Everybody has, at some point of time in their lives, woken up in a state of sluggishness, laziness, weakness, fatigue, or felt like a dark cloud has come over their heads. Perhaps Shaitan visited you during your sleep in a dream or otherwise, perhaps you are ill or perhaps the ebb and flow of life has balanced the abundance of good feeling with some bad. But we, as active healthy Muslims, must take our affairs into our own hands with the knowledge and strength that Allah has blessed us with. Our bodies are a trust that Allah has bestowed us with, which we must take care of. We must also take our Prophet ﷺ (who was strong, powerful, capable, adaptive and elegant) as the guide whom Allah sent to remind us. The main difference is that Prophet ﷺ was taught directly by Allah through the angel Gabriel while we are blessed in a way that is indirect (through the Qur’an and his Sunnah which has been passed down through generations.)
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whosoever begins the day feeling family security and good health; and possessing provision for his day is as though he possessed the whole world.” [At- Tirmidhi].
1) Aim to Wake Up Well Before Fajr Prayer
The goal is to wake up with nothing to do except worship Allah . The opportunity for tahajjud and witr are best at the last third of the night when Allah has descended. To start the day with spiritual acts will give ones mind the most powerful benefit (as intellect is primarily a spiritual faculty). This will supercharge your day. In Arabic, we call concentration in prayer, khushu’ which is something we must constantly try to improve on:
“We served ourselves in the company of Messenger of Allah ﷺ. We tended our camels by turn. One day, I had my turn to tend the camels, and I drove them in the afternoon. I found the Messenger of Allah ﷺ addressing the people. I heard him say: Anyone amongst you who performs ablution, and does it well, then he stands and offers two rak’ahs of prayer, concentrating on it with his heart and body, Paradise will be his lot by all means.” – Sunan Abi Dawud 169. Graded Sahih by Al-Albani.
2) Have a Healthy Breakfast
Includes drinks like warm milk with honey, which are 2 strong remedies from the Sunnah, or in modern times, you can opt for a tea or coffee, which although not from the Sunnah since they were not around at that time, are still considered halal for us to imbibe in moderation. The more we follow the Sunnah, the more power one will have for the entire day. Squeezing fresh juices, eating dates, whole grain breads with fresh cheese, healthy cereals from oats or corn flakes (with minimal processing), are classic old-fashioned healthy varieties of breakfast that can be included in your diet.
3) Physical Exercise
If you are going to remain physically inactive for long periods of time, your mind is not going to have access to various nutritional elements it needs in order to function well. The primary principle here is to not remain idle for long periods of time.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said,
“Any action without the remembrance of God is either a diversion or heedlessness except four acts: Walking from target to target [during archery practice], training a horse, playing with one’s family, and learning to swim.” At Tabarani.
So, these physical activities are not considered heedless as they are important to our daily lives.
Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet ﷺ used to visit all his wives in one night and he had nine wives at that time.
The Prophet ﷺ being a family man, remained active and did not neglect to give attention and affection to his family. He would do chores around the house and help his wives, not treating them like slaves but with the dignity and respect, which a believing woman deserves. So get up around the house, do your laundry, sweep the floor, cook your own food and stay on your feet even if it is for visiting your relatives or walking to the mosque.
4) Indulge in Exercises that Aid in Increased Mental Focus
This is very important and often neglected. It varies from person to person and it depends on various factors. Sometimes, the brain needs to be started and revved up like an old engine. The Prophet ﷺ before revelation, would go to the Cave of Hira and meditate in his own way and was constantly pondering and thinking over the spiritual illnesses as well as social troubles of the society. Spending 20 minutes doing a jigsaw puzzle could be right for one person. While for others, writing in a diary or journal could be a viable option to consider. This is especially needed for a student of knowledge, because if one passively takes information, the mind may not be able to maintain its train of thought.
Zirr bin Hubaish narrated:
“I came to a man called Safwan bin ‘Assal and sat at his door. He came out and said: ‘What do you want?’ I said: ‘I am seeking knowledge.’ He said: ‘The angels lower their wings for the seeker of knowledge out of pleasure at what he is seeking.'” Sunan an-Nasa’i Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 158. Graded Hasan by Darussalam.
Make this activity something that is within your knowledge already. Do not try to expound on a new brilliant idea you just came up with. Save that for later as you should never undertake “focus exercises” that is completely new for you (as you might be unable to complete it or might get stuck on it). This allows you to get the momentum building. After that momentum is at full speed, you can move on to more advanced things which will tax and challenge your mind on a different level (until your mind needs to sleep to reorganize and process all that was taken in.)
Certainly, the best focusing exercises will revolve around learning the Qur’an.
It was narrated that ‘Uthmaan bin ‘Affan said: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘The most excellent of you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.'”
Here are some examples:
Every morning, write out flash cards with an Arabic letter or word from the Quran and its English translation or spelling with English letters (transliteration) on the opposite side. Or go through 100 of such cards and test yourself. Watch free online lectures about the Qur’an and Sunnah and take notes. The process of taking notes will make ones focus much greater. That’s correct. Focus more on the active process of taking notes rather than passive listening or watching. The differences would be very apparent!
Turn your computer into a link to Allah with endless material for you to slowly take in; or as a notepad to record or organize things which benefit you in both worlds. Write out a verse or chapter from the Qur’an. Take those flash cards previously mentioned and sort them in alphabetical order or ask 10 of them to your children while they eat their breakfast and make it a family bonding experience even.
Do not let Shaitan steal what you think is a bad day. Make it a success by giving it to Allah who has given you a limited number of days with which He will test you and give you an opportunity to worship Him while purifying yourself. So take full advantage of all of them by having habits, patterns and strategies reinforced and implemented to deal with the troubles, the pain, the challenges and the strife when it comes. Our world has become a place where there is more need for mental capacity than physical capacity due the sophistication of automation and machinery. So, let us adapt while staying firmly within the bounds of the Shariah. That is why these strategies for maintaining mental clarity, energy and focus will come in handy throughout our daily lives.