¡ O thou enwrapped!
* Stand vigil at night, save a little,
1-2 Enwrapped refers to the Prophet’s wrapping himself in his cloak after the first revelation; see the introduction to Sūrah 96. According to ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, thou enwrapped (al-Muzzammil) is one of the seven names by which the Prophet said he was called in the Quran; the others are Muhammad (3:144; 33:40; 47:2; 48:29), Aḥmad (61:6), Ṭā Hā (20:1), Yā Sīn (36:1), thou who art covered (al-Muddaththir; 74:1), and servant of God (ʿAbd Allāh; 72:19; IA, Q). Thou enwrapped is understood by most as a reference to the Prophet’s wrapping himself in his cloak in awe of the new revelation that had come upon him (see 74:1c). But in the context of this sūrah, it can also be seen as an injunction from God to throw off one’s bedding and stand in prayer, as in 17:78-79, as if God were calling, “O thou who art sleeping” (IK).
Before the five daily prayers were revealed, night vigil was the common practice of
the Prophet and his small group of followers, who would reportedly stand in prayer until their feet swelled. The practice was then eased in v. 20 and was made explicitly supererogatory in 17:79: And keep vigil in prayer for part of the night, as a supererogatory act for thee. Regarding the benefits of night vigil, a famous ḥadīth says, “Every night during the last third of the night, our Lord descends to the Heaven of this earth and says, ‘Who calls upon Me that I might answer him? Who asks of Me that I might give to him? Who seeks My Forgiveness that I might forgive him?’” Night vigil is also a supererogatory practice that the Quran attributes to the upright among the People of the Book: Among the People of the Book is an upright community who recite God’s signs in the watches of the night, while they prostrate (3:113); for other references to night vigil see 11:114; 21:20; 20:130; 25:63-64; 50:40; 52:49; 73:6, 20; 76:26.