Tahajjud - The the Night Vigil Prayer
In the name of Allah the most gracious most merciful
The Virtues of praying Tahajjud
Allah Most High said, "Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of the night, and (the recital of) the Qur'an at dawn. Lo! (the recital of) the Qur'an at dawn is ever witnessed. And some part of the night awake for its recital, as voluntary worship for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praised estate." [Qur'an, 17: 78-79]
Abu Hurayra (Ra) reports that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, "The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer." [Muslim]
Abu Hurayra (Ra) reports that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) was asked, "What prayer is most virtuous, after the obligatory prayers?" He said, "Prayer in the depths of the night." [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah]
Abd Allah ibn Salam (Ra) reports that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, "O people! Spread the salams, feed others, maintain family ties, and pray at night when others sleep and you will enter Heaven safely." [Tirmidhi, Hakim]
Abu Umama al-Bahili (Ra) reports that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, "Hold fast to night prayer, for it was the way of the righteous before you, a way of drawing closer to your Lord, an expiation for wrong deeds, and a shield from sin." [Tirmidhi, and others] In some narrations, there is an addition, "And it repels sickness from the body."
Ibn Mas`ud (Ra) said, "The virtues of night prayer over day prayer is like the virtue of secret charity over open charity." [Tabarani]
The scholars explain that this refers to voluntary prayers. Imam Saffarini, the Hanbali faqih explained in his Sharh Mandhumat al-Adaab:
"Night prayer is superior to day prayer because: It is more concealed and closer to sincerity. The righteous early Muslims (salaf) used to strive hard to hide their secrets [f: i.e. the actions between them and Allah]."
Hasan [al-Basri] said, "It used to be that a person would have guests staying over and he would pray at night without his guests knowing."
And because night prayer is harder on the lower self, because night is a time of rest from the tire of day, so leaving sleep despite the lower self being desirous of it is a tremendous struggle (mujahada). Some have said, "The best of works are those the lower self is forced to perform."
And because recitation in night prayer is closer to contemplation, because things that busy the heart are mostly absent at night, so the heart is more attentive and is with the tongue in understanding, as Allah Most High said, "Lo! The night vigil is (a time) when impression is more keen and speech more certain. [Lo! You have by day a chain of business. So remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself with a complete devotion.]" (Qur'an, 73: 6-7) It is because of this that we have been commanded to recite the Qur'an in night prayer in a steady recital (tartil).
And it is because of this that night prayer is a shield from sin.
And because night vigil time is the best of times for voluntary worship and prayer, and the closest a servant is to his Lord.
And because it is a time when the doors of the sky are opened, supplications answered, and the needs of those who ask fulfilled.
Allah has praised those who wake up at night for His remembrance, supplication, and to seek forgiveness and entreat Him, saying:
"They forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of what We have bestowed on them. No soul knows what is kept hid from them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do." [Qur'an, 32: 16-17]
And He said, "Those who pray for pardon in the watches of the night." [Qur'an, 3: 17]
And, "[The (faithful) servants of the Merciful are they who walk upon the earth modestly, and when the foolish one address them answer: Peace;] And who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing" [Qur'an, 25: 63-64]
Allah most negated similitude between those who pray at night and those who do not: "Is the one who worships devoutly in the watches of the night, prostrate and standing, fearful of the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, (to be accounted equal with a disbeliever)? Say: are those who know equal with those who know know? But only people of understanding will pay heed." [Qur'an, 39: 9]" [Saffarini, Ghidha al-Albab Sharh Mandhumat al-Adaab]
Imam Abu Sa'id al-Khadimi said,
"There is scholarly consensus (ijma`) that among the best of virtuous acts is the night vigil prayer." [al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya Sharh al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya]
The scholars derived the following from the Qur'an and Prophetic hadiths:
1. The minimal night vigil prayer is 2 rakats. [Hindiyya, quoting Fath al-Qadir]
2. Its optimal recommended amount is 8 rakats, because this was the general practice of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions). [Hindiyya, quoting Fath al-Qadir]
