Witr PrayerWitr prayer is one of the greatest acts of worship that draw one closer to Allâh. Some of the scholars – the Hanafis – even thought that it is one of the obligatory prayers, but the correct view is that it is one of the confirmed Sunnahs (Sunnah mu’akkadah) which the Muslim should observe regularly and not neglect.

Imam Ahmad (رحمه الله) said: Whoever neglects Witr is a bad man whose testimony should not be accepted. This indicates that Witr prayer is something that is confirmed.

Timing of Witr prayer

It starts when a person has prayed ‘Isha’, (even if it is joined to Maghrib at the time of Maghrib), and lasts until dawn begins, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Allâh has prescribed for you a prayer (by which He may increase your reward), which is Witr; Allâh has enjoined it for you during the time between ‘Isha’ prayer .until dawn begins.”

(Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 425; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)

Is it better to offer Witr prayer at the beginning of its time or to delay it?

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 is better and is witnessed (by the angels). But whoever fears that he will not get up at the end of the night should pray Witr before he goes to sleep, because of the hadeeth of Jaabir (رضي الله عنه) who said: The Messenger of Allâh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) 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, 755)

The number of rak’ahs of Witr prayer

The MINIMUM number of rak’ahs for Witr is one rak’ah, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Witr is one rak’ah at the end of the night.” (Muslim, 752).

And he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) 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.” (al-Bukhari, 911; Muslim, 749).

If a person limits himself to praying one rak’ah, then he has performed the Sunnah. But Witr may also be three or five or seven or nine.

Prophet prayed Witr in different ways

He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) prayed one rak’ah, and three, and five, and seven, and nine. And he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) prayed three rak’ahs in two different ways, either continuously with one tashahhud, or saying salaam after two rak’ahs and praying one rak’ah and saying salaam after it.

He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did not pray it like Maghrib, with two tashahhuds and one salaam. Rather he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) forbade doing that, and said:

“Do not pray Witr with three rak’ahs like Maghrib.”

(Narrated by al-Haakim, 1/403; al-Bayhaqi, 3/31; al-Daaraqutni, p. 172)

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

If a person prays three rak’ahs of Witr this may be done in two ways, both of which are prescribed in sharee’ah:

1 – To pray them one after another, with one tashahhud, because of the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) who said: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used not to say the tasleem in the (first) two rakahs 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.”

(Narrated by al-Nasaa’i, 3/234; al-Bayhaqi, 3/31. al-Nawawi said in al-Majmoo’ (4/7): it was narrated by al-Nasaa’i with a hasan isnaad, and by al-Bayhaqi with a saheeh isnaad)

2 – Saying the tasleem after two rak’ahs, then praying one rak’ah on its own, because of the report narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه), that he used to separate the two rak’ahs from the single rak’ah with a tasleem, and he said that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to do that.

(Narrated by Ibn Hibbaan (2435); Ibn Hajar said in al-Fath (2/482): its isnaad is qawiy (strong))

If a person prays Witr with five or seven rak’ahs

If a person prays Witr with five or seven rak’ahs, then they 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 ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) who said: The Messenger of Allâh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) 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 it was narrated that Umm Salamah (رضي الله عنها) said: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to pray Witr with five or seven (rak’ahs) and he did not separate between them with any salaam or words.

(Narrated by Ahmad, 6/290; al-Nasaa’i, 1714. al-Nawawi said: Its isnaad is jayyid. Al-Fath al-Rabbaani, 2/297. and it was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasaa’i)

If a person prays Witr with Nine rak’ahs

If he prays Witr with nine rak’ahs, then they should be continuous and he should sit to recite the tashahhud in the eighth rak’ah, then stand up and not say the tasleem, then he should recite the tashahhud in the ninth rak’ah and then say the tasleem.

It was narrated in Muslim (746) from ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to pray nine rak’ahs in which he did not sit except in the eighth, when he would remember Allâh, 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 Allâh and praise Him and call upon Him, then he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would say a tasleem that we could hear.

If a person prayed Witr with eleven rak’ahs, he would say the tasleem after each two rak’ahs, then pray one rak’ah at the end.

Recitation during three rak’ahs of Witr

Al-Nasaa’i (1729) narrated that Ubayy ibn Ka’b (رضي الله عنه) said:

The Messenger of Allâh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to recite in Witr Sabbih isma rabbika al-‘a’la (Surah al-A’la 87), Qul yaa ayyuha’l-kaafiroon (Surah al-Kaafiroon 109) and Qul Huwa Allâhu ahad (Surah al-Ikhlaas 112).