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Number 1 of ‘Sunan of Qiyām Il-Layl and Witr’

1) Performing Qiyām Il-Layl in its most recommended time.

Question:

What is the most recommended time to perform night prayer? 

Answer:

The time for night prayer starts after finishing ‘Ishā’ prayer, and lasts until dawn breaks. Thus, the time for Witr prayer is also between ‘Ishā’ prayer and Fajr prayer. 
This is proven by the following Ahādeeth:

‘Ā’ishah, may Allāh be pleased with her, narrated,

“Allāh’s Messenger (PBUH) used to offer eleven Rak‘ahs between ‘Ishā’ and Fajr prayers. He used to make Tasleem (i.e. Salutation, the last action in any prayer, which involves saying “Peace and mercy of Allāh be upon you” and indicates the prayer is complete) and then would end with a single Rak‘ah.”

(Al-Bukhāriy no. 2031, Muslim no. 736) 

The best time of the night to offer night prayer is for a third of the night, starting at midnight. 
In other words, a Muslim should divide the night into two halves, and offer night prayer at the beginning of the second half for a duration equivalent to one third of the night, and then sleep in the remaining sixth of the night. 

This is proven by the following Hadeeth:

‘Abdullāh Ibn Amr, may Allāh be pleased him, narrated that Allāh’s Messenger (PBUH) said,

“The most beloved fasting to Allāh was the fasting of the Prophet Dāwood, who used to fast every other day, and the most beloved prayer to Allāh was the prayer of Prophet Dāwood, who used to sleep the first half of the night, pray one third of it, and again sleep one sixth of it.’.”

(Al-Bukhāriy no. 3420, Muslim no. 1159)

Question:

Hence, if someone wanted to apply this Sunnah, how would he calculate the night time? 
Answer:
A person should calculate the night time from sunset until the time of appearance of dawn, and divide the night into six portions. The first three portions are the first half of the night. He should sleep in the first half of the night, then wake up to offer prayer for one third of the night starting at midnight, and then sleep in the remaining sixth of the night. Therefore,

‘Ā’ishah, may Allāh be pleased with her, said,

“The Prophet (PBUH) would always be asleep at the very end of the night (i.e. the last sixth of the night).”

(Al-Bukhāriy no. 1133, Muslim no. 742)

Thus, it would be best to offer the night prayer as the Hadeeth of ‘Abdillāh Ibn ‘Amr (ABPWH) stated. 

In conclusion, there are three grades of preference in regards to the time to offer voluntary night prayer: 

Preference 1 (The highest in virtue): To sleep in the first half of the night, pray for one third of it, and then sleep in the remaining sixth of it, as has been illustrated in the Hadeeth of ‘Abdillāh Ibn Amr (ABPWH). 

Preference 2: To pray in the last third of the night. 

This is indicated by the following Ahādeeth: 

Abu Hurayrah (ABPWH) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said,

“Our Lord, Blessed and Exalted is He, descends every night to the lowest heaven in the last third of the night and says, ‘Who is supplicating to Me so I may respond to him? Who is asking me so I may answer him. Who is asking my forgiveness so I may forgive him?’.”

(Al-Bukhāriy no. 1145, Muslim no. 758)

However, if someone fears that he might not be able to wake up later in the night, he can offer night prayer at the beginning of the night or at any time of the night that suits him, which is “Preference 3” that will be illustrated below. 

Preference 3 (The lowest in virtue): To pray early in the night, or at any suitable time of the night. 
This is proven by the following Hadeeth: 

Jābir (ABPWH) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said,

“Whoever fears not to wake up at the last third of the night, let him pray at the beginning of the night, and whoever hopes to wake up in the last part of the night, let him pray at that time, as it is witnessed by Allāh and this is preferred.”

(Muslim no. 755)

What also supports this is the recommendation of the Prophet (PBUH) to Abi Dtharr, Abi d-Dardā’, and Abi Hurayrah, may Allāh be pleased with all of them, as each one of them used to say, “My beloved one (i.e. the Prophet (PBUH)) advised me to do three things, ...” one of which is, “... to offer Witr prayer before going to bed.”

Number 2 of ‘Sunan of Qiyām Il-Layl and Witr’

2) Praying eleven Rak‘ahs of Qiyām Il-Layl.

This is the complete form of voluntary night prayer.

‘Ā’ishah, may Allāh be pleased with her, narrated,

“Allāh’s Messenger (PBUH) would not pray more than eleven Rak‘ahs in Ramadan or in any other month.”

