The days of blessings are upon us and as the month of Ramadhan rapidly approach, we need to better ourselves in order to maximise our results and takings from the holy month. A fundamental factor many of us have struggled on or are still struggling is waking up for Fajr, we may have tried several times but the struggle continues.
There are many articles that talk about the benefits of waking up for fajr but in this article, I will present you different ways to wake up. We need to keep in mind that we have to work for it, we have to strive in order to wake up for fajr, it’s like asking for muscles, if we pray to god and not go the gym, the chances of you looking buff are very slim, therefore, we can trust in Allah but also need to tie our camel.
Spiritual Tips and Tricks
1. Recite the Last verse of Surah Kahf
Ending the day with a couple of verses from the Holy Book will surely focus our mind and give us the extra push we need to wake up for salaah. The prophet has recommended us to recite either one or both chapters before sleeping – Surah al-Sajdah (37) and Surah Al-Mulk (67). However, if reciting a whole chapter is not ideal and difficult, he has given us an alternative, to recite the last verse from Surah Kahf (18) shortly before falling asleep.
Say, “I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your god is one God. So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.” – Holy Quran (18:110)
2. Sleep on an empty stomach
Fans of pizza, cottage cheese, and midnight snacks, this tip is for you: DON’T EAT FOOD PAST 10 PM.
Eating late night or munching a heavy dinner can make you sleepy especially if the food includes sleeping agents such as dairy products, protein, and cakes – making you feel lazy, sluggish, and lethargic. Sleeping with a heavy stomach will either knock you out until morning (and I mean late morning, nothing before 7 am) or you will wake up but in an inattentive state. Getting some shut-eye with a full stomach will focus your body on digesting, disrupting the quality of your sleep.
3. Be Sincere
Sincerity is key, be sincere about waking up for fajr, have that drive and motivation to wake up for Fajr. It is useless to tell yourself “Inshallah if I can, I’ll wake up for fajr”. Generally, when someone says “If I can” they mean “I’ll try but I won’t keep my hopes up”. This is not the attitude of a believer; we have to tell ourselves “I will wake up, I don’t know how but I will! Somehow and in some way!”. Reminding and forcing yourself will make us wake up for Fajr. Otherwise, as an alternative, you can research the blessings and read the benefits of fajr and it might motivate us to wake up.
4. Have a Bedtime Ritual
The brain is wired through subconscious movement patterns, we often do things that are routine i.e. brushing your teeth straight after waking up, biting nails or drinking tea. Bedtime routines – a habit – play a significant role as it can ease anxiety, stress, and tension. An Islamic bedtime routine consists of doing wudhu before jumping into your bed, thanking God for the blessing of the day and reciting Ayatul Kursi, 4 Quls (Surah Tawheed, Falaq, Naas and Kafiroon), Qur’an and dhikr.
5. Recite tahajjud
Tahajjud according to scholars, is the most important nafila (supererogatory prayer) because it aids the spirituality and shapes the tone of the day. The peak time of tahajjud is one hour before Fajr, waking up at this time will definitely keep you running until Fajr. However, many of us cannot wake up for fajr, let alone tahajjud, so another viable option is to pray tahajjud after midnight, and if that’s too late, then praying it after Isha is also feasible. Doing it will give us a sense of taqwa and religiosity, which is very crucial for the soul and akhira.
6. Be afraid of missing Fajr
Scholars who regard themselves as slaves and lovers of God are in constant reminder of their duty towards the creator. They cannot miss a chance to speak to god. There are several ways of reminding ourselves about God and the ideal way to create fear amongst ourselves is to read verses and hadiths regarding the importance of praying on time, the punishments of missing salaah and the benefits promised by god – worldly and spiritual. A scholar said: “Any amount of dhikr cannot compensate for missing a fajr salaah”, recognising the importance of an action makes the action even more significant.
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
“If My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I respond to those who call Me, so let them respond to Me and believe in Me, so that they may be guided.”
Supplication is a powerful tool and you should also consider reciting this beautiful passage from a supplication by the great-grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Ali ibn Hussain, which he used to recite in the nights of the holy month of Ramadan.
