Assalamu alaykum and welcome.
Many of you may have heard this bedtime prayer before.
“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
It’s a staple of the bedtime routine of many a Christian family. When I learned it as a child I could scarcely understand it’s meaning. I thought “nowilayme” was one word and I had no idea what “ifishoulddie” meant! That’s probably why I didn’t realize what I was talking about for a while. Now it’s quite easy to understand what the meaning of the prayer is. And as a Muslim now, I realize even more how important such a prayer is. It’s quite simple so I won’t spend time explaining it here, I simply want to express my personal understanding of this type of prayer and it’s importance as part of the bedtime routine.
In the Qur’an Allah says what means:
It is He Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep), and has knowledge of all that you have done by day, then He raises (wakes) you up again that a term appointed (your life period) be fulfilled, then (in the end) unto Him will be your return. Then He will inform you of that which you used to do. (6:60 – Dr.Mohsin translation)
And in another passage He says what means:
It is Allâh Who takes away the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep. He keeps those (souls) for which He has ordained death and sends the rest for a term appointed. Verily, in this are signs for a people who think deeply. (39:42 – Dr.Mohsin translation)
Our souls belong to God. He does with them as He wills. Our souls are in His possession by night and it is by His will that they are returned to us each morning. That’s not to say that we die each night. Anyone hooked up to a machine that measure vital signs will prove our bodies continue to function as we sleep. But one cannot live his/her life without a soul. What kind of life are we living when asleep? So our lives continue only if our souls are returned to us.
My understanding of this prayer now through the eyes of Islam is that it’s much like the 5 daily prayers. The 5 daily prayers are not prayers asking for something to be given to us (that’s usually done after we have completed the prayer) they are prayers done to remind us of Allah’s glory and our subservience to him. Similarly, the “now I lay me” prayer is not a prayer requesting that God take and keep our souls since He already does that, it’s a prayer that serves as a reminder that this is what He does. A reminder that your final resting place is with Allah. A reminder to start, live, and end each day in worship of Allah.
There are many supplications one may make before going to bed to serve as a reminder. And the best part is: these reminders allow one to die upon the firtah if he or she should then die while sleeping.
Al-Bara’ b. ‘Azib reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) commanded a person (in these words): When you go to bed during night, you should say: Oh Allaah, I submit my soul unto You, and I entrust my affair unto You, and I turn my face towards You, and I totally rely on You, in hope and fear of You. Verily there is no refuge nor safe haven from You except with You. I believe in Your Book which You have revealed and in Your Prophet whom You have sent.” Make this as the last word of yours (when you go to sleep) and in case you die during that night, you would die upon Fitra. (Muslim; Book 35; Hadith 6544)