3. Lengthier recitation is superior to a larger number of rakats prayed. [Durr al-Mukhtar, Radd al-Muhtar]
4. If one divides the night in thirds, then the final middle third is most virtuous. [Durr al-Mukhtar]
5. If one divides the night in half, then the second half is more virtuous. [ibid.]
6. Voluntary (nafl) prayer at night is more virtuous than voluntary prayer during the day. However, the full reward mentioned in the Qur'anic verses and Prophetic hadiths refers to worship that was preceded by sleep. This is also understood from the very linguistic meaning of tahajjud, which is to struggle rid oneself of sleep. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, quoting Ibn Amir Haajj's Halba]
7. Ibn Nujaym and Haskafi both affirmed that night prayer is recommended. [al-Bahr al-Ra'iq, and al-Durr al-Mukhtar; chosen in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya] Kamal ibn al-Humam, the brilliant mujtahid who was the greatest Hanafi faqih of the latter half of Islamic history, however, wavered between it being recommended or a confirmed sunna. This is because while the spoken hadiths indicate recommendation, the continued practice of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) would seem to indicate it being a confirmed sunna. This was also chosen by Ibn al-Humam's student, Ibn Amir Haaj in his Halba. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
8. It is disliked to leave the night vigil prayer for one who has made it their habit, unless there is an excuse, because the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him), "O Abd Allah! Do not be like so-and-so. He used to pray at night and then left it." [Bukhari and Muslim] Therefore, one should take on an amount of works one can sustain, for the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, "The most beloved of actions to Allah are the most constant, even if little." [Bukhari and Muslim] [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, from Ibn Amir Haajj's Halba]
9. It is recommended to start the night vigil with two short rakats, because of the hadith of Abu Hurayra that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "It you get up for night prayer, start with two short rakats." [Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawud]
10. Supplications in the depths of the night are answered, as the hadiths have mentioned.
Here are a few tips to help us pray Tahajjud each night:
1. Practice Qayloola (short nap) which is to sleep even for half an hour after Dhuhr if we can for this has much benefit in terms of being able to awaken for Tahajjud. Onl;y a short nap will suffice from between 15-20 minutes and no more than 30 minutes. Anymore than this may have negative effects with regards to being able to sleep again at night after Isha.
2. Sleep straight after Isha particularly in the summer months and then awaken for Tahajjud.
3. For women in particular it is easier to pray Tahajjud as they could awaken half an hour or 40 minutes before Fajr starts. Pray Tahajjud and then a little while later pray Fajr. For men it is better to awaken earlier and then sleep and awaken for Fajr with jamaat. Which is better? Fajr with jamaat (congregation) so waking up to pray Fajr with congregation should be a priority for men. If a man knows they will not be able to attend Fajr with jamaat then they may do what is recommended for women and that is to awaken 30-40 minutes before Fajr begins.
4. Avoid major sins in particular because major sins stop a person from being able to stay awake praying and worshipping Allah in the night.
5. Another alternative is to pray Tahajjud after Isha before sleeping. This is less reward but nevertheless still rewarding. A great scholar suggested that if one knows that one will not be able to wake up for Tahajjud then one can pray it before sleeping. Witr should be the last prayer of the night, so after one has prayed 4 fard of Isha, 2 Sunnah and 2 nafil then one can do an extra nafil with intention of Tahajjud and then end the night with Witr.
Make effort and dua:
Therefore should try our best to pray Tahajjud as much as we can and if there was one habit that we would desire to gain then it is the habit of praying Tahajjud prayer every night for it is one of the best ways to get closer to Allah and gain high ranks in the hereafter as well as being able to make dua in the best part of the night. Once a person starts praying Tahajjud then they would NEVER want to go back or stop praying it because of the amazing feeling and sensation of elevation and hightened sense of satisfaction n contentment of the heart. There is no feeling like it and we should all aim to implement this prayer into our daily lives, no matter what it takes. Even if we can pray it once or twice a week then build up from there. The main thing is that we make the effort and most of all ask of Allah and beg of him to give us the ability to pray Tahajjud every night.
Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) was asked, "I cannot pray at night." He said, "Your sins have prevented you."
May Allah give all of us the ability to pray Tahajjud every single night in order that we get closer to him. Ameen