By Nastik Durrani, New Age Islam
22 February, 2014
Based on the books of Sirah and the Qur'anic exegeses, Islamic scholars conducted their researches and concluded that the five daily prayers were enjoined upon Muslims several years after the first Quranic verse was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Moreover, they have established that the Prophet PBUH would offer the Tahajjud prayer and engage in other night prayers before he proclaimed his prophethood. Hazrat Ibn Abbas narrates that the night prayers were mandatory for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Ummah at the advent of Islam. They continued with this practice for one or ten years until it was abrogated by the commandment of the five daily obligatory prayers. (1)
According to other traditions, when Allah the Almighty revealed the verse: “Ya Ayyuhal Muzammil” (O you who wraps himself in garments) to the prophet (peace be upon him), he kept awake throughout the night for ten years in the same way as Allah ordered him. A group of Sahaba (Prophet’s companions) also joined him in standing at night prayers, whereupon Allah the Almighty revealed a verse ten years later: “Indeed, your Lord knows, [O Muhammad], that you stand [in prayer] almost two thirds of the night or half of it or a third of it, and [so do] a group of those with you. And Allah determines [the extent of] the night and the day. He has known that you [Muslims] will not be able to do it and has turned to you in forgiveness, so recite what is easy [for you] of the Qur'an. He has known that there will be among you those who are ill and others travelling throughout the land seeking [something] of the bounty of Allah and others fighting for the cause of Allah. So recite what is easy from it and establish prayer and give Zakah and loan Allah a goodly loan.”
So, Allah made it easy for them ten years later. (2) It has also been narrated that after the revelation of the verse “Ya Ayyuhal Muzammil”, Prophet PBUH and his companions kept standing up in the night prayers until their legs and feet were pained and swollen. But when God sent down the verse “Faqrau Ma Tayassar Minhu” (so recite what is easy [for you] of the Qur'an), it was made easy for them (3).
Another tradition says: when the earliest part of the Surah Muzammil was sent down, Prophet PBUH and his companions would stand up in the night prayers much in the same way as they used to do in the month of Ramadan (4).
The above content is a summary of what the Ulema have written as their commentaries on the Surah Muzammil. Some traditions state that this Surah was revealed next to the Surah Iqra, the first chapter of the holy Quran, while some others establish that this is the third Meccan Surah that was sent down after the revelation of Surah Al-Mudassir. Surah Muzammil has also been reported as being the fourth chapter of the holy Quran in chronological order (5). Regardless of whatever has been written about the chronological order of this Surah, there is a complete consensus that it is one of the oldest Quranic revelations. None of the Islamic scholars has differed from the above argument regarding the chronological order of this Surah. It should be, thus, borne in mind that the standing up in prayer at night and recitation of the revealed verses of the holy Quran in it had begun in the early days of the Quran’s revelation.
The reduction in night prayers and ease in the recitation of the Qur'anic verses, to which Islamic scholars have referred, suggest out that this Surah must have been revealed in Medina rather than in Mecca. For the last part of the Surah Muzammil i.e. the twentieth verse was sent down while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was in Medina. This is also confirmed by the commandment of Zakat (giving away charity) mentioned in the verse: “and establish prayer and give Zakat and loan Allah a goodly loan” (6), because the Zakat was enjoined upon Muslims in Medina rather than in Mecca. Also, this verse contains: (there will be among you) those who are ill and others travelling throughout the land seeking [something] of the bounty of Allah and others fighting for the cause of Allah”. Qital or defensive fighting for the cause of the truth and justice was also ordained in Medina.
Thus, whatever Ulema have contended in this regard, such as their saying that Quiyam-ul-Lail (standing up in night prayers) was observed in Mecca and that it lasted for one or ten years or their argument about its abrogation is contrary to the aforementioned Quiyam-ul-Lail. In addition to this, they have also reported a Hadith narrated by Hazrat Aisha (r.a) that goes like this:
Hazrat Aisha (r.a) is reported to have said: I was spreading the Musalla (the praying place) for the Prophet of Allah so that he could pray on it at night. When people knew it, they assembled and seemed as if they were becoming anxious, because they feared that the Qiyam-ul-Lail (standing up in the night prayer) might be enjoined upon them too. Showing great compassion to them, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: Bear only the responsibilities that are within your capacity. Allah does not get tired of bestowing virtues upon you until you become fed up with performing good deeds. The best of acts are the ones that you can carry out with consistency (7).
In the same thread, there is one more Hadith narrated by Hazrat Aisha (may God be pleased with her) that goes like this: I bought a Musalla (the praying place) for the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him). He would start praying on it from the first part of the night. When people knew it, they assembled and seemed as if they were becoming anxious, because they feared that the Quiyam ul Lail (standing up in the night prayer) might be enjoined upon them too. They entered the house of the Prophet PBUH as if they were unhappy and kept coughing until the prophet went out to them and said: Bear only the responsibilities that are within your capacity. Allah does not get tired of bestowing virtues upon you until you become fed up with performing good deeds. The best of acts are the ones that you can carry out with consistency, even if they are less in number. Then, God revealed a verse to him: “O you who wraps himself [in clothing], arise [to pray] in the night, except for a little” (73:1-2). This is how it was ordained and made obligatory for them. Then came the following verse: “Indeed, your Lord knows, [O Muhammad], that you stand [in prayer] almost two thirds of the night or half of it or a third of it, and [so do] a group of those with you. And Allah determines [the extent of] the night and the day. He has known that you [Muslims] will not be able to do it and has turned to you in forgiveness, so recite what is easy [for you] of the Qur'an.”
