Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Method of Salaah (Namaz): Witr Salaah Issue




Method of Salaah (Namaz): Witr Salaah Issue


ENGLISH BOOK: Hadith Proofs for the Hanafi Procedure of Witr | PAGES: 14

URDU BOOK: Namaz e Witr by Hafiz Abdul Razzak Chishti | PAGES: 28

ENGLISH BOOK: Refutation on those who claimed that some Hanafis tampered with a Hadith in the Mustadrak regarding Salaatul witr By Abul Hasan | PAGES: 22

URDU BOOK: Witr ki namaz by Mufti Shafqat Ahmad Qadri | PAGES: 59

URDU BOOK: Witr (Nusrat ul Haq) | PAGES: 146



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 الأعلىand in the “Second rakaat” قل يا أيها الكافرون and in the ”Third rakaat”قل هو الله أحدor 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)]




Hadith Proofs for the Hanafi Procedure of Witr
This is a collection of hadith proofs for the Hanafi method of Witr. It is divided into five sections:
  1. The first section is on the evidences for Witr consisting of three rak‘ahs
  2. The second is on the evidences for there being only one set of salams for Witr
  3. The third is on the evidences for sitting for tashahhud in the second rak‘ah of Witr
  4. The fourth is on the evidences for reciting Qunut before ruku‘ of the third rak‘ah of Witr
  5. The fifth is on the evidences for saying takbir and raising the hands before Qunut
Section One: Witr is Three Rak‘ahs
Hadith One
Al-Bukhari and Muslim transmitted in their Sahihs from ‘A’ishah that she said when describing the night prayer of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):
يصلي أربعا فلا تسل عن حسنهن وطولهن ثم يصلي أربعا فلا تسل عن حسنهن وطولهن ثم يصلي ثلاثا
“He would pray four (rak‘ahs of tahajjud), so do not ask about their beauty and their length. Then he would pray (another) four (rak‘ahs of tahajjud), so do not ask about their beauty and their length. And then he would pray three (rak‘ahs of Witr).” (Fath al-Bari, Dar al-Salam, 3:42)
Hadith Two
Imam Muslim transmitted in his Sahih from ‘Ali ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas from his father, ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas in the description of the Prophet’s night prayer:
ثم أوتر بثلاث
“Then he performed Witr with three (rak‘ahs).” (Fath al-Mulhim, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 5:115-6)
Ahmad, al-Tahawi and others trasmitted from Ibn ‘Abbas:
كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يوتر بثلاث بسبح اسم ربك الأعلى وقل يا أيها الكافرون وقل هو الله أحد
“The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would offer Witr with three (rak‘ahs), with [the surahs] sabbihisma rabbika l-a‘la, qul ya ayyuha l-kafirun and qul huwa Llahu ahad.”
The editors of Musnad Ahmad commented: “Its chain is sahih.” (Musnad Ahmad, Mu’assasat al-Risalah, 4:457, no. 2726)
Imam al-Tahawi narrated through multiple authentic routes from Ibn ‘Abbas that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would offer Witr with three rak‘ahs. Those who narrated this from Ibn ‘Abbas include Kurayb, ‘Ali ibn ‘Abd Allah, Sa‘id ibn Jubayr and Yahya ibn al-Jazzar. Some of these reports from Ibn ‘Abbas are also found in al-Nasa’i’s Sunan, al-Tirmidhi’s Jami‘ and Ibn Abi Shaybah’s Musannaf.
Hence, it is established from ‘A’ishah and Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them), two of the most knowledgeable companions about the Prophet’s night-prayer, that he offered three rak‘ahs of Witr. More narrations from them are documented below.
Hadith Three
Ahmad, Abu Dawud and al-Tahawi reported that ‘Abd Allah ibn Abi Qays asked ‘A’ishah how many (rak‘ahs) did the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) pray for Witr, and she replied:
كان يوتر بأربع وثلاث وست وثلاث وثمان وثلاث وعشر وثلاث
“He would perform Witr with four and three, six and three, eight and three and ten and three.”
The editors of Musnad Ahmad said: “Its chain is sahih according to the criterion of Muslim.” (Musnad Ahmad, 42:81, no. 25159)
In this narration, ‘A’ishah describes different practices of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in his night prayer. Sometimes he would offer four rak‘ahs (of tahajjud), at other times six, at other times eight and at other times ten, but in all cases he would add three rak‘ahs (of Witr). The additional three rak‘ahs are the actual Witr prayer, while the other rak‘ahs are of the optional night prayer. In hadith terminology, often “witr” is used for the sum total of the night prayer and Witr itself. This narration makes it clear that the three rak‘ahs are distinguished from the other set of prayers.
Hadith Four
Ibn Abi Shaybah, Ahmad and al-Nasa’i transmitted from Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
صلاة المغرب وتر النهار
“Maghrib prayer is the Witr of the day.”
Hafiz al-‘Iraqi sourced it to Ahmad in Takhrij al-Ihya’ and said its chain is sahih (footnotes to Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, Dar Qurtubah, 4:466, no. 6773).
‘Allamah Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni said: “The chain is according to the criterion of the two shaykhs (i.e. Bukhari and Muslim).” (Nukhab al-Afkar, Dar al-Nawadir, 5:100)
Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, one of the foremost students of Imam Abu Hanifah, said after narrating these words in his Muwatta’ as a mawquf narration from Ibn ‘Umar: “For the one who considers Maghrib prayer the Witr of the day – as Ibn ‘Umar said – it ought to be that the Witr of the night prayer is similar to it.” (al-Ta‘liq al-Mumajjad, Dar al-Qalam, 1:647)
Hadith Five
Imam al-Tahawi narrated with his chain from ‘Uqbah ibn Muslim: “I asked ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar about Witr, and he said: ‘Do you know the Witr of the Day?’ I said: ‘Yes, Maghrib prayer.’ He said: ‘You have spoken the truth.’” (Sharh Ma‘ani al-Athar, Maktabah Haqqaniyyah, 1:197)
Regarding the chain, ‘Allamah Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni said in his commentary of Sharh Maani al-Athar called Nukhab al-Afkar: “He transmitted it with a sahih Egyptian chain.” (Nukhab al-Afkar, 5:19)
Al-Tahawi then comments: “Do you not see that when ‘Uqbah asked Ibn ‘Umar about Witr, he said, ‘Do you know the Witr of the day?’ Meaning, it is like it. And in this is what informs you that Witr was three (rak‘ahs) according to Ibn ‘Umar like Maghrib prayer, since he made his answer to one asking about the Witr of the night, ‘Do you know the Witr of the day, Maghrib prayer?’” (Sharh Ma‘ani Athar, 1:197)
This corroborates the above narration.
Hadith Six
Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani narrates:
أخبرنا عبد الرحمن بن عبد الله المسعودي عن عمرو بن مرة عن أبي عبيدة قال: قال عبد الله بن مسعود: الوتر ثلاث كثلاث المغرب
‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd Allah (ibn ‘Utbah) al-Mas‘udi reported to us from ‘Amr ibn Murrah from Abu ‘Ubaydah, he said: ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud said: “Witr is three like the three of Maghrib.” (al-Ta‘liq al-Mumajjad, 2:15)
This is an authentic chain except that it is uncertain whether Abu ‘Ubaydah heard from his father, Ibn Mas‘ud. Nonetheless, this report has another authentic route free of any defects also narrated by Muhammad:
حدثنا أبو معاوية المكفوف عن الأعمش عن مالك بن الحارث عن عبد الرحمن بن يزيد عن عبد الله بن مسعود قال: الوتر ثلاث كصلاة المغرب
This report comes via the route of al-A‘mash from Malik ibn al-Harith from ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Yazid from’Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud that he said, “Witr is three like Maghrib prayer.” Al-Tahawi also narrated it via the same route through two chains, and al-‘Ayni said: “He transmitted it via two sahih routes.” (Nukhab al-Afkar, 5:107) Ibn Abi Shaybah also transmitted it via this chain in his Musannaf (no. 6779, 6889) as did ‘Abd al-Razzaq in his Musannaf (no. 4635).
Hadith Seven
The above report was also narrated as a marfu‘ hadith from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), that he said:
وتر الليل ثلاث كوتر النهار صلاة المغرب
“The Witr of the night is three, like the Witr of the day, Maghrib prayer.”
Al-Daraqutni reported it in his Sunan (no. 1653). All the narrators in his chain are reliable except Yahya ibn Zakariyya ibn Abi l-Hawajib who al-Daraqutni declared weak. However, Ibn Hibban included Yahya ibn Zakariyya in his Kitab al-Thiqat (a book on reliable narrators) which somewhat elevates his status. Nonetheless, despite the weakness of this narration it is supported by the authentic narration from the Prophet (peace be upon him) quoted previously (hadith four) and from the authentic statements of Ibn Mas‘ud and Ibn ‘Umar that compare the Maghrib prayer with Witr.
Hadith Eight
Al-Tahawi and Ibn Majah narrate with their chains from ‘Amir al-Sha‘bi that he said:
