Napoleon supposedly first pronounced those words when he heard his soldiers boasting at night of the legendary acts of courage they hoped to perform in battle. It would remain to be seen, in those early hours of the morning before a battle, whether the courage was truly real or whether it would wither at its bidding.
The courage of the early morning is becoming a central theme in my life, and not just because my two-year-old rises at 6:30 a.m. sharp every morning. I’ve always been a dreamer, ambitious for how I would contribute to the cause of Allah (swt), how I planned to raise my kids, how I would pursue memorization of the Quran, how I would be a caller to Allah (swt). When I dream, I imagine myself taking small steps to my goals, as if the dreaming, the soldier’s boasting around the fire, would actually take me somewhere.
The dreams themselves are a consolation. They are useful to a point, until they become excuses in the face of having to rise in the morning for battle. When the moment of courage comes, when my children are no longer babies and are ready to learn, grow, and blossom, I find myself still lost in my dreams. All that I was planning to teach her? Right now, this instant, she is looking at me, waiting for me, hanging on every word I say, joyous for every moment of attention I can give her. Early morning courage! Put the book down, turn the computer off, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The opportunity of little open hearts and minds, looks of wonder and admiration, will not be there tomorrow.
I promise myself that next month, next year, or the next decade will be the time to really get my act together and blaze forward in doing something for my community and for Islam. I read the Beginning Runner’s Handbook, the Chariots of Fire soundtrack playing in my head, but am somehow still planted on the couch, waiting for the kids to sleep, waiting for the right mood. I must make the Quran a central focus of my life once more; I draw out dozens of revision schedules and plan out how much I will review and memorize in a day. It feels so good to plan and dream today. Tomorrow I will start the work.
Students and single people tell me that they plan to do so much for Islam, just after they finish this exam or this semester or find a job. Yet they do not realize that they will never have as much freedom, time, and energy, the essential ingredients for creativity and great works, as they do right now. Instead of taking courage, we wait, we finish the next show on TV, we write down our goals, we tell ourselves tomorrow, and we dream pleasant dreams that console and keep us company.
I think I am busy today, but later in life, I may look back and realize that today was the early morning. For most of us, if we are not seriously incapacitated or going through a crisis, the early morning is now. All those dreams, yeah. They need courage.
Maha Ezzeddine lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and three daughters. She is a dedicated MAS worker, part-time writer, and creative homemaker.