Sleepless nights. As I look back at the blur that was the first year of my children’s lives, I most vividly remember exhaustion. I reached a new level of “tired” that penetrated into my bones. When I thought I could not get more tired, my exhaustion reached a new peak. Yet as a practicing Muslim, I was supposed to find the will to get up and pray fajr in between my children’s night wakings. But how? How could I forgo sleep when it’s barely there in the first place?!
It becomes an arduous inner struggle to get up and pray when you feel you are almost justified in not getting up: you need to get SOME sleep before the baby gets up again so you can somewhat function in the morning.
But every time I turn off the alarm and feel myself sinking back into warm, blissful slumber, a powerful story rings in my heart: years ago, a friend’s father was jailed and tortured by a dictator in the Middle East. Once released, someone asked him if, after having seen the worst humanity has to offer, he was afraid of anything. He responded, “I only fear the day I don’t wake up for fajr”.
When you have children, there are so many things that can go wrong throughout the day. From minor things like being late for school, to major things like—God forbid—a child gets injured or worse. Just thinking about such possibilities shoots my anxiety through the roof. But if I start the day armed with fajr prayer, I know that my day is blessed. When I have prayed, there’s an extra pep in my step: I feel confident knowing that I am facing the day prepared with fajr. In fact, the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) tells us, “Whoever prays the fajr prayer, he or she is then under Allah’s protection.” [Muslim]
To help muster up the will to lug myself out of bed, I compiled the following list of tips:
- Make the intention before bed and set the alarm. Before going to sleep, I make the intention, or niyya, to get up for fajr, no matter how many times the babies wake me up. I set multiple alarms through out the time designated for fajr, just in case I don’t get up the first time. As much as I am tempted to use the babies as my fajr alarm, since they are likely to wake up sometime during the time to pray anyway, I think to myself: if I had an exam in the morning, would I leave it to the babies to wake me up? No. So why would I let them wake me up for something more important than an exam?!
- Sleep early. As tempting as it is to stay up late after the babies have slept to enjoy some much-needed “me time” or “husband time”, it’s important not to stay up too late. It’s much easier to wake up for fajr when you’ve gone to bed earlier rather than later.
- Say a’uthu billahi min al shaytan al rajeem (I seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Devil). The shaytan is full of glee when you choose your bed over prayer. So when your alarm rings and you would love nothing better than stay under your cozy covers, think of it as a war against your biggest enemy: the shaytan.
- Think of all the things you have to get done and how much you need His help. When I’m tempted to skip fajr and get some continuous sleep, I think of the day full of tasks ahead of me. I remember how much I need Allah’s help to accomplish everything and suddenly I’m motivated to get up. I know I need Him to help me and praying fajr is the best way to enlist that help.
- Get your spouse on board. Make sure your husband is just as motivated to wake up and pray. Get him to set his own alarms. That way, if you have an off day, you’ll have a cheerleader to get you out of bed. It will bring you closer together as you overcome the fajr struggle and it will help accomplish your early marriage goal of “bringing each other closer to Allah”.
- Make dua’a. The most sure-fire way to accomplish your goals is to make dua’a for them. If you’re in a fajr slump or if you just want to make sure you keep getting up, make dua’a that Allah gives you the inner strength to get up when it’s hardest.
Waking up for fajr is no easy feat. Add young children to the mix and it’s often nearly impossible. But motherhood is one of the hardest jobs of all-time and there’s no better way to get some help from Above than waking up for fajr.
Bushra Tobah is a mother of two, residing in Toronto, Ontario. She has an MSc in International Business from the Ivey School of Business and has currently put her PhD on hold to stay home with the kids. She loves writing because unlike young children, writing makes sense.