Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2020
Sleep in Islam Sleep is an important topic in Islamic literature and both sources of Islamic jurisprudence, the Quran and Hadith (Sunnah), discuss different types of sleep, the importance of sleep, and good sleep practices. Islam considers sleep as one of the signs of the greatness of Allāh (God). A midday nap is an important practice for Muslims, and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, promoted naps as beneficial. Interestingly, Islam emphasizes the importance of getting enough sleep, even when praying. One Hadith by the Prophet in Sahih Al-Bukhari (SB) says, “If anyone of you feels drowsy while praying he should go to bed (sleep) till his slumber is over” (SB 210). The Prophet told one of his companions (Ibn Amr) who was praying the whole night “Offer prayers and also sleep at night, as your body has a right on you” (SB 1874). Muhammad encouraged his companions not to be involved in any activity after Isha prayer (darkness prayer, which is around 1.5-2 hours after sunset). The Prophet said, “One should not sleep before the night prayer, nor have discussions after it” [SB 574]. Additionally, Muslims are required to wake up for Fajr prayer, which is about one hour before sunrise. The Prophet did not sleep after Fajr prayer. In addition, the Prophet told his companions that early morning work is blessed by Allāh. Although being called to wake for the Fajr prayer may seem to be disruptive of good sleep this is perhaps offset by having a short midday nap (called Qailulah in Islamic culture) which is a deeply embedded practice in the Muslim culture, and has a religious dimension (Sunnah) for some Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad said, “Take a short nap, for Devils do not take naps” [Sahih Aljamie. Alalbani 1647]. Another Hadith by Muhammad provided details about the timing of the nap, “Sleeping early in the day betrays ignorance, in the middle of the day is right, and at the end of the day is stupid.” (Fath Al-Bari, p.73). A third Hadith reported in Sahih Al-Bukhari (SB) says, “We used to offer the Jumua (Friday) prayer with the Prophet and then take the afternoon nap” [SB 5923]. For Muslims Friday is the weekend and so this afternoon nap may have been a way to compensate for the sleep loss during the week. The Quran frequently presents “day” and “night” as significant signs of the creator (Allāh). The Quran asks Muslims to observe the succession of night and day. For example, “And it is He who has made the night and the day in succession for whoever desires to remember or desires gratitude” [verse 25.62]. It is clear that the Quran considers humans to need light in the daytime and darkness at night, “And it is He Who makes the night a covering for you, and the sleep a repose, and makes the day Nushūr (i.e., getting up and going about here and there for daily work, after one's sleep at night)” [verse: 25.47]. The Quran considers the cycle of night and day as a mercy from Allāh, “Say: See ye? If Allāh were to make the Night perpetual over you to the Day of Judgment, what God is there other than Allāh, who can give you enlightenment? Will ye not then hearken? Say: See ye? If Allāh were to make the Day perpetual over you to the Day of Judgment, what God is there other than Allāh, who can give you a Night in which ye can rest? Will ye not then see? It is out of His Mercy that He has made for you Night and Day, - that ye may rest therein, and that ye may seek of His Grace - and in order that ye may be grateful” [verses 28.71- 73]. Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam, and more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide fast during Ramadan every year. The fasting protocol during Ramadan may influence sleep. For example, Muslims rise for the predawn meal (Suhur) and dawn (Fajr) prayer during Ramadan.  Moreover, several changes in habits and lifestyle occur during Ramadan in some Islamic countries, such as delaying the start of work, shortening the working hours, and keeping the stores and shopping malls open until late at night. However, studies have in fact demonstrated that although bedtime and the time of rising were delayed in Muslims during Ramadan, there was no objective evidence for increased sleepiness during fasting. About 1400 years ago, Muhammad stressed the importance of sleep for good health and the Quran stresses the importance of the alteration of night and day. A nap (Qailulah) is a well-established cultural practice in the Islamic culture. Interestingly, despite its antiquity, such advice is fully in accordance with what modern sleep scientists know about sleep and circadian rhythms