The Ruling on "Witr" prayer
For the easy understanding of readers this following article shall be divided into following 5 parts and then they shall be explained in detail
A) Importance + Legal status of the prayer itself
B) It’s number of rakats
C) Witr is prayed like Maghrib with one salutation in last Rakat.
D) Saying Qunoot before going in Ruku of Third Rakat.
E) For how Long does it’s time last?
Let us start with the Importance + Legal status of this prayer according to Shariah.
The ahnaaf are special in considering the witr prayer as “Wajib (necessary)” whereas the La-Madhabiyyah either consider it as Sunnat-e-Mu’akdah or Nafl prayer (Note: All 4 valid schools remain correct even if they differ with one another whereas the La-Madhabiyyah sect even if it reaches a right opinion they would still be Ahlul Bidah as they are not following a sound school of jurisprudence at first place.) The stance of Ahnaaf is most strict in regards to following Sunnah.
Witr is Wajib (Necessary)
Proof # 1
حدثنا إسماعيل ابن العباس الوراق حدثنا محمد ابن حسان الأزرق ثنا سفيان ابن عيينة عن الزهري عن عطاء ابن يزيد عن أبي أيوب عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: «الوتر حق واجب، فمن شاء أوتر بثلاث فليوتر، ومن شاء أن يوتر بواحدة فليوتر، بواحدة.
Translation: Narrated by Abu Ayyub who narrated from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) who said: Witr is a "RIGHT (HAQQ)" upon you which is “WAJIB”. If you want to pray it with three rakahs then do it, If you want to pray it with one rakah then do it. [Sunnan Daraqutni, Hadith # 1617]
Important Note: Please refer to the Rakat section for more details about the most sound opinion in regards to Rakahs in Witr.
Comment on above hadith: This hadith has an absolutely Sahih Chain and even if Imam Daraqutni said that word “WAJIB” is not Mahfuz it does not matter because the hadith also contains the wording “HAQQ” which proves witr to be Wajib too.
Regarding the chain of this hadith Allama Muhammad Shams ul Haq AzeemAbadi said: All narrators of this hadith are “THIQA” Hafidh Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani (rah) said that this hadith has been narrated by Abu Dawud, Nasai’i and Daraqutni in his Ilal. Imam Bayhaqi and some other Muhaditheen have said that this hadith is “Mawquf” and this is correct [At-Taleeq Mughni ala Daraqutni (2/23)]
Proof # 2
حدثنا ابنُ المُثَنَّى أخبرنا أَبُو إِسْحَاقَ الطَّالَقَانِيُّ أخبرنا الْفَضْلُ بنُ مُوسَى عن عُبَيْدِالله بنِ عَبْدِ الله الْعَتَكِيِّ عن عَبْدِ الله بنِ بُرَيْدَةَ عن أبِيهِ ، قال: سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ الله صلى الله عليه وسلّم يَقُولُ: «الْوِتْرُ حَقٌّ فَمنْ لَمْ يُوتِرْ فَلَيْسَ مِنَّا، الْوِتْرُ حَقٌّ فَمنْ لَمْ يُوتِرْ فَلَيْسَ مِنَّا، الْوِتْرُ حَقٌّ فَمنْ لَمْ يُوتِرْ فَلَيْسَ مِنَّا».
