How To Offer Witir Prayer

Witir Prayer

All the Praise be to Allah SWT. Peace and Blessing be upon His Messenger

Witir prayer is one of the greatest acts of worship that would draw one closer to Allah s.w.t. It is the most highly regarded Sunnah and it was enjoined by the Prophet s.a.w. Some of the scholars view it is one of the Sunnah Mu’akadah it should observe regularly and not to neglect it whether travelling or not, as the Prophet s.a.w used to perform it.

Abu Sa’id r.a reported that the Prophet s.a.w said: “Perform Witir before morning comes.” [Muslim (754)]

While ‘Ali Abi Talib r.a said the Messenger of Allah s.a.w said: “O people of the Qur’an pray Witir, for Allah is One and loves that which is odd-numbered.” [Abu Dawud; Classified as sahih by Al-Albani].

Ibn ‘Umar r.a reported: “The Prophet s.a.w 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 Witir atop his mount.” [Al-Bukhari (1000) and Muslim (700)]

Ibn Qudamah r.a said: Abu Hanifah said it is obligatory but Malik and Al-Shafi’e considered Witir is not obligatory. Qudamah said that Ahmad said that whoever omits Witir deliberately the testimony should not be accepted from. He wanted to emphasize that it is a confirmed sunnah as the ahadith enjoined and encouraged it. [Al-Mughni, 1/827]

Thus Witir is an established Sunnah.

The manner of offering Witir prayer.  

1. The Time Frame:

The Witir begins when a person has performed the prayer of ‘Isha’, even if it is combined to Maghrib at the time of Maghrib, and lasts until dawn begins. The Prophet s.a.w said:

“Allah has prescribed for you a prayer (by which He may increase your reward), which is Witir; Allah has enjoined it for you during the time between ‘Isha’ prayer until dawn [Fajar Prayer].”

[Al-Tirmidzi, 425; classified as sahih by Al-Albani]

2. When: The Beginning Of Its Time Or Later Part Of The Night?

The Sunnah indicates that if a person thinks he will be able to get up at the end of the night, it is better to delay it, because prayer at the end of the night would be better. But whoever fears that he would not be able to get up at the end of the night, he should perform Witir before he goes to sleep, as the hadith of Jabir r.a who said: The Messenger of Allah s.a.w said:

“Whoever fears that he will not get up at the end of the night, let him pray Witir 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 Witir at the end of the night, for prayer at the end of the night is witnessed (by the angels) and that would be better.” [Muslim, 755].

Al-Nawawi said: This is the correct view. Other ahadith which speak of this topic in general terms are to be interpreted in the light of this sound specific and clear a report, such as the hadith, “My close friend advised me not to sleep without having prayed Witir.” This is to be understood as referring to one who is not sure whether he would be able to wake up (to pray Witir at the end of the night). [Sharh Muslim, 3/277.]

3. The Number of Raka’ahs:

Minimum is one Rak’ah.

The minimum number of raka’ahs for Witir is one raka’ah. The Prophet s.a.w said: “Witir is one raka’ah at the end of the night.” [Narrated by Muslim, 752.]

The Prophet s.a.w also said: “The night prayers are two (raka’ahs) by two, but if one of you fears that dawn is about to break, let him pray one raka’ah to make what he has prayed odd-numbered.”  [Al-Bukhari, 911; Muslim, 749.]

If a person limits himself to praying one raka’ah, he was considered to have performed the Sunnah. But Witir may also be performed in three or five or seven or nine.

Three Rak’ahs

If a person performs three raka’ahs of Witir it could be done in two ways, which both of which are prescribed in syari’ah:

1. To pray them one after another, with one tashahhud: This is because of the hadith of ‘Aishah r.a who said:

“The Prophet s.a.w used not to say the tasleem in the (first) two raka’ahs of Witir”. According to another version: “He used to pray Witir with three raka’ahs and he did not sit except in the last of them.”

[Al-Nasa’i, 3/234; Al-Baihaqi, 3/31. Al-Nawawi said in Al-Majmu’ (4/7): it was narrated by Al-Nasa’i with a hasan isnad and by Al-Baihaqi with a sahih isnad.]

  OR 

2. Saying the tasleem after two raka’ahs, then praying one raka’ah on its own: This is because of the report narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him): [He said] that he used to separate the two raka’ahs from the single raka’ah with a tasleem, and he said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to do [like] that.

[Ibn Hibban (2435); Ibn Hajar said in Al-Fath (2/482): it’s a qawiy isnad].