(Al-Bukhāriy no. 1147, Muslim no. 738)

However, it was reported that the Prophet (PBUH) offered thirteen Rak‘ahs. This was reported by Muslim through ‘Ā’ishah. 

These are various forms of offering Witr prayer. In general, the Prophet (PBUH) would offer eleven Rak‘ahs most of the time, and would rarely offer thirteen. In this way, the various Ahādeeth are reconciled together. 
Number 3 of ‘Sunan of Qiyām Il-Layl and Witr’

3) Starting Qiyām Il-Layl with two short Rak‘ahs.

‘Ā’ishah, may Allāh be pleased with her, narrated,

“Allāh’s Messenger (PBUH) used to start his night prayer with two short Rak‘ahs.”

(Muslim no. 767) 

Number 4 of ‘Sunan of Qiyām Il-Layl and Witr’

4) Starting Qiyām Il-Layl with its specific introductory supplications.

1.

‘Ā’ishah, may Allāh be pleased with her, narrated that whenever the Prophet (PBUH) started his night prayer he would say,

“O Allāh, Lord of Jibreel, Meekā’eel, and Isrāfeel, Creator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the seen and unseen, You will judge between Your servants concerning wherein they differ. Guide me by Your grace to the disputed matters of truth. Indeed, You guide whomever You please to the straight path.”

(Muslim no. 770)

2.

It was reported in the Saheehayn through Ibn ‘Abbāss (ABPWH) that when the Prophet (PBUH) used to pray Tahajjud he would say,

“O Allāh, Our Lord, Yours is the praise. You are the light of the heavens and earth, and Yours is the praise. You sustain the heavens and earth and all that they contain. You are the King of the heavens and earth and all that they contain. You are the truth. Your promise is the truth. Your word is the truth. The meeting with You is the truth. Paradise is true. Hell is true. The Prophets are true. The Final Hour is true. O Allāh, to You I have submitted, in You I have believed, and upon You I rely. I repent to You. For your sake I dispute and by Your standards I judge, so forgive me for my earlier and later sins, for what I have committed secretly and what I have committed openly. You are my God. There is no God but You.”

(Al-Bukhāriy no. 7499, Muslim no. 768)

Number 5 of ‘Sunan of Qiyām Il-Layl and Witr’

5) Prolonging standing, bowing, and prostration, so that all of the pillars of prayer are approximately equal in duration.

Number 6 of ‘Sunan of Qiyām Il-Layl and Witr’

6) Following the Sunan of recitation.

Example 1 of ‘Some Sunan of Recitation’

1. Reciting in a moderate pace, neither too fast, nor too slow. 
Example 2 of ‘Some Sunan of Recitation’

2. Reciting verse by verse and avoiding joining two or three verses together without pausing at the end of each verse. 
Example 3 of ‘Some Sunan of Recitation’

3. If one passes by a verse of praise he should praise, if he passes by a verse of supplication to Allāh, he should supplicate, and if he passes by a verse of seeking refuge in Allāh, he should do so. 
The following Ahādeeth indicate this: 

Hudthaifa (ABPWH) said,“I prayed with the Messenger of Allāh (PBUH) one night and he started reciting Al-Baqarah. I thought that he would bow at the end of one hundred verses, but he proceeded. I then thought that he would perhaps recite the whole Soorah in a Rak‘ah, but he proceeded, and I thought he would perhaps bow on completing this Soorah. He then started An-Nisā’, and completed it. He then started Āl-‘Imrān and recited leisurely. When he recited the verses which referred to the Glory of Allāh, he glorified by saying ‘Subhān Allāh’ (Glory be to Allāh), when he recited the verses of requesting from Allāh he would request from him, and when he recited the verses of seeking refuge in Allāh he would do so. He then bowed and said: «سُبْحَانَ رَبِّيَ الْعَظِيمِ» ‘Glory be to my Mighty Lord.’ His bowing lasted about the same duration as that of his standing, and then on returning to the standing posture after bowing he would say: «سَمعَ الله لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ» ‘Allāh listens to him who praises Him,’ and he stood about the same duration as that of his bowing. He then prostrated and said: «سُبْحَانَ رَبِّيَ الأَعْلَى» ‘Glory be to my Lord, the most High,’ and his prostration lasted nearly the same duration as that of his standing.”

(Muslim no. 772)


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