Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Is it prohibited to sleep or lie on one’s stomach?
Imam Ahmad reported that Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) said, “The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) passed by a man who was lying on his stomach, so he poked him with his leg and said, ‘This is a posture that Allah the Mighty and Majestic does not like.’” It was also reported by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, and there are many other hadiths in the major collections that support this.
Because of this, it is mentioned in Imam al-Barkawi’s manual on the path of taqwa, al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya:
“And it is disliked to lie on one’s stomach without an excuse..”
Imam al-Khadimi added in his commentary:
“Sleeping on one’s back is the sleep of the prophets, who contemplate the creation of the heavens and earth [f: when without a roof on their heads]; sleep on the right side is the sleep of scholars and worshippers; sleep on the left is the sleep of kings to digest food; and sleeping on one’s face is the sleep of devils and the unbelievers.” (al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya fi Sharh al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, 4: 177)
In the Fatawa al-Hindiyya, a brilliant collection of relied upon positions within the Hanafi school, gathered by a committee of scholars commissioned by the righteous Moghul emperor, Aurangzeb, it is stated that,
“It is recommended to take advantage of the afternoon nap (qaylula), for the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Take afternoon naps, for the devils do not take afternoon naps,” as mentioned in al-Ghayathiyya… It is recommended for one to sleep in a state of ritual purity, and to lie on one’s right side, facing the qibla for a while [f: at least, and then, if it is difficult to fall asleep on one’s right] then one may sleep on one’s left side [f: without it being considered sub-optimal], as mentioned in al-Sirajiyya.
It is disliked to sleep early in the morning, and between maghrib and isha [f: because it would normally lead to one missing isha in congregation, otherwise, it is not disliked though still better not to do]. It has been mentioned in some works that no sleep was more beloved to Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) than sleep [right] after isha before the last of the night. One’s sleep should be on a bed that is mid-way between being soft and hard [f: as this prevents excessively deep sleep that could make one miss prayer or tahajjud, while being reasonably comfortable]. One should take one’s right hand as a pillow under one’s cheek. One should bring to mind that one will be [similarly] placed in the grave, lying on one’s side, alone with nothing but one’s works… If one is full and fears stomach pain, it is not wrong to place a pillow under one’s stomach and to sleep on it.
One should make remembrance of Allah (dhikr) when going to sleep, saying the tahlil (‘la ilaha illa Allah’), tahmid (‘alhamdu lillah’) and tasbih (‘subhan Allah’) [f: after having recited the specific Prophetic invocations recommended before sleep] until sleep overcomes one, for the sleeper is resurrected according to how he fell asleep and the one who dies according to the state he died in.
One should get up before fajr, for the earth complains to Allah from the ghusl of the adulterer, and from blood unlawfully spilled on it, and from sleep after fajr time [comes in].
One should wake up making remembrance of Allah [f: the best of which are the specific Prophetic invocations], and with a firm resolve to have taqwa from that which Allah has prohibited, and determined not to wrong any of Allah’s servants, as mentioned in al-Ghara’ib. “[al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 5: 376]
Among the sunnas of waking are:
- To say ‘La Ilaha illa Allah’, then ‘Alhamdulillah’ three times, then Alhamdulillahi alladhi ahyana ba`da ma amatana wa ilayhi an-nushur (All praise is to Allah who gave us life after death, and to Him is the final return). [Bukhari, Abu Dawud, and others]
- It is good to rub the face and eyes with both hands, to get rid of the effects of sleep, as mentioned in Shama’il al-Tirmidhi
- It is recommended to brush one’s teeth, ideally using a tooth-stick (miswak), because of hadiths to this effect in Ahmad’s Musnad in in Abu Dawud’s Sunan.
And all good, in this world and the next, may be found in following the way of the Beloved of Allah (upon him be the best of blessings and most perfect of peace). And all success is from Allah.