Five or Seven Rak’ahs

But should he prays Witir with five or seven raka’ahs, then he should be continuous, and he should only recite one tashahhud in the last of them and say the tasleem, because of the report narrated by Aishah r.a who said:

The Messenger of Allah s.a.w used to pray thirteen rak’ahs at night [an eight raka’at night prayer], praying five raka’ahs of Witr, in which he would not sit except in the last raka’ah.

[Muslim, (737)]

Umm Salamah r.a said: The Prophet s.a.w used to pray Witir with five or seven (raka’ahs) and he did not separate between them with any Salam or words.

[Ahmad, 6/290; al-Nasa’i, 1714. Al-Nawawi said: Its isnad is jayyid. Al-Fath Al-Rabbani, 2/297. And it was classified as sahih by Al-Albani in Sahih Al-Nasa’i]

Nine Rak’ahs.

If one prays Witir nine raka’ahs, then it should be continuous and he should sit to recite the tashahhud in the eighth raka’ah, then stand up and not say the tasleem, then he should recite the tashahhud in the ninth raka’ah and then say the tasleem.

‘Aishah r.a said that the Prophet s.a.w used to pray nine raka’ahs in which he did not sit except in the eighth, when he would praise Allah and call upon Him, then he would get up and not say the tasleem, and he would stand up and pray the ninth (raka’ah), then he would sit and praise Allah and call upon Him, then he would say a tasleem that we could hear. [Muslim (746)]

Eleven Rak’ahs.

If he performed Witir with eleven raka’ahs, he would say the tasleem after each two rak’ahs, and then pray one raka’ah at the end.

What Is To Be Recited Therein?

In the first raka’ah one should recite Sabbih isma rabbika al-‘a’la (“Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High” – Surah Al-A’la, 87). In the second one should recite Surah Al-Kafirun, 109, and in the third Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112).

Ubayy Ibn Ka’ab said: The Messenger of Allah s.a.w used to recite in Witir Sabbih isma rabbika al-‘a’la (“Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High” – Surah Al-A’la, 87), Qul yaa ayyuha’l-kaafirun (“Say: O disbeliever…” – Surah al-Kafirun, 109) and Qul Huwa Allahu ahad (“Say: He is Allah, the One” – Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112). [Classified as sahih by Al-Albani in Sahih Al-Nasa’i (1729)].

All the ways of offering Witir prayer have been mentioned in the Sunnah, but the best way is not to stick to one particular way; rather one should do it one way and another way another time, so that one will have done all the Sunnahs.

 [Fatawa No: 46544 published in Islam Q&A]

 Du’a Al-Qunut in Witir

Firstly, Du’a Al-Qunut is recited in the last raka’ah of Witir prayer, after bowing, but it is permissible if one recites it before bowing it but it is better after ruku’.

Shaykh al-Islam, Ibn Taimiyyah said in Majmu’ Al-Fatawa (23/100):

Some scholars say that qunut should only be recited before bowing and some say that it should only be recited after bowing. The fuqaha’ among the scholars of hadith, such as Ahmad and others, say that both are allowed, because both are mentioned in the sahih Sunnah, but they preferred reciting qunut after bowing because this is mentioned more often.

Raising the hands is mentioned in a sahih report from ‘Umar r.a, as was narrated by Al-Baihaqi in a report which he classified as sahih (2/210).The worshipper should raise his hands to chest height and no more, because this du’a is not a du’a of supplication in which a person needs to raise his hands high. Rather it is a du’a of hope in which a person holds out his palms towards heaven. The apparent meaning of the scholar’s words is that the worshipper should hold his hands close together like a beggar who asks someone else to give him something.

It is not to recite qunut in witir all the time; as  there is no evidence that the Messenger of Allah s.a.w did it all the time. But he taught Al-Hasan Ibn ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) a du’a to recite in Qunut Al-Witr, as will be quoted below.

Secondly, the du’a of qunut was narrated by Abu Dawud (1425), Al-Tirmidzi (464), and Al-Nasa’i (1746) from Al-Hasan Ibn ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allah s.a.w taught me some words to say in qunut al-witir:

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 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].”

The last phrase – Laa manja minka illa ilayka (There is no place of safety from You except with You) – was narrated by Ibn Mandah in Al-Tawhid and classified as hasan by Al-Albani.

[See Irwa’ Al-Ghaleel, Hadith no. 426, 429].

Then he should send blessings upon the Prophet s.a.w. [Al-Sharh Al-Mumti’ by Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (4/14-52).]

