In al-Sahihayn, it is reported from the hadith of ‘Aisha (RA) that when the last ten days of Ramadan came, the Prophet ﷺ would stay up at night, wake his family and gird his loins. [al-Bukhari, 1920; Muslim, 1174] Muslim added: he strove hard and girded his loins.
Her phrase “girded his loins” is a metaphor for his preparing himself to worship and strive hard in worship, more than usual. It has the meaning of “rolling up one’s sleeves” to worship (i.e. getting ready to make a great deal of effort).
It was also said that it was a metaphor for keeping away from women and abstaining from sexual relations.
The phrase “stay up at night” means that he would stay awake, spending the night in prayer, etc. It was reported in another hadith that ‘Aisha (RA) said: “I never saw the Prophet ﷺ recite the entire Quran in one night, or spend a whole night in prayer until the morning, or fast an entire month, except in Ramadan.” [Sunan al-Nasa’i, 1641] The words “stay up at night” may mean that he spent most of the night in worship, or that he did not stay up for the entire night, but he did that at the times of ‘Isha and Suhur, and other times, in which case it would mean that he stayed up for most of the night.
The phrase “and wake his family” means that he would wake his wives to pray qiyam. It is known that he ﷺ used to wake his wives all year round, but he used to wake them to spend part of the night in qiyam. In Sahih al-Bukhari it is reported that the Prophet ﷺ woke up one night and said, “Subhan Allah! What tribulations have come down tonight! What treasure has come down tonight! Who will wake up the dwellers of the apartments? There may be women who are clothed in this world and naked in the Hereafter.” [al-Bukhari, 1074] It was also reported [in Sahih al-Bukhari] that he ﷺ used to wake ‘Aisha when he wanted to pray Witr. [al-Bukhari, 952] But when he woke his wives during the last ten nights of Ramadan, this was more persistent than at other times of the year.
The fact that he ﷺ did this indicates the importance he attached to worshipping his Lord and making the most of this special time.
The Muslim should follow the example of the Prophet ﷺ for he is the best example, and he should strive hard in worshipping Allah. He should not waste the hours of these days and nights. For we do not know, perhaps this time will never come again, for the spoiler of pleasures, i.e., death, which must come to all men, may come and snatch him and his life will end; then he will feel regret at the time when regret will be of no avail.