Translation: Narrated Buraydah ibn al-Hasib: I heard the Apostle of Allah (Peace be upon him) say: The Witr is a duty, so he who does not observe it does not belong to us; the witr is a duty, so he who does not observe it does not belong to us; the witr is a duty, so he who does not observe it does not belong to us. [Sunnan Abu Dawud, Book 8, Hadith # 1414, Online Version]
This hadith is also authentic because Sukoot (silence) of Imam Abu Dawud (rah) itself proves authenticity of the hadith as Imam Abu Dawud (rah) said: Whatever Hadith there is in my book that has a severe weakness, then I have clarified it, and whatever I did not mention anything about it, then “IT IS SALIH (UPRIGHT)” and some of them are more correct than others [Sunnan Abu Dawud, Volume No.1, Page No. 23, Dar us-Salaam version]
Comment: Having said that we consider it necessary to tell that one narrator i.e. “Ubayd Ullah bin Abdullah al-Atki” has been called weak by some Muhaditheen but the overwhelming Majority have done Tadeel over him [Refer to Tahdhib ut Tahdhib of Ibn Hajr for more details]
Proof # 3
حدثنا أَبُو الْوَلِيدِ الطَّيَالِسِيُّ وَ قُتَيْبَةُ بنُ سَعِيدٍ المَعْنَى قالا أخبرنا اللَّيْثُ عن يَزِيدَ بنِ أبي حَبيبٍ عن عَبْدِ الله بنِ رَاشِدٍ الزَّوْفِيِّ عن عَبْدِ الله بنِ أبي مُرَّةَ الزَّوْفِيِّ عن خَارِجَةَ بنِ حُذَافَةَ قال أَبُو الْوَلِيدِ الْعَدَوِيّ ، قال: «خَرَجَ عَلَيْنَا رَسُولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلّم فَقَالَ: إِنَّ الله تَعَالَىَ قَدْ أَمَدَّكُمْ بِصَلاَةٍ وَهي خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ مِنْ حُمْرِ النَّعَمِ وَهي الْوِتْرُ فَجَعَلَهَا لَكُم فَيما بَيْنَ الْعِشَاءِ إِلَى طُلوعِ الْفَجْرِ
Translation: Narrated Kharijah ibn Hudhafah al-Adawi: The Apostle of Allah (Peace be upon him) came out to us and said: Allah the Exalted has given you "AN EXTRA PRAYER" which is better for you then the red camels (i.e. high breed camels). This is the witr which Allah has appointed for you between the night prayer and the daybreak. [Sunnan Abu Dawud, Book 8, Number 141]
Again Imam Abu Dawud has done Sukoot over this hadith which proves that he considered it authentic. Above all the ahadith proving witr to be Wajib have now become Ghair Wahid and chance of them being weak is eliminated.
Proof # 4
حدثنا مُحمَّدُ بنُ عَوْفٍ أخبَرَنَا عُثْمانُ بنُ سَعِيدٍ عن أبي غَسَّانَ مُحمَّدِ بنِ مُطَرِّفٍ المَدَنيِّ عنْ زَيْدِ بنِ أَسْلَمَ عنْ عَطَاءِ بنِ يَسَارٍ عنْ أبي سَعِيدٍ ، قال قال رَسُولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلّم: «مَنْ نَامَ عَنْ وِتْرِهِ أَوْ نَسِيَهُ فَلْيُصَلِّهِ إِذَا ذَكَرَهُ».
Translation: Narrated AbuSa'id al-Khudri: The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: If anyone oversleeps and misses the witr, or forgets it, "HE SHOULD PRAY WHEN HE REMEMBERS" [Abu Dawud: Hadith # 1426]
Comment: This hadith also proves Witr to be Wajib because “Qadha” is only done of Fardh and Wajib prayers not Nawafil.
Proof # 5
حدّثنا عبد الله ، حدَّثني أبي، ثنا محمد بن سواء أبو الخطاب السدوسي قال: سألت المثنى بن الصباح ، عن عمرو بن شعيب ، عن أبيه، عن جده أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلّم قال: «إن الله زادكم صلاة فحافظوا عليها وهي : الوتر
Translation: Hadrat Ibn Umar (ra) narrates that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: Allah has “INCREASED ONE PRAYER FOR YOU” and you should guard it. This prayer is the “WITR PRAYER” [Musnad Ahmed bin Hanbal, Hadith # 6919]
This hadith is “Hasan li Ghayri” as said by Allama Shu’ayb al Ara’noot [Musnad Ahmed (2/205)]
Above all the hadith # 4 & 5 have many other corroborating proofs which strengthen them.
