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 (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, “The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer.” [Muslim]
Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) 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 (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) 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 (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) 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 (Allah be pleased with him) 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.
the Hanbali faqih and sufi, explained in his Sharh Mandhumat al-Adaab:
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 attention and is with the tongue in understanding, as Allah Most High said, ‘o! 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,
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 (Allah bless him and give him peace) 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.
Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) was asked, ‘I cannot pray at night.’ He said, ‘Your sins have prevented you.’
And Allah alone gives success.
by Sidi Faraz Rabbani of the Hanafi
Excellence of Prayer at Night - Qiyam al-layl
Qiyam al-layl or night vigil is a source of great spiritual energy.
The Quran also commends the one who utilizes the early hours of each day to engage in remembrance of Allah: "Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of night prostrating himself or standing [in adoration] and who places his hope in the mercy of His Lord - [like one who does not]? Say: 'Are those equal - those who know and those who do not know?' It is those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition." [Az-Zumar 39:9]
"And in some parts of the night (also) perform the Salat (prayer) with it (i.e., recite the Qur'an in the prayer) as an additional prayer (Tahajjud optional prayer - Nawafil) for you (O Muhammad (PBUH)). It may be that your Rubb will raise you to Maqam Mahmud (a station of praise and glory, i.e., the honour of intercession on the Day of Resurrection).'' (17:79)
"Their sides forsake their beds...'' (32:16)
"They used to sleep but little by night [invoking their Rubb (Allah) and praying, with fear and hope].'' (51:17)
The Prophet has said: "Keep up qiyam al-layl. It was the way of the virtuous who came before you, it draws you nearer to your Lord, atones for your sins, forbids you from evil and protects the body from sickness." (Tirmidhi.)
"Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) kept standing (in prayer) so long that the skin of his feet would crack. I asked him: "Why do you do this, while you have been forgiven of your former and latter sins?" He said, "Should I not be a grateful slave of Allah?" [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
This Hadith has already been mentioned. It is reproduced here to illustrate
the practice of the Prophet (PBUH) in respect of Qiyam-ul-Lail. It tells
COMMENTARY: This Hadith tells us that one should also awaken others at night for prayer so that they also avail the benefits of performing prayer at this particular time.
"Salim bin `Abdullah bin `Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with them) reported, on the authority of his father, that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "What an excellent man `Abdullah is! If only he could perform optional prayers at night.'' Salim said that after this, (his father) `Abdullah slept very little at night." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
COMMENTARY: This Hadith points out the excellence of `Abdullah bin `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) as well as the merits of Qiyam-ul-Lail.
"Abdullah bin Salam (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "O people, promote the greetings, feed (the poor and needy) and perform Salat when others are asleep so that you will enter Jannah safely." [At-Tirmidhi].