Overview of Night And Witr Prayers

By Editorial Staff

Some virtues of the night prayer

The night prayer is one of the most recommended acts that draw a person near to Allah. It is one of the hallmarks of prophets (Allah bless them and grant them peace) and righteous people. In the Gracious Quran, Allah describes the pious people who are destined for Paradise. They enjoy some attributes which qualify them to be admitted into it. Among these attributes is the following. Allah says,

Little of the night did they lie down. For at night’s end they were seeking (God’s) forgiveness. (Quran 51:17-18)

The best kind of excellence in the worship of Allah is the night prayer as it indicates the sincerity of its performer. Obedient people are described as performing the best act of worship, namely, prayer at the most excellent time i.e. night. Allah says,

True believers prefer performing the night prayer to sleep. They find more happiness in prayer and in making supplication to Allah at that time.

(Is such a one better), or one who is devoutly obedient (to God) in the watches of the night, bowing (his face) down to the ground and standing (in Prayer), fearing (God’s Judgment in) the Hereafter and imploring the mercy of his Lord? Say (to humankind, O Prophet): Are those who know (God) and those who do not know (Him) equal? (Quran 39:9)

True believers prefer performing the night prayer to sleep. They find more happiness in prayer and in making supplication to Allah at that time. Allah says,

and whose sides forsake their beds (in the night), to call upon their Lord in fear and hope; and who (generously) spend (in charity) from all that We have provided them. Thus not a soul (in the world) can (now) comprehend (the joys) that have been concealed (by God) for every one of them – from all that greatly delights the eyes – (awaiting them) in reward for all (the good) that they used to do (in life)! (Quran 32:16-17)

On the other hand, Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) highlighted the excellence of the night prayer when he said:

The most excellent prayer after the prescribed prayers is the prayer that is performed in the middle of night. (Muslim)

The Number of Rak’ahs (units) of the Night Prayer

The great scholar Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr related that scholars reached a consensus that the number of the rak’ahs of the night prayer is limitless. This is supported by a lot of proofs from the Sunnah. Ibn ‘Umar reported that a person asked the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) about the night prayer. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

Prayer during the night should consist of pairs of rak’ahs, but if one of you fears morning is near, he should pray one rak’ah which will make his prayer an odd number for him. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

However, some contemporary scholars are of the opinion that a person can pray up to eleven rak’has. Narrated Abu Salama bin `Abdur Rahman:

That he asked `Aisha “How was the prayer of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) in Ramadan?” She replied, “He did not pray more than eleven rak`ahs in Ramadan or in any other month. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The first opinion may be more preferred because there are sound hadiths proving that Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) prayed thirteen rak’ahs for the night prayer. Another reason may be that Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not prohibit Muslims to pray more than eleven rak’ahs.

Witr Prayer

Witr prayer means to perform the prayer of an odd number of rak’ahs at the end of your night prayer. It is also part of the night prayer.  A person can perform the prayer of one, three, five, seven, or nine rak’ahs at the end, making what he performed an odd number.

When to perform the night prayer?

The time for the night prayer starts after performing the ‘Ish (Evening) Prayer until dawn. You can perform the night prayer at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of night. Narrated Abu Qatadah:

The Prophet (ﷺ) asked Abu Bakr: When do you observe the witr?

He replied: I observe the witr prayer in the early hours of the night.

The Prophet (ﷺ) asked Umar: When do you observe the witr?

He replied: At the end of the night.

He then said to AbuBakr: This has followed it with care; and he said to Umar: He has followed it with strength. (Abu Dawud)

However, it is better to perform it at the end of night for the following hadith. Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:

Our Lord, the Blessed and the Exalted, descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the latter part of the night is left, and says: Who supplicates Me so that I may answer him? Who asks Me so that I may give to him? Who asks Me forgiveness so that I may forgive him? (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

We learn from these two hadiths that a person may perform the night prayer or witr at any part of the night. If a person fears that he may not be able to wake up at the end of the night to perform the night prayer, it is better for such a person to perform it before going to bed. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

My friend (the Messenger of Allah) (ﷺ) directed me to observe fast for three days in every month, to perform two rak’ahs (optional) Duha prayer at forenoon and to perform the Witr prayer before going to bed. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

On the other hand, if a person has the ability to wake up at the end of the night, it is better for him or her to perform prayer at that time. Narrated `Abdullah bin `Amr:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said to me, “The most beloved fasting to Allah was the fasting of (the Prophet) David who used to fast on alternate days. And the most beloved prayer to Allah was the prayer of David who used to sleep for (the first) half of the night and pray for 1/3 of it and (again) sleep for a sixth of it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

How to perform the night prayer?

Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) sometimes used to perform the night prayer two by two. Sometimes, he performed four rak’ahs then another four then three at the end.

It is also proved that he performed nine connected rak’ahs sitting at the eighth to recite the supplication of the first tashahhud and at the ninth rak’ahs to recite the second tashahhud.

What to recite when you perform three rak’ahs for witr at the end of your prayer?

It was narrated that Ubayy bin Ka’b said:

“In the first rak’ah of witr, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to recite: “Highly exalt the name of your Lord, the Most High;” in the second; “Say: O you disbelievers!” and in the third; “Say: He is Allah, (the) One.” (Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Nasa’i)

Du’a’ Al-Qunut (The Supplication of the Standing)

It is so called because a person recites it while standing. This supplication may be made after reciting the sura (chapter of the Quran) i.e. before ruku’ (bowing) or after standing up. It was narrated that Abu Al-Jawza said:

“Al-Hasan said: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) taught me some words to say in witr in Qunut:

Allahumma ihdini fiman hadayta wa ‘afini fiman afayta wa tawallani fiman tawallayta wa barik li fima a’tayta, wa qini sharra ma qadayta, fa innaka taqdi wa la yuqda ‘alayk, wa innahu la yadhilluman walayta, tabarakta Rabbana wa at’alayt

(O Allah, guide me among those whom You have guided, pardon me among those You have pardoned, turn to me in friendship among those on whom You have turned in friendship, and bless me in what You have bestowed, and save me from the evil of what You have decreed. For verily You decree and none can influence You; and he is not humiliated whom You have befriended. Blessed are You, O Lord, and Exalted.)’” (Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah)

You can recite this supplication or any other one because the companions used to recite a different one in the second half of Ramadan.

What to say when you finish your prayer?

On the authority of ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn Abza (Allah be pleased with him) who said that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to recite in Witr: “Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High;” and “Say: O you disbelievers!;’ and ‘Say: He is Allah, (the) One.’ And when he said the taslim, he would say: Subhanal-Malikil-Quddus (Glory be to the Sovereign, the Most Holy) three times, raising his voice with Subhanal-Malikil-Quddus the third time.” (Al-Nasa’i)

 

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