How to win the early morning battle.
Training yourself to wake up for Fajr consistently is a struggle many Muslims are familiar with. The working day in the Western world does not accommodate well for middle-of-the-night prayer – consequently, getting out of bed to pray can be difficult.
Never more so than for teenagers who typically like to stay up late and then sleep in for long periods. Many parents the world over struggle to rouse their pre-teen and teenage children from their beds for prayer. What should be a peaceful and rewarding moment, can become a battleground and struggle with teenagers who simply refuse to get up or who do so with a moan and an argument.
Early morning reward
The reward for Fajr is so huge that it is not to be underestimated. Out of our five daily compulsory prayers, Fajr is the one which holds some of the biggest struggles but perhaps some of the best rewards, Allāhu alim.
The prayer is due at the time of dawn – hence it is known as Salāt al-Fajr or ‘The Dawn Prayer’. It is prayed just before the dawn begins and is heavily narrated and documented in the Qurān and Sunnah:
“So, establish the Prayer after the declining of the sun (from its zenith, for Dhuhr and then Asr) to the dusk of night (Maghrib and then ‘Ishā) and the [Qurānic] recitation of Fajr (prayer). Indeed, the recitation of Fajr is witnessed.” Qurān 17:78
“Whoever prays the dawn prayer, then He is under Allāh’s protection. So beware, oh son of Aadam, that Allāh doesn’t call you to account for being absent from His protection for any reason.” (Muslim)
It therefore goes without saying that to get up and pray Fajr is a necessity for every believing Muslim who is of age – which includes teenagers. Encouraging our children to pray at a young age gets them into the habit and routine of prayer so that it is not burdensome upon them when they are adults. But ultimately it is a rewardable act that will bring blessings, protection, foster a love for Allāh and is a means to wipe away sins.
Allāh’s Messenger (sal Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “During your sleep, Shaytān knots three knots at the back of the head of each of you, and he breathes the following words at each knot, ‘The night is, long, so keep on sleeping,’ If that person wakes up and celebrates the praises of Allāh, then one knot is undone, and when he performs ablution the second knot is undone, and when he prays, all the knots are undone, and he gets up in the morning lively and in good spirits, otherwise he gets up in low spirits and lethargic.” (Bukhari)
Rise and shine – not rise and whine!
The reward for Fajr prayer is immense, so why do so many adolescents struggle to get out of bed?
The most common reasons why your young adult son or daughter will find it difficult to pray are:
· Staying up late.
· Irregular sleeping patterns – constantly trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep.
· The need for longer periods of sleep due to changing and developing body.
· Screen time too close to sleep which interferes with brain activity.
· Lack of understanding of the Deen of Islām.
· Lack of understanding of the importance of prayer.
· Lack of fear and love for Allāh.
These obstacles can essentially be divided into 2 clear categories: lack of energy (physical difficulties) and lack of motivation (spiritual difficulties). All these issues contribute to a teen who simply does not get up at all to pray or who does so with a whole lot of whining!
When our teenagers are fully-grown independent adults, it will be down to them entirely to discipline themselves and get themselves out of bed for Fajr prayer. However, whilst we are parenting them, and, in their youth, there remains an obligation with us to do all we can to help them overcome these obstacles so that they too may benefit from reward.
6 Practical Tips to Beat the Battle and Rise for Fajr:
Going to bed at a reasonable hour may be half the battle when it comes to getting your teen up on time for Fajr. If you haven’t up to this point, it is not too late to instil a lights-out time and enforce it. Don’t allow them to go to bed at any time they wish – give them a clear time and make sure they stick to it. Numerous studies show that plenty of teens do not get adequate sleep and in fact they need more than most adults. Ensuring your teenager has a good amount of sleep (7 hours +) will also have the double effect of improving their behaviour, mood and attainment levels at school.
There is also more to it than just getting enough sleep. The time they go to bed will be broken in most instances to pray – depending on the time of year and therefore the time Fajr begins. It is well documented by doctors that most of us sleep in cycles of 1.5 hours, moving between light sleep, moving down to deeper sleep and dipping to REM sleep before moving back up. As we move through these cycles in on average 90 minutes, we will find it easier to wake in the peaks of lighter sleep.
