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Allah Most High said, Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the da rk 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 recita l, as voluntary worship for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a pr aised estate. [Qur an, 17: 78-79] Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (ble ssings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, The best prayer a fter the obligatory prayers is the night prayer. [Muslim] Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (ble ssings 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 t he night. [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasa i, Ibn Majah] Abd Allah ibn Salam (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Al lah (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 ot hers sleep and you will enter Heaven safely. [Tirmidhi, Hakim] Abu Umama al-Bahili (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Al lah (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 drawi ng closer to your Lord, an expiation for wrong deeds, and a shield from sin. [Tir midhi, and others] In some narrations, there is an addition, And it repels sickne ss 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 sc holars explain that this refers to voluntary prayers. Imam Saffarini, the Hanbali faqih and sufi, explained in his Sharh Mandhumat alAdaab: 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 an d 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 desiro us of it is a tremendous struggle (mujahada). Some have said, The best of works a re those the lower self is forced to perform. And because recitation in night prayer is closer to contemplation, because thing s 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 yoursel f with a complete devotion.] (Qur an, 73: 6-7) It is because of this that we have b een 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 pray er, and the closest a servant is to his Lord.

And because it is a time when the doors of the sky are opened, supplications ans wered, 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 u nto 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 mo destly, 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 n ot: Is the one who worships devoutly in the watches of the night, prostrate and s tanding, fearful of the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, (to be a ccounted 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] [Saffari ni, 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 prac tice 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 a l-Mukhtar, Radd al-Muhtar] 4. If one divides the night in thirds, then the final middle third is most virtu ous. [Durr al-Mukhtar] 5. If one divides the night in half, then the second half is more virtuous. [ibi d.] 6. Voluntary (nafl) prayer at night is more virtuous than voluntary prayer durin g 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 f rom 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-Ba hr 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 h alf of Islamic history, however, wavered between it being recommended or a confi rmed sunna. This is because while the spoken hadiths indicate recommendation, th e 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 M uslim] 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 littl e. [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 hi m peace) said, It you get up for night prayer, start with two short rakats. [Musli m, Ahmad, Abu Dawud] 10. Supplications in the depths of the night are answered, as the hadiths have m entioned. Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) was asked, I cannot pray at night. Your sins have prevented you. And Allah alone gives success. 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 enga ge in remembrance of Allah: "Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of ni ght prostrating himself or standing [in adoration] and who places his hope in th e 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 pra yer - 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 interces sion 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, forbid s you from evil and protects the body from sickness." (Tirmidhi.) "Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) kept standi ng (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]. COMMENTARY: This Hadith has already been mentioned. It is reproduced here to il lustrate the practice of the Prophet (PBUH) in respect of Qiyam-ul-Lail. It tell s us that: He said,

The Nafl Salat should be performed with full concentration and peace of mind. The more one is endowed with gifts from Allah, the greater gratitude and worship one should express for them to Allah. The best time for showing one's humility before Allah and for worship is the lat er period of night. "Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) visited me and Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her) one night and said, "Do you not observ e prayer (at night)?"[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. 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 partic ular time. "Salim bin `Abdullah bin `Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with them) r eported, 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 littl e at night." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. COMMENTARY: This Hadith points out the excellence of `Abdullah bin `Umar (May Al lah 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 S alat when others are asleep so that you will enter Jannah safely." [At-Tirmidhi] .