سألت ابن عباس وابن عمر: كيف كان صلاة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بالليل؟ فقال: ثلاث عشرة ركعة، ثمان ويوتر بثلاث وركعتين بعد الفجر
“I asked Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn ‘Umar: ‘How was the prayer of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) in the night?’ He said: ‘Thirteen rak‘ahs: eight (optional) and he performed Witr with three (rak‘ahs) and two rak‘ahs after dawn (for the Sunnah of Fajr).’”
Al-‘Ayni comments that the chain is “sahih according to the criterion of the two shaykhs (Bukhari and Muslim.” (Nukhab al-Afkar, 5:21)
Hadith Nine
Imam Muhammad narrated in his Muwatta’:
أخبرنا أبو حنيفة: حدثنا أبو جعفر قال: كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يصلي ما بين صلاة العشاء إلى صلاة الصبح ثلاث عشر ركعة ثماني ركعات تطوعا وثلاث ركعات الوتر وركعتي الفجر
“Abu Hanifah reported to us: Abu Ja‘far narrated to us, he said: The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would pray 13 rak‘ahs between ‘Isha prayer and dawn prayer: 8 optional rak‘ahs, three rak‘ahs Witr and two rak‘ahs of Fajr (Sunnah).” (Muwatta’ no. 259)
This is an authentic mursal chain. A mursal hadith is one in which a Tabi‘i narrates directly from the Prophet (peace be upon him) without mentioning his source. Abu Ja‘far is Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Husayn ibn ‘Ali al-Baqir (56 – 114 H), a descendent of the Prophet (peace be upon him) whose narrations are found in all six of the famous collections of hadith. Mursal reports are a proof (hujjah) according to the majority of jurists. Evenso, it is supported by the authentic narration quoted above.
Hadith Ten
Al-Tahawi narrates with his chain from Abu l-‘Aliyah:
علمنا أصحاب محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم أن الوتر مثل صلاة المغرب غير أنا نقرأ فى الثالثة فهذا وتر الليل وهذا وتر النهار
“The Companions of Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) taught us that Witr is equivalent to Maghrib prayer, except that we recite in the third (rak‘ah). Thus, this is the Witr of the night and this (i.e. Maghrib) is the Witr of the day.”
‘Allamah al-Nimawi said its isnad is sahih (Quoted in I‘la al-Sunan, 6:45).
Abu l-‘Aliyah is the agnomen of Rufay‘ ibn Mihran (d. 93). He was a very senior Tabi‘i, whose narrations can be found in all six famous collections of hadith. He was born in the lifetime of Prophet (peace be upon him) and accepted Islam in the period of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him). He heard from many senior Sahabah including ‘Umar, ‘Ali, Ibn Mas‘ud and Ubayy ibn Ka‘b.
The fact that a large group of Sahabah taught that Witr is similar to Maghrib illustrates that this was something well-known and accepted in the earliest generation of Islam. “Except that we recite in the third (rak‘ah)” means that unlike Maghrib prayer, in the Witr prayer, the worshipper recites a portion of the Qur’an after completing Surah al-Fatihah in the third rak‘ah.
Abu al-‘Aliayh would give fatwa on what he learnt from the Sahabah, and would say: “Do (in Witr) as you do in Maghrib,” as reported by Ibn Abi Shaybah in his Musannaf (no. 6909) with an authentic chain.
Hadith Eleven
Al-Tahawi and Ibn Abi Shaybah narrated with their chains to Anas ibn Malik that he said:
الوتر ثلاث ركعات
“Witr is three rak‘ahs.”
And his student Humayd narrates that Anas “would offer Witr with three rak‘ahs.” Al-‘Ayni said the chain is sahih (Nukhab al-Akfar, 5:108) Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani also said its chain is sahih (al-Dirayah, quoted in I‘la Sunan, 6:44)
‘Abd al-Razzaq reported from his teacher, Ma‘mar ibn Rashid, from Thabit al-Bunani that he said:
صليت مع أنس وبت عنده قال: فرأيته يصلي مثنى مثنى حتى إذا كان في آخر صلاته أوتر بثلاث مثل مغرب
“I prayed with Anas and I spent the night with him, and I saw him praying two, two (rak‘ahs) until when he was at the end of his prayer, he performed Witr with three (rak‘ahs) like Maghrib.” (Musannaf ‘Abd al-Razzaq, no. 4636, 4662, 4663)
This is an authentic chain.
Hadith Twelve
Ibn Abi Shaybah narrated in his Musannaf (no. 6891) with an authentic chain that ‘Umar buried Abu Bakr in the night and then entered the mosque and offered Witr in three rak‘ahs. Al-Tahawi narrates more details of this incident (see section two, hadith four below).
‘Abd al-Razzaq also narrates it with the same chain (no. 4639), and adds: “(Many) people from the Muslims performed Witr with him (i.e. behind him).”
This proves that a large group of Sahabah approved of the Witr that he performed.
Hadith Thirteen
Ibn Abi Shaybah narrated in his Musannaf (no. 6898):
حدثنا عباد بن العوام عن العلاء بن المسيب عن أبيه عن عائشة قالت: لا توتر بثلاث بتر، صل قبلها ركعتين أو أربعا
‘Abbad ibn al-‘Awwam narrated to us from al-‘Ala’ ibn al-Musayyab from his father (al-Musayyab ibn Rafi‘) from ‘A’ishah, she said: “Do not perform Witr with three (rak‘ahs), cut-off. Pray before it [at least] two rak‘ahs or four.”
The narrators of this chain are all trustworthy, but it is uncertain whether al-Musayyab heard from ‘A’ishah.
This proves that ‘A’ishah regarded Witr as a three-rak‘ah prayer, but disliked that it is “cut off” and not preceded by optional prayers. This is also the explanation of the hadith quoted by opponents of the Hanafi view which states that the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade making Witr resemble Maghrib and to pray five or seven or nine rak‘ahs. The meaning of this hadith is that unlike the three rak‘ahs of Maghrib which is not normally preceded by optional prayers, it is recommended to offer optional prayers before Witr. This does not negate that the Witr itself consists of three rak‘ahs.
Hadith Fourteen
‘A’ishah said:
كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يوتر بثلاث
Al-Hakim (1:305) transmitted it and said it is authentic according to the criteria of al-Bukhari and Muslim and al-Dhahabi agreed (footnotes to Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 4:494).
Hadith Fifteen
Ibn Abi Shaybah in his Musannaf (no. 6943), Ahmad, al-Tahawi and al-Nasa’i narrated with their chains from the Sahabi, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abza:
أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يقرأ في وتره بسبح اسم ربك الأعلى وقل يا أيها الكافرون وقل هو الله أحد فإذا سلم قال سبحن الملك القدوس
“The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would recite in his Witr sabbihisma rabbika l-a‘la, qul ya ayyuha l-kafirun and qul huwa Llahu ahad. Then when he said salam, he said subhan al-malik al-quddus.”
Muhammad ‘Awwamah said “the chain of the author (i.e. Ibn Abi Shaybah) is sahih.” (footnote to Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 4:485)
This hadith also indicates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would not say salam until after the three rak‘ahs were complete, as the Sahabah said, “then when he said salam…” More proofs for this will be discussed in the next section.
Hadith Sixteen
Ibn Abi Shaybah also narrated with his chain from Ubayy ibn Ka‘b (Musannaf, no 6960):
أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يوتر ببسبح اسم ربك الأعلى وقل يا أيها الكافرون وقل هو الله أحد ويقول في آخر صلاته سبحان الملك القدوس
“The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would perform Witr with sabbihisma rabbika l-a‘la, qul ya ayyuha l-kafirun and qul huwa Llahu ahad, and he would say at the end of his prayer subhan al-malik al-quddus.”
Al-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Abu Dawud also transmitted it. Muhammad ‘Awwamah said, “The hadith is authentic.” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 4:515)
‘Abd al-Razzaq al-San‘ani narrates that it was the practice of Ubayy ibn Ka‘b to offer three rak‘ahs of Witr (Musannaf, no. 4661)
Hadith Seventeen
Imam al-Bukhari narrrated in his Sahih that al-Qasim ibn Muhammad said:
ورأينا أناسا منذ أدركنا يوترون بثلاث
“We saw people ever since we reached maturity performing Witr with three (rak‘ahs).” (Fath al-Bari, 2:616)
Al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, the grandson of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), reached maturity approximately in the year 50 H. Thus, he witnessed the time of many Sahabah.
Note: The hadiths that say Witr is one rak‘ah or five or seven or more rak‘ahs are interpreted in light of the overwhelming evidence above which stipulate that Witr is three rak‘ahs. By one rak‘ah of Witr is intended one rak‘ah that is joined to two preceding rak‘ahs, and the reason one rak‘ah is mentioned specifically is because it is that one rak‘ah that renders the number of rak‘ahs odd, and the literal meaning of “witr” is “odd.” When a number more than three is mentioned, the meaning of “witr” is the entire night prayer, and not just the three rak‘ahs of Witr.