Therefore, when working out bedtimes and waking times for Fajr, it is beneficial to calculate according to the 1.5 cycle. For example – if you need to wake for Fajr at4.30 am then it may work well for your teen or you to sleep at 10.00pm.
10.00 pm – 11.30 pm, 11.30pm – 1.00 am, 1.00am – 2.30 am, 2.30am – 4.00am. Waking at 4.00 am will then allow you enough time to do wudu and read Qurān before praying Fajr at 4.30 am.
Some of the battle that you may have when negotiating lights-out time with your adolescent may involve reluctance to turn off mobile phones, tablets, TV or computer games. This is where every parent needs to be disciplined. Not only do things like computer games and social media detract from an Islāmic way of life, they also pose a danger in terms of safeguarding. Ensuring your teen has only supervised access to the internet in any form and with proper parental controls is very important.
When it comes to how this affects them waking up for Fajr, screen time can have a direct affect on the quality of their sleep. The light emitted by screens as commonly used on smartphones and tablets is short-wavelength-enriched and has a higher concentration of blue light. This interferes with the brain’s ability to shut down and prepare for sleep by disrupting the production of melatonin, the hormone released in the brain to ease sleep.
Enforcing a no screen-time rule at least 30 minutes prior to sleep will make a big difference to the quality of sleep, the impact on their 1.5-hour sleep cycle and how easily they wake for Fajr.
Practically, how you wake up your teen will also have an impact. Whilst it is advisable and recommended for families to wake one another for Fajr, give your teen an alarm which they place on the other side of the room. Make the most of their beloved phone – set an alarm and disable the snooze! If they must get up and cross the room to turn it off, then they are up! And then it will be time for prayer. Alternatively, you can download several Apps which require the user to answer questions (general knowledge or maths) before the alarm will silence – these help to wake the brain up and remove the desire to hit the button and go back to sleep.
Of course, the best preparation for waking up in time to pray Fajr is going to sleep with the right intention. Help your teen to understand the importance of Fajr prayer and that by intending to wake up, they will be rewarded AND more likely have a chance of easily waking up. Our internal ‘alarm clock’ or the power of intention can actually help the body wake up in time. If Fajr is at 5.00 am, it is possible to train yourself to wake up a few minutes before – all by going to sleep with that intention.
Another aspect of preration before sleeping and which goes together with the no screen time rule, set bedtimes and right intention, is ending the day by reading from the Qurān. Encouraging reading of books before bed is a common practice and a good way to wind down in bed before turning off the light. Reading just a few pages of Qurān before sleep will help set the frame of mind for Fajr.
Going to sleep with wudhu’ is also another measure which is highly advisable and from the Sunnah. This in turn will also prepare body, mind and spirit for restful, productive sleep which is focused on Allāh and ready to wake for worship.
The Messenger of Allāh (sal Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “When you go to bed, you should perform the ablution (wudhu’) for the prayer, and then lay down on your right side. Then say, ‘O Allāh, I have turned my face to You and I have surrendered myself to You and I have committed my back to You out of fear and desire for You. There is no place of safety or refuge from You except with You. I have believed in Your book which You revealed and Your Prophet Whom You sent.” If you die that night, you will die in fitra (natural state). And make these the last words you utter.’” (Bukhari)
The final obstacle to tackle with your teen is around their motivation. No amount of adequate sleep or alarms will do much if they are not motivated to get up and pray. Ask them how easily they may get up to go shopping for the latest game or get up to go to a friend’s house? Ask them how easily and early they wake up on the day of Eid? For immediate and short-term, tangible reward, we can all wake up and get up easily. But for spiritual reward, especially that which you may not experience until the Hereafter, it is somewhat more difficult. This is the test of Islām, and the same test applies to the struggle of waking up to pray. Understanding this reward and being motivated to gain it will help with all aspects of their faith but ultimately when they are struggling to get up, it will motivate them, too.
Therefore, Identifying the obstacles that are making it difficult to rouse your son or daughter from sleep and implementing the above practical tips, will help you and them make significant progress in waking for Fajr prayer. It may not be an instant ‘fix’ but over time, the routine and the understanding will ensure that they can rise to pray with you and may even begin to wake you up! And when this happens, the rewards you will both experience and the contentment and peace will be endless, in shā Allāh.