual nourishment a person will be unable to keep up with his religious duties. Without this spiritual nourishment a woman will be unable to cover herself up when others around her our following the fashion trends. Without this spiritual nourishment a person will not distinguish between the halal and the haram. Following the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will become tedious.
How can one gain spiritual nourishment? By establishing a strong connection with his Lord – the Exalted One. And this is what this Surah talks about. It lays steps through which we can strengthen our bond with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. A person who is spiritually strong can face any challenge that life throws at him and he does not worry about what people say or do. He is internally strong now.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala begins the address by saying,
A strong connection is built by maintaining effective communication. A person who does not keep in touch with others cannot have a strong bond with them. Therefore, the steps to spiritual nourishment begin by talking about communication.
The first command is it to get up and pray because this is how a believer communicates with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Salah is our private conversation with our Lord. This is when we disconnect from the world and pour out our heart to Him, confessing our weakness and our need of Him.
The word muzzamil [مُزَّمِّل] is from the root zay-meem-lam and it means ‘a man wrapped in a garment’. These ayaat were revealed in the initial days of the Prophet’s mission. This is when he was to face the most intense opposition and required strength to face it. When the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam first met Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) ‘alayhi salaam and learnt about his mission, he returned home shivering and asked his wife to cover him up.
By saying, “O you wrapped in garments,” (73: 1) instead of “O Prophet,” or “O Messenger,” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala alerts the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that this is not the time to sleep or relax. It is time for you to get up and begin your mission. People who understand their mission in life and the purpose of their existence are not fond of sleeping. When the world around them is sleeping, they engage in prayer and worship, as we read in Surah as-Sajdah ayah 16,
تَتَجَافَىٰ جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
“Their sides forsake their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend (in Allah’s Cause) out of what We have bestowed on them,” [32: 16].
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then explains how much he should pray, “Stand (to pray) all night, except a little. Half of it, or a little less than that, or a little more,” (73: 2-4). Here, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is being given the options to pray as much as his stamina allows. There are some nights when we feel fatigued and cannot stay up too long. There are other nights when we are burdened by our worries and cannot go to sleep unless we have surrendered our case to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. On these nights, we will go beyond our usual time and stay up engaged in prayer. This is qiyam-ul-layl, and it is one of the means of getting closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
What should one do in qiyam-ul-layl? Recite the Qur’an. That is the main focus of this prayer – to recite Qur’an as much as one can. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then details the manner in which the Qur’an should be recited. Do not recite it quickly but “recite the Quran (aloud) in a slow, (pleasant tone and) style,” (73: 4). Pause at every ayah so that the mind understands the meaning and purport of Divine revelation. Upon reciting a Name or an Attribute of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala the heart should be awe-inspired with His glory and majesty. Upon reciting an ayah about mercy, the heart must be filed with feelings of gratitude to Him. Upon reciting an ayah about His wrath and punishment, the heart must be overwhelmed by fear of Him. If there is a prohibition or an encouragement of something, the heart must understand what it is being told to do.
In short, the recital does not only consist of uttering the words with the tongue, but it involves thoughtful consideration of the meaning as well. And this is what the phrase Wa-rattili al-qur’ana tarteela [وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلا] mean.
[Read more about the slow recitation of the Qur’an in Dr. Israr Ahmad’s book: The Obligations Muslims Owe to the Qur’an]
Talking about the Prophet’s way of recital, ‘Aishah radhiAllahu ‘anha narrated, “He used to recite the chapter slowly, so much so that it would be longer than chapters that were actually longer than it.”
In Saheeh al-Bukhari, it is recorded from Anas radhiAllahu ‘anhu that he was asked about the recitation of the Messenger of Allah, so he replied, “He used to elongate the letters.” For example, when he recited Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem, he would stretch and prolong the sound of Allah, Rahman and Raheem.
When Umm Salamah radhiAllahu ‘anha was asked the same question, she replied that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam recited every ayah separately and distinctly and observed a pause at the end of every ayah. For instance, he recited Al-humdu-lillah-i Rabb-il’alameen, and paused, then recited ar-Rahman ir-Raheem, and paused, and then recited Malik-ee yaum id-deen. [Musnad Ahmad, Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi]
Hudhaifah bin Yaman radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “Once I stood beside the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in the Night Prayer to see how he recited the Qur’an. I noticed that he glorified Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) where He should be glorified, invoked and supplicated Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) where He should be invoked and supplicated, and sought refuge of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) where His refuge should be sought.” [Muslim, Nasa’i]
There are also some ahadeeth recommending the slow rhythmic recitation and beautification of the voice while reciting the Qur’an. For example, one hadeeth states,
زَيِّنُوا الْقُرْآنَ بِأَصْوَاتِكُم
“Beautify the Qur’an with your voices.” Another hadeeth says,
لَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ لَمْ يَتَغَنَّ بِالْقُرْآن
“He is not of us who does not chant nicely with the recitation of the Qur’an.”
It has been narrated from Ibn Mas’oud radhiAllahu ‘anhu that the Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Do not scatter the (recitation of) Qur’an out like the scattering of sand, and do not rush through it like the hasty recitation of poetry. Stop at its amazing parts and make your heart move with it. None of you should let his concern be to reach the end of the chapter.” [Al-Baghawi]
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala allow us to give the Qur’an its right of recitation, strengthen our bond with Him by engaging in worship, and devoting our precious time to the study and recitation of His Book, aameen.