7. Positive Re-Inforcement
As per psychology, the theory of positive reinforcement can be used to change someone’s behaviour and familiarise ourselves with a habit. In this context, this theory can be used to wake up on time for Fajr. Although it takes a lot of discipline and perseverance, after a period of time and practice waking up early morning will become part of our nature. Psychologists regard it as the best method to trick your mind into doing things which you might otherwise feel boring or hard to complete. Positive reinforcement is personal and everyone has their own way of rewarding themselves, for example, someone may reward themselves by playing the PlayStation or others may eat a luxurious meal or some might go back to sleep.
8. The Sleep Cycle Theory
There is a scientific theory that refers to sleep and how a person can make his day effective just by waking up early. The same theory can be applied here and used to help us wake up for the morning prayers. The theory states that an entire sleep cycle takes around 90 to 110 minutes (1.5 – 1.9 hours) and if we were to wake up after the sleep cycle, we would be fresh, mindful and rejuvenated, however, if we wake up in between the sleep cycle, our day will begin unproductive, apathetic and lackadaisical.
Therefore, if we take the sleep cycle (approximately 2 hours) and plan the night before-hand, then we would not only wake up fresh but our performance doing ibadaat (prayers) would be at its best. So, if we were to sleep at 11 pm, then we would need to wake up at the end of a sleep cycle which would be 5 am – a total of five sleep cycles. To make the plan effective and accurate, we will need to calculate the amount of time it takes us to sleep – let’s assume 30 mins- and how much work we have to complete before hitting the hay. During the summer period, fajr prayers can be as early as 3 am, therefore planning and knowing fajr times is essential to get maximum results.
9. Have a nap during the day
Although many of us work the normal 9-5, we will not be able to implement this strategy unless we do it during our break. Sleeping during the day can help us tremendously with work productivity, attention to detail and general health. Sleeping during the day has several health benefits but the greatest is that it aids us waking up for Fajr. Although this may not be feasible for some of us, it can be very beneficial for our youth who finish school or college at around 2pm-3pm.
10. No Coffee after 3 pm and No Electronics after 9 pm
It’s not just relaxing that will help us get some good night sleep, sometimes it is about the negatives that may contribute to lazy sleeping. One of the things that contribute to bad or lazy sleeping is electronics. Electronics prevent the production of a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is a chemical that is responsible for getting us in the mood to sleep, and is typically produced around 9 pm, therefore, avoid using any electronics after 9 pm, especially if you want a decent shut-eye. If you desperately need to be in front of a screen, then it is vital that you apply a blue-filter – some devices have this pre-installed or you can download a software for your android, windows, or apple devices. Coffee similar to electronics has negative effects, it disturbs the sleep and can last in your body between 4 to 6 hours.
Coffee and other sugary snacks have a natural stimulant called caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the brain and the nervous system, allowing us to be alert and preventing the onset of tiredness. Therefore, drinking coffee after 3 pm can delay your sleep and ruin your sleep pattern – doing more harm than good.
11. Create a Challenge and Track your Progress
Have u heard the saying: “Records are meant to be broken”, in this case, records are not meant to be broken. Momentum is something we are in dire need of and once we gain it, we are unstoppable. Firstly, we need to implement one of the strategies on this list and try to monitor our progress. After starting a strategy, try to wake up for seven days – a week – and from there on, try not to break your streak – just like how our young one can’t break their snapchat streak.
12. The Theory of 15 mins
A typical complaint and question many of us have about waking up early are: If I am a deep sleeper, how do I wake up for Fajr? Waking up early morning is a tough – but doable – task and waking up for fajr is a dreadful one at the least- especially in summer. Waking up early is an art, like a painting. If you paint a portrait after one lesson, your portrait will most like to look horrible, however, after practicing for days, weeks and months on end, you might become a Picasso – or at the very least be a good painter. Similarly, if we normally wake up at 8 am and one day – unexpectedly – we decide to wake up at 4 am, the probability of waking up at 4 am the next day or the days after are very unlikely. This tip is simple but very effective, try sleeping 15 mins and wake up 15 mins early before the normal time. For instance: if we normally sleep at 12 and wake up at 8, then the first step is to sleep at 11:45 and wake up at 7:45, resulting in waking up 30 mins prior to the original time. This helps tremendously if done consistently for fourty days – as per the hadith.
We hope this article helps you to wake up for fajr! Please do share it with your friends and family to encourage and help them to wake up regularly for the morning prayers.
Also published on Medium.