Part II: Prayer (As-Salat)

Chapter 15

Witr and Tahajjud Prayers

I - Witr Prayer

         Witr means one or, according to some scholars, it also means odd numbers such as 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, etc. Since the number of Rakaah of this prayer is in odd i.e. 1, 3, 5, 7, or 9, it is called Witr prayer.

1. Prophet’s emphasis on Witr Prayer: According to Ali, the Prophet said: O followers of the Qur’an! Perform Witr, for Allah is One and He likes Witr (Muslim). In another Hadith the messenger of Allah is reported to have said: Allah has helped you with a prayer which is better for you than (ownership of) red camels. We asked: O Prophet of Allah! Which is that prayer. He said: It is Witr whose time starts from the end of the Isha Prayer and lasts till the break of dawn. (Abu Daud, Tirmizi, Ibn Majah)

         The Prophet has laid much emphasis on Witr Prayer. He said: He who does not offer Witr Prayer does not belong to our community (Abu Daud, Hakim). The Prophet offered this prayer even during a journey or when he was on camelback. Because of this emphasis laid by the Prophet, Imam Abu Hanifa holds Witr prayer as Wajib, whereas Imam Malik, Shafaai, Ahmad bin Hanbal and Ulema of Ahl-e-Hadith hold it as Sunnat.

2. Time of Witr: As mentioned in a Hadith above, the time of Witr Prayer is from the end of Isha up till break of dawn i.e. between the Isha Prayer and the Fajr Prayer. To offer it in the later half of the night or in the last third part of the night is preferred. However, for the convenience of the believers, the Prophet has allowed them to perform it just after Isha Prayer. Therefore, if you think you cannot get up to pray Witr in the last part of the night, you can offer Witr immediately after Isha or before you go to bed. But if you think you can get up and pray at night, you should pray Witr at the end of your night prayer (Tahajjud). Witr prayer is often thought as a part of the Isha prayer, which is a big mistake. It is a separate and an independent prayer.

3. Number of Rakaah of Witr Prayer: You can offer Witr prayer in 1 or 3 or 5 or 7 or 9 Rakaahs, as the Prophet is reported to have offered Witr prayer in all these odd numbers at various occasions. Abdullah bin Umar says that the messenger of Allah said: “Witr prayer is one Rakaah at the end of the Nafl prayer at night”. Abu Ayyub says that the Prophet said: “Every Muslim should pray Witr. Anyone who likes to pray five Rakaahs, he may do so; anyone who likes to pray three Rakaahs, he may do so; and anybody who likes to pray one Rakaah, he may do so.” (Abu Daud, Nisai)

4. Method of Praying Witr: Offering three Rakaahs of Witr Prayer is popular practice. In the first Rakaah, read ‘Thana’ then al-Fatihah and then Surah or passage of the Qur’an. In second Rakaah, recite al-Fatihah and then Surah or passage of the Qur’an. Some people sit in Qaadah after performing second Rakaah, but it is better not to sit. In the third Rakaah, after reciting al-Fatihah and Surah or passage of Qur’an, read Dua Qunut either before or after the Ruku. Reading Dau Qunut after the Ruku and cupping hands in front of you is preferable as this was reportedly the practice of the Prophet. Its method is that after performing Ruku you should rise and stand in Qawmah. Then you should cup your hands and raise them in front of you with palms towards the sky and then read Qunut. After completing it, let your hands rest on your sides and saying Allahu Akbar go to Sajdah.

         If you offer five, seven or nine Rakaahs, then sit for Qaadah in the last but one Rakaah and read only Tashahhud. Then stand up and perform last Rakaah in which you would also read Dua Qunut. After completion of this last Rakaah, sit in Qaadah and read Tashahhud, Darud and supplication and then conclude the prayer with greetings.

5. Du’a Qunut:  As stated above, Dua Qunut is read in the last Rakaah of Witr. One can read any of the following Du’a:


Allahumma-ahdi-ni fiman hadaita w’afini fiman ‘afaita, wa tawallani-fiman tawallaita, wa barik-li fima a’taita, waqaini sharra ma qadaita, fa-innaka taqdi wa la yuqda ‘alaika, inna-hu la yazill-u-man walaita, wa la ya’izzu man ‘adaita, takarakta Rabba-na wa ta’alaita, wa salallah-u ‘alan-nabiyy-i wa alihi wa sallam.

“O Allah! Favour me with guidance and include me among those who are rightly guided; favour me with security and include me among those who have been secured; protect me and include me among those who are under Thy protection; and bless upon me that which Thou has bestowed; and save me from the evil that Thou hast decreed, for Thou alone canst decree and no one else can decree against Thee; no one can debase the one whom Thou hast taken under protection, and no one can honour whom Thou hast declared an enemy; Thou art blessed, O our Lord, and highly exalted; Allah’s blessings and peace be upon the Prophet and on his children”.


