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THARAWEEH, QIYAM-UL-LAIL, THAHAJJUD, SHIFA, WITR prayers are same or different?


‘Qiyam’ means to stand (in prayer), and ‘Layl’ means night; thus all the prayers one prays in worship to one’s Lord at night are considered ‘Qiyam-ul-Layl’ prayers, and ‘taraweeh’, ‘tahajjud’, ‘shafa’, ‘witr’, etc. are all included in the ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ prayers.


‘Witr’ literally means an ‘odd’ number, and it is the Sunnah and Guidance of the Messenger of Allah (saws) to end the night prayers with an odd number of rak’ahs, thus making the whole night or ‘qiyam-ul-prayers’ as ‘witr’ or odd numbered.


Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 2.112         Narrated by Abdullah bin Umar


The Prophet (saws) said, "Make Witr as your last prayer at night."


It is reported that Hadrat Ali (r.a.) said: "The witr prayer is not required like your obligatory prayers, but the Prophet (saws) would perform the witr prayer and say: 'O you people [followers] of the Qur'an, perform the witr prayer,  for Allah is One and He loves the witr.'"


Your Question: some people pray 20 rakat taraweeh, some 8 only- why this difference?


The first thing we must realize is that the Taraweeh prayers are not obligatory.   They are voluntary prayers;  if one prays them,  there is a huge reward from Allah Subhanah.   And if one does not pray them,  there is no sin.


There are two opinions amongst the scholars as to what is the exact Sunnah. The scholars who opine that the Taraweeh salah should be eight rak’ahs + three witr,  use these narrations as their ‘daleel’ or evidence:


Aishah reported that the Prophet (saws) would not pray more than eleven rak'at during Ramadan,  or otherwise.


It is reported on the authority of Jabir (r.a.) that the Prophet (saws)  prayed eight rak'at and the witr prayer with the companions (and this was during Ramadan).


Abu Ya'la and at-Tabarani record,  from Jabir that Ubayy ibn Ka'b (r.a.) came to the Prophet (saws) and said: "O Messenger of Allah, I have done something last night," (i.e., during Ramadan).  The Prophet said: 'And what was that, O Ubayy?'   He said: The women in my house said, 'We don't recite Qur'an [well or much] so can we pray behind you?'   I prayed eight rak'at and the witr prayer with them.

The Messenger of Allah (saws) was pleased with that and did not say anything."


The majority of the scholars prefer to follow the established way of the Rightly Guided Khalifas,  who established the formal prayers of Taraweeh after the death of the Prophet (saws).    And it is reported that all the believers during that time prayed twenty rak’ahs in the Taraweeh prayers led by a single ‘imaam’.  


It is also true that during the time of 'Umar, 'Uthman, and 'Ali the people prayed twenty rak'at, and this is the opinion of the majority of the jurists of the Hanafi and Hanbali schools as well as that of Abu Dawud.


At-Tirmidhi says: "Most of the people of knowledge follow what has been related from 'Umar and 'Ali and other companions of the Prophet, [i.e., that they prayed] twenty rak'at.   And this is the opinion of al-Thauri, Ibn al-Mubarak, and ash-Shaf'i.   And so I found the people of Makkah praying twenty rak'at."


Some of the scholars are of the opinion that the sunnah is eleven rak'at, including witr, and it is also preferred to pray the remainder [of the twenty rak'at] .


From the above narration,  most of the scholars have opined that the Taraweeh prayers are of twenty rakahs;  because it would be inconceivable for the Right Guided Khalifas to do something against the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws).    The reason they gave for the apparently seeming contradiction between the narration of Hadrat Aisha (quoted above) where she says that the Messenger of Allah always (saws) prayed eight rakahs + three witr,  is that what Hadrat Aisha was referring to were the Tahajjud or Night Prayers, which were obligatory for the Prophet (saws).


Since there is no minimum or maximum limit prescribed regarding how many voluntary of ‘nafl’ prayers one may offer in worship, one may pray as many as one wishes or is easy for him to pray.  Regardless of whether one offers an eight-rakah or a twenty-rakah ‘taraweeh’ prayer, he will Insha Allah be in accordance with the obedience of the Messenger of Allah (saws).


Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 4590 Narrated by Irbad ibn Sariyah


One day the Messenger of Allah (saws) led us in prayer, then faced us and gave us a lengthy exhortation at which the eyes shed tears and the hearts were afraid.  A man said: ‘O Messenger of Allah (saws)!  It seems as if it were a farewell exhortation, so what injunction do you give us?’  He (saws) then said: ‘I enjoin you to fear Allah, and to hear and obey even if  (your leader)  be an Abyssinian slave, for those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. You must then follow my Sunnah and that of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs. Hold to it and stick fast to it. Avoid novelties, for every novelty is an innovation, and every innovation is an error.’


Prophet prayed tahajjud and not taraweeh


In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person,  no grave, no prophet,  no imam,  no dai,  nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad(saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers. 


May Allah Subhanah reward you with the best of this world and the Hereafter for your kind comments of encouragement for our humble efforts in the propagation of the Truth.    We humbly hope,  beg,  and pray the Merciful Lord  accepts our humble and weak efforts,  forgives us our shortcomings,  and saves you, us,  and all the believers from the torment of the Hell Fire.  Ameen. 


