It is best to delay this prayer to the last third portion of the night. Abu Hurairah reports that the Messenger of Allah 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?”’ This is related by the group.
‘Amr ibn Abasah reports 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 Allah, the Exalted One, at that time then do so.” This is related by al-Hakim who grades it sahih according to Muslim’s standards, and at-Tirmizhi calls it Hasan Sahih. An-Nasa’i and Ibn Khuzaimah also recorded it.
Abu Muslim asked Abu Zharr: “Which late-night prayer is the best?” He said: “I asked the Messenger of Allah the same that you asked me and he said, ‘The (one done during) middle of the latter half of the night, and very few do it.’” This is related by Ahmad with a good chain.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr reports that the Prophet said: “The most beloved fast to Allah is the fast of David. And the most beloved prayer to Allah is the prayer of David. He would sleep half of the night and then pray during the next third of the night and then sleep during the last sixth of the night. And he would fast one day and not fast the next.” This is related by the group except at-Tirmizhi.
The number of rak’at to be performed during Tahajjud:
The Tahajjud prayer does not entail a specific number of rak’at 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 says: “The Messenger of Allah ordered us to pray during the night, a little or a lot, and to make the last of the prayer the witr prayer.” This is related by at-Tabarani and al-Bazzar.
Anas relates that the Messenger of Allah said: “Prayer in my mosque is equal to ten thousand prayers [elsewhere]. And prayer in the inviolable mosque is equivalent to one hundred thousand prayers [elsewhere]. And prayer in the battlefield is equivalent to one million prayers [elsewhere]. And what is more than all of that is two rak’at by a slave [of Allah] during the middle of the night.” This is reported by Abu ash-Shaikh, Ibn Hibban in his work ath-Thawab, and al-Munzhiri, in his book at-Targhib watTarhib, is silent about it.
Iyas ibn Mu’awiyyah al-Mazni reports that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “The night prayer should certainly be performed even if it is for the length of time that it takes one to milk a sheep. And whatever is after the obligatory ‘isha is of the tahajjud.” This is related by at-Tabarani, and all of its narrators are trustworthy save Muhammad ibn Ishaq.
Ibn ‘Abbas relates: “I mentioned the tahajjud prayer and some of the people said that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said: ‘It may be half of the night, a third of the night, a fourth of the night or a fraction of the time for milking a camel or a sheep.””
Ibn ‘Abbas also narrates that the Prophet ordered them and encouraged them to make the tahajjud prayer to the extent that he said: “You should perform salatul layil even if it is just one rak’ah.” This is related by atTabarani in al-Kabir and al-Awsat.
It is preferable to pray eleven or thirteen rak’at for tahajjud
One may choose between praying them all together or to separate them. ‘Aishah says: “The Messenger of Allah never prayed more than eleven rak’at, during Ramadan or otherwise. He would pray four rak’at, and don’t ask about how excellent they were or how lengthy they were. Then, he would pray four rak’at, and don’t ask about how excellent they were or how lengthy they were. Then, he would pray three rak’at. I asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah, do you sleep before praying witr?’ he replied: ‘O ‘Aishah, my eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep.”’ This is recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim who also record that al-Qasim ibn Muhammad said that he heard ‘Aishah say: “The Messenger of Allah’s prayer during the night would be ten rak’at and then he would make witr with one rak’ah.”
Making Qada’ for the missed Tahajjud
Muslim records that ‘Aishah said: “If the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam missed the late-night prayers due to pain or anything else, he would pray twelve rak’at during the day.”
‘Umar reports that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “Whoever sleeps past his full portion [of the late-night prayers] or part of them, he should pray between the dawn and noon prayers and it would be recorded for him as if he had prayed during the night.” This is related by the group except for al-Bukhari.
The legality of the Tarawih prayer
The specific prayers during the month of Ramadan, which are known as Tarawih, are Sunnah for both men and women, and they are to be performed after the obligatory ‘isha and before the performance of the witr. They should be prayed in sets of two rak’at each. It is allowed to pray them after witr; though, this is not the best thing to do. They may be performed until the end of the night.
Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam would encourage people to perform the special prayers during Ramadan without commanding them as obligatory and he said: “Whoever prays during the nights of Ramadan [tarawih] with a firm belief and hoping for reward, all of his previous sins would be forgiven.” This is related by the group.
‘Aishah says: “The Prophet offered Salah in the mosque and many people prayed with him. The next day he did the same and more people prayed with him. Then the people gathered on the third night but, the Prophet did not come out to them. In the morning, he said to them: ‘Surely I saw what you did, and nothing prevented me from coming out to you, save that I feared that [that prayer] would be made obligatory upon you.’ And that was during Ramadan.” This is related by the group except for at-Tirmizhi.
Al-Kamal ibn al-Hamam says: “The evidence indicates that the sunnah of the twenty rak’at is what the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam himself did and then he stopped out of fear that it would become something obligatory (for his followers), therefore, the rest of the rak’at are only preferred. It is however, confirmed that he only prayed eleven rak’at, including the witr, as is stated in the two sahihs. According to the scholars, the sunnah is eight rak’at while it is preferred to pray twelve rak’at.”
To be continued