Section Two: There is Only One Set of Salams at the End of Witr
A difference of opinion arose from the time of the Sahabah whether Witr consists of two sets of salams or or just one at the end. Famously, Ibn ‘Umar held the former view although Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani explained that what is apparent from his practice is that he would normally pray three rak‘ahs of Witr with one set of salams, unless some need arose in which case he would say salam after two rak‘ahs and after completing his need, add the final rak‘ah to it (Fath al-Bari, quoted in I‘la al-Sunan, 6:29).
The Hanafis favour the view that there is only one set of salams at the end of Witr. This is proven from the practice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and major Sahabah and Tabi‘in as documented below.
Hadith One
Al-Nasa’i, Muhammad, al-Tahawi and Ibn Abi Shaybah (Musannaf, no. 6912) transmitted with the same chain (Sa‘id ibn Abi ‘Arubah from Qatadah from Zurarah ibn Abi Awfa from Sa‘d ibn Hisham) that ‘A’ishah said:
كان نبي الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا يسلم في ركعتي الوتر
“The Prophet of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would not say salam in the two rak‘ahs of Witr.”
Al-Nawawi said of this hadith: “Al-Nasa’i narrated it with a hasan chain, and al-Bayhaqi narrated it in al-Sunan al-Kubra with a sahih chain.” (Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, 3:513)
Al-Hakim also narrated it and said it is authentic according to criteria of al-Bukhari and Muslim and al-Dhahabi agreed.
Hadith Two
Imam Ahmad narrated in his Musnad:
حدثنا أبو النضر حدثنا محمد يعني ابن راشد عن يزيد بن يعفر عن الحسن عن سعد بن هشام عن عائشة أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان إذا صلى العشاء دخل المنزل ثم صلى ركعتين ثم صلى بعدهما ركعتين أطول منهما ثم أوتر بثلاث لا يفصل فيهن ثم صلى ركعتين وهو جالس
“Abu al-Nadr narrated to us: Muhammad – meaning, Ibn Rashid – narrated to us: from Yazid ibn Ya‘fur from al-Hasan from Sa‘d ibn Hisham from ‘A’ishah that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would, when he prayed ‘Isha’, enter the house and then pray two rak‘ahs, and then pray after them two rak‘ahs lengthier than them, and then he performed Witr with three (rak‘ahs) without creating a gap in them (i.e. in the three rak‘ahs), and then he prayed two (optional) rak‘ahs while he was sitting.” (Musnad Ahmad, no. 25223)
The only fault in this chain is that there is disagreement over the narrator Yazid ibn Ya‘fur, who was considered trustworthy (thiqah) by Ibn Hibban, and al-Daraqutni said, “he is considered.” Hence, even if there is slight weekness in this chain, it can at the very least be considered a supporting evidence to the previous narration.
Hadith Three
Al-Nasa’i narrated:
أخبرنا يحيى بن موسى قال: أخبرنا 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 فى الوتر بسبح اسم ربك الأعلى وفى الركعة الثانية بقل يا أيها الكافرون وفى الثالثة بقل هو الله أحد ولا يسلم إلا في آخرهن
“Yahya ibn Musa reported to us, he said: ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Khalid reported to us, he said: Sa‘id ibn Abi ‘Arubah narrated to us from Qatadah from ‘Azrah from Sa‘id ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abza from his father from Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, he said: ‘The Messenger of Allah would recite in Witr sabbihisma rabbika l-a‘la, and in the second rak‘ah qul ya ayyuha l-kafirun and in the third qul huwa Llah, and he would not say salam except at the end of these (three rak‘ahs).’”
(Sunan al-Nasa’i, Qadimi Kutub Khanah, pp. 248-9)
Al-‘Iraqi said its chain is sahih and al-Nimawi said it is hasan. (Quoted in I‘la al-Sunan, 6:42)
Hadith Four
Al-Tahawi narrates:
حدثنا ابن أبي داود قال: ثنا يحيى بن سليمان الجعفي قال: أنا ابن وهب قال: أخبرني عمرو عن ابن أبي هلال عن ابن السباق عن المسور بن مخرمة قال: دفنا أنا بكر ليلا فقال: عمر إني لم أوتر، فقام وصففنا وراءه فصلى بنا ثلاث ركعات لم يسلم إلا في آخرهن
Ibn Abi Dawud narrated to us, he said: Yahya ibn Sulayman al-Ju‘fi narrated to us, he said: Ibn Wahb reported to us, he said: ‘Amr reported to me from Abu Hilal from Ibn al-Sabbaq from al-Miswar ibn Makhramah, he said: “We buried Abu Bakr in the night and ‘Umar said, ‘I have not performed Witr,’ so he stood and we formed rows behind him. Then he prayed with us three rak‘ahs and he did not say salam except at the end of them.”
Al-‘Ayni said: “Its chain is sahih at the peak of authenticity.” (Nukhab al-Afkar, 5:105) And al-Nimawi said its chain is sahih. (Quoted in I‘la al-Sunan, 6:42)
The narrator, al-Miswar ibn Makhramah, was a Sahabi. ‘Umar performed this Witr in the presence of a group of Sahabah.
Hadith Five
Al-Tahawi and Ibn Abi Shaybah (Musannaf, no. 6910) narrated from Thabit (the student of Anas):
صلى بي أنس رضي الله عنه الوتر أنا عن يمينه وأم ولده خلفنا ثلاث ركعات لم يسلم إلا في آخرهن ظننت أنه يريد أن يعلمني
“Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) prayed Witr with me, me to his left and his umm al-walad (slave woman that bore his child) behind us, in three rak‘ahs. He did not say salam except at the end of them. I thought that he wanted to teach me.”
Al-‘Ayni said its chain is sahih. (Nukhab al-Afkar, 5:108) Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani also said its chain is sahih (al-Dirayah, quoted in I‘la Sunan, 6:44)
Thabit suggests that Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) put great emphasis on this form of Witr as he felt he was trying to impart to him the correct way to offer it, which indicates that this was not something based on mere opinion but most probably what he received from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and senior companions.
Hadith Six
‘Abd al-Razzaq narrates from Ma‘mar from Qatadah from al-Hasan that he said:
كان أبي بن كعب يوتر بثلاث لا يسلم إلا فى الثالثة مثل المغرب
“Ubayy ibn Kab would perform Witr with three (rak‘ahs) and not say salam except in the third (rak‘ah) just like Maghrib.” (Musannaf ‘Abd al-Razzaq, no. 4659)
Although the chain up to al-Hasan (al-Basri) is authentic, it is not established that al-Hasan al-Basri (22 – 110 H) met Ubayy ibn Kab (d. 30 H).
Note: The hadiths from the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions quoted in the first section that declare Witr akin to Maghrib also prove that there is only one set of salams in Witr just like Maghrib.
The Practice of the Fuqaha from the Tabi‘in
Al-Tahawi narrated with an authentic chain that the seven major jurists of Madinah (from the Tabi‘in) all opined that Witr is three rak‘ahs and there is no salam except at the end. Al-Nimawi said its chain is hasan. (Quoted in I‘la Sunah, 6:46)
He also reported from Abu al-Zinad that he said:
أثبت عمر بن عبد العزيز الوتر بالمدينة بقول الفقهاء ثلاثا لا يسلم إلا في آخرهن
“‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (d. 101 H) established Witr in Madinah on the basis of the view of the jurists as three (rak‘ahs), with no salam except at the end of them.”
Al-Nimawi said its chain is sahih (Quoted in I‘la Sunah, 6:46).
Ibn Abi Shaybah also narrates with authentic chains that the eminent jurists from the Tabi‘in, Ibrahim al-Nakhai, Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab and Makhul al-Shami would practice three rak‘ahs of Witr with only one set of salams at the end (Musannaf, no. 6906, 7, 8). Abu Ishaq al-Sabi‘i (34 – 127 H), a Kufan Tabi‘i, reported that the students of ‘Ali and Ibn Mas‘ud would not say salam upon two rak‘ahs of Witr (Musannaf, no. 6911)
Al-Tahawi concludes:
“This (method of three rak‘ahs of Witr with only one set of salams at the end) is of that which ought not be opposed since it is supported by the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace), then the practice of his companions and the views of most of them after him, and then their successors agreed upon it.” (Sharh Ma‘ani al-Athar, Maktabah Haqqaniyyah, 1:207)