Allahhumma inna nasta’inuka wa nastaghfiruka wa nu’minu bika wa natawakkalu ‘alaika wa nuthni ‘alika-al-khaira wa nashkuruka wa la nakfuruka wa nakhla’u wa natruku man-yyafjuruk. Allahumma iyyaka na’budu walaka nusalli wa nasjudu wa ilaika nas’a wa nahfidu wa narju rahmataka wa nakhsha ‘azabaka inna azabaka bil kuffari mulhiq.

“O Allah! We invoke Thee for help and beg Thee for forgiveness, and we believe in Thee and have trust in Thee, and we praise Thee in the best way, and we thank Thee and we are not ungrateful to Thee, and we forsake and turn away from the one who disobeys Thee. O Allah! We worship Thee and pray to Thee and prostrate ourselves before Thee, and we hasten towards Thee and serve Thee, and we hope to receive Thy mercy, and we dread Thy torment. Surely, the disbelievers shall incur Thy torment.”

         Reading or reciting of Dua Qunut is not obligatory in Witr Prayer as you may offer this prayer without it. Moreover, if you want to read Dua Qunut in any other prayer you can do it because it is not attached to Witr prayer only.

6. Other Rules:  Qadha of Witr Prayer is recommended. Witr Prayer is offered only once in night. He who offers it after Isha need not offer it after Tahajjud. This prayer is offered individually, but in the month of Ramadhan it is offered in congregation after completion of Taraveeh prayer.

II - Tahajjud Prayer

         Tahajjud literally means ‘to break the sleep and get up’. Since this prayer is generally offered in the later half of the night or in the last part of the night after sleeping for sometime, it is called Tahajjud. It is called night prayer, night nawafil and night vigil also.

1. Injunction of Tahajjud: The Quran enjoins this prayer especially on the Prophet and says: Establish prayer from the decline of the sun till the darkness of night and recite the Qur’an at down, surely the recitation of the Qur’an at down is ever witnessed. And in (the last) part of the night, awake with the recitation of it (i.e. offer Tahajjud prayer) an additional prayer for you (O Muhammad). It may be that your Lord may raise you to a place of praise (the highest place in Paradise) – (17:78-79)

         Thus the Quran has made Tahajjud Prayer obligatory for the Prophet. Being followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Muslims are also under obligation to offer this prayer. Because the Qur’an and Hadith stress this prayer a lot, so some jurists say that it is Sunnat prayer and some say that it is Nafl prayer for the Muslims.

2. Its merits and importance:  Besides the above verse, the Quran in its other various verses has recommended awakening during the night for remembrance of Allah, for prayer and for recitation of the Qur’an and appreciates those who act upon it. For example in verse 63 and 64 of Surah 25 it says: “The true servants of the Beneficent are those who walk on the earth humbly and when the foolish persons address them they say: “Peace” and who pass the night prostrating and standing (in prayer) before their Lord”. Appreciating the deeds of the pious people who will enter paradise, the Qur’an says: “They used to sleep but little of the night. And in the early morning they used to seek forgiveness” (verses 17-18 of Surah 51). In verse No. 6 of Surah 73, the awakening in the night (for offering Tahajjud prayer and for reciting Qur’an) has been admired in this way: “Surely the rising at the night is most effective for controlling the self and is most suitable for understanding the word of Allah (the Quran)”. Yet at another place (verse 16 of Surah 32), the Qur’an praises those “who forsake their beds and pray to their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend out of that which We have given them”.

         Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet was asked which prayer is the best after obligatory prayers? He said: Night Prayer (i.e. Tahajjud). According to another Hadith reported by Abu Hurairah, the Prophet said: When the last (third) part of the night remains, Allah the Almighty descends to the first heaven and says: Is there anyone who calls Me and I may listen to him, who begs Me and I may give to him, who asks forgiveness from Me and I forgive him (Bukhari, Muslim). Salman Farsi states that the Prophet once said: Keep up the Tahajjud Prayer for it is a characteristic of the righteous; it brings you nearer to Allah; it remits your sins, and it safeguards you against wrong doings and physical diseases. – (Everyday Fiqh).

3. Time of Tahajjud Prayer: Although Tahajjud Prayer can be offered at any time after Isha Prayer and before Fajr Prayer, however, the best and the preferred time of this prayer is after midnight or in the last third part of the night before dawn. The Prophet used to sleep after Isha Prayer and he used to get up at midnight or a little before or after it. Then he used to recite the last few verses of surah 3 (Al-e-Imran) of the Quran, brush his teeth, perform Wudu (ablution) and offer Tahajjud Prayer.

4.  Number of its Rakaahs: Number of Rakaahs of Tahajjud Prayer is not fixed or prescribed. According to Ibn Abbas the Prophet enjoined us to offer Tahajjud Prayer even though only one Rakaah. Hadrat Ayesha has reported that the Prophet used to offer eleven Rakaahs between Isha Prayer and break of dawn. He would pray it in 5 sets each consisting of two Rakaahs, and then at the end he would conclude with one Rakaah of Witr. So the best way is to offer this prayer in eleven Rakaahs including Witr (1 or 3).


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