B) The Number of Rakats in Witr Salaat
According to the Hanafi school of jurisprudence which is the most dominant and widely followed school throughout the Muslim world, the number of Rakats in Witr are “Three (3)”. Here are some of the many proofs which establish that minimum rakats of Witr are Three
Proof # 1
Narrated Abu Salama bin 'Abdur-Rahman: That he asked 'Aisha "How was the prayer of Allah's Apostle in the month of Ramadan?" She replied, "He used not to pray more than eleven Rakat whether in Ramadan or in any other month. He used to offer four Rakat, let alone their beauty and length, and then four Rakat, let alone their beauty and length. "AFTERWARDS HE WOULD OFFER THREE RAKAT"...[Volume 4, Book 56, Number 769: (Sahih Bukhari)]
The Hadith of Aisha (ra) is also narrated in Muwatta Imam Malik with wording of “THREE” [Refer to Book 7, Number 7.2.9: Muwatta Imam Malik]
Comment: This hadith talks about throughout the year and thus witr remains 3 throughout the year.
Proof # 2
'Abdullah b. 'Abbas reported: He spent (one night) in the house of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). He (the Holy Prophet) got up, brushed his teeth and performed ablution and said:" In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, there are indeed signs for people of understanding" (al-Qur'an, iii. 190), to the end of the Surah. He then stood up and prayed two rak'ahs, standing, bowing and prostrating himself at length in them. Then he finished, went to sleep and snored. He did that three times, six rak'ahs altogether, each time cleaning his teeth, performing ablution, and reciting these verses. "THEN HE OBSERVED THREE RAK'AHS OF WITR"... [Book 004, Number 1682: (Sahih Muslim)]
Proof # 3
Abdul Aziz bin Jarih (ra) narrates that he asked Aisha (ra) about what the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) used to recite in Witr, she replied: He used to recite in the “First rakaat”:” سبح اسم ربك الأعلى” and in the “Second rakaat” “قل يا أيها الكافرون” and in the ”Third rakaat” “قل هو الله أحد” or he used to recite (any) of the Muudithayn (i.e. Al Falaq and An Naas) [Sunnah Tirmidhi, Volume No. 2, Hadith # 463 – Imam Tirimdhi declared this hadith as “Hassan”]
Proof # 4
Ibrahim al-Nakhai said that Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) said: I would not readily give up praying Witr with “Three rakahs” not even in exchange for the red hided cattle[Muwatta Imam Muhammad, Page No. 127, Turath Publishing]
Proof # 5
Muhammad said: “Yaqub Ibn Ibrahim informed us, Husayb Ibn Ibrahim informed us that Ibn Masud (ra) said: “NEVER DID A SINGLE RAKAH SUFFICE” [Muwatta Imam Muhammad, Page No. 128]
Proof # 6
Ibrahim al-Nakhai said that Alqamah said: Abdullah Ibn Masud (ra) informed us “The least that Witr can be is three rakahs” [Ibid, Pg. 128]
Proof # 7
These are also narrated in Majma Az Zawaid with reference to Tabarani, Imam Haythami declared the chain to be “Hassan” [Majma Al Zawaid, Volume No. 2, Page No. 249]
Proof # 8
Abu Sa’eed al Khudri (rah) narrates that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has forbidden to pray “Al-Batra” which means that a person praying 1 rakat of Witr. [Imam al Zayli in Nasb al Raya (2/120)]
Comment: One narrator of this hadith i.e.Usman bin Muhammad bin Rabi’i has been declared weak by Imam al-Uqayli (rah), however Imam Turkamani (rah) said:
وفي سنده عثمان بن محمد بن ربيعة قال العقيلي الغالب على حديثه الوهم ذكره صاحب التمهيد ولم يتكلم عليه احد بشئ فيما علمنا غير العقيلي وكلامه خفيف وقد اخرج له الحاكم في المستدرك.
Translation: In this chain is present Uthman bin Muhammad bin Rabi’i, al-Uqayli said: He gets “Wahm” in hadith and this is mentioned by author of at-Tamheed. However “NONE OF THE ULAMA IN PAST HAVE DONE JARH (CRITICISM) ON HIM EXCPET UQAYLI AND EVEN HIS JARH IS MINOR” Hakim has narrated from him in his Mustadrak [Jawhar al Naqi in chapter of: Rakats in Witr]
Even if this specific hadith is considered weak still it is corroborated by many other ahadith which makes it Sahih/Hasan li Ghayri. Here let us show you another hadith.
