Manners of Lying Down and Sleeping    

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What are the manners of lying down? What are the manners of sleeping in islam? What is Sunnah for sleeping? Is it Sunnah to sleep on left or right side?

Lord Almighty created the day to work and earn livelihood and the night to sleep and rest. It is stated in some verses:

“And He it is Who makes the Night as a Robe for you, and Sleep as Repose, and makes the Day (as it were) a Resurrection.” (al-Furqan 25; 47)

“And we made your sleep for rest, and the night as a covering …” (al-Naba’ 78; 9-10)

In these verses, the darkness of the night is likened to a robe for its covering and concealing character. Sleeping is presented as a means of resting, for those who sleep stop working and rest by staying inactive.

In fact the night is a social, ethical, esthetic, and sanitary robe or covering. It is such a garment of might, peace, and blessing that is cut in accordance with the size of the world. From the point of marriage law, it is a garment of happiness, a curtain of secrecy protecting privacy, and a refuge for those who would like to hide materially and spiritually. From this perspective the night is both a means of union for the lovers of Truth and a big deception for the sinners and those who are defeated by their inner selves.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that, “sleep is the sister of death.” (Suyuti, II, 162) The verse: “It is He Who does take your souls by night, and hath knowledge of all that you have done by day …” (al-An’am 6; 60) also expresses the same point. This means that one should think about his/her sleep and comprehend the reality of death.

This is why, when a Muslim goes to bed and leaves himself/herself to the arms of sleep he/she should remember that he/she might be going and never coming back. Moreover, he should be ready for it. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) taught us the best principles of going to bed and sleeping and showed these manners in his actions. When he wanted to sleep, he would lay on his right side, place his right hand under his right cheek, and then make the following supplication:

“O Allah! I have submitted myself to You, entrusted my work to You, turned my face to You, entrusted myself to You, took refuge in You, hoping Your consent and fearing Your torment. There is no refuge from You except You. I have believed in the book You revealed and in the Prophet You sent.” He (pbuh) also told one of his companions that:

“If you die after reciting this supplication, then you will die on the religion of Islam (i.e., as a Muslim); so let these words be the last you say before going to bed” (Bukhari, Daawat, 7)

The bed of the Prophet (pbuh) was set as a grave; his head faced toward the Mosque. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 97) The sheet that was spread under him was also like a shroud of a dead. Es’ad Erbili (q.s.) describes the Prophet’s state in one of his Persian poems as follows:

“Since the earth is the place of manifestation for the lights of knowledge, my body does not wish to lie on beds.” (Divan, p. 14)

A Muslim should live his life being conscious that even his/her sleep is an act of worship. A servant knows that every moment of his/her life is under the control of Allah’s surveillance. He/she is aware that Allah sees everything he/she does; He hears everything the believer speaks and He even knows the things that the believer s thinks. This is why he/she tries not to be heedless of Allah not even for a moment. Allah the Almighty bestows many spiritual blessings upon His believing servants. True dreams are one of these blessings.[1]

“(With Your name, O Allah, I die and I live).”

“All the Praises are for Allah Who has made us alive after He made us die (sleep) and unto Him is the Resurrection).” (Bukhari, Daawat, 8)

Lying down according to the recommendations of the Prophet (pbuh) turns someone’s sleep into an act of worship and puts him under the protection of Allah. Nothing or nobody may harm a person who believes in the protection of Allah. If we think the meaning of the above mentioned supplication, we would be seized by a feeling like we are presenting our situation to Allah the Almighty for the last time. Because any supplication might be our last supplication or a prayer might be our last prayer, or a day of fasting might be our last day of fasting. In short, any one of our actions might be our last action.

One of the customs of the Prophet (pbuh) is to begin every action from the right. Therefore, he (pbuh) preferred to lie down on his right. Such a position is also beneficial for a person’s health. As it is known, the human heart and stomach are on the left side of the body. Both limbs are very important for the body and put putting pressure them especially by sleeping on them is very dangerous for the human health. This is why doctors advise not to lie down on the heart and stomach.

