“My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels,” Michael H. Hart, ‘The 100, a Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History’.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is one of the most revered & influential persons in history – yet arguably the most misunderstood as well. He would surely fit within the “misfits” description of Steve Jobs, “You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward.”
He was a man whose life was recorded in minute detail, and today billions follow in his footsteps in the way they dress, eat and sleep. Yet, his life lessons are rarely translated to be made relevant to our modern day challenges.
He was a man who lived the best version of himself, yet many people who claim to follow him, rarely reflect this best self-image of him.
In this article, our purpose is to translate the daily routine of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) into a practical guide that will not only let you see the beauty and relevance of his life to your life but will become a blueprint for the habits and routines you need to adapt in your life to live the best version of yourself: spiritually, physically, and socially.
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
”The Messenger of God is an excellent model for those of you who put your hope in God and the Last Day and remember Him often.” [Qur’an 33: 21]
Why should I follow the routine of a man who lived 1400 years ago?
Our daily habits and routines make a huge difference whether we live the best version of ourselves, or not. And one of the challenges each one of us faces is choosing the habits and routines that work for us and that over a lifetime, help us live a meaningful and impactful life. After all, each one of us wants to achieve success in life, and no one wants to be a failure.
The question is: what are these habits and routines? And which ones will guarantee that we’ll live a productive, meaningful life?
Usually, the quick answer is to look up successful contemporary people and try to copy their habits and routines. Just Google the term “habits of successful people,” and you’ll see millions of search results with articles and books on what do successful people do that most of us fail to do. But there are three issues with this approach:
- Pseudo-Truth: We only see the parts of their routine that they allow us to see. And we don’t know the person as a whole. (i.e., What are their habits and routines when they are lazy and are having a bad day?).
- One Dimensional: Most of the habits/routines highlighted are work-related routines, and we rarely see spiritual, physical, or social routines highlighted.
- The 1%: Most modern-day successful people have had a “leg-up” on the social ladder and are starting off from a solid socio-economic base or live in centers of civilization that allow them opportunities to prosper. Think of all the successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, it’s hard to imagine some of them succeeding at the scale they did if they started from the slums of an impoverished nation.
Contrary to the above, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was:
- A successful person across all areas of his life – this is not by my account, but by the statement of many historians and biographers throughout history.
- His life was recorded in detail by his family, friends, and even enemies and hence we see him in his most intimate moments as well as public moments.
- He was successful despite being born in the deserts of Arabia (away from the Roman/Byzantine centers of culture and civilization)
- An orphan whose father died before he was born and mother died at the age of six, living poor for most of his life.
- He was successful with his mission despite the odds stacked against him and losing many of his family members and friends due to his message.
- He is loved and revered by over a billion people today and his message survived over 1400 years.
- So now, are you intrigued to know more about his daily routine? Do you wonder what those small decisions he made every day and how it led him to what he became?
“Yes, but he lived in a desert, life was simple back then, and he didn’t have Facebook!”
One of the ironies of modern life is although we’ve progressed with our technologies, we’ve regressed in our humanity. As Dr.Martin Luther King said, “our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power, we’ve created guided missiles but misguided humanity.”
We think that because we live in the 21st century, in modern buildings with modern amenities and technologies a touch away, we’re somehow a different breed or a separate human species from people who came before us and therefore their lifestyle does not apply to ours, and their habits and routines are beneath us.
However, when we look closely into their lives, we’ll notice that they faced the same challenges we face. The challenge of finding meaning and purpose in life, balancing between their various roles, being successful in their endeavors, maintaining relationships, and leaving a legacy to be remembered. They loved, bled, cried, laughed, and lived their humanity and left us an example for us through their stories and example. And what better story to follow and learn from then the story of a man who according to his wife was a walking breathing Qur’an (the last divine message to mankind).
“Fine, but he was a Prophet! Someone special, I’m not special.”
Let me ask you this: how do you think special people become special? Isn’t it through their daily habits and routines? And for Prophets, their habits and routines were divinely inspired which makes them even more vital to emulate to help us live the best version of ourselves.
Are you ready now to delve deeper into the detailed breakdown of Prophet Muhammad’s routine? Read this article with an open mind and an open heart, and it might just change the way you live your life forever.
