Sleeping and waking are two activities of life that we all do. Night is the time we go to bed, let our body takes a good rest, and hope for sweet dreams to visit us. Morning is the time we get up from bed, get ourselves fresh with a quick shower, take a light breakfast, and go to work, or do the things we are supposed to do. Early to bed and early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise. So goes a saying. Is it?
For many of us today, our time is mostly occupied with making a living. Our mind is mostly occupied with the thought of how we could afford a home, pay for our car, feed our family, take care of our parents, pay our medical bills, prepare a good life for our children, and hopefully, we can retire with some money to spare. When we go to bed, our mind is occupied with these concerns, and when we wake up, our mind is also occupied with the same concerns. What if, some day we go to bed and do not wake up anymore? What is going to happen to our home, our car, our family, our parents, our medical bills, and our children, when we are no longer around to be their breadwinner?
For some of us, our time is mostly occupied with making more and more of what we already have. We may already have a home, but we want a more comfortable home, or one more home, and if possible, many more homes. We may already have a car, but we want a better or have another car, if possible. We not only want to be able to feed our family, but to be able to give them the best of food. We not only want to take care of our parents, but also to make sure they can go holidaying around the world. We not only want a medical treatment, but we want to receive the best medical treatment in a very good hospital. We not only want a good life for our children, but we want the best life for them by sending them to the best colleges or universities in the world. When we go to bed, our mind is occupied with these concerns, and when we wake up, our mind is also occupied with the same concerns. What if, some day we go to bed and do not wake up anymore? What is going to happen to our homes, our cars, our family, our parents, our medical bills, and our children, when we are no longer around to afford these luxuries of life?
For a Muslim, sleeping and waking connects him to a deeper meaning of existence. A Muslim is one who is aware that every moment of his life is a moment he continues to live, and he is aware that it is also a moment that he could die. As such, we are told by our beloved Prophet Muhammad to work for this life as if we are going to live for a thousand years, but at the same time, to work for the next life as if we are going to die the next day. For a Muslim, every moment of his life is a time by which he strives very hard to make his next moment in life a worthwhile cause for living. Simultaneously, he makes sure that every moment which he takes to make his worldly life a worthwhile and satisfying one, is also a moment of a good and virtuous life - whether it is for now, later, or the hereafter.
A Muslim therefore is one who before going to bed would say ‘Bismikallahumma, amutu, wa ahya,’ (meaning ‘In your name, O Allah, I die, and I live’). Alternately, this can be read as ‘In your name, O Allah, I lapse into lifelessness (sleep), and I come again into life (waking up).’ Similarly, upon getting up from bed, he would say ‘Alhamdulillahi, allazi, ahyana, ba’da ma amatana, wa ilaihi al-nushur,’ (meaning ‘All praises are due to Allah, who brings us back to life, after having made us died, and to Him is the resurrection’). Alternately, this can be read as ‘All praises are due to Allah, who brings us into life (waking), after having made us lapsed into lifelessness (sleep), and again brings us into life (waking again).’
These two utterances are called du’a, or supplication. These utterances are reminders to a Muslim that sleeping is likened to death, and waking is likened to life. Thus, a Muslim, before sleeping, would ponder upon the possibility of ‘what if’ he doesn’t wake up anymore. And he would ponder, upon waking up, what he is to do with his life.
The two du’a put a Muslim in touch with God, so that as he goes to sleep, and as he wakes up from sleep, he will ponder over whether his life has made a change for the better, has remained stagnant, or has dwindled into decay that he doesn’t know where he is heading in life.
The Muslim, upon waking up from sleep, says ‘‘Alhamdulillahi, allazi, ahyana, ba’da ma amatana, wa ilaihi al-nushur.’ When he utters this du’a, he reconnects with God. As he reconnects with God, he remembers that it is God who gave him sleep, and it is God who woke him up. It is God who puts him into lifelessness, and it is God who brings him into life. So what is the point of ‘coming back to life?’
The Muslim says ‘Alhamdulillah’ as he wakes up because he praises God for giving him the chance to reconnect with life, the chance to appraise the things he has done, the chance to set new resolutions for the things he is going to do, the chance to seek God’s forgiveness for any past mistakes or misdeeds, and the chance to seek God’s guidance for a better tomorrow.
“O servant of Allah! Be sensible, and make a serious effort to get to know the One you serve before death comes to you. Ask Him to supply your needs, both day and night. To put a request to Him is an act of worshipful service (ibadah), whether He gives or does not give you what you ask for. You must not harbour doubts about Him. Do not get impatient for a response, and do not get bored with asking. Put your request to Him with an attitude of humble submission and do not remonstrate with Him if you do not receive an immediate response, for He is more Aware of your best interests than you are.”