Thirdly, it is mustahabb to say after the tasleem: Subhaan al-Malik al-Quddus three times, elongating the vowels the third time. [Narrated by al-Nasa’i (1699) and classed as hasan by al-Albani in Sahih Sunan al-Nasa’i].

Al-Daraqutni added the word: Rabb al-Malaa’ikah wa’l-Ruh (Lord of the angels and the Spirit), with a saheeh isnad. [See Zaad Al-Ma’aad by Ibn Al-Qayyim, 1/337.]

[Fatawa No.14093 published in Islam Q&A]

Witir in Ramadhan

It was proven that the Prophet s.a.w prayed Witir in different ways. He perfomed one raka’ah, three, five, seven, and nine.

He performed the three raka’ahs in two different ways, either continuously with one tashahhud, or he would be saying Salam after two raka’ahs and praying another one raka’ah and saying Salam and concludes it.

He did not pray it like Maghrib, with two tashahhuds and one Salam. Rather he forbade doing that, and said: Do not pray Witir with three raka’ahs like Maghrib.” [Narrated by al-Hakim, 1/403; al-Baihaqi, 3/31; al-Daraqutni, p. 172.]

Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Baari (4/301): Its isnad fulfils the conditions of al-Bukhari and Muslim.

Shaykh Muhammad Al-Salih Al-‘Uthaymeen said:

It is permissible to perform Witir with three raka’ahs, or with five, or with seven, or with nine. If a person prays Witir with three, it may be done in one of two ways, both of which are prescribed in syari’ah:

1. Praying the three rak’ahs continually with one tashahhud.

2. Saying Salam after two raka’ahs, and then praying one raka’ah on its own. [Two and One rak’ahs; two tashahud]

Both of these are narrated in the Sunnah, so if a person does it one way sometimes and the other way sometimes, that is good.

It is permissible to say it with one Salam, but it should be with only one tashahhud and not two, because if he does it with two Tashahhuds, it will be like Maghrib prayer, and the Prophet s.a.w forbade making it like Maghrib prayer.[ Al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 4/14-16]

[Fatawa No 38230 Islam Q&A]

Witir Should Not Resemble Maghrib

The Prophet s.a.w forbade praying witir as three raka’ahs, and explained this by saying: “Do not pray Witir with three raka’ahs that resemble Maghrib.” [Narrated by al-Hakim (1/304), al-Baihaqi (3/31) and al-Daraqutni (p. 172), and which was classified as sahih by al-Hakim in accordance to the conditions of Al-Bukhari and Muslim.]

Prophet s.a.w meant was that we should not sit to recite the first Tashahhud in a manner that resembles Maghrib.

[Fath al-Baari by Ibn Hajar, 4/301. Al-Hafiz said: Its isnad is sahih according to the conditions of al-Bukhari and Muslim. See also ‘Awn al-Ma’bud, commentary on hadith no. 1423; Salat Al-Tarawih by Al-Albani, p. 97.]

Adding another Raka’ah to the Imam’s Witir as One Intents to pray more Later 

There is nothing wrong with it, and the ‘ulama’ stated that it is permissible, so long that his witir is done at the end of the night.

He is considered to have fulfilled which he had prayed with the imam until he concluded it, because he stayed with him until he concluded. The fact that he added another raka’ah is for a shar’ie reason, so that he could pray witir later in the night  he would do no wrong , he did not forsaking the imam but he continues from him – rather he just delayed it a little longer.

[Al-Jawab Al-Sahih Min Ahkam Salat Al-Layl Wa’l-Tarawih by Shaikh ‘Abdal ‘Aziz Ibn Baaz, p. 41.]

Can one do Witir twice in one night after doing it with the imam? 

In the case one prays Witir then he wishes to do Qiyamu-lail after that, he should pray them two by two, and he does not have to repeat Witir.

The Prophet s.a.w commanded that the last prayer offered at night should be Witir, but this command is in the sense that is it mustahabb, not obligatory.

Shaykh Ibn Baaz said:  If you have  done Witir at the beginning of the night then Allah enables you to get up at the end of the night, and then pray whatever you can two by two – without Witir, because the Prophet s.a.w said: “There cannot be any two Witirs in one night.”  

 ‘Aishah r.a said that the Prophet s.a.w used to perform two raka’ahs after Witir in a way of sitting down. The reason   was to show that it is permissible to pray after Witir. Allah knows best

[Majmu’ Fatawa al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz, 11/311]

And Allah knows best.

About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

One Response to How To Offer Witir Prayer

  1. Shehzaadi alkaf says:

    Am satisfied with ur answer to my question…
    I was smwer lost,
    Allah(S.W.T) show me the wright path… Ameen!!

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