Before we begin, there are a few essential points to keep in mind as you read this article:
- Using the word “routine” might not be the best description of a typical day in Prophet Muhammad’s life. As you’ll read below, he used to adapt each day to the needs of his family and community and did not follow a strict 9-5 routine. Having said that, you’ll see a clear structure for his days (mostly surrounding prayer times) and never was a moment ‘wasted’ or not utilized at its best.
- The foundational piece of understanding the Prophet’s routine is his famous saying, “I was sent to perfect good character.” [Al Adab Al Mufrad] So every decision and choice he made, regarding how he spent his time, who he spent it with, and what he did on a day to day basis, comes back to this foundational piece. See if you can notice this thread as you read this article.
- The Prophet’s primary mission and role in life were to save humanity by inviting them to the way of God. That was his full-time occupation. He was also a father, grandfather, husband, father-in-law, brother-in-law, and leader of his community. Again, keep this in mind as you read about his day to day routines and habits.
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
“And indeed, you are of a great moral character.” [Qur’an 68: 4]
Below we describe the Prophet’s daily routine based on a typical day during the latter part of his life, in the city of Madinah, when things started to settle down, most of his enemies embraced Islam, and he was in a position of strength and influence.
The Prophetic Morning Routine
Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you’re zooming into the humble dwelling of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It’s almost time for Fajr (Dawn) prayer, and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is either awake praying/remembering God or taking a brief nap after a long night in prayers.
Bilal, his friend and African Muethin (caller of prayer), calls the Madinan community to worship with his beautiful voice and the Prophet (peace be upon him) rubs his eyes, picks up his Siwak (a natural toothbrush made from the Salvadora persica tree (known as arāk, أراك, in Arabic)) and upon completing purifying his breath, utters the words “All praise is for Allah who gave us life after having taken it from us and unto Him is the Resurrection.” He sits up listening intently to the call to prayer, repeating the words of the Muethin, then he gets up to prepare himself for prayer.
He prays a couple of rak’aahs (units of prayer) in his home and lies on his right side waiting to be called to lead the prayers. If his wife is awake, he might spend these calm, precious moments speaking to her lovingly, staying present and nurturing his relationship with her. Perhaps during these moments, he might reflect on what he told his companions that “Whoever among you wakes up physically healthy, feeling safe and secure within himself, with food for the day, it is as if he acquired the whole world” [Sunan Ibn Majah].
When Bilal (may Allāh be pleased with him) would see that the people have gathered for prayer, he would come close to the Prophet’s house and say: “Prayer, O Prophet of God.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) would come out of his house, look up to the sky, then say: “In the name of Allah, I place my trust in Allah, and there is no might nor power except with Allah. O Allah, I take refuge with You lest I should stray or be led astray, or slip or be tripped, or oppress or be oppressed, or behave foolishly or be treated foolishly.”
Then he enters the masjid (mosque) with his right foot and supplicates: “In the name of Allah, and prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah. O Allah, open the gates of Your mercy for me. I take refuge with Allah, The Supreme and with His Noble Face, and His eternal authority from the accursed devil.”
When Bilal (may Allāh be pleased with him) sees him entering the Masjid (Mosque), he would call an iqama (a particular call signifying the start of prayer) and the Companions would stand in neat straight rows behind the Prophet (peace be upon him) who would lead them in a long, serene dawn prayers.
After the prayers, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would spend time remembering God with special early morning supplications, then he’ll turn and face his congregation behind him.
During these early moments, when people are fresh from their sleep and refreshed with prayers, he would converse with them. Sometimes he’d share moving teachings that would make them cry. Sometimes he would ask questions to provoke curiosity and creativity. Sometimes he’d share a dream he had or will ask if any of them saw a dream so he might interpret it for them. And sometimes he might just sit and listen to his companions as they discussed life matters among themselves. He would stay present in their company until the sun rises.
After sunrise, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would go back to his home. He would enter his home with his right foot saying: “In the name of Allah we enter and in the name of Allah we leave, and upon our Lord, we place our trust.” As soon as he enters, he would use the siwak again, and greet his whole family, asking how they are and praying for them. During his visits, he might ask if there’s any food available that day; if there is, he will eat, and if there’s none, he would say “Then, I’m fasting.”
