Monday, September 15, 2008
Fajr Prayer and Brain
Among the daily chores of each person’s life is the waking up in the mornings…And for Muslims one of these early chores is to perform the Fajr prayer..Fajr ..(the obligatory prayer before dawn)Fajr, literally means 'tearing"..it is the garb of death that one tears off oneself when one awakens for fajr..sleep is a sort/shape of death, in the physical sense...and it is 'death itself' in the spiritual sense because one is absolutely overwhelmed by the 'desire of flesh& bone' to rest/relax/take it easy...
"Resistance to awakening at fajr is the first attack of the ease seeking self..the 'nafs'... it tells our conciousness:
'hey everyone is asleep,you wont be harming anyone by sleeping some more,this is such a naive and simple error ,so no big deal,if you miss fajr..you can say it later during the day'.
But in truth, it is the first stab that the ”ease/comfort-seeking” , “shortcuts loving” part of us ('nafs') takes at our spirituality/practicality/self-management/self discipline..it's first score ,and the most damaging one, against our spiritual self esteem/our confidence. it is the first goal against our healthful living,since missing fajr will deflate our spiritual esteem ,first thing in the morning.....and as the shortcut seeking indiscipline (nafs) manages to ride us and dictate to us our actions in the wee hours of the morning...we will spend the entire day as subjects/slaves to it, and not rulers/riders on our nafs.....and during the rest of the day, the low confidence,the low self esteem,the deflated trust in ourselves and in Allah's support for us,we will make a million more mistakes and regress a million more levels ,and ofcourse a day started with remorse, will end,if not in more guilt,then definitely in repentance.
"Allah is the Engineer of our physical and mental machine..He knows the best routine for us to reap optimal advantages from our mind and body machines..SO, if Allah has made our machines such that they must be awake before sunrise,and must go through the wadhou (ablution)rituals,and then prayers,then we WOULD be harming our own machines if we missed attending that specified act for maintenance and sustenance of our own mind and body machines."
Resting our body is not a function of 'sleep'..it is a function of the 'Provider/Samad/Allah"....as in the Holy Quran, (probably surah muzammil) where Allah Rabbul Izzat Instructs about tahajjud prayers..and also grants that during the day following tahajjud,one has a long haul of work to do, Allah Rabbul Izzat reminds that "it is Allah who controls/regulates the quantum of day/toiling and night/resting"....so i interpret it to mean that the amount of work i will put in during the day does not depend on the rest/sleep i had the previous night, but depends on The Regulating Almighty Authority of The Rahmaan.May all muslims,including myself, be garnted the Blessing of fajr prayers in congregation,each day of our lives.
The Creator Subhanahu wa ta’alaa, has decreed that humans, the deputies of Allah over all creation must awake every day before any other created entity designed to work in the day and rest at night, does..
The limit of fajr is around 20 minutes before the sun peeps from across the horizon..
(20 minutes for the congregational prayer..
20 minutes before the sun ‘rises’ because if the imaam makes an error,and the congregation needs to be repeated, it may be done before sunrise.)
Fajr is at a time, when our bodies and minds, are naturally in their deepest slumber..our hormones ,especially “melatonin” which is secreted from a tiny gland in our brain(the pineal body), does so in proportion to the amount/depth of darkness that our eyes/mind perceives.
Melatonin…once secereted executes 3 functions :
1. it deepens our sleep,or tends to lull us back to sleep
2. it causes the release of very negligibly minute amounts of ‘endorphins’(a naturally existing neurotransmitter with actions of heroine/morphine/opium, synthesized in our brains)..these act on our brain’s ‘motivation and reward center’ and comfort us exactly like a mother pats a child to sleep.
3. another chemical is released from the brain ,in response to melatonin, and that strengthens our immune system.(the system that defends against infections/disease)and hastens repair processes in our body.
