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How does one perform the Witr Prayer?

All praises be to Allaah, Lord and Sustainer of the worlds, and may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and upon his family and companions.

It is important for every Muslim to understand that no act of worship can be performed except according to the way of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). This is because the basic principle in acts of worship is that everything is unlawful except what is approved by Allaah and his Messenger.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said;

“Pray as you see me praying.”

As there are differences of opinion as to how the Witr prayer can be performed, it becomes important for us to know, with evidences, the method that is most closely attributed to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). However, the purpose of this article is to provide a practical guide for how to pray the Witr prayer, rather then detailing all the differences, therefore we shall keep it as brief as possible.

Definition:

'Witr' means unpaired, such as 'one', 'three', 'five', 'seven' etc. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“Indeed Allaah is unpaired and He loves the unpaired (number).”


The Witr prayer is the non-obligatory prayer that is performed in anodd number in the night after I'shaa prayer.

Status of the Witr Prayer:

The correct view is that Witr is a confirmed Sunnah (Sunnah mu'akkadah) which should not be neglected as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would never miss it, not even during his journeys for the battles.

Time of the Witr Prayer:

The time of Witr prayer starts immediately after 'Ishaa prayer and lasts until dawn begins. This is based on many narrations including the one in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“Allaah has prescribed for you a prayer (by which He may increase your reward), which is Witr; Allaah has enjoined it for you during the time between ‘Isha' prayer until dawn begins.”

(Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 425; Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)

Once dawn begins, the time for Witr is over, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“Pray Witr before morning comes.”

(Narrated by Muslim, 754)

He (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also said:

“Hasten to pray witr before dawn.”

(Narrated by Muslim)

Muslim also narrated from Abu Nadrah al-‘Awfi, that Abu Sa'eed told them that they asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about Witr and he said:

“Witr comes before dawn.”

And the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“Witr is one rak'ah at the end of the night.”

(Narrated by Muslim, 752)

In Al-Tirmidhi report from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“When dawn comes, all the night prayers and Witr are over, so pray Witr before dawn comes.”

(Narrated by Al-Tirmidhi, 469, and Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)

It is preferred that Witr is prayed in the last part of night just before dawn begins, but if one fears that he will not be able to get up in the last part of night then he should pray it before going to sleep, because the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“Whoever fears that he will not get up at the end of the night, let him pray Witr at the beginning of the night, but whoever thinks that he will be able to get up at the end of the night, let him pray Witr at the end of the night, for prayer at the end of the night is witnessed (by the angels) and that is better.”

(Narrated by Muslim, 755)

Number of raka'at:

It is essential to differentiate between the Witr prayer and the Night prayer (or Tahajjud). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“Witr is one rak'ah at the end of the night.”

(Narrated by Muslim, 752)

And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“The night prayers are two (rak'ahs) by two, but if one of you fears that dawn is about to break, let him pray one rak'ah to make what he has prayed Witr (odd-numbered).”

(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 911; Muslim, 749)

This means that the minimum number of raka'at one can pray in Witr is one rak'ah, but it can be more as it is proven from authentic narrations that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) prayed Witr in three, five, seven and nine.

Method of praying the Witr Prayer:

So if we have to reconcile all the above statements and a number of other narrations as we shall insha-Allah mention below, the Witr prayer can be prayed in a number of ways;

1. To pray one raka'h on its own.

2. To pray three raka'at. This can be done in three ways;

a) To pray two raka'at finishing them with tasleem, and then doing a single raka'h. This is the best way because it reconciles the two narrations regarding Witr and the Night prayer quoted above.

b) To pray three raka'at, one after the other without any sitting except at the end of third raka'h because of the hadeeth of ‘Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) who said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used not to say the tasleem in the (first) two rakahs of Witr. According to another version: “He used to pray Witr with three rak'ahs and he did not sit except in the last of them.”

(Narrated by al-Nasaa'i, 3/234; al-Bayhaqi, 3/31. al-Nawawi said in al-Majmoo' (4/7): it was narrated by al-Nasaa'i with a hasan isnaad, and by al-Bayhaqi with a saheeh isnaad)

c) To pray like Maghrib prayer with two tashahhuds and one salaam at the end. This is prohibited because the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade doing that, and said:

“Do not pray Witr with three rak'ahs like Maghrib.”

