Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 2: The Late Night Prayer, tahajjud (qiyam al-Layil)
Its excellence and merit from the Qur'an: Allah ordered his Messenger to perform salatul tahajjud:
"And some part of the night awake for prayer, a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised position."
This order, although it was specifically directed to the Prophet, also refers to all the Muslims since the Prophet is their example and guide in all such matters.
Those who regularly perform the tahajjud prayers are the Righteous and are more deserving of Allah's bounty and mercy. Allah says: "Lo! Those who keep from evil will dwell amid gardens and watersprings, taking that which their Lord gives them. For, lo, they were doers of good. They used to sleep but little of the night and before the dawning of each day would seek forgiveness.''
Allah praised and complemented the deeds of those who perform the late-night prayers. "The slaves of the Beneficent are they who walk upon the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: 'Peace' and they who spend the night prostrating before their Lord and standing" [ al-Furqan: 63-64 ].
Allah bears witness to their belief in His signs. He says: "Only those believe in Our revelations who, when they are reminded of them, fall down prostrate and hymn the praise of their Lord and they are not scomful: who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope and spend of what We have bestowed on them. No soul knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.''
Allah proclaims that those who do not possess these qualities cannot be treated as equal to those who possess them: "Is he who pays adoration in the watches of the night, prostrate and standing, aware of the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord equal to a disbeliever? Say: 'Are those who know equal with those who know not?' But only men of understanding will pay heed.''Volume 2, Page 21: Hadith regarding Tahajjud
The preceding section was primarily concerned with what Allah says about those who perform salatul tahajjud. There also exist a number of ahadith that reinforce the importance of tahajjud.
'Abdullah ibn as-Salam reports: "When the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam came to Medinah, the people gathered around him and I was one of them. I looked at his face and understood that it was not the face of a liar. The first words I heard him say were: 'O people, spread the salutations, feed the people, keep the ties of kinship, and pray during the night while the others sleep and you will enter paradise in peace."' This is related by al-Hakim, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmizhi who calls it hasan sahih.
Salman al-Farsi relates that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said: "Observe the night prayer, it was the practice of the rightous before you and it brings you closer to your Lord and it is penance for evil deeds and erases the sins and repells disease from the body."
Sahl ibn Sa'd reports: "Gabriel came to the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam and said: 'O Muhammad, live as long as you like, for you are to die. Do whatever deed you wish, for you are to be rewarded. Love whomever you wish, for you are to be parted. And know that the honor of the believer is in the night prayer and his glory is being free from want from the people."'
Abu ad-Darda' reports that the Prophet said: "Three people are loved by Allah, and He laughs for them and He grants them glad tidings. [The first is] a man who fights behind a group that flees and does so with his own soul for Allah's sake, regardless of whether he is killed or he is aided by Allah and made victorious. Allah says: 'Look to my slave there who is patient with his life for My sake.' [The second is] the one who has a beautiful wife and a soft bed and rises during the night. Allah says: 'He leaves his desires and remembers Me and if he wished he would sleep.' [The third] is a person who is traveling with a group and they pass the night awake and then sleep, but he still observes his prayer in hardship or ease."Volume 2, Page 22: Etiquettes of Late Night Prayer
The following acts are sunnah for one who wishes to perform the tahajjud prayers. Upon going to sleep, one should make the intention to perform the tahajjud prayers. Abu ad-Darda' relates that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said: "Whoever goes to his bed with the intention of getting up and praying during the night, and sleep overcomes him until the moming comes, he will have recorded for him what he had intended, and his sleep will be a charity for him from his Lord." This is related by an-Nasa'i and ibn Majah with a sahih chain. Upon waking, one should wipe one's face, use a toothstick, and look to the sky and make the supplication which has been reported from the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam: "There is no God but Thee, Glory be to Thee, I seek forgiveness from You for my sins, and I ask for your mercy. O Allah, increase my knowledge and let my heart not swerve after You have guided me, and bestow mercy upon me from Thyself. All praise be to Allah who has given us back life after our death and unto Him is the resurrection."
