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Waking up at 5:30 am: A Spiritual Journey

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Columbia Barnard chapter.

I realized I had done it again. I intended to wake up early, I wanted to do a little morning stretch and some reflective reading to set the right mood, maybe even get all my homework out of the way. Instead, the night before the shiny light on my phone screen trapped me again. Suddenly, I hadn’t just watched one Instagram story or two videos on YouTube; it had been half an hour. By the time it would take me to brush my teeth, wash my face, pray Isha (the night prayer), read my night supplications and then finally crash into bed, it was already way too late. I could still try to wake up early — I’d just wake up a little later. But even that would be too difficult at this point — it would take me time to fall asleep. So, yet again, I would be waking up late because I went to sleep late.

Waking up late has never done anything good for me. I don’t believe there are such things as night owls or early birds. I think we all have the ability to be early birds — the only reason some consider themselves night owls is because they procrastinate getting things done in the day and leave all of the work for late at night.

I know for a fact I do my best thinking in the morning. When it’s bright, a little cool, and the daylight is just streaming in, it’s my perfect time to get a move on things. The mornings are not only mentally, but also practically, perfect for me. Because we are living in the world of social distancing, I try to get as much fresh air and family time — and the evenings are a great time to take a walk around the neighborhood with my family or play Jenga with my brother and sister.

Between all of the responsibilities of logging into Zoom classes, doing homework, hanging out with my family, and doing chores, it can feel like the time is going so quickly and just passed right in front of me — so much so that I didn’t get the chance to finish that assignment! Or in other situations when I don’t manage my time correctly I find myself scrambling to finish my homework and can’t play with my brother. Of course, he doesn’t have any sense of what’s going on, so he’s just screaming! Of course, I’m kicking myself — if only I had done my homework earlier. I could’ve played with my brother and gone for a nice long walk in the sun with my family.

If, if, if. “If onlys” don’t get us anywhere.

Why did it seem like I was losing hours in the day? I had the same 24 hours as everyone else, but why wasn’t I completing my goals? I had the same issue every other individual faces: I wasn’t managing my screen time properly. It was time for change. So, winter break was the time for me to reset.

I knew I would still go on social media if I merely told myself not to, or told myself to just go on it for an hour total. I needed to actually see that I was on it for too long. So, I downloaded an extension that limited certain websites. I set timers on addicting websites, like YouTube and Instagram, and after I used up all that time, that website would be locked for the rest of the day. By doing this, I could regain control of some hours in my life.

Over break, I decided to commit to waking up at 5:30 am. It was perfect, because now the morning prayer (Fajr) was a little later. Waking up at 5:30, I could start the day right with prayer, supplications, and getting ahead on my Islamic studies lectures and classes.

So I set the sincere intention to God to wake up early. My day wasn’t just about what I planned to do, but what God had planned for me. I had always woken up for morning prayers, but usually went back to sleep and then fully started my day later. However, starting my waking days with prayer was a deeply transformative experience. It was a time that was quiet, but also a time when I would converse with God, list off every worry and feel my chest feel lighter, praise God, and feel grateful simply to be alive.

Still early in the morning, but now later in the morning for me, I took it slowly by watching the lectures, taking notes, and then taking a break. There were no interruptions, just complete silence and focus. By the time the whole house was finally waking up, I was content with the work I had already done. So, when I was doing the dishes, eating lunch with my family, or taking a walk outside with my little brother, my mind was only in that moment. I was only making sure our plates and cutlery were clean. I was only cracking jokes at the table while eating rice and beans. I was only with my little brother racing to the Circle. I wasn’t on a time crunch — I wasn’t worrying that I only had twenty minutes outside or else I couldn’t finish writing later. No, I was just there in that moment.

Starting my days early was the best thing for my life. Now, will I always to wake up at 5:30 am? Probably not, but I will try. And I know I will try hard because it allows me to do what I am passionate about. I love my Islamic studies courses, so I will go to sleep early so I can wake up early to do them. I love playing cars with my brother, cooking with my mom, and just reading for fun with my sister, so I will be productive in the mornings so my mind is only with them.

We’re only given 24 hours in a day. And that is enough. It’s how you spend it that determines whether it was worthwhile or not. The time I have reading the books on my shelf, playing with my brother, and cooking with my mom is truly a gift from God. And I show my gratitude by spending my time wisely.


Sabrina Salam

Columbia Barnard '24

Sabrina Salam is a first year at Barnard College hoping to pursue law, writing, and psychology. When she isn't exploring topics on social justice to write about, Sabrina loves to watch documentaries and hike with her family.