Section Three: The Worshipper Sits at the
Second Rak‘ah of Witr for Tashahhud
According to the Hanafi view, the worshipper sits after the second rak‘ah of Witr, and recites the tashahhud (attahiyyat) before rising up for the third rak‘ah. The proof for this is that the Witr prayer is akin to the Maghrib prayer as taught by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his major companions – see hadith numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11 in the first section above. ‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani said: “Drawing a comparison of it (i.e. the Witr) with Maghrib prayer conveys the obligation of sitting upon two rak‘ahs.” (I‘la Sunan, 6:43-4)
It is further supported by some general hadiths:
Hadith One
When describing the Prophet’s prayer, ‘A’ishah said as narrated in Sahih Muslim:
وكان يقول في كل ركعتين التحية
“And he would say tahiyyah (i.e. tashahhud) in every two rak‘ahs.” (Fath al-Mulhim, 3:484-5)
The word kull is for generality, indicating there were no exceptions to this practice of sitting upon every two rak‘ahs to say tashahhud.
Hadith Two
Ahmad transmitted from ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
إذا قعدتم في كل ركعتين فقولوا التحيات لله والصلوات والطيبات
“When you sit in every two rak‘ahs then say attahiyyatu lillahi wassalawatu wattayyibat…” (Musnad Ahmad, no. 4160)
The editors of Musnad Ahmad said: “Its chain is sahih according to the criterion of Muslim.” (Musnad Ahmad, 7:227)
In this hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “when you sit in every two rak‘ahs,” demonstrating that this occurs in every two rak‘ahs without exception.
Note: The hadiths that state the Prophet (peace be upon him) would not sit in the rak‘ahs of Witr are interpreted in light of the above evidence. They are interpreted to mean he would not sit with a lengthy sitting that is followed by speech and other activity except after the final rak‘ah of Witr, not that he would not sit at all (see I‘la al-Sunan, 6:53-4).

Section Four: Qunut is Recited in Witr
Before Ruku‘ of the Third Rak‘ah
Hadith One
Imam al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih from ‘Asim:
سألت أنس بن مالك عن القنوت فقال قد كان القنوت قلت قبل الركوع أو بعده قال قبله قال فإن فلانا أخبرني عنك أنك قلت بعد الركوع فقال كذب إنما قنت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بعد الركوع شهرا
“I asked Anas ibn Malik about the Qunut and he said: ‘Indeed, there was Qunut.’ I said: ‘Before ruku‘ or after it?’ He said: ‘Before it.’ He said: ‘Someone reported to me from you that you said after ruku‘.’ He said: ‘He erred. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and gran him peace) only performed Qunut after ruku‘ for a month.’” (Fath al-Bari, 2:631)
There are two types of Qunut, one which is recited when a calamity (nazilah) befalls the Muslims usually in the Fajr prayer, and another in the final rak‘ah of Witr. The favoured interpretation of this narration of Anas is that the first uncommon type of Qunut would be recited after ruku‘ while the common Qunut of Witr would be recited before ruku‘.
Hadith Two
Al-Nasa’i narrated:
أخبرنا علي بن ميمون قال: حدثنا مخلد بن يزيد عن سفيان عن زبيد عن سعيد بن عبد الرحمن بن أبزى عن أبيه عن أبي بن كعب أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يوتر بثلاث ركعات، كان يقرأ فى الأولى بسبح اسم ربك الأعلى وفى الثانية بقل يا أيها الكافرون وفى الثالثة بقل هو الله أحد ويقنت قبل الركوع، فإذا فرغ قال عند فراغه: سبحان الملك القدوس
‘Ali ibn Maymun reported to us, he said: Makhlad ibn Yazid narrated to us from Sufyan from Zubayd from Sa‘id ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abza from his father from Ubayy ibn Ka‘b that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would perform Witr with three rak‘ahs, and he would recite in the first (rak‘ah) sabbihisma rabbika l-a‘la, and in the second qul ya ayyuha l-kafirun and in the third qul huwa Llahu ahad, and he would recite Qunut before ruku‘. When he finished, he said upon completion, subhanal malik al-quddus. (Sunan al-Nasa’i, Qadimi Kutub Khanah, p. 248)
The hadith was authenticated by Abu ‘Ali ibn al-Sakan, al-‘Uqayli and al-‘Ayni (as quoted in I‘la al-Sunan, 6:70-1)
The word kana (he would) used in the hadith indicates perpetuity.
Note: Imam Muhammad narrates with his chain in Kitab al-Hujjah (1:201) from Ibn ‘Abbas almost the exact same description quoted here, although there is some weakness in his chain.
Hadith Three
Al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali said:
علمني رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كلمات أقولهن في قنوت الوتر
“The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) taught me words that I say in the Qunut of Witr…”
It was narrated by Ahmad, Ibn Majah, al-Nasa’i, al-Hakim and Ibn Abi Shaybah. Al-Nawawi said it has a sahih chain (Khulasat al-Ahkam, no. 1499) This proves that one is to always say the Qunut in Witr.
Hadith Four
Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani said:
وروى ابن أبي شيبة بإسناد حسن عن علقمة أن ابن مسعود وأصحاب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كانوا يقنتون فى الوتر قبل الركوع
“Ibn Abi Shaybah narrated (Musannaf, no. 6983) with a hasan chain from ‘Alqamah that Ibn Mas‘ud and the companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would do Qunut in Witr before ruku‘.” (al-Dirayah, Dar al-Ma‘rifah, p. 194)
‘Alqamah ibn Qays al-Nakha‘i (d. ca. 60) was a very senior Tabi‘i who was born in the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) but accepted Islam after his death. He narrated from senior companions including ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, Salman and Abu l-Darda’, although his primary teacher was ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud. He became so experienced and adept in knowledge that even the Sahabah would seek knowledge from him and ask him questions! Hence, his testimony that the Sahabah would recite Qunut in Witr before ruku‘ is strong evidence of the prevalence of this practice in the earliest generation of Islam.
Hadith Five
Ibn Abi Shaybah narrates in Musannaf (no. 6972) with an authentic chain:
أن عمر قنت فى الوتر قبل الركوع
“That ‘Umar did Qunut in Witr before ruku‘.”
Hadith Six
Muhammad narrated in his Kitab al-Athar:
أنا أبو حنيفة عن حماد عن إبراهيم أن ابن مسعود كان يقنت السنة كلها فى الوتر قبل الركوع
“Abu Hanifah reported to us from Hammad (ibn Abi Sulayman) from Ibrahim (al-Nakha‘i) that Ibn Mas‘ud would perform Qunut the entire year in Witr before ruku‘.” (Quoted in I‘la Sunan 6:85)
This is an authentic narration. Although Ibrahim al-Nakha‘i did not meet Ibn Mas‘ud, his narrations from him are authentic as he clarified that when he does not mention his source to Ibn Mas‘ud in any particular narration, it is because he recieved it from multiple reliable sources.
Note: The famous du‘a of Qunut, “Allahumma inna nasta‘inuka wa nastaghfiruka…,” was taught by Ibn Mas‘ud for the Qunut of Witr as narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah in his Musannaf (no. 6965) with an authentic chain. This du‘a was also narrated from ‘Umar, ‘Ali and ‘Uthman as also recorded in the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah.

Section Five: The Worshipper Says Takbir and Raises his Hands before the Qunut
Ibn Abi Shaybah narrated in his Musannaf (no. 7021) from al-Aswad that ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud would when he completed the recitation in the third rak‘ah of Witr, say takbir and then recite Qunut, and when he completed the Qunut, he said takbir and bowed.
Ibn Abi Shaybah narrates in his Musannaf (no. 7027, 7028) that ‘Abd Allah ibn Masud would raise his hands upon reciting Qunut. Al-Bukhari narrates in his Juz’ Raf al-Yadayn:
حدثنا عبد الرحيم المحاربي: حدثنا زائدة عن ليث عن عبد الرحمن بن الأسود عن أبيه عن عبد الله أنه  كان يقرأ في آخر ركعة من الوتر قل هو الله أحد ثم يرفع يديه ويقنت قبل الركعة
‘Abd al-Rahim al-Muharibi narrated to us: Za’idah narrated to us from Layth (ibn Abi Sulaym) from ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Aswad from his father from ‘Abd Allah that he would recite in the last rakah of Witr qul huwallahu ahad and then raise his hands and recite Qunut before ruku‘. (Juz’ Raf‘ al-Yadayn, no 163)
Imam al-Bukhari suggests the narration is authentic. However, the narrator Layth ibn Abi Sulaym is present in the chain about whom the scholars have mixed opinions.
It is also reported from ‘Umar and ‘Ali that they would say takbir before starting the Qunut (I‘la Sunan, 6:85-6).
Imam Muhammad narrated:
أنا أبو حنيفة عن حماد عن إبراهيم أن القنوت فى الوتر واجب في رمضان وغيره قبل الركوع وإذا أردت أن تقنت فكبر وإذا أردت أن تركع فكبر أيضا
“Abu Hanifah reported to us from Hammad (ibn Abi Sulayman) from Ibrahim (al-Nakha‘i) that the Qunut in Witr is obligatory in Ramadan and outside of it before ruku‘, and when you wish to recite Qunut, say takbir and when you wish to bow, say takbir also.” (Kitab al-Hujjah, 1:200)
Ibrahim al-Nakha‘i was the foremost jurist of Iraq in his time. He was born in approximately the year 40 H and died in 96 H. His narrations of hadith are found in all six famous collections of hadith, and he was the most learned of the jurisprudential school of ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud. Hence, the rulings issued by him are given great weight in the Hanafi madhhab.
Note:
The purpose of collecting the above evidences was not to discredit the view of any other madhhab, but to show that the view of the Hanafi madhhab with respect to Witr (which has been the subject of abuse and attack) is well-supported by authentic hadiths and the practice of the early generations.