Then, one should recite the last ten 'ayat of al-'Imran, starting with, "Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth and [in] the difference of night and day are tokens (of His sovereignty) for men of understanding." Then one should say, "O Allah, to You belongs the praise. You are the Light of the heavens and the earth and what is therein. And to You belongs the praise. You are the truth and Your promise is true. And the meeting with You is true. And the paradise is true. And the Fire is true. And the prophets are true. And Muhammad is true. And the Hour is true. O Allah, to You have I submitted. And in You have I believed. And in You have I put my trust. And to You have I turned. And by You I argue. And to You do I turn for my decisions. Forgive me of my former and latter sins, and those done in private and those done in public. You are Allah, there is no God besides Thee."
One should begin Qiyam al-Layil with two quick rak'at and then one may pray whatever one wishes after that. 'Aishah says: "When the Prophet prayed during the late-night, he would begin his prayers with two quick rak'at." Both of these reports are related by Muslim.Volume 2, Page 23: One should wake up one's family for tahajjud
Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet said: "May Allah bless the man who gets up during the night to pray and wakes up his wife and who, if she refuses to get up, sprinkles water on her face. And may Allah bless the woman who gets up during the night to pray and wakes up her husband and who, if he refuses sprinkles water on his face." The Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam also said: "If a man wakes his wife and prays during the night or they pray two rak'at together, they will be recorded among those (men and women) who (constantly) make remembrance of Allah." This is related by Abu Dawud and others with a sahih chain.
Umm Salamah narrates that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam got up during the night and said: "Glory be to Allah. What trials are descended with the night. And what has descended of treasures. Who will waken the lady occupants of the rooms (i.e., his wives) for prayers; how many a well dressed in this world will be naked in the hereafter." This is related by al-Bukhari
Al-Bukhari and Muslim record that the Messenger of Allah asked 'Ali and Fatimah: "Do you not pray [during the night]?" 'Ali said: "O Messenger of Allah, we are in Allah's hands. If He wishes to make us get up, we get up." The Prophet turned away when he said that. Then, they could hear him striking his thigh and saying: "Verily, man disputes a lot." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.Volume 2, Page 24: One should stop praying tahajjud and sleep if one becomes very sleepy
'Aishah reports that the Messenger of Allah said: "When one of you gets up during the night for prayer and his Qur'anic recital becomes confused to the extent that he does not know what he says, he should lie down." This is related by Muslim.
Anas narrates that the Messenger of Allah entered the mosque and saw a rope stretching between two posts. He asked: "What is this?" The people told him that it was for Zainab [bint Jahsh] who, when she became tired or weary, held it (to keep standing for the prayer). The Prophet said: "Remove the rope. You should pray as long as you feel active, and when you get tired or weary, you should lie down to rest." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
One should not overburden one's self with the night prayer and should only pray it to the extent that is reasonable, and not leave that practice unless there is some great need to do so. 'Aishah reports that the Messenger of Allah said: "Do (good) deeds according to your capacity, for by Allah, Allah does not weary from giving rewards unless you get tired of doing good deeds." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Al-Bukhari and Muslim also relate from 'Aishah that the Messenger of Allah was asked: "What is the most loved deed to Allah?" He answered: "One that is performed constantly even if it is a small deed." And Muslim recorded that 'Aishah said: "The Messenger of Allah was constant in his deeds, and if he did something, he would do it consistently."
'Abdullah ibn 'Umar reports that the Messenger of Allah said: "O 'Abdullah, do not become like so-and-so who used to make the tahajjud prayers and then he stopped praying it." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Al-Bukhari and Muslim also record, on the authority of 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, that it was mentioned to the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam that a man slept until the morning. [ThereuponJ he said: "Satan has urinated into the ears of that person." They also record from Salim ibn 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar, from his father, that the Messenger of Allah said to his father, "Abdullah would be a good man if he would pray the tahajjud prayers." Salim said: "After that, 'Abdullah would not sleep during the night save for a small amount at a time."Volume 2, Page 24a: The recommended time for tahajjud
Salatul Layil may be performed in the early part of the night, the middle part of the night, or the latter part of the night, but after the obligatory salatul 'isha.
While describing the salah of the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam, Anas would say: "If we wanted to see him praying during the night, we could see him praying. If we wanted to see him sleeping during the night, we could see him sleeping. And sometimes he would fast for so many days that we thought he would not leave fasting throughout that month. And sometimes he would not fast (for so many days) that we thought he would not fast during that month." This is related by Ahmad, al-Bukhari, and anNasa' i .
