The Importance of Witr Prayer

Witr Prayer it is the most stressed voluntary prayer, and some scholars are of the opinion that it is obligatory to perform it. Generally, the act of worship whose incumbency is disputable is more stressed than any other act which is agreed to be not obligatory Muslims agree on the legality of the Witr Prayer so it should not be abandoned. The testimony of whoever insists on leaving this prayer is not to be accepted.

Imam Ahmad says,

“Whoever abandons (performing) the Witr Prayer intentionally is a bad man whose testimony is not to be accepted”.

Ahmad and Abu Dawud relate as marfu’ (traceable) hadith that the Prophet (PBUH) says:

“Whoever does not perform the Witr Prayer does not belong to us.”

The Time of Witr Prayer

The Witr is the name of the rak’ah (unit of prayer) separated from its preceding rak’ahs, or three, five, seven, nine, or eleven (continuous) rak’ahs (performed with only one final taslim). If these rak’ahs are separated by two or more taslims (final Salams in prayer), the Witr is the rak’ah separated alone. The time for the Witr Prayer starts immediately after the Isha (Night) Prayer and continues until dawn.

In the two Sahihs, A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) says:

“Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) performed the Witr Prayer at different nights at various hours extending (from the Night Prayer) up to the last hour of the night.”

It is stated in many hadiths that the time of performing the Witr Prayer is the whole night except the time before the Isa’ Prayer. If a Muslim is sure to wake up late at the last time of the night, it is desirable for him to perform the Witr Prayer then; however, if he is not certain (to be awake at this time), he should perform this prayer before going to bed as recommended by the Prophet (PBUH).

Imam Muslim relates on the authority of Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (PBUH) says:

“If anyone of you is afraid that he may not be able to get up at the end of the night, let him perform the Witr Prayer and then sleep. And if he is confident of getting up and performing prayer at night, then let him perform it at the end of it, for the recitation (of the Quran) at the end of the night is witnessed (by angels), which is better.”

How to Perform Witr Prayer

The Witr Prayer can be as short as one rak’ah (unit of prayer) according to the hadiths (related to this ruling) and as narrated from ten of the Prophets Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all). Yet, it is desirable to perform the Shaf (It generally refers to any prayer consisting of an even number of rak’ahs, and it particularly refers to the even number of rak’ahs performed before the final rak’ah of the Witr Prayer,) before the Witr Prayer. The rak’ah of the Witr Prayer can be as many as eleven or thirteen, uttering taslim at the end of every two rak’ahs and performing the Witr with a single rak’ah.

Imam Muslim relates that A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrates:

“Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) used to perform eleven rak’ahs at night, performing the Witr with a single rak’ah.”

In another narration, she says:

“…uttering taslim at the end of every two rak’ahs and performing the Witr with a single one.”’

Moreover, a Muslim is permitted to perform eleven continuous rak’ah with one Tashahhud in the tenth rak’ah and another Tashahhud in the eleventh, and then end his prayer with taslim. Also, he may perform eleven continuous rak’ahs with only one Tashahhud in the last one (before ending his prayer with taslim). Yet, the first way of performing the Witr Prayer is more desirable.

Besides, a Muslim is permitted to perform nine continuous rak’ahs, with a Tashahhud in the eighth rak’ah and another in the ninth, and then end his prayer with taslim. He also may perform seven or five continuous rak’ahs, with one Tashahhud in the end after which he is to end the prayer with taslim.

Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated:

“Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) used to perform the Witr with five or seven rak’ahs (units of prayer) without talking or uttering taslim between them.”

A different way to perform the Witr Prayer is to perform two rak’ahs and say taslim then perform a single (last) one.

It is desirable to recite the Surah Al-A’la (the Most High) in the first rak’ah, the Surah of Al-Kafirun (the Disbelievers) in the second and the Surah of Al-Ikhlas (Sincerity of Faith) in the third.

Therefore, it became evident that it is permitted to perform eleven, thirteen, nine, seven, five, three, or one rak’ah, yet the highly desirable is to perform eleven rak’ahs and the least desirable is three rak’ahs., but it is sufficient to perform only one rak’ah.

Qunut in Witr Prayer

In addition to this, it is desirable to recite Qunut (invocation) after rising from bowing in the last rak’ah, invoking Allah and saying the following supplication related from the Prophet (PBUH);

In Arabic,

“Allahummahdini fiman hadait, wa a’fini fiman afait, wa tawallani fiman tawallait, wa barik li fima atait, wa qini sharra ma qadait, fa Innaka taqdi wa la yuqda Alaik, wa innahu la yadhillu man walait, tabarakta Rabbana wa ta’alait.”

Which means,

“O Allah guide me among those You have guided, pardon me among those You have pardoned, befriend me among those You have befriended, bless me in what You have granted, and save me from the evil that You decreed. Indeed, You decree, and none can pass decree, and none can pass decree upon You, indeed he is not humiliated whom You have befriended, blessed are You our Lord and Exalted.” – At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 1, Book 3, Hadith 464, Grade: Sahih. Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 2, Book 20, Hadith 1746, Grade: Sahih. Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 1, Book 5, Hadith 1178, Grade: Sahih.

Dr. Salih Al Fawzan
He is a member of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fatawa in Saudi Arabia, a committee of the Council of Senior Scholars. The Council issues rulings in Islamic jurisprudence and prepares research papers for the Council of Senior Scholars.