The Proofs for the Hanafi Procedure for Witr Salaat

How Many Rak’ats in Witr?

Witr has been noted to be one of the most complex issues of prayer. There are approximately seventeen aspects concerning the witr prayer around which lie differences of opinion. However, we will focus mainly on the following three issues: 1) How many rak’ats is the witr prayer? 2) How many salams in the witr prayer? 3) Is performing one rak’ah sufficient for witr?
There are numerous hadiths which report the number of rak’ats to be performed in witr. However, dues to many inconsistencies found in them, it becomes very difficult to formulate an opinion that is in complete agreement with the literal meaning of each narration. It is therefore necessary to interpret some of these narrations in order to harmonize their meaning with other similar narrations. Various narrations on the witr prayer will be analyzed in-depth in an attempt to establish those procedures of performing witr that are most in conformance with the Sunnah.
(1) How Many Rak’ats Is The Witr Prayer?
The first discussion is concerning the number of rak’ats that should be performed for witr.
The Various Opinions
According to Imam Shafi’ee (rahmatullahi alaih), Witr should be performed in units of one, three, five, seven, nine, or even eleven rak’ats. He states in his book Kitab al-Umm that one rak’ah can be performed as witr. However, ‘Allama Qastalani (rahmatullahi alaih) relates in his commentary of Saheeh al-Bukhari, Irshad al-Sari, that Qadi Abu’l-Tayyib (rahmatullahi alaih) was of the opinion that it is undesirable (makrooh) to perform just one rak’ah for witr. [Irshad al-Sari 2:259]
Qadi Abu’l-Tayyib (rahmatullahi alaih) is regarded as one of the greatest cholars of Shafi’ee fiqh and was also one of its main teachers in ‘Iraq during his time. He studied under Imam Daraqutni (rahmatullahi alaih), and among his students were the likes of Khatib al-Baghdadi (rahmatullahi alaih) and Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi (rahmatullahi alaih).
Following this, there is a difference of opinion among the Shafi’ee’s as to how the rak’ats of witr should be performed. One opinion is that during Ramadan, three rak’ats should be performed with one set of salams, and in other months with two sets – one in the second rak’ah and the other in the third. Another opinion states that one set of salams should be made if the witr is being performed in congregation, and two sets if it is being performed individually.
The opinions of Imam Malik (rahmatullahi alaih) and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahmatullahi alaih) are similar to that of Imam Shafi’ee (rahmatullahi alaih) with just a few minor differences. The commentator of Sifr al-Sa’ada relates an opinion of Imam Ahmad (rahmatullahi alaih) which states that a single rak’ah of witr is undesirable (makrooh). According to the Imam, a person must perform some rak’ats before performing the witr. A similar opinion has been reported from Imam Malik (rahmatullahi alaih) as well. He relates a hadeeth in his Muwatta on the authority of Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas (radiallahu anh) in which the Companion is described as performing a single rak’ah for witr. Following this narration, Imam Malik (rahmatullahi alaih) states: “Our practise is not based on this, since witr (in our opinion) is at least three rak’ats.” [Muwatta Imam Malik, 77]
The above review of opinions can be concluded as follows. According to Imam Shafi’ee (rahmatullahi alaih), witr can be performed in any number of odd rak’ats, ranging from one to eleven. Imam Ahmad’s (rahmatullahi alaih) main and more popular view is that the witr be performed as one rak’ah and the rak’ats performed prior to it be considered as Qiyam al-Layl or Tahajjud (night-vigil prayer) [al-Mughni]. Imam Malik (rahmatullahi alaih) also does not recommend performing a single rak’ah for witr. He recommends that at least three rak’ats be performed. Imam Abu Hanifa’s (rahmatullahi alaih) opinion is simply that witr should be performed as three continuous rak’ats with two sittings – one in the second rak’ah and the other in the third – with salams to be performed in the final sitting only.
The Ahadeeth On This Issue
Before looking at the apparently conflicting ahadeeth, we will first look at those ahadeeth which clearly state that witr consists of three rak’ats:
1) It is reported from Abu Salama (rahmatullahi alaih) that: he asked ‘A’ishah (radiallahu anha) regarding the prayer of the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) during Ramadan. She explained, “The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would not peform more than eleven rak’ats, neither in Ramadan nor out of it. He would perform four rak’ats, and do not ask of their beauty and length; followed by another four, and do not ask of their beauty and length; after which he would perform three (witr).” ‘A’ishah (radiallahu anha) continued, “I asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)! Do you sleep before you perform witr? He replied, ‘O ‘A’ishah! My eyes sleep, but my heart does not.'” (Saheeh al-Bukhari 1:154, Saheeh Muslim 1:254, Sunan al-Nasa’i 1:248, Sunan Abi Dawood 196]
In this narration, Umm al-Mu’mineen (Mother of the Believers) ‘A’ishah (radiallahu anha) mentions that the witr prayer performed by Allah’s Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) consisted of three rak’ats.
2) Sa’d ibn Hisham (radiallahu anh) relates that ‘A’ishah (radiallahu anha) informed him that the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not makes salams in the second rak’ah of witr. [Sunan al-Nasa’i 1:248, Muwatta Imam Muhammad 151]
3) This narrations has also been mentioned by Imam Hakim (rahmatullahi alaih) with a slight variation: The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would not make salams in the first two rak’ats of witr. (al-Mustadrak 1:304]
Imam Hakim (rahmatullahi alaih) then states, “[This narration is] authentic according to the conditions of Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi alaih) and Imam Muslim (rahmatullahi alaih).” ‘Allama Dhahabi (rahmatullahi alaih) agreed with him.
4) The following is another variation of the above narration related by Imam Hakim (rahmatullahi alaih): The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform three rak’ats of witr making salams only at the end (in the final rak’ah). This was the practise of the Amir al-Mu’mineen (Leader of the Faithful) ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiallahu anh) and it is from him that the people of Madinah acquired this practise. (al-Mustadrak 1:304)
5) Sa’d ibn Hisahm (radiallahu anh) narrates: The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), after completing the ‘Isha prayer, would enter his home and perform two rak’ats, followed by another two more lengthier than the first. Thereafter, he would perform the witr prayer without any interval in between (i.e. without salams in the second rak’ah). He would then perform two rak’ats sitting down with the bowing and prostration also sitting down.[Musnad Ahmad 6:156]
6) ‘Abdullah ibn Qays (rahmatullahi alaih) narrates: I asked ‘A’ishah (radiallahu anha), ’How many rak’ats of Witr did the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) perform?’ She replied, ’Four with three, six with three, or eight with three. He would not perform more than thirteen rak’ats for witr or less than seven.’” [Sunan Abu Dawood 1:200] In this hadeeth, the whole Tahajjud prayer has been described as witr, whereas in reality only three rak’ats were witr, and the remaining four, six, or eight rak’ats were tahajjud. This is the reason why Umm al-Mu’mineen ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) distinguished between the three rak’ats of witr and the various other rak’ats in the above narrations.
7) ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Jurayj (rahmatullahi alaih) narrates: I asked ‘A’ishah (radiallahu anha) regarding the chapters the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would recite in witr. She replied, ’He would recite Surat al-‘Ala in the first rak’ah, Surat al-Kaafiroon in the second, and Surat al-Ikhlas along with the Mu’awwadhatayn (Surat al-Falaq and Surat an-Nas) in the third.’ (Sunan Abi Dawud 1:208, Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1:106, Sunan Ibn Majah 1:82] Imam Tirmidhi (rahmatullahi alaih) has declared this hadeeth to be sound (hasan).
8) Imam Hakim (rahmatillahi alaih) has related a very similar narration from ‘A’ishah (radiallahu anha) through ‘Amra bint ‘Abd al-Rahman (rahmatullahi alaih) and has stated it as being in accordance with the strict conditions of both Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi alaih) and Imam Muslim (rahmatullahi alaih). ‘Allama Dhahabi (rahmatullahi alaih) has also verified this by stating that the hadeeth has been transmitted through a reliable chain of narrators. [al-Mustadrak 1:305]
9) Muhammad ibn ‘Ali (rahmatullahi alaih) reports from father, who narrates on the authority of his father, ‘Abdullah Ibn Abbas (radiallahu anhuma), that: the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) rose at night, cleaned his teeth with a siwak (toothstick), and performed two rak’ats of prayer, then went back to sleep. He again arose, used the siwak and made wudu’, and thereafter performed another two rak’ats of prayer, (on and on) until he had completed six rak’ats (in this manner). He then performed three rak’ats witr followed by two rak’ats (nafl).(Saheeh Muslim 1:261, Sunan al-Nasa’I 1:249]
10) ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu anhuma) has also reported the following narration regarding the Messenger’s (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) witr prayer: During the night before dawn, the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform eight rak’ats (tahajjud) and three rak’ats witr, followed by two rak’ats (nafl). [Sunan an-Nasa’I 1:249]
11) ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu anhuma) narrates: The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform three rak’ats witr. He would recite Surat al-‘Ala in the first rak’ah, Surat al-Kaafiroon in the second, and Surat al-Ikhlas in the third. [Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1:106, Sunan al-Nasa’I 1:249, Sunan ibn Majah 82]
