‘The Night Prayers’ & TIPS – Shaykh Muhammad Naasiruddeen al-Albaanee
‘The Night Prayers’ by Shaykh Muhammad Naasiruddeen al-Albaanee (rahimahullah) As-Sunnah Islamic Newsletter Issue 15
What is Qiyaam al-Layl?
‘Qiyaam’ means ‘standing’ and ‘Qiyaam al-Layl’ means ‘standing in night.’ In the Islamic terminology, both terms refer to, ‘the voluntary night prayer, whose time extends from after Isha prayer until dawn.’ Other common names for Qiyaam al-Layl are, Salaat ul-Layl (the night prayer), Tahajjud (from hajada meaning remained awake at night), Witr (odd-numbered this term is also used to refer to the last one or three Raka’ah of Qiyaam) and Taraweeh (resting). A widespread misconception is that Tahajjud is a different night prayer than Qiyaam or Taraweeh. It is important to clarify this misunderstanding and to make clear that there is only one nafl night prayer known by different names. Even though the term Taraweeh is more commonly used to describe the night prayer in Ramadan, it is not different from Tahajjud. Thus, the practice of praying Taraweeh in the earlier part of the night and Tahajjud in the later part should be stopped.
The Excellence of Qiyaam al-Layl
Numerous Ahaadeeth and Qur’aanic verses mention the excellence of Qiyaam al-Layl and the merit of those who perform it regularly. Umm al-Mumineen, Aa’ishah (radhi allahu anha) reported that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said:
“The most beloved deeds to Allaah are the most constant, even if they were little.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim] and she said in another narration: “Do not ever stop praying Qiyaam.
The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) never ceased praying it. When he was sick or weak, he prayed sitting.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslims] He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “You should pray Qiyaam al-Layl, for it is the habit of the righteous people who came before you, and it will bring you closer to your Lord, expiate for bad deeds, prevent sin, and expel disease from the body.” [At-Tirmidhee and Musnad Ahmad] Narrated Mu’adh Ibn Jabal (radhi allahu anhu): ‘The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said to him:
“May I show you the gates of goodness?’ (they are), “(a) Fasting is screen from Hell, (b) As-Sadaqah extinguishes the sins, as water extinguishes fire, (c) Standing in Salaat (prayer) by a slave of Allaah during the last third part of a night.” Then the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) recited the verse: “Their (believer’s) sides forsake their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope; and they spend out of what We have bestowed on them.”‘ [Abu Dawood and at-Tirmidhee]
Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) reported that Allaah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “The best of prayer after those prescribed (i.e. obligatory prayer) is that in the depth of night.” [Saheeh Muslims] Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) reported that Allaah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “May Allaah have mercy on a man who wakes up at night, prays, and wakes his wife to pray; and if she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face. And may Allaah have mercy on a woman who wakes up at night, prays, and wakes her husband to pray; and if he refuses, she sprinkles water on his face.” [(Hasan) Abu Dawood ]
Abdullah Ibn Bashr (radhi allahu anhu) reported Allaah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) saying: “Whoever prays Qiyaam reciting ten verses, he will not be recorded among the negligent. Whoever prays Qiyaam reciting one hundred verses, he will be recorded among the devout. And whoever prays Qiyaam reciting one thousand verses, he will be recorded among those with a multitude of good deeds.” [(Hasan) Abu Dawood]
7 Practical Tips for praying Qiyaam al-Layl
1: Ikhlas (Sincerity) – the key to Allaah’s Help and Blessings
Help of Allaah is needed to accomplish and achieve success in all our affairs. And Allaah only helps those who are sincere in their hearts. The Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “If you are truthful with Allaah, then Allaah will deliver to you what you wish for.” [An-Nasa’ee, al-Hakim and Saheeh al-Jamee] Therefore, one should have a sincere intention to pray Qiyaam al-Layl; seek the Pleasure of Allaah Alone and avoid the desire of praise or fame. Allaah says: “And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allaah, and worship none but Him Alone…” [(98): 5] Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said: “The degree to which a person is helped and aided by Allaah depends on the degree of his intention, drive, aim and hopes. Help from Allaah comes to people in proportion to their drive, intention, hopes and fears, and failure comes to them in like manner.”
2: Knowing the Virtues of Qiyaam al-Layl
Knowing the virtues and rewards of performing worship produces willingness and desire to perform the worship. We have previously mentioned numerous virtues of regularly praying Qiyaam al-Layl, here we mention the excellence of praying Qiyaam al-Layl particularly in the great month of Ramadan. Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) reported: “Allaah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) encouraged the people, without making it an absolute command, to perform Qiyaam during Ramadan. He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) used to say: “Whoever stands (in Qiyaam) in Ramadan out of faith and expectation (of Allaah’s reward), all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Saheeh Muslim]
3: Taking a nap in the daytime
Taking a nap before or after Dhur Salaat will dismiss the stress and thus enable one to get up in the night and stand in front of his Lord. The Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Take a nap, for the Shayateen (pl. of Shaytan) do not take naps.” [Reported by at-Tabaranee. Al-Saheehah (2647)]
4: Sleeping according to the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger
(a) Sleep early: Sleeping early is a healthy habit and it was the practice of Allaah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) to sleep directly after performing the Isha prayer. Abu Barzah al-Aslami (radhi allahu anhu) said that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) used to prefer to delay Isha, and he did not like to sleep before it or talk after it.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee]
(b) Sleep in a state of taharah (purity): Ibn Abbas (radhi allahu anhu) reported that Allaah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Purify these bodies and Allaah will purify you, for there is no slave who goes to sleep in a state of purity but an Angel spends the night with him, and every time he turns over, [the Angel] says, ‘O Allaah! Forgive Your slave, for he went to bed in a state of purity.’” [Reported by at-Tabaranee. See Saheeh al-Jamee (3831)]
(c) Choose a suitable bed: Excessive luxurious or soft bed provokes laziness and makes one sleep more and become negligent.
