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Ramadan Reflection: Part 4 – Managing Sleep

Written By: Ajmal-Masroor
15/07/2013 22:09
Religion & Culture

How much sleep do you need? No body knows is probably the best answer. Some say on average a human being needs seven hours but then there are some who feel even ten hours are not enough. The fact is we all need sleep to feel alive and awake. Without sleep we would simply perish. Many people do not really appreciate the blessings of sleep. It is a habit; a routine and you simply sleep at the end of the day. The truth is if you could not sleep properly, only then you would know the pain of sleeplessness. Ask a person who suffers from Insomnia to truly appreciate the pain of staying awake the whole night desperately longing to sleep. 

In the month of Ramadan our sleeping habit is put to severe test. Most people find the sleep deprivation the hardest part of fasting. One can have a lot of control over how much and when one eats or drinks but it is extremely difficult to control your body from shutting down. When your body feels tired the overwhelming desire is to sleep. Your eyes will start to shut down eventually; your speech will become slow. Your brain will fail to respond adequately and your limbs will ache. This is when your body is no longer able to cope with staying awake. Nothing else in the world would be as precious as a bed at that time. 

I know some people take several cans of Redbull (the energy drink) or many cups of coffee to stay awake. Alas, at the detriment of their health. No matter what you do, you cannot escape the urge to sleep especially while you live on this earth, but when you are in the heavens you will never sleep. In fact you will never need to sleep, because in the heavens our biological needs and body clock would be permanently altered to suit a new environment. The blessed Prophet was asked, “Do people of Heaven sleep?” He answered: “Sleep is the brother of death. People of Heaven do not sleep”. 

This statement of the Prophet is very thought provoking as it makes a direct link between death and sleep. As Muslims we believe that we have two types of death, short-term and long-term death. Every night when we sleep, our body shuts down enabling us to rest but our soul (Ruh), the spirit, which keeps us alive, never sleeps. It leaves our body and traverses the universe. Thus we experience death every night, even though it is short-term death. Soul is incapable of sleeping for its sleep would mean our eternal end. 

The relationship between death and sleep sounds extremely scary. Can you imagine ever going to sleep if you knew that you might never wake up, you may die! Yet we sleep every night and throw ourselves at the mercy of God. If He permits our souls return we continue with life and in the unfortunate event of souls long term departure, the dead and those who are alive have no choice but to submit to God’s Will. This is another sign of how in sleep we demonstrate absolute submission, even unwillingly for some. This is why the blessed Prophet used recommended that we say the following prayer before falling asleep: “O God, in your name I die and in your name I live”! 

Long-term death is when our soul leaves our body, the brain activity in the body seizes and organs fail. Unfortunately our body starts to decompose and there is a mad rush to bury the dead. This type of death brings us closer to the next life and there is no return from this point onwards. From hereon nothing will be useful – your wealth, power, property and family will all be left behind and your journey would be very solitary. The only useful and trusted companion for the life to come would be your good deeds, legacies that benefit the world and your good interpersonal relationships.

In Ramadan by sleeping less we learn the realities of life and death. We begin to understand how little we know about the mysteries behind our life and the universe. If tonight’s sleep becomes your last sleep while alive, how will you be remembered? How would have benefited the world? How would have benefited from the world in which you lived? What provision have you gathered for your next life? Ramadan puts into perspective the realities and priorities. And taking control of sleep helps me to appreciate my life even more. 

No body knows the exact nature of our soul except God. Scholars have debated the true makeup of the soul, some have argued that soul can never perish for that is what God has willed for it and it is the only eternal feature of us mortals. Others have argued that soul will perish too but no body knows when. Soul is extremely heavy physically and metaphysically, its departure is essential for the living creature to have a good nights rest. Sleeping is equal to freeing of the body from the weight of the soul so that we can rest and wake up refreshed and rejuvenated. Most people feel extremely high-spirited after a good night sleep. 

Ramadan is the month to take control of how much you sleep and develop greater appreciation of the connection between life, death and sleep. It is the month to recognise that sleep is one of the signs and favours of God. In this month sleeping less is normal and being sleep deprived is part of the experience. When you are sleep deprived you truly embrace and relish the few moments of sleep you get. You thank God for the few hours of rest. Your body craves for more but you take charge and train it to accept what it gets. This is the true nature of what fasting offers – an opportunity to train every part of our being. 

