The Prophet’s Qiyaam in Ramadhaan as described by the Companions
qiyaam (optional night prayer) is one of the recommended acts of worship, and it is even more recommended during the month of ramadhaan. abu hurayrah, may allaah be pleased with him, reported that the messenger of allaah, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, said: “whoever establishes prayers during the nights of ramadhaan faithfully (out of sincere faith) and hoping to attain allaah's rewards, all his past sins will be forgiven.” [al-bukhaari and muslim]
the prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, has also informed us that the one who stands in prayer with the imaam until he finishes the prayer, he will be counted as if he prayed the entire night. abu tharr, may allaah be pleased with him, said: “we fasted (i.e. during ramadhaan) and the prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, did not lead us in prayer (i.e. for qiyaam) until there were seven days remaining for the end of the month, then he led us in prayer and prayed for one third of the night, then he refrained from praying the sixth night before last, then the next night he led us in prayer for half of the night, so we asked him: ‘o messenger of allaah! why don’t you lead us in prayer for the entire night?’ he, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, replied: “whoever performs prayer with the imaam and stays with him until he finishes, his prayer is equal to observing prayer during the whole night” then he refrained from praying until there was three nights remaining in the month, then he led us in prayer for the remaining nights, and he called his wives and family to attend, and he would pray until we feared to miss the suhoor meal (i.e. the predawn meal).” [abu daawood]
it is also reported that he, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, used to pray the qiyaam prayer during ramadhaan and lead his companions in some of the nights, but then he refrained from leading them in prayer. anas, may allaah be pleased with him, said: “the messenger, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, was praying qiyaam one night during ramadhaan, and as i was about to stand next to him another man came and then another until we were a group praying behind him. when he, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, felt us behind him, he shortened his prayer, then he finished and entered his house and prayed a long prayer that he would not pray when we are with him. the next day we asked him: ‘did you feel that we were praying behind you?’ he, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, replied: “yes, and this is why i shortened my prayer.”[muslim]
‘aa’ishah, may allaah be pleased with her, said: “the messenger, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, went out one of the nights of ramadhaan in the middle of the night and prayed in the mosque, and some men prayed behind him. the next morning people mentioned this so the next night more people gathered behind him during prayer. the next day people again told one another and the congregation increased, and the third night he, sallallaahu` alayhi wa sallam, came out again and prayed with people behind him. on the forth night the mosque had more people than it could hold, but the prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, did not come out until it was time to pray fajr. after he finished the fajr prayer he turned around and said to the people: “it is not that i was unaware of your presence in the mosque but i feared it would become obligatory upon you, and then you would be unable to adhere to it.”[al-bukhaari and muslim]
he, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, used to pray eleven rak’ahs and would prolong his recitation of the quran during them. abu salamah asked ‘aa’ishah, may allaah be pleased with her: “how many rak’ahs did the messenger, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, used to pray during ramadhaan?” she replied: “he never prayed more than eleven rak’ahs during ramadhaan or other than ramadhaan. he used to pray four, do not ask how well-performed they were, or how long they were. then he would pray another four, do not ask how well-performed they were, or how long they were. then he would pray three. i asked him: “o messenger of allaah! do you sleep before praying the witr prayer (i.e. the odd numbered prayer)?” he replied: “o ‘aa’ishah! my eyes sleep but my heart never sleeps.”[al-bukhaari and muslim]
huthayfah, may allaah be pleased with him, reported: “i offered qiyaam with the prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, one night, and he started reciting chapter al-baqarah. i thought that he would bow at the end of one hundred verses, but he continued reciting; i, then, thought that he would perhaps bow on completing the whole chapter in a rak`ah, but he proceeded on, and started reciting chapter an-nisaa' he then started chapter aal `imraan and his recitation was unhurried. and when he recited the verses which referred to the glory of allaah, he glorified him (by saying subhaanallaah – exalted is allaah and far above any imperfection), and when he recited the verses that entailed supplication, he supplicated, and when he recited the verses that mention seeking refuge of the lord, he sought (his) refuge. then he bowed and said: “(subhaana rabbiyal-‘atheem) my lord, the great is far above any imperfection” his bowing lasted about the same length of time as his standing (and then on returning to the standing posture after rukoo`) he said: “(sami` allaahu liman hamidah, rabbana wa lakal hamd.) allaah listened to him who praised him. our lord the praise is yours” then he stood about the same length of time as he had spent in bowing. he then prostrated himself and said: “(subhana rabbiyal-a`la) my lord, the supreme is far above any imperfection” and his prostration lasted nearly the same length of time as his standing.” [muslim] the narration in the book of imaam ahmad indicated that this took place during ramadhaan.