Short Story

Sweeter Than Sleep

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She wakes to the galaxy of Styrofoam forming her popcorn-ceiling and wonders why she can discern the intricacies of it before dawn? Groaning, she covers her face in shame; the sun has risen, but He needs not light to see what she has failed to do. The makeshift shelter of her hands is dismantled and gropes for the blanket that once appeared a comfort, making sleep seem sweeter. But throughout the globe, wherever the submitters reside, men from among them called out before dawn, Salah is better than sleep. How, then, can sleep stand to be sweeter?

Guilt and regret wracks her heart and mind while she washes her limbs. Waiting within, a crafty whisperer emerges, seizing upon this vulnerable worshipper. It rebukes her for her audacity, how can you face Him while you have transgressed so egregiously? It advises her to withdraw from this activity. You have sinned enormously, it purrs, abandon hope for surely you are doomed! Eyes wide in terror, she looks at the mirror to see the reflection that is her face. Doomed? Me? She is almost fooled but shakes her head. No. No? it whispers back boldly, taunting her. No, she responds with firm resolve.

“O son of Adam, so long as you call on Me and put your hope in Me, I will forgive whatever you have done, and I will not mind. O son of Adam, even if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky, and you were to then seek My forgiveness, I would forgive you and I will not mind. O son of Adam, if you were to come to me with an earth full of sins, and you were to meet Me not associating anything in worship with Me, I will come to you with an earth full of forgiveness.”
[al-Mundhiri, Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Rajab]

The sinister whisperer withdraws for now, defeated. She must patrol her mind. He will not rest for long and once he has strategized an alternate attack plan, he will strike with intensified ferocity.

She unfolds her prayer mat and arranges herself in perfect formation. Head bowed, eyes on the floor, mouth in motion, she recites two chapters. She bows, rises and falls into prostration. Prostration. It is said that when a believer is in prostration he or she is never closer to God than in that moment. The prayer mat accumulates moisture while she laments her misused time. Sleep over Salah. She contextualizes her transgression for the sake of progress.

After she has made up her missed prayer, she lifts her palms skyward, constructing a transitory bowl; in reverence she supplicates:

“Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.”

Later that night, by the light of her lamp, she can see the galaxy of Styrofoam adorning her ceiling once more. The thought of missing the pre-dawn prayer again consumes her mind. Frenzied by the thought, alarm clocks are poised for ringing, dispersed throughout her room, far from her bed to stop the sleepy spirit from silencing the siren. Alarms of the human variety have been granted permission to employ any instrument necessary to rouse her. Even douses of water are fair game. The comforting blanket is only permitted to function as a warm embrace for a term appointed.

Early to bed and early to rise makes a [believer spiritually] healthy, wealthy and wise.

Zainub can usually be found thawing out in front of her fireplace in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where temperatures often dip as low as -30 C. When not defrosting, she can be located in the University of Calgary library with furrowed brow, trying to understand convoluted literary theories in efforts to earn her degree in English. Zainub is fascinated by the rich tradition of Islamic literature by the likes of Ibn Battuta and Imam Al-Ghazali. She’s part of MYM because she sees the group as a humble and modern expression of the same fire that motivated these great thinkers. She also contributes articles to I Got It Covered, a website devoted to women’s modesty. In her spare time she loves to travel, practice her photography and play with her two cats Mowgli and Lola.


  1. masha’Allah this is truly wonderfully written! I love your writing style, subhan’Allah it was just beautiful! I love how you addressed the topic that we deal with everyday-Fajr prayer. It was a very good reminder.
    Loved these two parts:
    “…but He needs not light to see what she has failed to do.”
    “The comforting blanket is only permitted to function as a warm embrace for a term appointed.”

  2. MashaAllah Zayni this was such a beautiful piece, and it give me so much hope alhamdulilahi rabbil alameen. Whenever i read a piece of yours, i fall more in love with you. May Allah ta’ala give you all good in both this world and the Hereafter ameen <3
    O and Zayni im using this on tumblr inshaAllah ta'ala, ijazat?- "The sun has risen, but He needs not light to see what she has failed to do." subhanAllah <3much loveMar

  3. Fatimah Waseem Reply

    That was beautiful! Very poetic with all sorts of glorious sounds :) I could imagine myself analyzing this for english class (you decide if that’s a compliment or a criticism). :P

  4. I found it awesome (as someone pointed out to me) that Fajr was not mentioned once in the whole article, meaning that it could potentially work for other Salawaat as well. I found the descriptions to be very colorful and could feel myself in the same room and situation. Awesome article, Masha’Allah.

  5. Ardent and soulful delivery, mashaAllah! I could read this piece a thousand times over. JazakAllahu khairun Zainub. :)

  6. Mashallah this is such a beautiful piece. Not only is it engaging, but enlightening. May Allah reward you for the reminder clothed in such eloquence yet simplicity.

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