I first developed the habit of waking up at 5am probably a few years ago when doing so seemed to be the only way I could get some peace and quiet before my kids woke up (sorry kids!).
In Malaysia, this is way easier because the time for ‘Subuh‘ (or Fajr) prayer normally starts at around 5.45am, giving me some time to accomplish a few of the things I will be describing in this post. Here in the UK, things are slightly different because the starting time for ‘Subuh‘ can differ by several hours over the year.
The point is, when I say 5am, what I really mean is waking up approximately ‘an hour or so’ before the time for ‘Subuh‘.
People do their best work at different times of the day. Some are morning larks, who perform best in the mornings. Others are night owls who tend to burn the midnight oil working.
There’s no doubt in my mind at least that the hour before ‘Subuh‘ is the best hour of my day, and here are my reasons for saying so:
Waking up early in the morning provides me with the opportunity for a fresh start each and every day. It reminds me of this Calvin & Hobbes cartoon strip (incidentally Bill Watterson’s final one) where Calvin is excited about having ‘a day full of possibilities’.
That is precisely how I feel on the days when I manage to wake up early.
Over the years, I’ve really started to appreciate the ability to look at the coming day as if it’s a clean slate. All of us are sometimes burdened by unnecessary worries about work we haven’t completed, overdue assignments, past arguments etc. By starting the day fresh, I feel like I have a better chance of tackling these issues in a reasonable, intelligent, way.
The concept of mindfulness has become increasingly popular worldwide but it is far from new. People have been finding ways to achieve mindfulness for millennia. Some do so by exercising, others by meditating. For me, the best way to obtain some peace and tranquility is by performing the ‘tahajjud‘ prayer and, since the beginning of this year, by reading 2 pages of the Qur’an immediately afterwards.
I am hesitant to talk about this practise because I really don’t want you to think that I’m this super-motivated person who manages to perform ‘tahajjud‘ all the time. That is the seed of insincerity that negates whatever good deeds one performs. And truth be told, I know of many other people who are infinitely better at this than I am. So please don’t think highly of me just because you’re reading this.
What I do want to share with you is the tremendous value of this mindfulness practise. Sure, doing a couple of ‘raka’at‘ plus reading a couple of pages of the Qur’an may not seem like much, but if there’s one thing that I’m 100% certain about, it is this: I feel much more at peace on the days when I manage to wake up early and do these 2 things compared to the days when I skip this activity.
I have a lot more to say about peace actually, but perhaps I’ll save it for a later blog post. For now, let me just say that being at peace is often underrated in the modern world’s pursuit of happiness.
Last but not least, waking up early gives me time to read, read, and read like the nerd I am.
Most mornings, I go through a few news websites reading about what’s happened around the world in the last 24 hours. I am conflicted about the value of this; on the one hand, I enjoy reading the news and it genuinely seems like a sensible thing to do, but on the other hand, much of it is depressing (especially nowadays) and doesn’t really concern me personally.
In line with my New Year’s resolution, I am trying to shift my focus away from day-to-day news and towards deeper, more intellectually-stimulating writing such as long-form articles, medical journals, and magazines like The Economist that gives me a more analytical take on the news. If your mind is like a garden, why would you plant garbage in there? Try instead to plant seeds that will grow into healthy trees that will benefit everyone around you.
I hope I have managed to spark in you some interest in exploring the benefits of waking up early every day. One thing missing from this post is information on how to do so i.e. what are the things I do to make it easy to get out of bed so early in the morning.
Fear not, I will elaborate on this in a future blog post inshaAllah. I feel that this is such an important topic that it really deserves its own post.
After all, losers plan, winners execute.
A lot of what I’m going to say about this topic boils down to the habit-forming strategies discussed in ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. I can’t recommend this book enough. It is probably the single book that has made the biggest difference in how I approach things in recent years. Looking back at what I’ve written in the past year, I notice that I’ve already mentioned this book twice so far in the following posts:
So stay tuned for tips on nurturing this, and many other, healthy and rewarding habits. Until then, take care everyone.
Assalamu’alaikum, peace be upon you.