When the Prophet (pbuh) needed to sleep somewhere outside of his home he would lay and sleep in a different style than the usual. He would lie on his right side, set his right elbow up, and supported his right cheek with his right hand. (Muslim, Masajid, 313) This lying position is usually preferred in the open spaces where there is nothing to be used as pillow. Again Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) chose this position of lying when he wanted to take a short nap or when he was late for going to bed and concerned about waking up for the fajr (early morning) prayer. (Bukhari, Daawat, 5; Muslim, Musafirun, 121-122)

Allah’s Messenger would make different supplications when he went to bed and woke up from sleep. When he was going to bed, he would say:

“O Allah! I would die and resurrect with Your name.” When he woke up from sleep, he would say:

“Praise be to Allah Who resurrects us after taking our lives. Return is only to Him.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 8)[2]

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would say that those who forgot to mention Allah’s name while going to bed had left their task incomplete. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 25) When he went to bed, he would recite the chapters of Ihlas, Falaq, and Nas from the Qur’an and blow in his hands and then rub them on his body. (Bukhari, Fadail al-Qur’an, 14)

Fatima (r. anha) complained about the blisters on her hand from using a mill-stone. She went to ask the Prophet for a servant, the Prophet (pbuh) told her, “Shall I not tell you of a thing which is better for you than a servant? When you (both) go to your beds, say ‘Allahu Akbar’ thirty-four times, and ‘Subhan Allah’ thirty-three times, and ‘Alhamdu lillah’ thirty-three times, for that is better for you than a servant.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 11) By recommending Fatima (r.anha) to mention some remembrances of Allah the Prophet (pbuh) showed us how to relieve the tiredness one may feel in a day.

Before going to bed, one should check to see if there is anything harmful in it. The Prophet (pbuh) said,

“When anyone of you go to bed, he should shake out his bed by using a part of his garment, for he does not know what has come on to it after him, and then he should say: ‘Bismika Rabbi wada’tu Janbi wa bika arfa’uhu, In amsakta nafsi farhamha wa in arsaltaha fahfazha bima tahfazu bihi ibadakas-salihin’. Dear Lord! I go to my bed with Your name and with Your name I get up from my bed. If You take my soul in my sleep, Have mercy on me and forgive me. If You let me live, protect me from evil like You protect Your righteous servants.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 13)

Even though those who live in modern-day regular houses and flats may have difficulty in understanding the wisdom of this tradition, those who live in desert or village houses know the significance of these recommendations. However, these recommendations are beneficial for those who live in city houses, too; because there is still a possibility to find something harmful in our beds, like needles.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) also prohibited to spend the nights in buildings that have no safety fences, like some stables. (Tirmidhi, Adab, 82)

Furthermore, the Prophet (pbuh) has also provided his ummah with examples on matters of the positions of which one should lie. However, there are also some lying positions that are disapproved by the Prophet (pbuh). One of them is lying on the face down position. Tahfa b. Qais (r.a.) narrated:

“I was lying in the mosque on my face down. Someone began to poke me with his foot and said:

“This is a lying style which causes Allah’s anger.” When I looked at the man, I saw that he was the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 94)

This lying position not only causes the displeasure of Allah and His Messenger but also contains some health risks. It causes pressure on the heart and stomach. It also looks ugly and disrespectful. Therefore, it would be the most appropriate approach for us to stay away from such disapproved position of lying.

Abdullah b. Yazid (r.a.) said that: “I saw Allah’s Apostle lying flat on his back in the mosque with one leg on the other.” (Bukhari, Salat, 85) In another report, Jabir b. Abdullah reported Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) as saying: None of you should lie on his back and place one of his feet upon the other. (Muslim, Libas, 73) There is no contradiction between these two reports. The latter one prohibits placing one leg on the other leg in a way which reveals one’s private parts of the body. The former one, on the other hand, shows the Prophet’s (pbuh) custom and the permissible position, which does not reveal the private parts of the body.

When the Prophet (pbuh) woke up at night, he would relieve himself, if he needed, wash his hands and face, then go back to bed. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 105)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) regulated his day and night life moderately. He would not generally go to bed before i’sha (night) prayer and he would not usually stay up and chat after it. (Bukhari, Mawaqit, 23) Ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) said that: “Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) prohibited us to chat at night after i’sha prayer.” (Ibn Majah, Salat, 12) This prohibition has the characteristics of an advice to use the night wisely which is very important and ensures one to wake up for tahajjud (late night) prayer; however in order to follow this advice one must not waste time with unnecessary things like the television or radio. Today Muslims need to revitalize this Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) more.[3]

Of course the Prophet’s sleep was not like our sleep. It is hard to even call it “sleep”; for there is not a single heedless moment in his life. Imam Busiri says:

“Do not deny that he gets revelation in his dream, even if his eyes sleep, his heart does not sleep.”