Numerous other Companions (radiallahu anhum) in their narrations have also mentioned the Messenger’s (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) recitation of these three surats (chapters) during witr in the above mentioned order:
(1) ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abza (radiallahu anh) [Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah 2:298]
(2) Ubay ibn Ka’b (radiallahu anh) [Musannaf ibn Abi Shaybah 2:300]
(3) ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (radiallahu anh) [Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1:106]
(4) ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa (radiallahu anh) [Majma’ am-Zawa’id 1:241]
(5) ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radiallahu anh) [Majma’ al-Zawa’id 1:241]
(6) Nu’man ibn Bashir (radiallahu anh) [Majma’ al-Zawa’id 1:241]
(7) Abu Hurayrah (radiallahu anh) [Majma’ al-Zawa’id 1:241]
(8) ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiallahu anhuma) [Majma’ al-Zawa’id 1:241]
(9) ‘Imran ibn Husayn (radiallahu anh) [Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah 2:298]
(10) Abu Khaythama (rahmatullahi alaih) through his father Mu’awiyah ibn Khadij (radiallahu anh) [Majma’ al-Zawa’id 1:241] The narrations of these Companions (radiallahu anhum) further support the opinion that witr consists of three rak’ats.
12) Thabit al-Bunani (rahmatullahi alaih) reports than Anas ibn Malik (radiallahu anh) addressed him saying: ”O Thabit! Take this from me, for you will not hear it from anyone more trustworthy than myself, since I heard it from the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who acquired it from Jibreel (alayhisallam), and Jibreel (alayhisallam) acquired it from Allah (azza wa jal). The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) performed ‘Isha prayer while I was in his company, followed by six rak’ats (nafl), during which he made salams at every second rak’ah. Thereafter, he performed three rak’ats witr with salams at the very end.” [Kanz al-‘Ummal 4:196]
The great historian and hadeeth master Ibn Asakir (rahmatullahi alaih) narrated this hadeeth through a reliable chain.
From the above narrations, a number of points are derived: (1) It is established tat witr is three rak’ats; and (2) that the three rak’ats are to be performed together and concluded with salams at the end of the third rak’ah.
The Companions (Sahabah – radiallahu anhum) And Followers (Tabi’een – rahmatullahi alaihim) On This Issue
1) Miswar ibn Makhrama (rahmatullahi alaih) reports: We finished burying Abu Bakr (radiallahu anh), when ‘Umar (radiallahu anh) remembered that he had not yet performed witr. He stood up and we formed rows behind him. He lead us in three rak’ats and made salams only at the end (in the third rak’ah). [Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah 2:293, Musannaf ‘Abd al-Razzaq 3:20]
2) Ibraheem an-Nakh’ay (rahmatullahi alaih) reports thah ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiallahu anh) said, ”I would not neglect the three rak’ats of witr, even if I were to receive red camels in exchange.” [Muwatta Imam Muhammad 150] In those times red camels were considered valuable assets.
3) Hasan al-Basri (rahmatullahi alaih) was informed that: ’Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiallahu anhuma) would make salams in the second rak’ah of witr. Hasan al-Basri (rahmatullahi alaih) was informed that ‘Umar (radiallahu anh) was a greater jurist than (his son), and his practise was to say the takbeer and stand up from the second rak’ah (for the third without making salams). [al-Mustadrak 1:304]
4) Makhool (rahmatullahi alaih) reports: ’Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiallahu anh) would perform three rak’ats witr without salams in between. [Musannaf ibn abi Shaybah 2:295]
5) ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radiallahu anh) says, ”The rak’ats of witr are similar to the daytime witr prayer (i.e. Maghrib).” [Muwatta Imam Muhammad 150, Majma’ al-Zawa’id 2:242]
6) Ibraheem an-Nakh’ay (rahmatullahi alaih) reports that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radiallahu anh) said, ”One rak’ah does not suffice for witr.” (Muwatta Imam Muhammad 150]
7) It is reported from Anas (radiallahu anh) that, ”Witr is three rak’ats.” [Musannaf ibn abi Shayba 2:293]
8) Abu Mansoor (rahmatullahi alaih): I asked Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu anhma) regarding the number of rak’ats in witr. He replied, ’Three rak’ats.’ [Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar]
9) ‘Ata (rahmatullahi alaih) reports that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu anhuma) said: ”Witr is similar to the Maghrib prayer.” [Muwatta Imam Muhammad 150]
10) Hasan al-Basri (rahmatullahi alaih) reports: Ubay ibn Ka’b (radiallahu anh) would perform three rak’ats for witr and would make salams only at the end. [Musannaf ‘Abd al-Razzaq 2:294]
11) Abu Ghalib (rahmatullahi alaih) reports that, Abu Umamah (radiallahu anh) would perform three rak’ats for witr.[Musannaf ibn abi Shayba 2:294]
12) ‘Alqamah (rahmatullahi alaih), the student of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radiallahu anh), reports that, witr is three rak’ats. [Musannaf ibn abi Shaybah 2:294]
13) It is reported that Ibraheem an-Nakh’ay (rahmatullahi alaih) would say: “There is no witr consisting of less than three rak’ats.” [Musannaf ibn abi Shayba 2:294]
14) Abu’l-Zanad (rahmatullahi alaih) reports: ’Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez (rahmatullahi alaih) designated the three rak’ats of witr to be three based on the ruling of the jurists, with salams to be made only at the end. [Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar]
15) It is reported that Hasan al-Basri (rahmatullahi alaih) said: “The Muslims have reached a consensus concerning witr being three rak’ats with salams only at the end.” [Musannaf ibn abi Shaybah 2:294]
The reason for quoting the statements of so many Companions (radiallahu anhum) and Followers (rahmatullahi alaihim) is that their opinions and practises hold a high status in Islamic Law. Whenever a conflict is found between the ahadeeth concerning a certain issue, the scholars turn to the actions and statements of the Companions (radiallahu anhum) to remedy that conflict. The Companions (radiallahu anhum) undoubtedly possessed great insight into the reality of these issues, due to them being blessed with the close company of the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The scholars therefore hold their opinion in high regard and normally adopt those ahadeeth which conform to their practise. Likewise the opinions of the Follower (rahmatullahi alaihim) are also regarded since they succeeded the Companions (radiallahu anhum) and were the bearers of their knowledge.
The more prominent Companions like, Sayyidina ‘Umar, ‘Ali, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, Anas ibn Malik, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, ‘A’ishah, Ubay ibn Ka’b, and Abu Umamah (radiallahu anhum) all stated in clear terms that witr consists of three rak’ats. Those who came after them, like Ibraheem an-Nakh’ay, ‘Alqamah, Abu Ishaq, Qasim ibn Muhammad, and others (rahmatullahi alaihim), held the same opinion. Even the renowned fuqaha’ sab’ah, “The seven great jurists” of the earlier period, concluded that witr was three rak’ats. This was such a widely accepted opinion that Hasan al-Basri (rahmatullahi alaih) reported consensus (ijma’) on it.
(2) How Many Salams In The Witr Prayer?
The Hanafi opinion in his matter is that, like every other prayer, only one set of salams should be made in witr. According to this opinion, one must not make two sets of salams and cause the third rak’ah to be performed separately.
The opinion of other scholars is that the musalli (person praying) should first perform two rak’ats and then, after terminating them with salams, perform the third rak’ah separately with another set of salams.
There are a number of reasons which establish the superiority of the Hanafi position in this issue:
1) None of the narrations mentioned above declare that two sets of salams should be made within the three rak’ah prayer. On the contrary, many of them have stated that the three rak’ats are to be performed continuously without any break in between. It is quite evident that if there had been an interval in between the second and third rak’ats, the narrators would have certainly mentioned it.
2) The narrations of ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) portray witr to be like any other set of three rak’ats, as they do not mention the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) making an extra set of salams in the second rak’ah. It should be noted that ‘A’ishah (radiallahu anha) is considered the most knowledgeable regarding the Messenger’s (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) witr prayer. This is due to her close observance of the Messenger’s (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) witr prayer while at home, where he was habitually performing it. Hence, without further debate, her explanation that witr consists of three rak’ats should be accepted.
3) Some narrations, which have been reported from ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (radiallahu anhuma), state that witr was performed as a single rak’ah. Many scholars claim that Ibn ‘Umar (radiallahu anhuma) never actually saw the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) performing the witr prayer, and that his narrations cannot be preferred over those of ‘A’isha and Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu anhum), both of whom were known to have seen Allah’s Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) performing the prayer.
4) One narration states: The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) prohibited the ‘incomplete prayer’ (“butayra”, lit. an animal which has had its tail cut off) – where a person performs a single rak’ah as witr.
Although this narration is said to contains some weaknesses, its prohibition of performing witr as one rak’ah holds; due to it being authentically transmitted through a number of reliable chains (isnad). In his Lisan al-Mizan, Hafiz ibn Hajr (rahmatullahi alaih) has related this narration through a strong chain under the biography of ‘Uthman ibn Muhammad, one of its narrators. With the exception of ‘Uqayli – known for his extreme strictness in the criticism of narrators (even though his criticism here is only of a mild nature) – most scholars of hadeeth have judged ‘Uthman ibn Muhammad to be reliable. Hakim al-Naysaburi has related a narration from him in his Mustadrak and called it authentic, which ‘Allama Dhahabi has verified. Hence, the status of the hadeeth can be now lower than hasan (sound), and the prohibition mentioned in it of performing one rak’ah separately will stand as a strong command. [see Fath al-Mulhim 2:309]
