There is a time of night when the whole world transforms. During the day, chaos often takes over our lives. The responsibilities of work, school, and family dominate much of our attention. Other than the time we take for the five daily prayers, it is hard to also take time out to reflect or even relax. Many of us live our lives at such a fast pace, we may not even realize what we're missing.
But there is a time of night when work ends, traffic sleeps, and silence is the only sound. At that time-while the world around us sleeps-there is One who remains awake and waits for us to call on Him. We are told in the hadith qudsi: "Our Lord descends during the last third of each night to the lower heaven, and says: 'Is there anyone who calls on Me that I may respond to him? Is there anyone who asks Me that I may give unto him? Is there anyone who requests My Forgiveness that I may forgive him?'" (Bukhari and Muslim)
One can only imagine what would happen if a king were to come to our door, offering to give us anything we want. One would think that any sane person would at least set their alarm for such a meeting. If we were told that at exactly one hour before dawn a check for $10,000,000 would be left at our doorstep, would we not wake up to take it?
Allah has told us that at this time of night, just before dawn, He will come to His servants. Imagine this. The Lord of the universe has offered us a sacred conversation with Him. That Lord waits for us to come speak with Him, and yet many of us leave Him waiting while we sleep in our beds. Allah comes to us and asks what we want from Him. The Creator of all things has told us that He will give us whatever we ask.
And yet we sleep.
There will come a day when this veil of deception will be lifted. The Qur'an says:
"[It will be said], You were certainly in unmindfulness of this,
On that Day, we will see the true reality. On that Day, we will realize that two rak`at (units) of prayer were greater than everything in the heavens and the earth. We will realize the priceless check that was left on our doorstep every night as we slept. There will come a day when we would give up everything under the sky just to come back and pray those two rak`at.
There will come a day when we would give up everything we ever loved in this life, everything that preoccupied our hearts and minds, every mirage we ran after, just to have that conversation with Allah. But on that Day, there will be some from whom Allah will turn away... and forget, as they had once forgotten Him.
The Qur'an says:
"He will say, 'My Lord, why have you raised me blind while I was [once] seeing?'
In Surat al-Mu'minoon, Allah says:
"Do not cry out today. Indeed, by Us you will not be helped." (23:65)
Can you imagine for a moment what these ayat (verses) are saying? This is not about being forgotten by an old friend or classmate. This is about being forgotten by the Lord of the worlds. Not hellfire. Not boiling water. Not scalded skin. There is no punishment greater than this.
And as there is no punishment greater than this, there is no reward greater than what the Prophet describes in the following hadith:
"When those deserving of Paradise would enter Paradise, the Blessed and the Exalted would ask: Do you wish Me to give you anything more? They would say: Hast Thou not brightened our faces? Hast Thou not made us enter Paradise and saved us from Fire? He would lift the veil, and of things given to them nothing would be dearer to them than the sight of their Lord, the Mighty and the Glorious." [Sahih Muslim]
But one does not need to wait until that Day to know the result of this nighttime meeting with Allah . The truth is, there are no words to describe the overwhelming peace in this life from such a conversation. One can only experience it to know. Its effect on one's life is immeasurable. When you experience qiyam, the late night prayer the rest of your life transforms. Suddenly, the burdens that once crushed you become light. The problems that were irresolvable become solved. And that closeness to your Creator, which was once unreachable, becomes your only lifeline.