It is indeed true that the Messenger of Allah (saws) always performed the ‘Tahajjud’ or late night prayers,  as these prayers were made obligatory upon him (saws) alone by Allah Subhanah;  but for the believers this prayer is voluntary.


Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 17 Surah Israa verse 79:And offer Tahajjud prayers at night;  this is an additional prayer for you.  That time is not far when your Lord may exalt you to a laudable position.


Fiqh-us-Sunnah   Fiqh 2.26


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."


Your Question: I had heard at a gathering an Aalimah stating that the Beloved Prophet (saws) During Ramadaan never used to perform Taraweeh during the nights of Laylathul-Qadr. As in- he used to perform salatul-lail during these nights and did not perform Taraweeh and the Salatul-lail together the same night. Is this true?


Salaat-ul-layl (Night Prayers) would include all the prayers one does at night,  including the Taraweeh prayers of Ramadan, the Tahajjud prayers, or any other voluntary prayers a believer performs at night.  Thus all the night prayers,  whether they be Taraweeh, Tahajjud, or any voluntary prayers prayed at night, would be termed ‘salaat-ul-layl’ .


Hadrat Aishah (r.a.) says: "The Prophet (saws) offered salah (taraweeh) in the mosque and many people prayed with him. The next day he (saws) did the same and more people prayed with him.  Then the people gathered on the third night but, the Prophet (saws) did not come out to them. In the morning, he (saws) said to them: 'Surely I saw what you did, and nothing prevented me from coming out to you, save that I feared that [the taraweehprayerr] would be made obligatory upon you.' And that was during Ramadan."


Related by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, and others.


Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 8.134         Narrated by Zaid bin Thabit


The Messenger of Allah (saws) made a small room (with a palm leaf mat).  He (saws) came out (of his house) and prayed in it.  Some men came and joined him in his prayer.  Then again the next night they came for the prayer, but Allah's Messenger (saws) delayed and did not come out to them.  So they raised their voices and knocked the door with small stones (to draw his attention).  He (saws)came out to them in a state of anger, saying, "You are still insisting (on your deed, i.e. Tarawih prayer in the mosque) that I thought that this prayer (Tarawih) might become obligatory on you.  So you people, offer this prayer at your homes, for the best prayer of a person is the one which he offers at home, except the compulsory (congregational) prayer."


From the above authentic hadiths, it is evident that the Messenger of Allah (saws) prayed the ‘taraweeh’ in congregation only for a couple of nights in Ramadan, and then did not lead the congregation but advised the believers to perform them at their homes.


There is nothing mentioned in the Sunnah which would imply that the Messenger of Allah (saws) prayed both the Tarawih and the Tahajjud prayers during the night of Laylatul-Qadr,  but there is indeed an authentic narration from the Mother of the Faithful, Umm al Mumineen,  Hadrat Aisha (r.a.) which states that the Messenger of Allah (saws) prayed no more than eleven rakahs of night prayer, in Ramadan or otherwise.


Hadrat Aishah (r.a.) says: "The Messenger of Allah (saws) never prayed more than eleven rak'at, during Ramadan or otherwise.  He (saws) would pray four rak'at, and don't ask about how excellent they were or how lengthy they were.  Then, he (saws) would pray four rak'at, and don't ask about how excellent they were or how lengthy they were.  Then, he (saws) would pray three rak'at.”  I asked: 'O Messenger of Allah, do you sleep before praying witr?'.  He (saws) replied: 'O 'Aishah, my eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep."'   Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.


From the above authentic narration of Hadrat Aisha (r.a.),  it seems the Messenger of Allah (saws) would only pray the ‘salaat-ul-layl’ once, during Ramadan or otherwise.



Abu Dawood relates that the Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “The night prayer is sets of two rak'at. If one fears the coming of the dawn, he should perform one rak'ah, thereby making all of them odd [witr].”


But one must understand that any of the ‘salaat-ul-layl’ , whether they are taraweeh in Ramadan, or tahajjud, or extra voluntary night prayers, etc. there is absolutely no limit to how many rakahs or times one may pray.  One may pray only two rak’ahs + witr if he wishes to do so,  or one may pray all night if he wishes to do so and end with the witr prayers;  there is absolutely no minimum or maximum number of rakahs or times one may perform the ‘salaat-ul-layl’ ; during Ramadan or otherwise.


Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allah’s Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me.  Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.

Q-1: My mother was asking me the other day about the times to pray tahajjud... I know that it is to be performed in the later  3rd part of the night.. But what I wanted to ask was that is it important for a person to sleep and then wake up to pray tahajjud... or one can pray this when they are simply later sleepers and are awake till that time?? Please clarify this...   Fiqh-us-Sunnah Fiqh 2.25


It is best to delay this prayer to the last third portion of the night.  Abu Hurayrah reports that the Messenger of Allah (saws) 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?"'    Related by Bukhari, Muslim and others.


Amr ibn Abasah reports that he heard the Prophet (saws) 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." Related by al-Hakim, Tirmidhi, and AnNasa'i.


'Abdullah ibn 'Amr reports that the Prophet (saws) 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."

Related by Bukhari, Muslim and others.


It is the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws) and best if one sleeps after Isha and wakes up again to offer the Tahajjud or late night prayers, but it is not obligatory.  If one finds it difficult to wake up again for Tahajjud, then there is no harm if one offers these voluntary night prayers after the Isha prayers or before one goes to sleep. 


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