Mohammad Ehsan Rangiha
Tahajjud comes from the root word hujod which literally means ‘sleep’. However when it is constructed in a different form, tahajjud means to put away sleep and to stay up. Allah (swt) instructs the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to stay up part of the night to establish the night prayer (1).
Nafila has been taken from the word nafl which means extra, and this verse refers to the extra prayers that Allah (swt) asks the Prophet to establish during the night. Many commentators have explained this to mean that the night prayer was obligatory upon the Prophet (pbuh). Others believe the night prayer was initially obligatory upon the Prophet (pbuh) based on the verses in chapter 79 (Surat al-Muzzammil) ; the above verse (Quran 17:79) abrogated this by declaring the night prayer was recommended on the messenger and not incumbent.
At the end of the verse Allah (swt) says maybe your Lord will raise you to maqam mahmud as a result of the night prayer. Mahmud is extracted from the word hamd and means the station of glory and praise which is the highest position the servant can reach. Other traditions refer to it to mean the station of great intercession as the Holy Prophet is the greatest intercessor in the hereafter (2). This shows the greatness and the high position of the night prayer. The prophet (pbuh) says:
“Two units of prayer in the middle of night is more beloved to me than the world and whatsoever it may contain”
“When the servant of Allah turns to his Lord in the middle of the dark night, and whispers to Him, Allah establishes His light in his heart . . . then He tells the angels: O my angels, look at my servant. He has turned to Me in the middle of the dark night while the false ones are playing, and the heedless ones are sleeping; bear witness that I have forgiven him. “
Many might think it is hard to wake up in the night to communicate and pray to Allah (swt) and search for a solution of how to overcome this difficulty. If we understand the greatness, kindness and absoluteness of Allah (swt) and comprehend the reality of worship which results in tasting the sweetness of communicating to our Master, the difficulty and challenges involved will be insignificant compared to the sweetness of worship and obedience. It has been narrated from the Imam (as):
“My God, who can have tasted the sweetness of Thy love, then wanted another in place of thee? Who can have become intimate with Thy nearness, then sought removal from thee?”
We spend long hours speaking to our friends, spouses and parents, but when it comes to the One who has gifted us with all these people and blessings many of us fall short and don’t even spend a portion of this time communicating and supplicating to Him (swt). We have to start knowing ourselves and discover the treasure which is hidden within us so it can be a means by which we can know Allah (swt), and to taste the sweetness of worshiping him by which we can reach perfection and fulfil the goal and purpose of our creation.
The night is the best time for this as everyone has gone to sleep and the true servant and lover of Allah (swt) makes the most of this golden opportunity to purify himself, discover his purpose of creation and communicate with Allah (swt). It would be a lie for us to say we love Allah (swt) and bear to sleep the whole night. What type of lover sleeps the whole night when he or she can be talking to their Beloved?
(1) Tafseer Nemoone
(2) Tafseer al -Mizan