Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Night Prayers of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم

Below are my notes for Lesson 126, the second lesson of the Book of Witr.

Du'as requested.

540. عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهَا: أَنّ رَسُولَ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم كانَ يُصَلّي إِحْدَى عَشْرَةَ رَكْعَةً, كانَتْ تِلْكَ صَلاَتَهُ تَعْنِي بِاللّيْلِ فَيَسْجُدُ السّجْدَةَ مِنْ ذلِكَ قَدْرَ ما يَقْرَأُ أَحَدُكُمْ خَمْسِينَ اَيَةً, قَبْلَ أَنْ يَرْفَعَ رَأْسَهُ, وَيَرْكَعُ رَكْعَتَيْنِ قَبْلَ صَلاَةِ الْفَجْرِ, يَضْطَجعُ عَلَى شِقّهِ الأَيْمَنِ, حَتّى يأْتِيَهُ المُؤَذّنُ لِلصّلاَةِ. رواه البخاري: 994

Narrated 'Aisha رضى الله عنها : Allâh's Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم used to pray eleven Rak'ât at night and that was his night prayer and each of his prostrations lasted for a period enough for one of you to recite fifty Verses before Allâh's Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم raised his head. He also used to pray two Rak'ât (Sunna) before the (compulsory) Fajr prayer and then lie down on his right side till the Mu'adhdhin came to him for the Salât (prayer). [Hadeeth 540, al Tajrid al Sarih]

In this hadeeth we learn about the practice of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) with regard to prayer at night – there is no mention of Witr in this hadeeth. Due to the close nature of Tahajud and Witr, the two prayers are often mentioned together as is the case in this hadeeth. Aisha (رضى الله عنها) doesn’t mention the word Witr – in some narrations it is reported that the number of rakaats that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) prayed at night was 7, 9, 11, 13 or 17. In some narrations it is clarified for example that 7 rakaats was 4 rakaat nafil and 3 rakaat Witr. Aisha (رضى الله عنها) then describes the length and duration of the night prayers of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). She says that his prostrations were as long as it would take one to recite 50 verses of the Qur’an. Some people mistakenly think that the wording in this hadeeth refers to a special sajdah that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would do after Witr salah, and hence do a sajdah after Witr (not due to reciting Surah Sajdah which was a noble practice of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) before retiring alongside Surah Mulk). The ulema of the past have stated that doing such a special sajdah is a bidah. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would also make a point of lying down after praying Tahajud and then Witr. Other narrations say that he would lie down after praying Tahajud, witr and 2 sunnah of Fajr. Why would the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) lie down? Firstly, because he had been standing for a long time in salah. Secondly, some ulema have stated that when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would pray Tahajud and Witr he would have a connection with Allah that one cannot begin to understand. Hence, he would then lie down on the floor to bring himself down to earth. This can be understood by using anger as an analogy. If someone is angry and he sits down, or if he is sitting he lies down it helps to extinguish anger. This is because you bring yourself down to the dust of the earth. Similarly, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would lie down after praying Tahajud and Witr after having spent time in the company of Allah and having scaled spiritual heights.

Scholars of the Shafi fiqh say that it is recommended to lie down after having prayed Witr salah or Tahajud. Other ulema of fiqh say that this should not be done (i.e. if thinking that one will be acting upon a sunnah by lying down) and some have called it makruh (undesirable) and that this was something unique to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Abdullah ibn Masud (رضى الله عنه) and Abdullah ibn Umar (رضى الله عنه) disapproved of this practice. Abdullah ibn Masud (رضى الله عنه) called it a bidah.

Shaykh then mentioned the opinion of ibn Hazam al-Andalusi but prior to this he gave a brief introduction to this scholar. Ibn Hazam was well-respected by orientalists and non-Muslims. He was well-versed, erudite with a sharp pen and a sharp tongue. He has works on fiqh, has commented on the Qur’an, hadeeth, written poetry and had even written poems/essays on love. However, he didn’t adhere to any main schools of fiqh and was a literalist. He is the only scholar to say that it is wajib and an obligation for the validity of Fajr salah that a person lies down after praying Witr. In contrast, all the other scholars say that it is makruh if person thinks that there is a virtue in lying down after Witr or Tahajud, or if he thinks that he is acting on the sunnah. However, if a person is genuinely lying down out of the need to do say then it is permissible.