Proof # 9
وعن حصينٍ قالَ: بلغَ ابنَ مسعودٍ أَنَّ سَعْداً يُوتِرُ بركْعَةٍ قالَ: «ما أَجْزَأَتْ ركعةٌ قَطُّ».
رواه الطبراني في الكبير، وحصين لم يدرك ابن مسعود، وإسناده حسن.
Translation: Hussain (rah) said that Ibn Masud (ra) found out that Sa’d (ra) prays one Rakat witr, Ibn Masud (RA) said: I do not consider 1 Rakat as enough (for prayer)
This hadith is narrated by Tabarani in his al-Kabeer, Hussain has not seen Ibn Masud (ra) and “THE CHAIN IS HASAN” [Majma al Zawaid (2/504)]
Comment: Someone might wonder that when Hussain has not seen Ibn Masud then howocme Imam al-Haythami (rah) declared the chain as “Hasan” the answer is that Muhaditheen do not only look at one chain when passing a ruling, they have in consideration many other chains due to which they declare some hadith as Hasan or even Sahih. Hence It is proven from Multiply narrated and Sahih/Hassan ahadith that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) used to pray 3 Rakat Witr and Sahaba endorced that 1 Rakat of prayer is not enough.
C) Witr is prayed like "MAGHRIB"
Now let me come towards another important issue of how to conclude the Witr prayer i.e. when to say salutation, whether after second rakat or after last third rakat.
Proof # 1
Yahya related to me from Malik from Abdullah ibn Dinar that Abdullah ibn Umar used to say, "The maghrib prayer is the witr of the daytime prayers. ["Book 7, Number 7.3.22: (Muwatta Imam Malik)]
Comment: This hadith proves without any shadow of doubt that Witr has to be prayed just like Maghrib prayer, in Maghrib we do not say salutation in-between rather we say it in the end of third rakat.
Proof # 2
Imam Muhammad after narrating this hadith said: We adhere to this. Whoever makes Maghrib with the Witr of daytime prayer as Ibn Umar (ra) said, should make the Witr of the night-time prayer the like of it, not separating the two [the set of two rakahs from the single rakah] by saying As-Salamu Alaykum in-between. This is the verdict of Abu Hanifa, may Allah have mercy on him [Muwatta Imam Muhammad, Page No. 124]
Proof # 3
Imam Muhammad made a whole chapter on “Saying as-Salamu Alaykum in Witr and brought under it these ahadith
Abu Ubaydah said: Abdullah Ibn Masud said: Witr is “Three” like the “Three” of Maghrib [Muwatta Imam Muhammad, Page No. 127]
Proof # 4
From Ata that Ibn Abbas (ra) said: Witr is like the prayer of Maghrib [Muwatta Imam Muhammad, Page No. 128, Hadith # 263]
Salutation is only made in the Last Rakat
Proof # 5
Imam Muhammad also narrated another hadith from Aisha (ra) that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) used not to say As Salamu alaykum after two rakahs [Muwatta Imam Muhammad, Page No. 128, Hadith # 263]
Proof # 6
أنبأ يحيى بن موسى البلخي قال حدثنا عبد العزيز بن خالد قال حدثنا سعيد بن أبي عروبة عن قتادة عن عزرة عن سعيد بن عبد الرحمن بن أبزى عن أبيه عن أبي بن كعب قال كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقرأ في الوتر بسبح اسم ربك الأعلى وفي الركعة الثانية بقل يا أيها الكافرون وفي الثالثة بقل هو الله أحد ولا يسلم إلا في آخرهن
Translation: It was narrated that Ubayy bin Ka’b (RA) said: "The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) used to recite: “Glorify the Name of your Lord the Most High (Al-A’La: 87):” in Witr, in the second Rakah he would recite: “Say: O you disbelievers! (Al-Kafiroon:109)”, and in the third “Say: He is Allah, (the) One (Al-Ikhlas:112). And "HE ONLY SAID THE TASLIM AT THE END" and he would say – meaning after the Taslim: ‘Subhanal-Malikil-Quddus (Glory be to the sovereign, the Most Holy)’ three times.”[Sunnan Nasai’i, Hadith # 1702]
Proof # 7
أَخْبَرَنَا إسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ مَسْعُودٍ قَالَ: أخبرنا بِشْرُ ـ يعني ابْنُ الْمُفَضَّلِ ـ قَالَ: أخبرنا سَعِيدٌ عَنْ قَتَادَةَ عَنْ زُرَارَةَ بْنِ أَوْفَى عَنْ سَعْدِ بْنِ هِشَامٍ أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ ، حَدَّثَتْهُ: «أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ كَانَ لاَ يُسَلِّمُ فِي رَكْعَتَيِ الْوَتْرِ».
