The journey of the night [praying and worshipping at night] is unbearable except by the one starving, whose hunger perks him up. The legions of indolence assemble to clutch onto the tail of slackness, and so they embellish the beauty of sleep in the eye of the sleeper; adorn the comfort of the bed to the body, and picture the coldness of water as intimidating to abstain the body from performing wudu. However, as soon as a spark of strong will and endeavour is provoked, the path of worship becomes illuminated, thereupon the heart of certainty hears the call: “Is there anyone seeking anything so that I may fulfil it for him?” (Reported in Muslim 758)
At night, the breath of the devotee rapidly quickens due to his excessive effort in acts of worship. There is a concealed strength inside the worshippers while they beseech Allah’s forgiveness, indeed the crying of children is unlike the saying of men. Spending the night awake worshipping is the howdah of devotees; the breeze of the night awakes the eye of the thoughtful. You can see them laying down the mattress of Qais [i.e. awake due to their passion] and spending their night like the nights of al-Nabighah [an eloquent poet], if they sleep, they lay [their heads on] pillows of lofty aspiration, and when they rise, they get worried as if sleep took an oath to stay away from their eyelids. They remain standing, their feet bearing their weight all night, entitle night breeze approaches sleep, and the caller declares the death of darkness due to the nearness of dawn so that when the brunt of darkness is borne away by the break of dawn, they rush to lean on the rides of forgiveness.
The fragrance of late nights is the nourishment of souls whereby they become softened hence enjoying the sense of tranquility, cooling down the heat of their yearning and delivering their letters of love. He whose heart is in distress finds his tranquility and comfort when feeling the breeze, despite its disturbance. Yet, understanding the uttered words this breeze can only be understood by the one yearning [for his Lord], for conversation about lightning is only attractive to lovers [worshippers]. They seclude themselves, with the One Whom they love, inside the house of supplications, therefore He closes them with garments that indicate their connection to Him, and perfumes them with the scent of good treatment. Indeed, the late part of the night is too precious for words, so they receive the dawn while the signs of their nearness to Allah are apparent on them.
The odour of their worship smells out their clothes, leaving you, O you sleeping corpse, to grieve over your loss! O you, naked and heedless, weep, for you neither know how they spent their night nor are you aware of what has happened to them. How would the one whose heart is void know what transcends the one who heart is filled and attached to the one Whom he loves! The company of “their bodies forsake their beds” (al-Sajdah 32:16) has already departed before the arrival of the late night while the one cast away in the state of sleep is still locked in his cell of slumber. The jailor does not set the sleeper free until the worshippers reach their destination. The sleeper then gets up [hoping to catch up with them] so he starts seeking their traces in the city of Kufah [Iraq] while they have already commenced the state of ihram [in Makkah].
Hasan ibn Abi Sinan used to feign sleep until his wife would fall asleep so that he could get up and pray. When al-Rabi ibn Khaytham used to be in a state of distress, weeping and excessive worship at night, his mother used to say to him: ‘O son, have you murdered someone [because of which you are in such great distress and weeping]? He would reply: yes… I have killed myself.”
The mother of Umar ibn al-Munkadir [from the third generation, a pious worshippers from Madinah] used to say to him: “I wish to see you sleeping for one.” He said: “O mother, whoever witnesses the night looming over his head, while fearing dying in his sleep, should ought never to be able to sleep. O mother, when night comes I become too frightened, so it passes without having performed as much worship as I would have wished to.”
One of the ascetics was told: be gentle to yourself [i.e. do not exhaust yourself with excessive worship], he replied: gentleness is what I am after [i.e. seeking it in the afterlife]. Ummayyah al-Shami used to cry and weep in the masjid until his weeping became loud. The ruler of those regions sent him a letter saying: you are disturbing those who pray with your excessive crying and loud weeping so hold yourself back a little. When he read it he cried and said: The grief of the Day of Judgement has bequeathed me endless tears. I gain some relief by shedding some of them sometimes.