Aa’ishah (radhi allahu anha) narrates that the pillow of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) on which he slept at night was made of leather stuffed with palm fibers.” [Abu Dawood and Musnad Ahmad. Saheeh al-Jamee (4714)] Once Umar Ibn al-Khattab (radhi allahu anhu) entered upon the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) when he was lying on a mat of palm fibers that had left marks on his side. Umar (radhi allahu anhu) said: “O Messenger of Allah, why do you not get something more comfortable than this?” He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “What do I have to do with this world? My relationship with this world is like that of a traveller on a hot summer’s day, who seeks shade under a tree for an hour, then moves on.” [Musnad Ahmad and al-Hakim. Saheeh al-Jamee (5545)]
(d) Cleaning the bed and lying on the right side. Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) reported: “The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “When any one of you goes to bed, let him clear his bed by hitting it with his garment, for he does not know what may have come onto it. Then let him lie down on his right side…” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]
(e) Reciting the Adhkaar (supplications) mentioned in the Sunnah before sleeping. There are a number of Adhkaar prescribed in the Sunnah before going to bed, amongst them are reciting the last verses of Surah al-Baqarah, reciting Surah al-Falaq and Surah al-Nas and Surah Ikhlas blow in the palms and wipe as much of the body possible, starting from the head, face and then the front of the body doing it three times. [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]
Ali Ibn Abi Talib (radhi allahu anhu) reported that when the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima (radhi allahu anha) came to him and asked him for a servant, he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said to her and Ali: “Shall I not teach you something that will be better for you than a servant? When you go to bed, say ‘SubhanAllaah’ thirty-three times, ‘Al-hamdulillaah’ thirty-three times, and ‘Allahu Akbar’ thirty-four times. This is better for you than a servant.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]
5: Avoid too much food and drink Too much food or drink is one of the main obstacles that make one lazy and negligent of Qiyaam al-Layl. The Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Man fills no vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to have a few mouthfuls to give him the strength he needs. If he has to fill his stomach, then let him leave one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air.” [Reported by at-Tirmidhee and Ibn Majah. Saheeh al-Jamee (5674)]
Abu Juhayfah (radhi allahu anhu) reported that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said to a man who burped in his presence: “Stop your burping, for the people who eat the most in this life will be the most hungry on the Day of Resurrection.” [Reported by al-Hakim. Saheeh al-Jamee (1190)]
6: Striving against oneself: Striving against oneself to get up and pray and suppressing one’s desires bring about Allaah’s help and His Pleasure for the slave. Allaah says in the Qur’aan: “Strive in Allaah’s Cause as you ought to strive…” [Surah al-Hajj (25): 78] “And as for those who strive hard in Our Cause, We will surely guide them to Our Paths. And verily, Allaah is with the Muhsinoon (good-doers).” [ (29): 69] The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “The Mujahid (one who strives in way of Allaah) is the one who strives against his own self for the sake of Allaah.” [Reported by al-Tirmidhee. See al-Saheehah (549)]
He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) also said: “When a man from my Ummah gets up to pray at night, striving against his own self to get up and purify himself, there are knots on him. When he washes his hands in wudhu, one knot is undone. When he washes his face, another knot is undone. When he wipes his head another knot is undone. When he washes his feet, another knot is undone. Then Allaah says to those who are veiled (in the Unseen): ‘Look at this slave of Mine, he is striving against his own self and asking of Me. Whatever My slave asks of Me shall be his.” [Musnad Ahmad. See Saheeh al-Targheeb (627)]
7: Rebuking one’s self for not praying Qiyaam al-Layl
Qiyaam al-Layl is a great blessing from Allaah, the Exalted, and He has placed in it numerous spiritual benefits and rewards for the believer. Therefore, one should rebuke one’s self, if he misses this great opportunity of achieving rewards and Pleasure of Allaah. Allaah says in the Qur’aan: “O you who believe! Fear Allaah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow, and fear Allaah. Verily, Allaah is All-Aware of what you do.” [(59): 18] Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) said: “If the slave is responsible and accountable for everything, even his hearing, sight and innermost thoughts, as Allaah says,
“…Verily, hearing, sight, and the heart of each of you will be questioned by Allaah.” [Surah al-Isra (17): 36], then he should check on himself before he is brought to account.”