The Prophet led a full and busy life, but it was not a stressful one. His temperament was calm and composed. If you saw him, you would not imagine that he had been engaged in any worrisome concerns or had anything to attend to in the near future. His manner at home with his family did not betray the pressures and concerns that awaited him outside. When he sat with his Companions, he did not show himself to be anxious about some other work he had to do. He gave them his complete attention and enjoys their companionship. They all benefited from his kind and considerate manners as if they were his only concern in the world. His inner being was in a state of balance, so he was able to carry out his many duties without stress and anxiety taking their toll on him.
This is how he struck a balance between his duties to others and his many daily activities. He gave everything its due, including his worship, his preaching, his family’s rights, his Companions, and his personal needs. He never neglected anyone’s rights or failed in carrying out his responsibilities. He gave sufficient attention to public matters as well as private ones. His life was a practical application of his advice when he said: “Indeed, your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, your wife has a right over you, your guest has a right over you, your child has a right over you, and your friend has a right over you.” The Prophet honoured the rights of everyone who had a right over him.
The Prophet’s life was well ordered, but it was not routine or monotonous. It was organized but flexible, able to accommodate whatever the circumstances demanded. His life was not chaotic and anxious, but neither was it tiresome and rigid. The times of prayer were fixed, and he organized his other activities around them. His public assemblies might be long or short, depending on the needs of the day. In this way, he availed himself of all the positive benefits of an ordered life without falling into the negative tendencies of monotony and rigidity.
How the Prophet’s Day Was Divided
The Prophet’s day can be divided in two ways. The first, is in relationship to his three periods of sleep. The second is in relationship to the five daily prayers.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) slept at three distinct times. The first was at the early part of the night until the middle of the night. This was his main sleep. The second was a short sleep at the end of the night before dawn. The third was a siesta taken right before noon. These intervals of sleep framed three distinct time-periods of high activity:
1. The period of vital, wakeful activity at night in prayer. The Prophet’s observance of Tahajjud came immediately after his longest unbroken period of sleep, which continued until the middle of the night. It is as if he gathered up all of his strength for this purpose, since prayer was his true repose and the coolness of his eyes.
2. The period of time that came after the Fajr prayer. This was right after his pre-dawn sleep. He offered the Fajr prayer, engaged in the remembrance of his Lord and participated in an assembly with his Companions where he engaged in preaching, teaching, and imparting knowledge.
3 The period of time that followed the Zuhr prayer. This came right after his siesta. He would pray Zuhr and then address the people about community concerns or work to solve their problems and fulfil their needs.
The most important organizing factor of the Prophet’s life were the five obligatory prayers. The day’s activities were structured around the prayers, which served to divide the day into distinct intervals of time. Consequently, the Prophet’s daily programme can be divided in the following way:
A. Fajr: The Prophet woke up after his pre-dawn sleep and offered the Fajr prayer. He then remained in the mosque with his Companions until after sunrise. Then he paid a visit to each of his households. In the later part of the morning, he sat in the company of his Companions in the mosque, where he engaged in imparting knowledge and the remembrance of Allah. Then he sometimes paid visits to people or ran some personal errands.
When the Sun climbed high in the sky, it was time for his siesta. He would rest his body for a while before offering the Zuhr prayer. B. Zuhr: The Prophet woke up from his siesta to pray the Zuhr prayer. After prayer, he spoke to the people if there was a pressing issue that needed to be addressed. This was the time that he gave most of his well-known sermons. Then he returned home and offered the Sunnah prayers connected with Zuhr,a fter which he would go out again and either spend time speaking with his Companions or running errands. The time between Zuhr and `Asr was time for work and for fulfilling people’s needs.
C. `Asr: He prayed `Asr as soon as it came in. Then he visited each of his households in turn. Sometimes, they would all assemble at one household. On most days, the time after `Asr was time for relaxing with family.
D. Maghrib: He prayed Maghrib as soon as it came in. Then he returned home and sated there. This was time for dinner, which was the main meal.
E. `Isha’: He came out to pray `Isha’ and then returned home to spend the evening with his family. On some occasions, before going home he would first visit with some of the local people of Madinah, or go to Abu Bakr’s house and confer with him and `Umar on matters of state. In either case, once at home, he spent time with his wife and then went to sleep.
He woke up at approximately the middle of the night to pray Tahajjud. He was invigorated at this time, having just woken from his longest period of sleep. He remained in prayer and communion with his Lord for about a third of the night. Then, when only a sixth of the night remained, he returned to bed for a final period of sleep until the time of Fajr.
In this overview of the Prophet’s day, we can see the structured flexibility that contributed to making his life the most successful and fulfilling life led in history. We should take heed of his example and realize the importance of structure as well as flexibility in our lives – order without routine, discipline without rigidity – to making our lives more productive and spiritually rewarding.