Spread peace; Feed others; Strengthen ties; Pray at night while others sleep

One of the responses by Muslims to the horrific terrorist attack against them in Christchurch 15 March 2019 in which 51 were killed and many more injured was The Christchurch Invitation. This Invitation spoke of four parts:

Within the Muslim community we have spent much time discussing our shared world. Our deep wish is that the March 15 flood of support builds into something lasting; something that benefits everyone.

In our case, this saw us reflect on some very important teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be with
him).

When he migrated to the city of Madinah in Saudi Arabia to calm tensions there, he was asked what should be
done. He began his address “O mankind!” (he was not just talking to Muslims but to everyone there) and then called on them to spread peace, feed the hungry, rebuild kinship ties (and we acknowledge a kinship not just with people but with the earth and its creatures) and to pray at night when everyone is asleep.

The Christchurch Invitation

Understandably, for a secular world, three have been focused on:

• Spread peace
• Feed the hungry
• Reconnect

The Christchurch Invitation

I was most intrigued by the invitation to “pray at night when everyone is asleep”.

I am strongly aware of the Christian practice of praying at night when everyone is asleep. Carthusians break their sleep, getting up about midnight and praying the Night Office for two or so hours. Other monastic traditions rise very early to pray when everyone is asleep (The Office of Vigils). I have even heard of a monastic tradition that stays up late, praying when everyone is asleep. I had been unaware of the Muslim parallel tradition. I now wonder if there is a parallel Jewish tradition – completing the Abrahamic three.

In my discussions with someone from the mosque here, I have been pointed to Tahajjud. And told that there are a number of references to the night prayer in the Qur’an, including these:

O you who wraps himself [in clothing], arise [to pray] the night, except for a little – half of it – or subtract from it a little or add to it, and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation.
(Surah Al-Muzzammil 73:1-4)

Indeed, the righteous will be among gardens and springs, accepting what their Lord has given them. Indeed, they were before that doers of good. They used to sleep but little of the night, and in the hours before dawn they would ask forgiveness.
(Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51: 15-18)

There are also a number of references to the night prayer in the hadiths (traditions) of Prophet Muhammad.

I also highlight that, prior to electric light, the majority of people went to sleep when it was dark and got up with the Sun. That’s more time than we need for sleep, and recently people have been realising that for most of human history we split our sleep. Waking in the middle of the night for some time has been the norm of our human existence. Carthusians and Tahajjud continue the human experience of being awake in the middle of the night.

March 15 One year on

The image is my photo of Masjid Al Noor, Christchurch, New Zealand.

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