So, Allah replaced the night prayer with the mandatory prayers and thus removed the burdens of the Nawafil (voluntary prayers) except for those who willingly engage in the voluntary worship (8).
Neither of the above two Hadiths narrated by Hazrat Aisha r.a refers to the Meccan era of Islam, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) tied the knot with Hazrat Aisha (r.a) after his emigration to Medina. Moreover, those who assembled outside the Prophet’s house, as mentioned in the Hadith, were not from among the people of Mecca, as Muslims in Mecca were not only very few but also compelled to live in miserable conditions. Then obviously, these Hadiths refer to the Prophet’s house in Medina where Muslims enormously grew in number and were able to assemble outside the Prophet’s house in order to listen to him. Thus, it is established that the commandment of the reduction in the Quiyam-ul-Lail (standing in night prayers) was ordained in Medina where Muslims were instructed to recite what is easy for them in the holy Qur'an and offer the Salat and pay the Zakat, as outlined in the above Quranic verse.
Standing up at night is a form of worship. You can also call it Namaz or Salat if you want. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to engage in this worship during his stay in Mecca. It is also known as the prayer of “Tahajjud”. It has been narrated that the Prophet PBUH would engage in the prayer of Tahajjud at night, invoke Allah the Almighty and offer the Salat for the sake of God (9). Therefore, one who engages in prayers at night is called “Mutahajjid” (10). This prayer also includes the recitation of the Quranic verses. Regrettably, there has not been any report in the traditions of Hadith speaking of the rites and invocations of the Tahajjud prayer that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to perform.
Surah Hud, which was revealed in Mecca, contains a verse: “And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember” (11) And Surah Isra says: “Establish prayer at the decline of the sun [from its meridian] until the darkness of the night and [also] the Qur'an of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed. And from [part of] the night, pray with it as additional [worship] for you; it is expected that your Lord will resurrect you to a praised station.”
Other religions such as Judaism and Christianity too have a popular form of the Tahajjud prayer, which is counted among the holy prayers that are held in high esteem. It is mentioned in Mazameer: “I wake up at midnight to praise your commandments of virtues” (13). This prayer was particularly performed by the hermits and monks.
Tahajjud prayer or standing up in the night prayers is a continuation of the worship in which the Prophet PBUH would engage all alone for a month or less in the cave of Hira. Routinely, the Prophet PBUH would return to his house after he completed a month in the cave of Hira and remained indoor preparing for the next duration of a month in the Hira. He carried on with this routine until the truth was revealed to him (14). Unfortunately, Hadith reports did not shed any light on the ways of performing this prayer nor did they make it clear to us. Even the aforementioned Hadiths do not explain it well (15).
In Mecca, this worship was prevalent among the religious people. Reports mention that some people would engage in this worship to attain spiritual seclusion in the cave of Hira even before the advent of Islam. From what they did in their worship, it appeared as if they would contemplate on the creation plan of God for the earth and heaven, the structure of the universe and other matters of religious concern.
It is noteworthy that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not decline from the Tahajjud prayer even after the divine commandment of reduction in it. Rather, he pursued it, though in a relatively lighter manner, until he rested in peace. Therefore, the Tahajjud prayer has been declared one of the Prophet’s Sunnats (Prophetic deeds) which will earn its doers countless rewards (16).
1- Tafseer Al-Nisaburi 29/68, commentary on Tafseer al-Tabri, Bulaq, Tafseer al-Tabri 79/29-
2- Tafseer al-Tabri 79/29- Bulaq-
3- Tafseer al-Tabri 79/29- Bulaq-
4- Tafseer al-Tabri 80/29, Bulaq, Tafeer Ibn Kathir, 434/4 and the following
5- Al-Yaqoobi 24/2, Al-Najaf-
6- Surah Al-Muzammil, verse:20-
7- Tafseer al-Tabri 79/29-
8- Tafseer al-Tabri 79/29-
9- Al-Tajreed 78/1-
10- Al-Mufradaat by Asfahani 558-
11- Surah Hood, verse: 114-
12- Surah al-Isra, verse: 78 and 79-
13- Al-Mazameer, Mazmur 119, verse: 62-
14- Seerah Ibn-e-Hisham 150/1, Ibn al-Aseer 21/2-
15- Al-Seerah Al-Halabiyah 226/2-
16- Sunan Abu Daud, chapter of al-Tatauw, chapter 18, Abu Ishaq al-Sherazi, Al-Tanbeeh 27, Matbuah Al-Haitami, Al-Tuhfa 201/1-
Shorter, P., 559, Sprenger, Das Leben und die Leher des Muhammad, I, 321.