(Narrated by al-Haakim, 1/403; al-Bayhaqi, 3/31; al-Daaraqutni, p. 172. Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Baari (4/301): Its isnaad fulfils the conditions of the two Shaykhs [al-Bukhaari and Muslim])

3. To pray five or seven raka'at continuously with one tashahhud at the end, as narrated by Umm Salamah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to pray Witr with five or seven (rak'ahs) and he did not separate between them with any salaam or words.

(Narrated by Ahmad, 6/290; al-Nasaa'i, 1714. al-Nawawi said: Its isnaad is jayyid. Al-Fath al-Rabbaani, 2/297. and it was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasaa'i)

4. To pray nine raka'at with no tashahhud except in the eighth rak'ah, then stand up without doing the tasleem, then doing the ninth rak'ah finishing with a tashahhud and tasleem. This was narrated in Muslim (746) from ‘Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to pray nine rak'ahs in which he did not sit except in the eighth, when he would remember Allaah, praise Him and call upon Him, then he would get up and not say the tasleem, and he would stand up and pray the ninth (rak'ah), then he would sit and remember Allaah and praise Him and call upon Him, then he would say a tasleem that we could hear.

5. To pray eleven raka'at, with a tasleem after each two rak'ahs and then pray one rak'ah at the end.

6. To pray thirteen raka'at as reported by ‘Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) who said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to pray thirteen rak'ahs at night, praying five rak'ahs of Witr, in which he would not sit except in the last rak'ah.

(Narrated by Muslim, 737)

If one prays Witr praying three continuous raka'at then it is a sunnah to recite in the first rak'ah Soorat al-A'la 87), in the second Soorat al-Kaafiroon (109), and in the third Soorat al-Ikhlaas (112), because Al-Nasaa'i (1729) narrated that Ubayy ibn Ka'b said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to recite in Witr Sabbih isma rabbika al-‘a'la (“Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High” – Soorat al-A'la 87), Qulhe yaa ayyuha'l-kaafiroon (“Say: O disbeliever…” – Soorat al-Kaafiroon 109) and Qul Huwa Allaahu ahad (“Say: He is Allaah, the One” – Soorat al-Ikhlaas 112)

(Saheeh al-Nasaa'i)

Qunoot in Witr Prayer:

Du'a' al-Qunoot is recited in the last rak'ah of Witr prayer.

Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have His mercy on him) said in Majmoo' al-Fataawa (23/100):

"With regard to qunoot: there are two extreme views and one middle (or moderate) view. Some say that qunoot should only be recited before bowing and some say that it should only be recited after bowing. The fuqaha' among the scholars of hadeeth, such as Ahmad and others, say that both are allowed, because both are mentioned in the saheeh Sunnah, but they preferred reciting qunoot after bowing because this is mentioned more often."

Raising the hands for Du'a' al-Qunoot is mentioned in a saheeh report from ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him), as was narrated by al-Bayhaqi in a report which he classed as saheeh (2/210).

There is no extra takbeer before the Du'a' al-Qunoot, as there is no evidence for this, so it should not be done.

The du'aa' of qunoot, al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught me some words to say in qunoot al-witr:

“Allaahumma ihdini feeman hadayta wa ‘aafini feeman ‘aafayta wa tawallani feeman tawallayta wa baarik li feema a'tayta, wa qini sharra ma qadayta , fa innaka taqdi wa la yuqda ‘alayk, wa innahu laa yadhillu man waalayta wa laa ya'izzu man ‘aadayta, tabaarakta Rabbana wa ta'aalayta la manja minka illa ilayk

(O Allaah, guide me among those whom You have guided, pardon me among those whom 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, nor is he honoured who is Your enemy. Blessed are You, O Lord, and Exalted. There is no place of safety from You except with You).”

(Narrated by Abu Dawood [1425], al-Tirmidhi [464], and al-Nasaa'i [1746])

Then one should send blessings upon the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)

It is recommended one says after finishing the Witr: Subhaan al-Malik al-Quddoos three times, saying loud the third time, as narrated by al-Nasaa'i (1699).

Al-Daaraqutni added the word: Rabb al-Malaa'ikah wa'l-Rooh (Lord of the angels and the Spirit), with a saheeh isnaad.

May Allaah help and guide us to do all that He is pleased with and his Peace and blessings be upon His last Prophet Muhammad.

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