Thus ,when a person awakes before dawn, the darkness/scarcity of natural light around, causes a Melatonin surge in our brains…this will remain true all our lives, no matter how old one’s habit of saying fajr..the waking up at fajr will always need effort,…the melatonin surge actually ‘lulls’ one to sleep..i have experienced this, and many will agree with me that the sleep one dives into after that first eye-opening at fajr,is deepest and most delicious….thus awakening at fajr, with the sound of the Azaan, or the alram, is ‘an exercise against one’s ‘natural desire to continue sleeping’.
Whenever a human body/mind is made to exert physically against one’s desire/will, messages of ‘discomfort’ from the ‘reward and motivation centre’ of the brain cause another hormone to be released by the ‘hypothalamus’ .
This hormone called the ‘cortisol releasing factor(C.R.F.)’ is meant to “Alarm the body and prepare it for operating optimally in unfavorable/unwanted circumstances.”
The C.R.F then flows to/oozes onto the principal gland of our body, ‘the pituitary gland’ which is attached to the undersurface of the hypothalamus and causes the release of:
1.minute amounts of ‘beta-endorphins’ that act on the ‘motivation and reward center’ and tend to alleviate the feelings of discomfort.
2.a hormone called “A.C.T.H.”
A.C.T.H. flows with the blood towards the kidneys where it causes the release of a hormone ‘Cortisol’ from the glands attached to the kidneys’ upper ends.
Cortisol executes the following actions throughout our body:
1. it cleaves the excess protein from the entire body’s muscles and scrapes fat out of fat stores pushing them into the blood stream. (this is the protein and fat that was in excess and a residue from the previous day’s intake of food).
2. #1, causes the amount of circulating proteins and fats to increase and ,with the exception of the liver, the absorption of glucose into all body tissues is blocked.
This results in ‘fat’(instead of glucose) being used as ‘fuel’ for all physical and mental activity,(doing wadhoo, walking to the mosque, saying the fajr prayers) and glucose is stored in the liver , creating a deposit of this ‘preferred’ fuel that can last the next 24 hours, even if no food is taken/available.
Also the excess protein in circulation is converted into building blocks and sent to whichever repair site within the body needs them.(and in 24 hours there are millions of micro-repair-needing sites created by the wear and tear of ‘living’)
Any protein that is in excess of that needed for repair, is mixed with the fats stored in the liver to make the easily usable fuel, ‘glucose’.
3.cortisol causes an increase in the number of red blood cells…cells that carry oxygen to all body tissues.
4.cortisol increases the depth of breathing.
Thus, a person who gets up for fajr prayers and denies oneself the ‘urge’ to indulge in the short-term-gratification of more sleep, reaps the following advantages:
1. the excess fats and proteins from yesterday’s meals are used up constructively/productively..and the body and brain is relieved of the ‘dullness’ they would essentially cause if not used.
2. repair needed in the body is initiated, and for that ,the ‘fuel’ used is the less-preferred , ‘fats’. Also recovery from disease or injury that the body may be suffering from, is hastened due to the abundance of basic building blocks(proteins) in the blood stream.
3. the increased depth of breathing, and the increased numbers of vehicles(red blood cells)that convey the morning’s freshness(oxygen) to all body tissues, will cause the fajr saying individual to exploit more of that freshness .
4. the increased number of red blood cells will enliven the texture of one’s skin.
5. the awareness that one has managed to defeat one’s
“Nafs”(innate inertia/resistance to ‘positive endeavor’) by saying the fajr in congregation, will enhance the self-esteem (and in this respect, fajr is an act that can not be beaten by any other, as the first act of one’s day, giving a very dense/viscous dose of well-being/being in harmony with nature, first thing in the morning) and through the ‘motivation and reward centre’ this perception elevates one’s mood.
When the ‘reward and motivation center’ perceives this gratification (which is after one has completed fajr) the ‘stimulus’ of discomfort (at waking up for fajr), is no more,and thus ‘cortisol’ secretions cease. Wallahu A'lam