Praying at Night
One of Imaam Ahmad's students, 'Abd-us-Samad bin Sulaymaan, said, "I stayed with Ahmad bin Hanbal. He left for me a container of water. In the morning he found that I had not used it. He said, 'A companion of the narrations, and he has no activity in the night?!' I told him, 'I am a traveler.' He replied, 'Even as a traveler!'"
This is an outstanding lesson from Imaam Ahmad! The student of knowledge must keep himself upon some rites of worship, he must have an eagerness to get close to Allah, the Mighty and Majestic. How will he memorize the Sunnah? How will he gain knowledge? How will he learn? How will he gain understanding? How will he comprehend the meanings of the Quran? How will he understand its explanation? How will he memorize the Quran when he does not keep himself firm upon acts of worship and obedience?
He must dedicate himself specifically to praying at night, with whatever is easy for him. Allah says: "Stand the night except for a little" [Quran Surah Al-Muzzammil #73 Verse #2] Then, Allah the Exalted says in the last part of the same chapter: "Then recite from the Quran what is easy " [Quran Surah Al-Muzzammil #73 Verse #20]
This means that you stand for a time that is easy on you, even if it is only three rak'ahs. Stand for whatever is easy for you. It can not be that the norm for the student of knowledge is that he does not pray tahajjud at night, that he does not dedicate himself to some worship. The righteous man, the one who seeks to correct himself, must have a special concern for this great act of worship, standing in the night.
Praying at night is one thing. These days we need to talk about something even more serious. We have to talk about offering the Fajr prayer in congregation! If the people of the past were advised to take care of their prayers at night, then where are we?! in these times when many of the people who ascribe to righteousness can not even master praying the Fajr prayer in congregation!
Then how will our affair be, and what should we be talking about? No doubt the affair is not easy, so let every one of us inspect our own selves. Let us repent sincerely, without delay, from every sin. If we have been negligent of our duties, then repentance is obligatory. If we have been negligent of recommended things, then a person renews his commitment to seek Allah's great Bounties.
Allah the Exalted has described the people of taqwaa in Surah Ath-Thaariyaat : " Verily the pious will be in gardens and springs, Receiving what Allah has given them, Verily they used to do good works before that, They used to sleep little at night, And they used to seek forgiveness in the morning " [Quran Surah Ath-Thaariyaat #51 Verses #14-18]
Al-Hasan Al-Basri (may Allah have Mercy on him) spoke about these two verses "They used to sleep little at night, And they used to seek forgiveness in the morning ", with some very remarkable comments. He said, "They stood the night praying, and when the early morning came they sought forgiveness, fearing that their prayers would not be accepted from them."
From the life and works of Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal.
By Shaikh Saalih bin AbdulAziz Ala Shaikh