It is just the organism or body, which sleeps and becomes inactive during sleep. This is why even though the Prophet’s eyes were asleep, his heart or his soul, consciousness, and cognition was always awake with the remembrances of Allah. (Bukhari, Manaqib, 24) In this respect, a friend of Allah says that:

In order to extend the blessings of remembrance of Allah performed in the morning to the evening and to extend the blessings of remembrance of Allah performed in the evening to the morning, it should be continued while sleeping. By this way, seekers of Truth can attain many benefits and Divine inspirations and virtues.

The Prophet’s (pbuh) usually slept after i’sha and before fajr prayers. When he had the opportunity, he would sleep about an hour after the zuhr (midday) prayer. This is called qaylulah. In this regard, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:

“Help your fasting by having a meal at night and help your night worship by some afternoon sleep.” (Hakim, I, 588) Thus, it is expressed that sleeping for a while in the afternoon gives a person the strength to perform the acts of worship at night. [4]

Sleeping after the sunset and the forty-five minutes afterwards is one of the disapproved times of sleeping. What is essential is to go to bed early and wake up early. After performing the fajr (early morning) prayer one should be busy with remembrance of Allah, recitation of the Qur’an, and learning Islam. One may begin working in the coming hours afterwards. One should benefit from the blessings of the early morning time. Sleeping between asr and maghrib prayers is another disapproved time of sleeping.[5] Just like the early hours of the day one should use those hours wisely with remembrance and contemplation.[6]

[1] During sleep a person’s connection with the material world goes down to a minimum level. Spiritual feelings that are locked in the cage of the body gain strength. Watching the invisible world in their dreams would be bestowed upon the righteous believers. Dreams are three types:

  1. Satanic dreams: These are the dreams which are inspired by Satan to scare, to bother, to sadden or to squeeze one’s soul. An example is a dream where on falls from a high place or scenes of big catastrophes. If someone sees such a dream, he/she should not let anybody know about his/her dream and take refuge in Allah from Satan’s temptations.
  2. Dreams seen under the influence of external factor: Seeing scenes in dreams, which are the reflection of a person’s daily state and imagination. For instance, someone who ate something salty may see drinking water. These cannot be interpreted, either.
  3. True dreams: Such dream can be completely remembered. These are the dreams inspired by Allah as good news or a warning. True dreams need to be interpreted and their codes should be deciphered by experts. Interpreting dreams is a science based on certain principles. This is why interpreters of dreams should have spiritual capability. Otherwise they face the dangers of wrong interpretation. For the Messenger of Allah said that: “…Dreams come true on the basis of their first interpretation.” (Ibn Majah, Ta’bir, 7) (See Osman Nûri Topbaş, Tasavvuf, p. 389-95)

[2] Inspired from these supplications a friend of Allah was saying in his supplications: “O Allah! Take my life with You and Resurrect me with You.”

[3] Experts explain some of the benefits of this prophetic custom as follows: “Because of the melatonin released by epiphysis, it constitutes a center related to some of our psychological behaviors. It affects the sexual balance of life, protects the body against infections, makes sleepy, and regulates psychological state. In order to catch the highest level of melatonin one should go to bed at 9:00 PM and wake up at 3:00 AM. If someone is awake and gets light at that time of the day, the human body keeps releasing melatonin.” (Dr. Arslan Mayda, p. 37)

[4] Muhammed Es’ad Erbili says that: “The soul does not need a body to see you. Even if the eyes go to sleep at nights, the soul’s path is open.” (Diwan, p. 21)

[5] According to the findings of the experts the number of heartbeats and blood pressure drops after 10:00 PM, and they begin to increase after 4:00 AM. They reach their peak levels between 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Therefore, one should avoid sleeping after asr (afternoon) prayer, for it would be an invitation to all types of heart diseases and diseases related to blood pressure. This might be the reason why Muslim scholars have disapproved sleeping after asr prayer. (Mayda, p. 38-39)

[6] Observing the customs of the Prophet (pbuh), Sufis usually prefer the night, early morning, and afternoon as times for remembrances of Allah and benefit from those hours.

Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

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