باب: سَاعَاتُ الوِتْر

Chapter 2 – The timing of Witr

541. وَعَنْهَا رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهَا قَالَتْ: كُلّ اللّيْلِ أَوْتَرَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم, وَانْتَهَى وِتْرُهُ إِلَى السّحَرِ. رواه البخاري: 996

Narrated Aisha (رضى الله عنها): Allâh's Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم offered Witr prayer at different nights at various hours extending (from the 'Ishâ' prayer) up to the last hour of the night. [Hadeeth 541, al Tajrid al Sarih]

This hadeeth tells us that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) prayed Witr at different times on different nights e.g. early night, middle of the night etc, however predominantly his practice was to pray at the end of the night just before dawn. All ulema agree that the timing of Witr salah begins when Esha time begins. Witr can only be performed after Esha salah except according to Imam Abu Hanifah (رحمة الله عليه) and Sufyan ad Thobi (رحمة الله عليه) as they say that it is a unique salah which shares its time with Esha salah but it is better to pray Esha first but if a person for example prays Esha and then some time later prays Witr salah with a fresh wudhu, and it suddenly occurs to him that he wasn’t in a state of purity for Esha, according to Imam Abu Hanifah he can repeat Esha without having to repeat Witr. Other ulema say he would have to repeat Esha and Witr.

All ulema agree that the time for Witr ends with the beginning time for Fajr. If you miss Witr you can pray as qadha at Fajr time. Imam Shafi says Witr can be prayed till noon, others say till sunrise. Imam Abu Hanifah (رحمة الله عليه) says that qadha Witr salah can be performed at any time. However, Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad say that once Esha time ends and Fajr begins you do not pray qadha Witr. The fatwa according to the majority of the Hanafi fiqh is with the view of Imam Abu Hanifah i.e. that you pray qadha Witr.

باب: لِيَجْعَل اَخِرَ صَلاَتِهِ وِتْرًا

Chapter 3 – One should make his final prayer Witr

542. عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: قَالَ النّبِيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم: (اجْعَلُوا اَخِرَ صَلاَتِكُمْ بِاللّيْلِ وِتْرًا). رواه البخاري: 998

Narrated 'Abdullâh bin 'Umar رضى الله عنهما : The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said Make Witr as your last Salât (prayer) at night. [Hadeeth 542, al Tajrid al Sarih]

An important question which can be posed from this hadeeth is whether this is an obligation or a recommendation. Some tabi’een were of the opinion that if you pray Witr in the early part of the night, you cannot pray any salah thereafter. So they would make Witr their final prayer. Thus, if they started praying again later on in the night e.g. Tahajud then they would pray Witr once more. However, there is a hadeeth where the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) says that there is only one Witr in a night, so you do not have to pray Witr a second time. Also, Aisha (رضى الله عنها) narrates a hadeeth that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would pray 2 rakaats nafil sitting down after Witr. This hadeeth is found in the Saheeh of Imam Muslim and hence the command in Hadeeth 542 is not obligatory. Some ulema say that this means that one should make his final obligatory prayer Witr.

The most preferred time to pray Witr is at the end of the night. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did tell Abu Hurairah (رضى الله عنه) to pray Witr and then sleep. This was because he found it difficult to get up and hence it was better for him to pray and then sleep.

Abu Bakr (رضى الله عنه) would pray Witr and then sleep. Umar (رضى الله عنه) would sleep and then wake up for Witr. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said one was cautious (Abu Bakr (رضى الله عنه)) and the other was strong (Umar (رضى الله عنه))


Ahmad said...

Its good how you post up your notes here, provides a good revision of the Dars for me afterwards, alhumdulillah.
Great blog mashallah keep up the
good work. Inshallah I'll link you up from my list very soon.

Forgive me for point out, but the link you have upto to Sunniforum is incorrect.


Student of Knowledge said...


Jazakumullahu khairan brother Ahmad for your comments.

I have corrected the Sunniforum link - Jazakallah for pointing it out.