We have received so many questions about this problem that we know it is crying out for a solution. So many people are wasting so much time in staying up late at night. But the truth of the matter is that this phenomenon is not homogenous. There are three kinds of staying up late: (1) Staying up late to worship Allaah. This is the worthy kind of staying up. It includes staying up for reasons that are of benefit to the Muslims in general, such as staying up to pray (qiyaam al-layl) and read Qur’aan. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “They used to sleep but little by night [invoking their Lord and praying, with fear and hope].” [al-Dhaariyaat 51:17].
It is reported that some of the scholars used to discuss hadeeth until the sun came up. Some of the sincere da’iyahs (callers, Islamic workers) still stay up at night discussing matters that keep those who care about the ummah awake. This kind of staying up is entirely worthy, so long as it does not lead to the neglect of something more important or more obligatory. Some people may stay up for a legitimate purpose, then miss fajr prayers. This is a mistake.
(2) Staying up for a permissible reason. This is fine, as long as it does not lead to the neglect of something obligatory. This includes, for example, travellers staying up to talk to one another, in order to relieve the tedium of travel. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would stay up to talk to one of his wives and keep her company, when they were on a journey.
This also includes talking to one’s guests and keeping them company.
Also included is the staying up involved in modern-day shift work, created by the demands of materialistic circumstances. No doubt some of the interests of the Muslims demand the work of people at night, such as those who work in the security forces, in hospitals and airports, in supplying electricity, and so on.
(3) Staying up to commit sin, such as staying up to watch movies, to play haraam games such as cards, or to consume the flesh of others by gossiping and backbiting and slandering, and other kinds of sin. This kind of staying up is haraam, and those who do it are sinners who deserve the punishment of Allaah. Their number has increased in modern times, for the reasons mentioned by the poet:
“Youth, idleness and good health,/ corrupt man in such a bad way!”
It is important to distinguish between one type of staying up and the other.
The habit of staying up late at night has become widespread in our times for a number of reasons, including the following:
Staying up for worldly purposes, as in the case of some traders and businessmen who stay up late putting their affairs in order, or students who stay up to study. People in this situation should try to organize their time so that they will not need to stay up late and can thus avoid its bad consequences.
The nature of modern life and the social changes which it has wrought. Earlier generations used to slow down and go to sleep when darkness fell, but the presence of electricity in modern times had led to people doing many activities, kinds of work and social activities that they never used to do during the hours of darkness. In some cases, people’s nights have become just like their days.
Many people’s indulgence in the arts and media, by means of TV, radio, video, etc.
Many people make their visits to family and friends, or organize programs etc., at nighttime, because of the nature of their work and studies. So you rarely find anyone who will visit you during the day, except at the weekend. Even gatherings for the pursuit of Islamic knowledge are mostly held after ‘isha’ prayers.
Some people indulge to excess in idle chatter and trivial discussions, even disturbing others with their talk and laughter. This phenomenon is perhaps most obvious among students living in university residences, where some inconsiderate visitors stay up late talking about who...
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