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Knowing Allah
  
  

   

 

number of rak‘ahs (units of prayer) of qiyaam (voluntary night prayer):

7- it is performed with eleven rak‘ahs. we would prefer not to exceed this number for the sake of following the sunnah (tradition) of the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), who did not exceed it till he died.  ‘aa’ishah  may  allaah  be  pleased  with  her was asked about the (night) prayer of the messenger of allaah,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), during the month of ramadhaan. she said, "the messenger of allaah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ) did not observe either in ramadhaan or in other months more than eleven rak‘ahs (in the night prayer). he (in the first instance) observed four rak‘ahs. ask not about their excellence and their length (i.e. these were matchless in perfection and length). after that he observed four more rak‘ahs. ask not about their excellence and their length. he would then observe three rak‘ahs (of the witr prayer)." [al-bukhaari, muslim and others]
8- one may pray less than this number even if he prays one rak‘ah of witr only, as this was done and enjoined by the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ).
9- ’aa’ishah  may  allaah  be  pleased  with  her was asked how many rak‘ahs was the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), used to offering as witr. she said,"he used to pray four and three, or six and three, or ten and three. he never used to pray less than seven, or more than thirteen." [abu daawood, ahmad and others]  
the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), said: "the witr is a duty for every muslim so if anyone wishes to observe it with five rak‘ahs, he may do so; if anyone wishes to observe it with three, he may do so, and if anyone wishes to observe it with one, he may do so."
reciting quran in qiyaam:
9- the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), did not specify a certain limit regarding the recitation of the quran in the qiyaam of ramadhaan or any other time, which was to be observed without increase or decrease. rather, his recitation used to range between short and lengthy. sometimes, he would read in every rak‘ah an amount similar to that of {o you who wraps himself [in clothing]} which is twenty verses, another time he would read fifty verses. he used to say: "whoever prays at night with a hundred verses would not be written among the heedless" and another narration: "… with two hundred verses would be written among the devoutly obedient and sincere."
one night, when the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), was ill, he recited the seven long chapters (surahs): al-baqarah, aal ‘imraan, an-nisaa’, al-maa’idah, al-an’aam, al-a’raaf  and at-tawbah.
in the narration of huthayfah ibn al-yamaan  may  allaah  be  pleased  with  him when he prayed behind the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), he recited in one rak‘ah al-baqarah, an-nisaa’ and aal ‘imraan. he recited them slowly and calmly.
it was proved with the soundest chain of narrators that when umar ibn al-khattaab ordered ubayy ibn ka’b  may  allaah  be  pleased  with  them both, to lead the people in an eleven-rak‘ah (unit) prayer, ubayy  may  allaah  be  pleased  with  him would read hundreds of verses, until those behind him had to support themselves with canes due to the length of time they had to stand. they would only finish praying just before fajr.
it was also proved that ‘umar  may  allaah  be  pleased  with  him called readers to recite the quran in ramadhaan. he told the fastest of them to read thirty verses, the moderate twenty-five verses and the slow twenty verses.
therefore, if someone is praying alone, he may prolong his prayer for as long as he wishes, as well as if he is accompanied by people who share the same wish. the more he prolongs his prayer, the better; yet, he should not go to extremes following the example of the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), who said: "the best guidance is the guidance of muhammad." however, if he is praying as an imaam (leader), he should prolong prayers to the extent that does not exhaust those behind him, for the messenger of allaah,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), said: "if anyone of you leads the people in prayer, he should shorten it for amongst them are the young and the old, the weak, the sick and those who have pressing needs; and if anyone among you prays alone then he may prolong (the prayer) as much as he wishes."
time of qiyaam:
10- the time of night prayer starts from after the ‘ishaa’ prayer till dawn. the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ) said: "allaah has given you an extra prayer. this is the witr which allaah has appointed for you between the ‘ishaa’ prayer and the fajr prayer."
11- praying at the end of the night is better for who can, for the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), said: "whoever fears not [being able] to wake up at the end of the night should perform witr at the beginning of the night. whoever hopes to wake up at the end of the night should perform witr therein for prayers at the end of the night are witnessed and that is better."
12- if one is to choose between praying in congregation at the beginning of the night and praying alone at the end thereof, then, congregational prayer is better as its reward is like that of qiyaam of a whole night.
this is what the companions did in the caliphate of ‘umar  may  allaah  be  pleased  with  him. ‘abdul-rahmaan ibn ‘abdul-qaari  may  allaah  be  pleased  with  him said,
"i went out in the company of ‘umar ibn al-khattaab one night in ramadhaan to the mosque and found the people praying in different groups; a man praying alone or a man praying with a little group behind him. so, ‘umar said, 'in my opinion it would be better if i collect these (people) under the leadership of one reciter (i.e. let them pray in congregation!)'. so, he made up his mind to gather them behind ubayy ibn ka‘b. then on another night i went again in his company and the people were praying behind their reciter. on that, ‘umar remarked, 'what an excellent bid‘ah (innovation) this is! however, the prayer which they do not perform, but sleep at its time, is better than the one they are offering.' he meant the prayer in the last part of the night. in those days people used to pray in the early part of the night."
zayd ibn wahb  may  allaah  be  pleased  with  him said, "‘abdullaah used to lead us in prayer in ramadhaan and leave late at night."
13- since the prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  allaah exalt his mention ), prohibited performing witr in three rak‘ahs and gave the reason for that as he said: "do not make it resemble the maghrib prayer." that is why whoever prays three rak‘ahs for witr should avoid this issue by one of the following:
first: making tasleem between the shaf‘ (even number of rak'ahs) and witr (odd number), and this option is the strongest and the best.
second: not sitting for tashahhud between the shaf‘ and witr  -- allaah knows best.
(to be continued)



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