5) Many of the elect Companions, like ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Ali ibn abi Talib, ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbas, Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamam, Anas ibn Malik, and Ubay ibn Ka’b (radiallahu anhum), all performed witr with only one set of salams at the end of the salat. Some of their narrations have been mentioned above and others can be found in numerous collections of ahadeeth; the chapters (on witr) of which are especially replete with the narrations of ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) on witr. Therefore, the Sunnah method of performing witr would be to perform them as a continuous set of three rak’ats as practised by these great Companions (radiallahu anhum).
6) In some ahadeeth, the Maghrib prayer, which contains only one set of salams at the end, has been called ‘the witr prayer of the day.’ Therefore, ‘the witr prayer of the night’ should also be offered like the Maghrib salah – with only one set of salams in the last rak’ah.
There is a report which mentions that the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) prohibited that the witr be perform like the Maghrib prayer. What this actually means is that one should not perform the witr alone, like Maghrib, without performing any dual set of rak’ats (shuf’ah) before it. The report does not mean that one must make salams in between and separate the last rak’ah from the first two.
7) The ‘Seven Great Jurists’ (fuqaha’ sab’ah) all agreed that the witr was to be performed as three rak’ats with salams only at the end. These seven jurists would be consulted by the people on various issues, and whatever the majority of them agreed on would be accepted as the legal ruling (fatwa). In his book, Imam Tahawi (rahmatullahi alaih) has related their unanimous opinion that witr should be performed as three rak’ats with salams made only in the last rak’ah. The Seven Great Jurists were: Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib, ‘Urwa ibn al-Zubayr, Qasim ibn Muhammad, Abu Bakr ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman, Kharija ibn Zayd, ‘Ubaydullah ibn ‘Abdillah, and Sulayman ibn Yasar (radiallahu anhum). [Awjaz al-Masalik 1:434]
8) Hasan al-Basri (rahmatullahi alaih) reported a consensus (ijma’) on the opinion that witr was three continuous rak’ats without any intervals in between; which means that it was a widely accepted view.
These points make it easy to conclude that the witr is indeed three rak’ats with a single set of salams to be performed in the third, and final, rak’ah. This was the widely held opinion among the Companions (radiallahu anhum) and Followers (rahmatullahi alaihim).
Some Confusing Narrations
1) Sa’id ibn Hisham (rahmatullahi alaih) asked ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) to describe for him the witr prayer of the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). She replied: “He would prepare his siwak (toothstick) and water for his ablution (wudu’). Allah would have him wake up during the night whenever He willed, and the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would clean his teeth with the siwak and complete his ablution. He would then perform nine rak’ats and would sit on the eighth rak’ah only, in which he would remember Allah, praise Him, and invoke (Du’a) Him. Thereafter, he would stand up without making salams and perform the ninth rak’ah, then he would sit down, and (again) he would remember Allah, praise Him, and invoke Him. He would then make the salams (loud enough) for us to hear. So, my son, these were eleven rak’ats. When the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) became of age and heavier, he would perform (only) seven rak’ats, and his practise in the (final) two rak’ats would be the same as his earlier practise (of performing them seated). So there were (in total) seven rak’ats.” [Saheeh Muslim 1:256]
The apparent wording of this narration suggest that the Messenger’s (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) witr prayer was a total of nine rak’ats, in which he would sit only at the end of the eight rak’ah and complete the prayer with salams in the ninth. The hadeeth then states that this was his earlier practise, for later on he reduced the number of rak’ats to seven, sitting briefly in the sixth and ending with salams in the seventh.
In Sunan al-Nasa’ee, Muwatta Imam Malik, and a number of other hadeeth collections, the same narration has been transmitted through the same chain with the following addition, ”The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would not make salams in the second rak’ah of witr.” In the version of al-Mustadrak, it states: “The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform three rak’ats witr with salams only at the end.” In Musnad Ahmad, it states: “After the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had performed the ‘Isha prayer, he would enter his home and perform two rak’ats, followed by another two lengthier than the first. He would then perform the witr without any interval in between, after which he would perform a final two rak’ats seated.”
The following points come to light after studying the various transmissions of this narration:
(a) At most, the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform a total of eleven rak’ats at night. Included in this were the witr and two rak’ats that succeeded it.
(b) Three rak’ats out of the eleven were witr.
(c) He would sit in the second rak’ah of witr without making any salams.
(d) After witr, he would two rak’ats seated.
(e) He would sit at the end of every second rak’ah.
From these points we learn that the various narrations concerning witr are indeed describing the same procedure of performing witr. The reason why they appear to be conflicting is due to the different words used in most of them.
The version in Saheeh Muslim only states the total number of rak’ats performed, without offering much detail as to how they were performed in connection with the tahajjud prayer. The reason for this is that ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) was specifically asked about the witr prayer and not about tahajjud. Hence, she did not feel it was necessary to provide any details about the rak’ats of tahajjud performed before the witr.
So, providing details on the witr, she said, ”The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would sit without making salams on the eights rak’ah.” This eighth rak’ah was in reality the second rak’ah of witr, which was being performed after the six rak’ats of tahajjud; then, on the ninth rak’ah (the third rak’ah of witr), he would make salams and thus complete his witr prayer.
It was common knowledge at that time that the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) always performed his tahajjud prayer in sets of two; so ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) did not provide any detail about them and this mentioned the total number of rak’ats together. Lastly, she ended by saying that the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform yet another two rak’ats seated after performing the ninth rak’ah, bringing the total number of rak’ats to eleven.
This is most likely the soundest interpretation for this hadeeth, as it encompasses all the variations of Sa’d ibn Hisham’s narration, and at the same time reconciles the apparent conflicts between them. In summary, the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform the tahajjud prayer in sets of two, as stated in the above-mentioned narration in Musnad Ahmad (and probably all other narrations on tahajjud); and thereafter perform the three continuous rak’ats of witr, with salams made only at the end. After the final salams, he would then perform two more rak’ats sitting down.
2) ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) narrates: The Messenger’s (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) prayer at night would be thirteen rak’ats, five of which would be witr; and he would sit only at the end.
The apparent wording of this hadeeth describes the witr prayer of the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as being a continuous set of five rak’ats. However, just as in the previous narration, the apparent meaning in this narration is not to be taken as the implied meaning. The reason for this is that ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) only specified the total number of rak’ats performed by the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) at night and included in it the two rak’ats of nafl performed sitting down after the three rak’ats of witr. This is what she refers to then she says,’five of which would be witr’ [i.e. including the two rak’ats of nafl).
When she says, ’he would sit only at the end,’ it means he would not sit for any lengthy period of time during the prayer to make extra supplication (du’a’) and remembrance (dhikr) except at the very end. He sat only briefly in every other rak’ah to recite the tashahhud. Furthermore, she did not even mention that he made salams in the third rak’ah of witr, as it was common knowledge that salams had to be made in the third rak’ah. What ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) was referring to when she said, ’he would sit only at the end,’ was the final sitting of the Messenger’s (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) two rak’ats nafl salat that followed his witr (i.e. the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would only sit for an extended period of time in the final sitting of his last set of two rak’ats nafl salat).
Some Hanafi scholars have explained this narration in a slightly different way. They state that it is known that the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform the rak’ats of tahajjud standing up or sitting down, while the two rak’ats following the witr he would mostly perform sitting down. Hence, if the hadeeth is approached with these points in mind, the apparent meaning of the hadeeth cannot be taken.
