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Sleep and Productivity Issues

Asalamoalaykum warahmatullah,

It’s so difficult to imagine how Sahaba and all the Salaf (may Allah SWT be pleased with them all) used to stay up at night for Qiyam-ul Layl and still be up all day next day going about their business.

Of course we can say that they had more blessing in their time and had more quality in whatever they did. And one of the ways that Allah SWT puts extra blessing in whatever one does is if the slave ensures that he obeys Allah SWT completely.

Having said that, one might think:

‘I do pray 5 times a day. I do fast in Ramadan. And I’m generally a nice person. SO where is room for improvement?’

The best part (and the most challenging part-mind you) is analyzing yourself to become a better student of Islam. Notice I’m not using the fancy and lofty title of ‘student of knowledge’ because that only belongs to a handful in our Ummah. Anyway, one has to keep track of what’s hindering one’s aims in life and that’s just how one will grow as a person.

I’ve been suffering from not a lack of sleep. Actually quite the contrary.

I just feel the need to sleep way past 9am. And I didn’t used to be like that.

Well, some people do blame it on their local prayer timings. We have Ishaa’ at 11:15pm and Fajr kicks in approx by 3:55am. This means there’s no room for proper sleep, let alone Tahajjud.

However, since we have proof from the lives of Sahaba and Salaf, one can say sleep-time is not the only thing that affects our productivity. If that had been the case, we wouldn’t have had such well-established scholars such as Imam ibn al Qayyim (R) and Imam ibn al Taimiyyah (R).

What I do know that eating less and being more active were some Sunan acts they held onto. They didn’t eat to their full and they did not have sedentary lifestyles like almost all of us. Sedentary here means that you spend working on your chair for almost all day.  Whether that’s office-work, attending lectures, or even studying on your own. A very small percentage of people are on their feet all day.

Unlike the Salaf, who were out and about seeking knowledge…travelling in the scorching heat of the desert. Dealing with the temperament of the harsh deserts, lack of resources and the like.  If not that, then doing business and trading. Basically, struggling all the time.

I’m looking for answers myself. I’m just sick of not being able to enjoy the blessed time during mornings after Fajr because I know I used to love waking up early. So I thought I’d research a little and I think it won’t hurt if I could just make a few changes in my lifestyle. I watched a BBC documentary and used a nice self-help pdf to look for solutions.

I know the answer lies in the less complicated lifestyles we have today. I feel we’d be much happier if we had more struggle in our daily lives. Ease has made most of the world unhappy. What an irony.

Enough of digressing.

Prophet SAW always used the best person for the job. Once he even used a non-Muslim as a guide. So it doesn’t hurt to use some knowledge from non-Muslims because really non-Islamic knowledge is also a form of guidance to live a better life. It’s His Generosity that He SWT grants it even to those who don’t recognize His Rights. SubhanAllah. May Allah SWT grant all of us hidaya.Ameen.

So a few things I hope will help me become a better slave of Allah SWT are as follows:

  • drinking 1.5-2L of water every day instead of using juice to replace it all the time. Did you know that we lose on average 12 cups of water from our body? Amazing, isn’t it?
  • give myself more light-exposure in mornings to reduce melatonin levels. Take breaks in the sun not only because I need it but also because we hardly have it.
  • take power naps not longer than 30-45 minutes especially if I plan to reduce my sleep. I have no choice here though because of the prayer timings so it’s absolutely necessary for me to take at least 15 minute of sleep without going into deep sleep.
  • stop doing everything 30 minutes before bed-time, which reminds me I must have a regular bed-time!
  • plan daily work-outs.
  • a Muslim never eats to full.

I knew all that years ago but I never stuck to anything. I feel I need to finally live my life the way I want and not the way my desires want me to, you know?

Most often as Muslims, we hardly focus on our body. Some Muslims go overboard, while others couldn’t care less. We have to be moderate. Different people have different definitions of being moderate. A rule of thumb which I follow and is my very own (so please don’t quote me on it) is that as soon as something starts affecting your ‘Ibadah, know that you’re not being moderate in that specific thing. ‘Ibadah includes keeping track of all rights that you must fulfill. These rights include: Rights of Allah SWT, Rights of your soul/body on you, Rights of family/relatives/neighbours and THEN friends/community upon you. Most of us are messing up in each one of the category of those rights. Those who fall short of the rights are termed as Dhalimoon in the Quraan. And those who transgress the limits set by Allah SWT are termed as FaasiQoon. Thought I might just throw it in there.

The path that Allah SWT showed us through the Prophet SAW is moderate. Anyone or anything that prevents that must be dealt with. We all are best judges of ourselves and no doubt the heart gives the best fatwa. You know what you’re doing at night and what thoughts you have during the day.

I just want to be able to encourage myself to reach my maximum potential. Most people die before they realize that they have the capability to be able to do all the amazing things that they wanted to do for themselves and others. Others who realize that, are too afraid to fail so they accept defeat even before trying. There’s one thing that I wish we all learned from Shaytan. He comes, whispers, if he fails, he comes again, if he’s successful, he comes even stronger. In short, nothing stops him from trying even though Allah SWT is not on his side. What’s stopping us then when we are within the realms of His Rahmah? He’s continuously strategizing, planning, experimenting and trying even harder.

Where does he get the motivation?

Two simple words: extreme hatred.

He hates us within the core of his being, so much so that he does hate-mongering daily. That’s his passion.

Why do we not then plan, strategize, work hard, make duaa, and work harder even when we fail? The answer solely depends on how much we take Shaytan as our enemy and time as our prized possession.

You’re going to be more productive the moment you realize your hate for Shaytan.

You’re going to be more productive the moment you realize your time is going to end.

When our Nafs (temptations,desires) overpowers our intellect, that’s when we forget the above two things. And yes sleeping and eating more than required is a desire.

One major way to cut down on our Nafs is to discipline ourselves. Not only in terms of our deeds but also excessive sleeping, eating and the like.

To read more about how to sleep less and be productive, check out the pdf on Powerful sleep. Most of it is common sense. Sometimes we don’t need knowledge to make us do better things. We just need to believe that things can totally become better with small consistent steps. Don’t we all know Allah SWT loves deeds which may be small yet consistent? Now that says a lot.

In all your affairs which may not seem very ‘Islamic’, align your intention to become a better slave of Allah SWT and you know you’ve switched on the reward factory inshaa’Allah.

A duaa from ‘Fortress of a Muslim’ ,that will definitely help ward off laziness inshaa’Allah :

Most people don’t value themselves enough. They don’t think they deserve a better Akhirah. That’s what their attitude says when they don’t work hard enough or become satisfied with the bare minimum.

As a Muslim who wants achieve amazing results, you know you value yourself.

Just start putting that value into your time and resources all for the Sake of Allah SWT!

Always remember: If you don’t use your blessings correctly in His Path, you’ll definitely lose them or their positive effects in this dunia and Akhira.

If you have it now, don’t be too happy about it. Good things don’t stay long enough.

Just like youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before poverty, your free time before being occupied AND your life before your death!

And Allah SWT knows best.

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