Night Prayer and Witr

A reflection about the virtues of night prayer and a basic description of how to perform Witr prayer.

Abdurrahman Justin Wood

7/26/20233 min read

gray concrete tower with light
gray concrete tower with light

Night prayer, also known as Tahajjud or Qiyamul Lail, and Witr hold a special place in Islam due to their unique virtues. These voluntary prayers performed in the tranquility of the night are a means to seek closeness to Allah, display devotion, and seek His immense rewards.

The Quran highly encourages night prayer. Allah instructs the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in Surah Al-Muzzammil (73:1-6): "O you who wraps himself [in clothing], arise [to pray] the night, except for a little - Half of it - or subtract from it a little. Or add to it, and recite the Qur'an with measured recitation. Indeed, We will cast upon you a heavy word. Indeed, the hours of the night are more effective for concurrence [of heart and tongue] and more suitable for words."

Night prayer was a common practice among the righteous people of the early generations, who understood its spiritual benefits and the tranquility it brings to the heart. They would wake up in the last third of the night, forsaking their sleep to stand before their Lord, reciting the Quran, reflecting upon its meanings, and seeking Allah's forgiveness. It was a source of their strength, resilience, and steadfastness.

In our contemporary world, amidst the noise, stress, and busyness, the night prayer serves as a refuge for the believer. It is a time of solitude and quiet, where one can disconnect from worldly distractions and connect with their Creator in a unique and intimate manner. The serenity and peace gained through night prayer can provide a spiritual replenishment, which can in turn have a positive impact on our mental and emotional health.

May Allah grant us the ability to stand for night prayer and reap its numerous benefits.

Praying Tahajjud:

Tahajjud prayer is typically prayed in pairs of two rak'ahs. You can pray for as long or as short a duration as you find comfortable.

Ending with Witr:

When you're ready to conclude your prayer session, the common practice is to perform Witr, which is usually three rakahs. This can be prayed as:

1. Two rakahs, followed by Taslim (saying "As-salamu alaykum"), then one more separate rakah.

2. Or, three rakahs consecutively with only one Taslim at the end.

It is a Sunnah to read Surah A'la in the first rak'ah, Surah Kafirun in the second, and Surah Ikhlas in the final one. However, feel free to recite any Surahs that you are comfortable with!

Optional Dua of Qunoot:

In the final rakah of Witr, after saying "Sami Allahu liman hamidah / Rabbana wa lakal Hamd" when you stand up from Ruku, you can recite the Dua of Qunoot (The Supplication of Standing in Devotion).

Raise your hands and say:

اللّهُـمَّ اهْـدِنـي فـيمَنْ هَـدَيْـت، وَعـافِنـي فـيمَنْ عافَـيْت، وَتَوَلَّـني فـيمَنْ تَوَلَّـيْت، وَبارِكْ لـي فـيما أَعْطَـيْت، وَقِـني شَرَّ ما قَضَـيْت، فَإِنَّـكَ تَقْـضي وَلا يُقْـضى عَلَـيْك ، إِنَّـهُ لا يَـذِلُّ مَنْ والَـيْت، [ وَلا يَعِـزُّ مَن عـادَيْت ]، تَبـارَكْـتَ رَبَّـنا وَتَعـالَـيْت

Allāhumma’hdinī fī man hadayt,

wa `āfinī fī man `āfayt,

wa tawallanī fī man tawallayt,

wa bārik lī fī mā a`atayt,

wa qinī sharra mā qaḍayt,

fa innaka taqḍī wa lā yuqḍā `alayk,

innahu lā yadhillu man wālayt,

[wa lā ya`izzu man `ādayt] ,

tabārakta Rabbanā wa ta`ālayt.

This translates to:

O Allah, guide me with those whom You have guided,

and strengthen me with those whom You have given strength.

Take me to Your care with those whom You have taken to Your care.

Bless me in what You have given me.

Protect me from the evil You have ordained.

Surely, You command and are not commanded,

and none whom You have committed to Your care shall be humiliated

[and none whom You have taken as an enemy shall taste glory].

You are Blessed, Our Lord, and Exalted.

You can read the dua from a paper or a screen if you need to. It's not required, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) didn't read it every time he prayed Witr. However, it has a beautiful meaning and is a beneficial addition to your prayers.

Concluding the Witr Prayer:

After the Dua of Qunoot, perform two Sujoods (prostrations), then sit for the final Tashahhud and conclude your prayer with Tasleem as usual. Remember that the manner of prayer is important, and must be completed by sincerity and concentration in the heart. May Allah accept our efforts and draw us closer to Him through our acts of devotion and service.