The moon looks spectacular tonight; I wish you could see it. The twinkling of the stars, the vastness of the darkened clouds, and the sound of the whispering wind. The intertwining of days gone and days ahead. The world is an entirely different place at night. Almost as if you’re seeing things through a different set of eyes.
I’ve always said that the night is a friend to me. Even before the demands of being a University student crept in, I’d always been a self-proclaimed night owl. I love the feeling that, on a small scale, my world is at a stand still. My thoughts seem less disheveled and my constant internal monologue is at its peak. My senses are heightened and even the sound of a ticking clock is blasting. I like to reminisce, indulge in the momentary solitude and plan for the day ahead of me, God willing.
Carpe Noctem has become my mantra and in turn the night has always been kind to me. A Roman poet by the name of Quintus Horatius Flaccus coined one of my favourite Latin phrases, “carpe diem”, which can loosely be translated as “seize the day”. Its modified version is, “carpe noctem”, which in contrast means, “seize the night”. In this regard, carpe, literally meaning to pluck, pick, crop or gather, should be our aim; to gather all of the chances and opportunities regardless of their size because time is of the essence.
I often find myself thinking of this phrase when I’m trying to mind how I spend my time. In Randy Pausch’s book The Last Lecture, he wrote, “the key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.” Yet somehow we tend to solely focus our attention on daylight hours, and we merely overlook the chances enfolded in darkness –those hours of the night that are withered away without the slightest recollection.
Recently, I came across compiled stories of the Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and his companions specifically recounting their nightly endeavors. With each passing story I became more awe-struck at their level of dedication. The conviction and whole heartedness in their prayers, supplications, and recitations moved me to tears. I was amazed by their unfailing belief that the night was an opportunity to be seized. They were a community of believers who tore themselves from the comfort of sleep to purify themselves and stand before their Lord.
Allah subhana wa ta’la tells us of their reward in the Qur’an:
“Indeed, the righteous will be among gardens and springs, accepting what their Lord has given them. Indeed, they were before that doers of good. They used to sleep but little of the night, and in the hours before dawn they would ask forgiveness.” [Surah al Dhariyat: 15-18]
Abdallah ibn Mubarak (rahimahullah) called these people the people of Taqwa. He said,
“When the night is completely dark, it finds them staying up in the night; fear has chased away their sleep, so they stay up, while those who feel secure in this life quietly sleep on.”
Immediately after reading his words my heart grappled with trying to place myself in either category. Let’s ask ourselves which group we fall into. Are we of those who fear for our sins and are in dire need of forgiveness or those who feel without a doubt that Jannah is ours?
I pity those who chase shooting stars, blow fallen eyelashes away, or who achingly await the outcome to all of their 11:11 wishes. Bound by material matter, they become trapped in the idea that what we want most out of life can come through means other than supplicating to the One who controls all things.
We want to wear hijab, or pray more. We want to mend a broken heart or get into a certain school. We want guidance in our decision to wear the abayah or niqab. We want our kids to grow up to be pious Muslims. We say we want Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. We say we want a lot of things, but that’s precisely the problem. Our words become a vacuum that leave nothing but tarnished dreams and unfulfilled actions in our midst. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi once said, “If you want something in your life and you aren’t praying tahajud for it then in reality you don’t really want it”.
So, where are we in those crucial hours before dawn? It’s a question that should be plaguing us all because our ever-Merciful Lord descends during this time. As in the hadith of Abu Hurairah who narrated, that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven during the last third of the night, inquiring: ‘Who will call on Me so that I may respond to him? Who is asking something of Me so I may give it to him? Who is asking for My forgiveness so I may forgive him?”[Bukhari]
Seize the serenity that descends upon the Earth during these few hours. Seize the mercy, forgiveness, and ever lasting love of Allah. Gather the blessings and reward of following the Prophetic example. Replenish your faith and keep your heart ajar to the honor of your Master raising your ranks, insha’Allah. So, rise from your bed, oh servant of Allah, and brush the sleep from your eyes. Purify yourself and stand before your Lord, who waits each night for you to meet Him.
Do not grieve the nights lost in heedlessness but stop holding the sand of time in an open hand and from this day forward clasp it tight. Pray to Him even if it is two rakahs, recite Qur’an even it is the shortest of surahs, and supplicate until the tears flow from your eyes only to wash your heart. Let the stillness calm you and allow your troubles to be swallowed by the night. Lastly, look at the moon and tell yourself that it looks spectacular and you wish I were there to see it.