Reflections on the Prophetic Morning Routine:
Think about these first few steps? How do they compare with our first actions when we wake up?
- He wakes up at dawn (i.e., before sunrise) for the morning prayers. And every successful person will tell you that the secret to productivity and success is to wake up early. In fact, one of Prophet Muhammad’s famous saying is “The early hours are blessed for my nation” [Tirmidhi] meaning there are blessing and goodness in these early hours.
- He’s mindful & present during these first few moments of waking up, conscious of his first few actions by cleansing his mouth, expressing gratitude to God, intently listening to the call to prayer. Compare this with our addiction to checking our phones as soon as we wake up and the impact it has on our focus and mindset.
- He begins his day with gratitude, recognizing what a gift it is to be alive for another day and reminding himself (and us) that there’s life after death which gives him drive and purpose to live the best version of himself that day.
- He’s present in every step (entering the mosque with his right foot, leave with his left, entering his home with his right) and blesses every transitions with a supplication or prayer (there are numerous recorded supplications of the Prophet for practically every transition/action a person might go through in a day, from supplications to entering/ leaving home, to supplications for putting on clothes/taking off clothes, to even supplications before entering/leaving the bathroom). These supplications serve the purpose of keeping someone spiritually conscious and aware throughout his/her daily activities.
- His first primary “task” is the morning prayers and staying focused on remembering his purpose of life. What is our first major “task”? Responding to emails? Rushing to get kids to school because we woke up late?
- He nurtured his relationships before sunrise, asking about his family/companions, engaging with them in meaningful conversations (and not act too busy to be involved in their lives).
- He was easy going – if there’s food, he’d have breakfast. If there’s no food, he will fast. Compare this with the obsession most of us have for our morning cup of coffee or some particular breakfast item that “we can’t start our day without!”
The Prophetic Day
After he visits his family, he would go back to the masjid (mosque) and pray two rak’ahs (units of prayer), then he would sit in the masjid (mosque), and the companions would gather around him.
This was a known time for everyone in Madinah to come and see the Prophet (peace be upon him) if they wanted to spend time with him, ask him anything or needed anything from him.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) would spend this time teaching and share from the knowledge that Allah has given him as well as take care of the political and social affairs of his community.
This was the time that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would also receive delegations from nearby and far lands. Either newly converted tribes to his faith, or friendly tribes that did not embrace his faith but nevertheless came to pay their respects. He would greet his guests, honor them and ask about their news and how he can help them.
At these gatherings, the Prophet (peace be upon him) never had a particular seat or clearly marked symbol, to the point that when strangers would come to the gathering, they would have to ask who among them is the Prophet! (Only later in his life, did the Companions insist on making a special raised area for him and the Prophet agreed).
Sometimes food would be given as a gift at this gathering, and the Prophet and everyone around him would eat together communally. Even if the food is little, there’d be enough for everybody, a sign the companions took to be the barakah (blessing) of having the Prophet amongst them.
During these morning hours between sunrise and just before noon, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would also go to visit some of his relatives and companions. He will visit his daughter Fatimah (may Allāh be pleased with her) and spend time with his grandsons playing with them and be their playful granddad, or he will visit his friends who were sick, or lost a loved one.
Also, during these hours he would walk through the Madinah market, greeting the passersby with his beautiful smile, talking with young children and asking about them, and if a person stops him (whether male or female, young or old), he would stop and listen to them and see how he can help them. Sometimes he would walk alone, other times with his Companions.
Before Noon, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would go to his house, and as soon as he enters, he would first use the siwak, say salam to his family and pray some rak’ahs (units) of an optional (forenoon) prayer called Duha. Then sometimes if there’s food he eats, and if there isn’t he would continue his fast if he started fasting that morning.
Usually, at this time, the women of Madinah would come and visit the Prophet (peace be upon him) and ask questions about faith and rituals which they might be embarrassed to ask in a crowded mosque.
This is the time when he would also be helping his family, serving them, repairing his shoes and clothes, milking the sheep or goat, and supporting himself and his family with daily chores. He would also spend quality time with his family, talking, smiling and laughing with them.
Sometimes while at home, his close Companions would visit him at this hour such as Abu Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him), Umar (may Allāh be pleased with him) and Uthman (may Allāh be pleased with him).
