Ruling: Sunnah Mu’akkadah, confirmed sunnah, however Imam Abu Hanifa ruled it to be obligatory.
Ali said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “O people of the Qur’an, pray Witr, for Allah is One and loves that which is odd-numbered.” (Abu Dawud)
Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was on a journey, atop his mount, whichever direction it was facing, gesturing the motions of the night prayer, except the obligatory prayer, and he prayed Witr atop his mount.” (Bukhari, Muslim, An-Nisa’i)
From the above narration, scholars have concluded that the stronger opinion is that witr prayer is a confirmed sunnah. Hence one should try to pray it regularly, but if he misses it on some occasions it is no harm.
Number of Units:
The number of units of witr varies. Its minimum is one rakaah but it can be prayed as one, three, five, seven or nine or more.
The Prophet said: “Witr is one rak’ah at the end of the night.” (Muslim, An-Nisa’i)
He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also 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 odd-numbered.” (Bukhari; Muslim, An-Nisa’i)
Method of Prayer:
If one prays three rak’ahs this can be done in either of the following ways:
- To pray each rak’ah after the other, with one tashahhud at the end: A’ishah said, The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used not to say the tasleem in the (first) two rak’ahs 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.” (An-Nasa’i, 3/234; Al-Bayhaqi, 3/31. An-Nawawi said; it was narrated by An-Nasa’i with a hasan isnaad, and by Al-Bayhaqi with a saheeh isnad)
- Saying the tasleem after two rak’ahs, then praying one rak’ah on its own: It is narrated from Ibn ‘Umar, that he used to separate the two rak’ahs from the single rak’ah with a tasleem, and he said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to do that. (Ibn Hibbaan (2435); Ibn Hajar said in al-Fath(2/482): its isnaad is qawiy)
If one prays 5 or 7 rak’ahs:
They should be continuous, and he should only recite one tashahhud in the last unit and say the tasleem. A’ishah said, ‘The Messenger of Allah 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’. (Muslim, 737)
And Umm Salamah said, ‘The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah 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.’ (Ahmad, Nasa’i, An-Nawawi said: Its isnaad is jayyid. Al-Fath al-Rabbaani, 2/297, it was classed as saheeh by Sh Al-Albaani in Saheeh An-Nasa’i)
If one prays 9 rak’ahs then it should be continuous. He should sit and make tashahud on the 8 rakaah, the continue to the ninth rakaah, as was reported by A’ishah, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to pray nine rak’ahs in which he did not sit except in the eighth, when he would remember Allah, 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 Allah and praise Him and call upon Him, then he would say a tasleem that we could hear. (Muslim)
If he (ﷺ) prayed Witr with eleven rak’ahs, he would say the tasleem after each two rak’ahs, then pray one rak’ah at the end.
What to recite in the Witr Prayer:
It was narrated from Abdur-Rahman ibn Abza that the Prophet (ﷺ) used to recite in Witr “Sabbih isma Rabbika al-A’la (Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High)…” [i.e., Soorat al-A’laa 87] and Qul yaa ayyuha’l-kaafiroon (Say (O Muhammad), ‘O al-Kaafiroon (disbelievers))…’” [i.e., Soorat al-Kaafiroon 109] and “Qul Huwa Allahu ahad (Say (O Muhammad), ‘He is Allah, (the) One)…” [i.e., Soorat al-Ikhlaas 112].
(Abu Dawood at-Tayaalisi in al-Musnad; Ibn al-Ja‘d in al-Musnad; Ibn Abi Shaybah in al-Musannaf; Imam Ahmad in al-Musnad, and others, with many isnaads. It was classed as saheeh by more than one of the hadith scholars, such as Ibn Mulaqqin, al-Albaani, Shaykh Muqbil al-Waadi’ and the commentators on the ar-Risaalah edition of Musnad Ahmad, and others).
When to recite the Duaa:
The duaa is recited in the last rak’ah of Witr prayer, after bowing, but if one recites it before bowing it doesn’t matter.
The duaa in witr is also known as Qunoot, it may be read sometimes and it may be omitted at others.
Raising the hands is mentioned in an authentic report from Umar. Hence one should raise their hands to chest level when making the Qunoot.