Translation: It was narrated from Saad bin Hisham that Aishah (RA) told him: “The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) would not say the salutation in the second Rakat of Witr [Sunnan Nasai’i, Hadith # 1699]
Regarding this hadith Imam al-Nawawi (rah) inspite of being a Shafi’i said:
Qunoot is recited "Before going in Ruku"
حديث عائشة رضي الله عنها «أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلّم لا يسلم في ركعتي الوتر» رواه النسائي بإسناد حسن، ورواه البيهقي في «السنن الكبيرة» بإسناد صحيح
Translation: The hadith of Aisha (ra) from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) that he would not say the salutation in the second Rakat of Witr is narrated by Imam al-Nasai’i with “HASAN CHAIN” and Imam al-Bayhaqi (rah) in his Sunnan al-Kabeer with “SAHIH CHAIN” [Al Majmu (4/23)]
Proof # 8
حدّثنا حفص عن عمرو عن الحسن قال: أجمع المسلمون عن أن الوتر ثلاث لا يسلّم إلا في آخرهن.
Translation: Imam Hasan al-Basri (rah) said: There is “IJMA (CONSENSUS)” of the Muslims that witr consists of 3 Rakahs and Salaam is said “AT THE END (NOT MIDDLE)” [Musannad Ibn Abi Shaybah (2/194)]
These overwhelming routes prove beyond any shadow of doubt that Witr is prayed like Maghrib and Salutation is only given in the last rakat.
D) Now here is proof that Qunoot is said in Witr before going in Ruku of Third Rakat
Proof # 1
Hadith: Ubay bin Ka’b (ra) narrates that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) used to recite the Qunoot of Witr “BEFORE GOING IN RUKU” [Sunnan Abu Dawud under Hadith # 1428]
Proof # 2
واختلف أهل العلم في القنوت في الوتر فرأى عبد الله بن مسعود القنوت في الوتر في السنة كلها واختار القنوت قبل الركوع وهو قول بعض أهل العلم وبه يقول سفيان الثوري وابن المبارك وإسحاق وأهل الكوفة
Translation: The people of knowledge have differed about Qunoot in Witr. Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (R.A) said that the Qunoot must be recited throughout the year "AND IT IS RECITED BEFORE GOING IN RUKU" This is what some other ulama including Sufyan Thawri, Ibn Mubarak, Ishaq and the people of Kufah have also said. [Sunnan Tirmidhi, Under Hadith # 461]
Proof # 3
حدّثنا أبو بكر قال حدثنا هشيم قال: أخبرنا منصور عن الحٰرث العكلي عن إبرٰهيم عن الأسود بن يزيد أن ابن عمر قنت في الوتر قبل الركوع
Translation: Ibn Umar (RA) used to recite the Qunoot in Witr before going in Ruku [Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah (2/201)]
Many other Sahaba are also proven to have recited Qunoot of Witr before going in Ruku.
E) The timing of Witr prayer:
The timing of Witr prayer lasts from the time of Isha till before Fajr Adhaan is said. Here are proofs over it.
Proof # 1
Narrated 'Aisha: Allah's Apostle offered Witr prayer at different nights at various hours extending (from the 'Isha' prayer) up to the last hour of the night. [Volume 2, Book 16, Number 110: (Sahih Bukhari)]
Proof # 2
Narrated Abu Qatadah: The Prophet (Peace be upon him) asked Abu Bakr: When do you observe the witr? He replied: I observe the witr prayer in the early hours of the night. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) asked Umar: When do you observe the witr? He replied: At the end of the night. He then said to Abu Bakr: This has followed it with care; and he said to Umar: He has followed it with strength. [Book 8, Number 1429: (Abu Dawood)]