Then he would take a nap until close to the Dhuhr (Noon) prayer.
When Dhuhr (Noon) time comes, and Bilal (may Allāh be pleased with him) calls for prayer, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would wake up from his nap if he’s still asleep, and would perform wudhu (ablution) then pray in his home four units of prayers before the main Dhuhr (Noon) prayer. He’d wait for the salah (prayer) in his house, then he’d come out to the Masjid (Mosque), and Bilal (may Allāh be pleased with him) would call for the prayer to start.
After the Dhuhr (Noon) prayer, he would sometimes use this opportunity to address his congregation about an important spiritual or social matter. Afterward, he would return home and pray two units of voluntary prayers after the noon prayer then he’d go out with his Companions to fulfill specific duties needed in the city, or he’d stay in the mosque until Asr (Afternoon) prayer.
Once he returns from the masjid (mosque) after Asr (afternoon), he would spend quality time with his entire family in a relaxed, joyful atmosphere; he would ask his family questions, or they’d ask him questions, and the Prophetic house would learn and grow in understanding of the Divine revelation.
Reflections on the Prophetic Day
This part of the Prophet’s day might seem all over the place, and hard to draw specific routines that we can implement in our lives but consider the following:
- He had designated “office hours” in the morning where people knew where to find him, and they could ask their questions. If you’re a leader and executive, being available and present for your team is extremely important.
- He napped! The most influential man in history, the man whose task was to save humanity, and the man who has over a billion followers today, took time to nap. Let this sink in for a bit. Don’t tell me you’re too busy or important to nap.
- His day was interjected with prayers and more prayers. Barely a few hours pass in his day before you see him praying. As if he’s recharging his batteries and taking a “break” from the world with prayers.
- He went out to see his family and community and didn’t expect people to visit him. This was the leader of his community, the most beloved and respected person in town. You probably expect people to come and visit him all the time. Yet he took time out of his day to go in the market, visit the sick, spend time with the poor. A powerful lesson in servant leadership.
- Whenever he was home. He spends quality time with his family. One of most powerful testimonies to his character was that we never hear any family member, or friend, or community member complaining to the Prophet saying “You’re always busy! You never give me enough time”. How many of us can honestly say they haven’t heard that complaint in their life at least once?
Narrated Al-Aswad that he asked `Aisha (wife of the Prophet) “What did the Prophet (ﷺ) use to do in his house?” She replied, “He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was the time for prayer he would go for it.” [Sahih Al Bukhari]
The Prophetic Evening Routine
When the Maghrib (sunset) call to prayer was made, he would go to the mosque and lead his Companions in a short prayer.
This was dinner time in Madinah so he wouldn’t give a talk or sermon after this prayer. Everyone is hurrying home to cook and eat their meals before the last prayer of the day.
He would come home and pray two optional (units) rak’ahs of prayer after Maghrib, then he’d have his dinner. Sometimes he used to invite some of his friends over to have dinner at his place if there’s food; sometimes he’d come home and find nothing except dates and water. Sometimes days would pass, and food wouldn’t be cooked in the house of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
When there was food, his food was placed on the floor for him, and he never ate on a table. When the food is brought to him, he would say “Bismillah” (In the name of Allah) and eat from what’s next to him, and he would eat with three fingers (thumb, index finger, and middle finger) with his right hand. He never complained of whatever was presented to him: he either ate it or would leave the food if he didn’t like it.
If he were eating with one of his wives, he would make this quality time for her, to the point of feeding her sometimes or eating from the same spot where his wife ate from or drinking from the same place in the cup where his wife drank from.
If he sat with his friends, the dinner meal never went by without a pleasing talk, or teaching manners or spreading knowledge.
After he finished eating, the Prophet used to lick his fingers and praise his Lord abundantly for the food given no matter how little. He would then wash his mouth.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) would remain in his home until the call to prayer for Isha (night) is called, and he would typically not hasten this last prayer of the night. If the Companions are gathered early, he will start the prayer; if the Companions are delayed, he will delay the prayers.
He would rarely speak or give a talk after this prayer because the people are tired and they need their sleep.
Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) would return to his home and pray two optional rak’ahs (units) of prayer after Isha (night) prayer. He would then spend some time talking to his family and enjoying their company. Sometimes he would go to his close Companions’ houses and spend time with them.
Sometimes on his way back from one of his friend’s house, he might pass by someone reciting Qur’an beautifully, and he would stand there and listen. Or he would enter the masjid (mosque) and talk to whoever is there, as the mosque always had the poor spending their nights there.
When he enters his home, he prepares himself for sleep, hangs his clothes and comes into bed with his wife, sharing a blanket and a pillow together. His bed was made of animal skin stuffed with fiber, and his pillow was made of similar material – needless to say, these left some marks on his skin as he slept but that didn’t bother him. He would place his siwak close to his head so that he’d use it as soon as he wakes up.
He would sleep on his right side, and place his hand under his right cheek, then recite some supplications before sleeping.
Then he would sleep, and if he turns during sleep, you’d hear him remembering God, his heart always connected to Him. and he would continue sleeping until midnight.
When the night reaches midnight, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) wakes up and sits, wiping the sleep from his face, and he’d take his siwak and brush his teeth with it, then he would look up to the sky and recite the last 10 verses of Chapter 3 in the Quran. He would then get up and make wudhu (ablution), put his clothes on and start his night prayer either at home or in the mosque.
If you were to observe the Prophet (peace be upon him) praying at night, you’d feel that he’s genuinely immersed in another world and he’s in no haste to finish. He gathers all his emotions, feelings, and callings and pours them into his prayers and calling upon his Lord. He would read hundreds of verses, verse by verse. If he passes by a verse that has mercy in it, he would ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) for His forgiveness. If he moves by a verse that has punishment in it, he will seek Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) refuge from the punishment. And if he passes by a verse that glorifies his Lord, he would praise his Lord.
Not only were his recitations lengthy, but even his bowing and prostration were almost as long as he’s standing, to the point that one day one of his Companions joined him for the night prayer and was about to quit because it was getting too difficult for the companion to continue.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) remained in this state of praying, supplicating, glorifying, reciting, bowing and prostrating from midnight until there was nothing left of the night except a sixth of it. He would then wake his wife to join him for the final 3-units of prayer (known as Witr prayer), and they’d pray together.
Sometimes during the hours between midnight and Dawn, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would leave his house and go to the nearby cemetery and pray for the deceased from his family, friends, and followers.
When the night was about to end, and the last sixth was remaining, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would take a short nap and rest his body until Fajr (Dawn) prayer before beginning a new day.
Reflections on his evening routine:
- You can see how the Prophet was winding down; praying, spending time with his family, and getting to bed early. His humanity came through in these moments when he was tired and needed sleep like all of us.
- However, he also got up for the night prayer which was his spiritual way of recharging for his mission. These prayers weren’t a chore or burden on him, he genuinely enjoyed them and found solace and peace in them. It’s as if the Prophet discovered his “me” time and “self-care” time in these night prayers, away from the demands of his family and community.
- He was loyal to his family and friends even after they passed away. How many of us sincerely would remember our deceased loved ones in the middle of the night, and perhaps also go to the cemetery to pay our respect at that hour. If you’re a leader, to what extent will you go to show loyalty to those who follow you?
Final Thought – What drove the Prophet?
As I was writing this, I was reflecting on what “motivated” prophet Muhammad to live the best version of himself, every single day. Many of us if we were to establish a healthy routine, find it very difficult to stay consistent with it. What made Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stick to his routine and be the best version of himself: spiritually, physically, and socially. It’s easy to dismiss the question and say “well, he’s the Prophet and he got special qualities”. That is true, but there might be something deeper. Perhaps the key to the Prophet’s motivation and living the best version of himself was Love:
- His love for God made him conscious of Him all the time through prayers, supplications, even being conscious about his breath before uttering God’s name.
- His love for his family made him spend quality time with them and be intimate with them and not ignore their needs.
- His love for his companions made him reach out to them, teach them, pray for them even after they died
- And his love for humanity made him persevere in pushing for his message despite the challenges and achieve success for generations to come.
What thoughts came to your mind as you were reading the Prophet’s daily routine? What part of it will you be able to focus on and implement in your life? Share in the comments below and invite your friends and family to read the account of the most influential man in history.