Is It from the Sunna to Pray a Voluntary Prayer After the Witr Prayer?


Answered by Shaykh Umer Mian

Question: Assalam’aleykum

I have been taught that there are 2 cycles of non emphasized prayer after the witr prayer and therefore the witr is not necessarily considered as the last prayer of the night as such.

When going through the Hanafi Fiqh course, I don’t believe seeing this. Is this a valid difference of opinion within the Hanafi school?

Wa alaikum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

The short answer:

The scholars differed about this issue due to differences in the wordings of various ahadeeth. The Hanafi position is that there is nothing wrong with praying nafl after the Witr prayer. Doing so is NOT makruh (legally reprehensible) nor does it invalidate one’s witr prayer. In fact, the apparent meaning of various ahadeeth seem to indicate that praying nafl prayers after Witr was the practice of the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam).

The detailed answer:

There are numerous reports in the hadeeth literature that the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) prayed two rakats of nafl after the witr prayer. For example, Sayyidatuna A’isha reports that “the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) would pray two rakats after witr” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Kitab al-Salah, Bab fi Salat al-Layl).

However, there are other reports that seem to indicate that this is not correct. For example, Sayyidna Abdullah bin Umar said: “Make the last of your prayers (in the night) the witr prayer, for verily the Messenger of Allah has commanded this” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Salah, Bab al-Hilaq wal Juloos fil Masjid). This hadeeth appears to indicate that nothing at all should be prayed after the witr prayer, in order to keep the witr prayer as the last prayer of the night.

The scholars differed about how to reconcile the ahadeeth above. Some of them said that the hadeeth of Sayyidna Abdullah bin Umar is a report of the Messenger of Allah’s (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) regular practice and hence it is what should be followed. That is, one should not pray anything after the Witr prayer. These scholars explained the hadeeth of Sayyidatuna A’isha by saying that praying two rakats after witr is something the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) did only a few times, in order to show that it’s permissible to do. However, the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) never intended it to be a regular practice. This is the explanation preferred by Imam al-Nawawi. See Imam Nawawi’s commentary on Sahih Muslim.

However, other scholars rejected the above explanation because the hadeeth of Sayyidatuna A’isha uses the Arabic word “kaana,” which indicates a regular practice. That is, the wording of the hadeeth indicates that praying two rakat after Witr prayer was the Messenger of Allah’s (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) regular practice. Allamah ‘Ayni states this in his Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud. In addition, some scholars explained that the two rakats after the witr prayer are considered part of the witr prayer (i.e. connected to it), just as two sunnah rakats after the fard of Maghrib are considered part of the Maghrib prayer. If we understand it in this way, we can reconcile between the two hadeeth above because praying two rakats after witr (according to the hadeeth of Sayyidatuna A’isha) still keeps Witr as the last prayer of the night (according to the hadeeth of Sayyidna Abdullah bin Umar).

As for the position of the Hanafi madhab:

Imam Muhammad bin Hasan, the great companion of Imam Abu Hanifah, states the following in his Muwwata:
“A person should pray as much nafl as he wishes after the witr prayer, and this does not invalidate his Witr prayer. This is the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah.”

Imam Al-Tahawi, one of the greatest Hanafi scholars, devotes an entire chapter of his magnificent work Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar to this issue (i.e. praying nafl after the witr prayer). After a thorough review of the ahadeeth and statements of the sahabah related to this issue, he concludes that the correct understanding that best accords to the Messenger of Allah’s (sall Allahu alaihi wa sallam) word and practice is that nafl prayed after the Witr prayer does NOT invalidate the witr prayer. He also states that this is the opinion of the two great companions of Imam Abu Hanifah (the sahibayn): Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad bin Hasan. See Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar, Bab al-Tatawwu’ b’ad al-Witr.

And Allah knows best.

Umer Mian