Al-Hasan ibn Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught me some words to say in qunoot al-witr:
“Allahumma 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
The translation of which is: “O Allah, 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.”
(Abu Dawood,Tirmidhi , and Nasaa’i , The last phrase – Laa manja minka illa ilayka was narrated by Ibn Mandah in al-Tawheed and classed as hasan by al-Albaani)
Ali bin Abi Talib narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) used to say in his Witr, ‘Allahumma inni a`udhu bi-riḍaka min sakhatika, wa a`udhu bi-mu`afatika min `uqubatika, wa a`udhu bika minka, la uḥsi thana’an `alaika, anta kama athnaita `ala nafsik.’ The translation of which is, “O Allah, I seek refuge in your pardon from Your Punishment, and I seek refuge in You from You, I am not capable of extolling You as You have extolled Yourself (Jami’ At-Tirmithi, Sahih)
Then the person should send blessings upon the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Some scholars have permitted that other phrases of duaa be added to the above, and others have disallowed it.
An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Note that there is no specific du’aa’ for Qunoot according to the preferred point of view. Any du’aa’ that is said will serve as Qunoot, even if one recites a verse or verses from the Qur’aan that include words of supplication, this will count as Qunoot, but it is better to recite the words that were narrated in the Sunnah. (Al-Adhkaar al-Nawawiyyah, p. 50)
It is important to note that if one chooses to add extra phrases and duaa then one should not purposely make the duaa rhyme, nor should they recite in a rhythmic tone. Rather, one should be humble invoking Allah with hope and fear.
Witr prayer can be prayed anytime after isha until fajr.
The Prophet said: “Allah has prescribed for you a prayer (by which He may increase your reward), which is Witr; Allah has enjoined it for you during the time between ‘Isha’ prayer until dawn begins.” (Tirmidhi, saheeh by Sh Al-Albaani)
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said, “Perform Witr before morning comes.” (Muslim)
Is it better to pray it early or delay it?
Jabir said, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) 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.” (Muslim)
Hence it is better to delay it provided one is able to.
Duaa upon completion:
It is mustahabb to say after the tasleem, ‘Subhaan al-Malik al-Quddoos’ three times, elongating the vowels the third time, as narrated by An-Nasa’i and classed as Hasan by Sh Al-Albaani.
Ad-Daaraqutni added the words, ‘Rabb al-Malaa’ikah wa’r-Rooh’ (Lord of the angels and the Spirit), with a saheeh isnaad.
However, this duaa is not to be recited in unison (if praying in congregation), nor in between Qiyaam or taraweeh prayers, as this has not been reported from the Prophet.
If one misses the Witr:
The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him said, “if anyone oversleeps and misses the Witr or forgets it, he may perform it when he wakes up, or when he remembers.”(Abu Dawud, Tirmithi)
The scholars of the Standing Committee were asked: Is Witr prayer obligatory, and will the one who prays it on some days and not on others be punished for that?
“Witr prayer is Sunnah mu’akkadah (a confirmed Sunnah) which the believer should adhere to. Whoever prays it on some days and not on others will not be blamed for that, but he should be advised to pray Witr regularly. It is prescribed to pray two rak’ahs during the day instead if a person misses it, because the Prophet (ﷺ) used to do that, as it was narrated that A’ishah said: ‘If sleep or sickness kept him from praying at night, the Prophet (ﷺ) would pray twelve rak’ahs during the day.’ (Muslim) The Prophet usually prayed eleven rak’ahs at night, saying the salaam after each two rak’ahs then praying one rak’ah on its own. But if sleep or sickness kept him from doing that, he would pray twelve rak’ahs during the day, as A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) stated. Based on this, if a person usually prays five rak’ahs at night but he sleeps or misses them for any other reason, it is prescribed for him to pray six rak’ahs during the day, saying salaam after each two rak’ahs. If his habit is to pray three rak’ahs, then he should pray four rak’ahs with two salaams, and if his habit is to pray seven rak’ahs, he should pray eight with the salaam after each two rak’ahs.” (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 7/172)
In conclusion one should vary the method by which he prays witr so as to ensure that he practices as many Sunan as possible.