What really happened, they explain, is that the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), according to his normal routine, performed the witr along with the tahajjud prayer standing up and then sat down to perform the two nafl rak’ats. ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) described his prayer by saying, ’he would sit only at the end’ – that the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), after having performed the first eleven or so rak’ats (tahajjud and witr) standing, sat down and performed the last two rak’ats of nafl. She states that he sat down to perform the last two rak’ats of nafl after having performed all the other prayers standing up. [see Darse Tirmidhi 2:210-220, Fath al-Mulhim 2:219]
This makes the above narration of ‘A’isha (radiallahu anha) very clear and dispels the notion that the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) performed a lengthy prayer comprised of many rak’ats, with only one sitting at the end and no sitting postures in between the various rak’ats he performed. The following narration of Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu anhuma) further corroborates this explanation: ’The Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) performed eight rak’ats and seven rak’ats in Madinah, i.e. Zuhr and Asr (together) and Maghrib and ‘Isha (together).’ [Saheeh Muslim 1:246]
No scholar has taken this statement to imply that each of the four rak’ats of Zuhr and ‘Asr, and the three of Maghrib and four ‘Isha were combined together in such a way that there was no interval between them.
The reason why scholars have disregarded such an interpretation is because it suggests a new method of prayer that is inconsistent with the normal method of prayer used regularly by the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions (radiallahu anhum). In the same way, those narrations which apparently suggest a method for witr contrary to the noral practise of prayer being a minimum of two rak’ats, will have to be interpreted accordingly and not taken literally.
(3) Is One Rak’ah Sufficient For Witr?
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiallahu anhuma) narrates: Someone asked the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) about prayer at night. The Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, ’The prayer at night should be performed in sets of two. Then, when one anticipates the break of dawn, he should perform one more rak’ah which will convert what he has performed into witr for him.’ [Saheeh al-Bukhari 1:135, Saheeh Muslim 1:257]
In another verison of this narration it states, ’Witr is a single rak’ah (performed) towards the end of the night.’ The version in Sunan ibn Majah states, ’The prayer of the night is (performed) in sets of two, and the witr is a rak’ah (performed) before dawn.’
Some scholars have deduced from these narrations that the witr is a single rak’ah to be performed on its own separately. This deduction however does not bring out the real meaning of this hadeeth as all the characteristics of prayer have not been taken into consideration. The following points should be considered:
(a) May Allah (azza wa jal) bless the great Shafi’ee scholar Hafiz ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, who states in his Fath al-Bari: ”It could be contended that this (hadeeth) is not absolutely clear with regards to the intervals (between the second and third rak’ats of witr). It is possible that the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) intended by his statement, ‘he should perform one more rak’ah,’ that this rak’ah should be performed together (mudafatan) with the two rak’ats before it.” [Fath al-Bari 2:385]
Hence, the real meaning of this hadeeth is that a person should perform the tahajjud prayer in sets of two throughout the night, and upon reaching the end of his vigil (qiyam al-layl), he should add an extra rak’ah to the final set of two and make it three rak’ats. This way, the rak’ats of his tahajjud and witr prayer will add up to an odd number and thereby be in accordance with Messenger’s (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) statement: ’Then, when one anticipates the break of dawn, he should perform one more rak’ah, which will convert what he has performed into witr for him.’[Saheeh al-Bukhari 1:135, Saheeh Muslim 1:257]
(b) The Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said regarding the sacred pilgrimage (Hajj): ”The Pilgrimage (Hajj) is ‘Arafah.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, al-Daraqutni]
This narration is also not to be taken literally, as it would mean that a person’s pilgrimage (Hajj) is completed by him merely proceeding to the plain of ‘Arafat, standing there for some time, and then returning home without even entering into pilgrim sanctity (ihram). This is obviously not a valid interpretation since it has neglected many integral aspects of the worship. In actuality, the hadeeth is only expressing the importance of standing (waquf) in ‘Arafat, as it is one of the integrals of the pilgrimage (Hajj); and not that it is the only integral act to be performed for Hajj.
Similarly, by stating that the witr is one rak’ah performed before the end of the night, the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is only defining the distinctive factor between witr and the two rak’ats of tahajjud; that adding an extra rak’ah to the last two rak’ats of tahajjud would render all three rak’ats into witr, thus allowing the person to fulfil his requirement of witr.
(c) The personal practise of Ibn ‘Umar (radiallahu anhuma), although appearing otherwise from the above hadeeth, was to perform three rak’ats of witr together; as is indicated in the following narration of Imam Malik (rahmatullahi alaih): ’Ibn ‘Umar (radiallahu anhuma) would state that the Maghrib prayer is the witr of the day.’ [Muwatta Imam Malik 77]
If the Maghrib prayer (which everyone agrees is three continuous rak’ats) has been stated a being the witr of the day, then it follow that the witr prayer itself should be performed as three continuous rak’ats as well.
In light of the above, it is very difficult to establish that witr could be performed as just one rak’ah. Hafiz ibn Hajar (rahmatullahi alaih) relates in his Fath al-Bari that ibn al-Salah (rahmatullahi alaih) said: We cannot infer from the narrations of witr, despite their being so many, that the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) only performed a single rak’ah for witr. [Fath al-Bari 2:15]
Hence, any narration which states that the witr prayer was anything but three rak’ats cannot be taken literally. Instead, it has to be analyzed and suitably interpreted so as to draw out its true meaning and harmonize it with the other narrations that mention the witr as being three rak’ats.
A Final Question
After reading the ahadeeth, one might ask why these narrations differ from one another in describing the witr prayer? The answer to this is very simple. There are two types of narrators. Firstly, there are those who refer to the whole combination of night prayer (tahajjud) and witr as being witr, and do not mention any distinction between the two. They state only the total number of rak’ats the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) performed at night, since it was common knowledge anyway that the final three rak’ats of the tahajjud prayer would be set aside for witr. Hence, they include the whole night-vigil (tahajjud) prayer when mentioning the witr prayer. Examples of this can be found above in the section titled ‘Some Confusing Narrations.’
As opposed to this, the second type of narrators do not refer to all of the rak’ats as being witr, but rather describe the tahajjud and witr prayer separately in terms of the number of rak’ats performed for each. Hence, they do not leave any room for speculation. The majority of the second type of narrations state very clearly that the witr consists of three rak’ats. Examples of this can be found above in the section titled ‘The Ahadeeth On This Issue.’
Imam Tirmidhi (rahmatullahi alaih), quoting the words of Ishad ibn Ibraheem Rahway (or Rahuya), concluded: ’The narrations that state that the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) performed thirteen rak’ats witr actually mean (as Ishaq says) that he performed thirteen rak’ats including the three rak’ats of witr, and (it follows from this) that the whole night prayer was referred to as witr.’ [Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1:105]
Imam Abu Muhammad al-Manbaji (rahmatullahi alaih), a Hanafi jurist and hadeeth scholar, writes: ’One way of reconciling between the (conflicting) narrations is to say that (initially) the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to perform one rak’ah as witr and even instructed others in this; but his final position was to perform (the witr as) three rak’ats.’ [al-Lubab fi al-Jam’I bayn al-sunnati wa’l-kitab 1:173]
Conclusion
In conclusion, the witr should be performed as a three rak’ah prayer, since this is how, according to the majority of the narrations, the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) performed his witr prayer. These three rak’ats should be performed together without separating the third rak’ah from the first two. Performing one rak’ah witr has been classified as being an incomplete prayer by the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Evidence of this is the fact that there is no other example of a prayer consisting of just one rak’ah in Islamic Jurisprudence. Hence, the witr prayer should be performed continuously just like the Maghrib prayer and not on its own as a single rak’ah.
Furthermore, it has been made clear tht the practise of the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was to perform witr at night after the tahajjud prayer. He would perform the tahajjud prayer in sets of two rak’ats until the time of Fajr drew close, at which time he would add an extra rak’ah to the final set, thus converting both the last two rak’ats set and the additional rak’ah into witr. Surely, this explanation is what the Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) intended when he said, ’Them when one anticipates the break of dawn, he should perform one more rak’ah, which will convert what he has performed into witr for him.’ [Saheeh al-Bukhari 1:135, Saheeh Muslim 1:257]
And Allah, the Exalted, knows best.

RECENT CONTENTS

Recent Posts Widget