At-Tanookhi gave the account of a governor in Baghdad who usurped the wealth of an old lady in his province. He took away all of her rights and confiscated her property. She went to him, wept before him, and complained of his oppression and wrongdoing. He was neither regretful nor ashamed of what he had done. In a fit of anger, she said, “I will pray against you.” He laughed at her in mockery and said, “Then you should pray in the last third of the night.” His arrogance had made him say this to her. She went away, and in accordance with the governor’s mock-advice she was steadfast in praying during the last third of the night. It was only a matter of days before he was violently removed from office. As a reward for his tyranny, his properties were seized, and he was publicly whipped. After the whipping, the old lady passed by him and said, “You did well! You advised me to pray in the last third of the night and I found the results to be most favorable.”
The last third of the night is a very precious time in our lives. Why? During this time, Allah, the Exalted, says:
“Is there someone who is asking, and I will give to him. Is there someone who is seeking forgiveness, and I will forgive him. Is there someone who is supplicating, and I will answer him.”
From childhood until now, I can recall a number of occasions in which it was clear that help comes only from Allah. Approximately ten years ago, I was on a flight from Abha to Riyadh. Shortly after takeoff, an announcement was made that the plane was returning to Abha due to a mechanical problem. They then claimed to have fixed the problem and we took off for a second time. Upon approaching the runway in Riyadh, the landing wheels would not open. We circled the city of Riyadh for a whole hour. The pilot made ten attempts to land, but on each occasion the landing gear did not respond. Many people in the plane panicked and tears were flowing profusely as we waited in the sky for death. At that moment, we saw how insignificant and fleeting this life is, and our hearts became attached to the Hereafter. We began to repeat, “There is none worthy of worship except Allah alone and He has no partners. The kingdom belongs to Him; all praise is due to Him and He is upon all things capable.” An old man stood and exhorted the people to turn to Allah, to supplicate to Him, to seek forgiveness, and to make repentance. And Allah said about people that:
And when they embark on a ship, they invoke Allah, making their Faith pure for Hun only… (Qur’an 29: 65)
We invoked the One Who answers the prayer of the one who is in distress. On the eleventh attempt, we descended safely, and when we landed, it was as if we were returning from our graves. Tears dried, smiles appeared, and our peace of mind returned. How merciful and kind is Allah!
An Arab poet said:
“How often do we ask Allah when we become afflicted?
But when our troubles leave us, we forget Him,
When in the ocean, we invoke Him to save our ship,
When we return safely to land, we disobey Him,
We fly in the sky in safety and comfort
And we don’t fall because our protector is Allah.”