Commenting on this subject, Ibn Hajar says: "There was no specific time in which the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam would perform his late night prayer; but he would do whatever was easiest for him."Volume 2, Page 25: Best time for tahajjud
It is best to delay this prayer to the last third portion of the night. Abu Hurairah reports that the Messenger of Allah said: "Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven during the last third of the night, inquiring: 'Who will call on Me so that I may respond to him? Who is asking something of Me so I may give it to him? Who is asking for My forgiveness so I may forgive him?"' This is related by the group.
'Amr ibn Abasah reports that he heard the Prophet say: "The closest that a slave comes to his Lord is during the middle of the latter portion of the night. If you can be among those who remember Allah, the Exalted One, at that time then do so." This is related by al-Hakim who grades it sahih according to Muslim's standards, and at-Tirmizhi calls it hasan sahih. AnNasa'i and Ibn Khuzaimah also recorded it.
Abu Muslim asked Abu Zharr: "Which late-night prayer is the best?" He said: "I asked the Messenger of Allah the same that you asked me and he said, 'The (one done during) middle of the latter half of the night, and very few do it.'" This is related by Ahmad with a good chain.
'Abdullah ibn 'Amr reports that the Prophet said: "The most beloved fast to Allah is the fast of David. And the most beloved prayer to Allah is the prayer of David. He would sleep half of the night and then pray during the next third of the night and then sleep during the last sixth of the night. And he would fast one day and not fast the next." This is related by the group except at-Tirmizhi.
The number of rak'at to be performed during tahajjud: The tahajjud prayer does not entail a specific number of rak'at which must be performed nor is there any maximum limit which has to be performed. It would be fulfilled even if one just prayed one rak'ah of witr after the obligatory night prayer.
Samurah ibn Jundub says: "The Messenger of Allah ordered us to pray during the night, a little or a lot, and to make the last of the prayer the witr prayer." This is related by at-Tabarani and al-Bazzar.
Anas relates that the Messenger of Allah said: "Prayer in my mosque is equal to ten thousand prayers [elsewhere]. And prayer in the inviolable mosque is equivalent to one hundred thousand prayers [elsewhere]. And prayer in the battlefield is equivalent to one million prayers [elsewhere]. And what is more than all of that is two rak'at by a slave [of Allah] during the middle of the night." This is reported by Abu ash-Shaikh, Ibn Hibban in his work ath-Thawab, and al-Munzhiri, in his book at-Targhib watTarhib, is silent about it.
Iyas ibn Mu'awiyyah al-Mazni reports that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said: "The night prayer should certainly be performed even if it is for the length of time that it takes one to milk a sheep. And whatever is after the obligatory 'isha is of the tahajjud." This is related by at-Tabarani, and all of its narrators are trustworthy save Muhammad ibn Ishaq.
Ibn 'Abbas relates: "I mentioned the tahajjud prayer and some of the people said that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said: 'It may be half of the night, a third of the night, a fourth of the night or a fraction of the time for milking a camel or a sheep.""
Ibn 'Abbas also narrates that the Prophet ordered them and encouraged them to make the tahajjud prayer to the extent that he said: "You should perform salatul layil even if it is just one rak'ah." This is related by atTabarani in al-Kabir and al-Awsat.Volume 2, Page 26: It is preferable to pray eleven or thirteen rak'at for tahajjud
One may choose between praying them all together or to separate them. 'Aishah says: "The Messenger of Allah never prayed more than eleven rak'at, during Ramadan or otherwise. He would pray four rak'at, and don't ask about how excellent they were or how lengthy they were. Then, he would pray four rak'at, and don't ask about how excellent they were or how lengthy they were. Then, he would pray three rak'at. I asked: 'O Messenger of Allah, do you sleep before praying witr?' he replied: 'O 'Aishah, my eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep."' This is recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim who also record that al-Qasim ibn Muhammad said that he heard 'Aishah say: "The Messenger of Allah's prayer during the night would be ten rak'at and then he would make witr with one rak'ah."Volume 2, Page 26a: Making qada' for the missed tahajjud
Muslim records that 'Aishah said: "If the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam missed the late-night prayers due to pain or anything else, he would pray twelve rak'at during the day."
'Umar reports that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said: "Whoever sleeps past his full portion [of the late-night prayers] or part of them, he should pray between the dawn and noon prayers and it would be recorded for him as if he had prayed during the night." This is related by the group except for al-Bukhari.