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The Night Prayer (Qiyaam al-Layl)

What is Qiyaam al-Layl?

Qiyaam' means 'standing' and 'Qiyaam al-

Layl' means 'standing in night.' In the
Islamic terminology, both terms refer to
'the voluntary night prayer, whose time
extends from after 'Ishaa’ (evening) prayer until dawn.' Qiyaam al-
Layl is also known as Tahajjud.

A widespread misconception is that Tahajjud is a different night

prayer than Qiyaam. The true is that there is only one voluntary night
prayer known by different names.

The excellence of night prayer:

Numerous Prophetic narrations and Quranic verses mention the

excellence of night prayer and the merit of those who perform it
regularly. Allaah The Almighty, Says (what means): "O you who
wraps himself [in clothing], arise [to pray] the night, except
for a little – half of it – or subtract from it a littleor add to it,
and recite the Quran with measured recitation."[Quran 73: 1-4]

It is reported that the Messenger of Allaah said: “Allaah, Our Lord,

descends (in a manner befitting His Majesty) to the nearest heaven to
us of this universe during the last third of the night and says: ‘Is
there anyone to call upon Me so that I shall respond to him
(fulfill his prayer). Is there anyone to ask of Me that I may
grant his request. Is there anyone to seek My forgiveness so
that I shall pardon him (and forgive his sins)’.” [Al-Bukhaari and

Aa'ishah reported that the Prophet said: “The most beloved

deeds to Allaah are the most constant, even if they were little” [Al-

Bukhaari and Muslim], and she said in another narration: “Do not

ever stop praying Qiyaam. The Prophet never ceased praying it.

When he was sick or weak, he prayed sitting.” [Al-Bukhaari and


The Messenger of Allaah in another Hadeeth, said: "The closest

one can be to Allaah The Almighty, is during the last third of the
night. If one can remember Allaah The Almighty, at this time let him
do so." [At-Tirmithi, An-Nasaa'i and Al-Haaqim]

The Prophet also said: “You should pray Qiyaam al-Layl, for it is
the habit of the righteous people who came before you, and it will
bring you closer to your Lord, expiate for bad deeds, prevent sin, and
expel disease from the body.”[At-Tirmithi and Ahmad]

Mu'ath Ibn Jabal narrated that the Prophet said to him: “May I
show you the gates of goodness?' (They are) “Fasting is screen from
Hell, charity extinguishes the sins as water extinguishes fire, standing
in prayer by a slave of Allaah during the last third part of a night.”

Then the Prophet recited this verse (what means):“They arise

from [their] beds; they supplicate their Lord in fear and
aspiration…" (Quran 32: 16) [Abu Daawood and At-Tirmithi]

Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allaah said: “The

best of prayer after those prescribed (i.e. obligatory prayer) is that in
the depth of night.” [Muslim]

Abu Hurayrah also reported that the Messenger of Allaah said:

“May Allaah have mercy on a man who wakes up at night, prays, and
wakes his wife to pray; and if she refuses, he sprinkles water on her
face. And may Allaah have mercy on a woman who wakes up at
night, prays, and wakes her husband to pray; and if he refuses, she
sprinkles water on his face.” [Abu Daawood]

Abdullaah Ibn Bashr reported Allaah's Messenger saying:

“Whoever prays night prayer reciting ten verses, he will not be
recorded among the negligent. Whoever prays night prayer reciting
one hundred verses, he will be recorded among the devout. And
whoever prays night prayer reciting one thousand verses, he will be
recorded among those with a multitude of good deeds.”[Abu

Again, the Prophet said: "Verily, there is one hour during the
(entire) night when any Muslim (submitting to the Will of Allaah the
Almighty) may call upon Allaah and request anything of Him,
regardless of whether the matter be worldly or of the hereafter.
Allaah, theAlmighty will grant and fulfill the request. This is the case
every night." [Muslim]
Those who regularly perform the night prayers are the righteous and
are more deserving of Allaah's bounty and mercy. Allaah Says (what
means): "Indeed, the righteous will be among gardens and
springs,accepting what their Lord has given them. Indeed,
they were before that doers of good.They used to sleep but
little of the night,and in the hours before dawn they would
ask forgiveness." [Quran 51: 15-18]