In the holy Quran we find the following verse making reference to sleep:

“And among His wonders is your sleep, at night or in daytime, as well as your quest of some of His bounties: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who listen!” (Quran 30:23)

To sleep is to comply with the natural signs of God. To sleep at night is to confirm with the natural law of God. To sleep is to submit. It is fascinating that people mainly sleep at night and work during daytime. The natural environment has been designed is such a way that enables the effortless and seamless alternation between the night and the day. Can you imagine sleeping with lights on? Can you imagine sun never going down? Can you imagine if the succession was halted or was haphazard? Can you imagine if the day never ended or night never begun? The entire universe would be in chaos. All creatures would perish. 

God reminds us about that possibility in the following verse:

Say: “Have you ever considered [this]: If God had willed that there should always be night around you, without break, until the Day of Resurrection - is there any deity other than God that could bring you light? Will you not, then, listen [to the truth]?”

Say: “Have you ever considered [this]: If God had willed that there should always be daylight, around you, without break, until the Day of Resurrection - is there any deity other than God that could bring you [the darkness of] night, wherein you might rest? Will you not, then, see [the truth]?”

For it is out of His grace that He has made for you the night and the day, so that you might rest therein as well as seek to obtain [what you need] of His bounty: and [He gave you all this] so that you might have cause to be grateful.” (28:71-73)

In our depth of slumber we forget the favours of God, while it is infinite now, it could come to a sudden halt. What if God was to extend the day permanently? How would life be without the presence of night? The consequence would be devastating; total absence of night would equal restless, exhausted and probably totally destroyed human beings. Even the animals, birds, insects and plants would all wither away. Night gives the opportunity for the living to regenerate and renew life. It provides an ideal cover to shed the old and give way to the new. Night is a perfect respite for the array of species and an opening for another night army of species. Each of the species creates a perfect balance to the ecology and generates a perfect space for life to continue. 

What if God extends the night and obliterates the day? Can you imagine living in perpetual night? Can you imagine life existing in constant darkness? Light is essential part of life. Without the sunlight no life can sustain itself. Plants would fail to grow and food would fail to materialize. Animals would find nothing to eat and we would find no food either. The carbon and nitrogen cycle would not exist. In other Sunlight is essential to uplift our mood, strengthen our spirit and generate hope. Permanent darkness would end life! 

In the month of Ramadan we take control of our sleep and train our mind to appreciate and be grateful to God for the most amazing gift called sleep. We do not abuse this gift by sleeping too much or sleeping less than our body needs. Once the Prophet (pbuh) entered the Mosque and saw a rope hanging in between its two pillars. He said, “What is this rope?” The people said, “This rope is for Zainab, who, when she feels tired, holds it (to keep standing for the prayer.)” The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Don’t use it. Remove the rope. You should pray as long as you feel active, and when you get tired, sleep” (Bukhari)

Ayesha (the wife of the Prophet) tells us a story of a woman from the tribe of Bani Asad, who was sitting with her when the blessed Prophet came in to the house and said, “Who is this?” Ayesha replied, “She is so and so”. She does not sleep at night because she is engaged in prayer. The Prophet said disapprovingly, “Do (good) deeds which are within your capacity as Allāh never gets tired of giving rewards till you get tired of doing good deeds” (Ahmed)

The balance between sleep and worship is at the core of our faith. We are not allowed to cause harm to our body by not sleeping or by sleeping too much. If you sleep very little you will fail in your worship and if you sleep too much you will miss your worship. You could even convert your sleep into worship if you have the right mental attitude. Ramadan is the ideal opportunity to develop the conscience that helps you create the right equilibrium in life and map a positive, powerful and assured pathway to heaven. 

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About Ajmal-Masroor

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  • Name: Ajmal Masroor
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    Ajmal Masroor is an Author, Broadcaster, Relationship Counsellor , Politician and Imam based in London, UK. His facebook profile can be followed

    This Blog is made by his Fan and all writings are collected from his Facebook page which is Public.


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