Allaah Says that those who do not possess these qualities cannot be
treated as equal to those who possess them. He The Almighty Says
(what means): "Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods
of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the
Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who
does not]? Say, "Are those who know equal to those who do
not know?" Only they will remember [who are] people of
understanding.''[Quran 39: 9]

Etiquettes of night prayer:

The following acts are Sunnah (recommended) for the one who
wishes to perform the night prayers. Upon going to sleep, one should

make the intention to perform the prayers. Abu Ad-Dardaa' related

that the Prophet said: "Whoever goes to his bed with the intention
of getting up and praying during the night, and sleep overcomes him
until the morning comes, he will have recorded for him what he had
intended, and his sleep will be a charity for him from his Lord."[An-
Nasaa'i and Ibn Maajah]

Upon waking, one should wipe one's face, use a Miswaak (toothstick),
and make this supplication: "There is no god but You, Glory be to You,
I seek forgiveness from You for my sins, and I ask for Your mercy. O
Allaah, increase my knowledge and let my heart not swerve after You
have guided me, and bestow mercy upon me from Yourself. All praise
be to Allaah who has given us back life after our death and unto Him
is the resurrection."

Then, one should recite the last ten verses of chapter 'Al-'Imraan',
then one should say, "O Allaah, to You belongs the praise. You are the
Light of the heavens and the earth and what is therein. And to You
belongs the praise. You are the truth and Your promise is true. And
the meeting with You is true. And the paradise is true. And the Fire is
true. And the prophets are true. And Muhammad is true. And the
Hour is true. O Allaah, to You have I submitted. And in You have I
believed. And in You have I put my trust. And to You have I turned.
And by You I argue. And to You do I turn for my decisions. Forgive me
of my former and latter sins, and those done in private and those
done in public. You are Allaah, there is no god besides You."

One should begin the night prayer with two quick Rak'ahs and then

may pray whatever he wishes after that. 'Aa'ishah said: "When the

Prophet prayed during the late-night, he would begin his prayers

with two quick Rak'ahs." [Muslim]

The recommended time for night prayer:

The night prayer may be performed in the early part of the night, the
middle part of the night, or the latter part of the night, but after the
obligatory 'Ishaa' (evening) prayer.
Anas described the prayer of the Prophet as: "If we wanted to
see him praying during the night, we could see him praying. If we
wanted to see him sleeping during the night, we could see him

sleeping. And sometimes he would fast for so many days that we

thought he would not leave fasting throughout that month. And

sometimes he would not fast (for so many days) that we thought

he would not fast during that month." [Al-Bukhaari, Ahmad and An-
Nasaa' i]

Commenting on this subject, Ibn Hajar said: "There was no

specific time in which the Prophet would perform his night prayer,

but he would do whatever was easiest for him."

Best time for night prayer:

It is best to delay this prayer to the last third portion of the night. Abu

Hurayrah reported that the Prophet 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?"'

'Amr Ibn Abasah reported that he heard the Prophet 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
Allaah, the Exalted One, at that time then do so." [Al-Haakim, At-
Tirmithi and An-Nasaa'i]

The number of Rak'ahs (units of prayer) to be performed

during night prayer:

The night prayer does not entail a specific number of Rak'ahs which
must be performed nor is there any maximum limit which has to be
performed. It would be fulfilled even if one just prayed one Rak'ah of
Witr after the obligatory night prayer.

Samurah Ibn Jundub said: "The Messenger of Allaah ordered us to

pray during the night, a little or a lot, and to make the last of the
prayer the Witr prayer." [At-Tabaraani and Al-Bazzaar]

It is preferable to pray eleven or thirteen Rak'ahs for night


One may choose between praying them all together or to separate

them. 'Aa'ishah said: "The Messenger of Allaah never prayed

more than eleven Rak'ahs, during Ramadhaan or otherwise. He

would pray four Rak'ahs, and don't ask about how excellent they were

or how lengthy they were. Then, he would pray four Rak'ahs, and
don't ask about how excellent they were or how lengthy they were.

Then, he would pray three Rak'ahs. I asked: 'O Messenger of

Allaah, do you sleep before praying Witr?' He replied: 'O 'Aa'ishah,

my eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep."' [Al-Bukhaari and
'Aa'ishah said: "The prayer of the Messenger of Allaah during the

night would be ten Rak'ahs and then he would make Witr with one