Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: I understand that the witr prayer should be the last prayer of the night. If I planned to pray tahajjud and pray witr afterwards but missed both the prayers, do i have to make up the witr prayer? If so, when should it be made up? Also, if I am not sure I will wake up for tahajjud should I pray the witr right after `isha and if I do will my tahajjud still count if I pray it after having already prayed witr?
Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
In Imam Fakhr al-Dïn al-Zayla`ï(Allah have mercy on him) wrote in his Tabyïn al-Haqà’iq Sharh Kanz al-Daqà’iq:
“It is recommended to delay the witr prayer until the end of the night if one is sure of waking up, in order for it to be the last of his night prayers, because the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Make the witr prayer the last of your night prayers.” (Related by Bukhari, Muslim, & others). If one is not sure of waking up at night, one should perform the witr prayer before sleeping, because of the hadith narrated by Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever fears not waking up at the end of the night should pray witr before sleeping. And whoever is confident about waking up at the end of the night should pray witr then…” (Related by Muslim and others) [Tabyïn al-Haqà’iq, 1: 84]
Sayyidi Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) said in hisRadd al-Muhtar:
“If one prayed witr before sleeping and then wakes up… it is not disliked to pray. Rather, it is recommended to pray. However, witr is not repeated.” [Radd al-Muhtar: 1: 369]
Therefore, if one invariably gets up for tahajjud (the night vigil), then it is best to pray witr then. Otherwise, one should pray witr before sleeping, because it is a sin to delay a necessary prayer past its prescribed time.
This is why Abu Hurayra relates, “My beloved one [=the Prophet] counseled me not to sleep except having prayed witr.”
And Allah knows best.
 Imam al-Zayla`i’sT abyïn al-Haqà’iq is one of the relied-upon commentaries in the Hanafi school. It is particularly important for the strength of its presentation of the legal reasoning behind the rulings, as well as their proofs. Note, though, that its author is Imam Fakhr al-Din `Uthman ibn Ali al-Zayla`i (d. 743 AH), not Imam Jamal al-Din Abd Allah ibn Yusuf al-Zayla`i(d. 762 AH), author of the masterly Nasb al-Rayain which he gave a detailed analysis and exposition for the proofs of the Hanafi school. The latter was a student of the former, though.
 Note: The scholars mention that some of the Companions, due to their extreme poverty, sometimes got so weak that they couldn’t be sure about waking up for the night prayer. In fact, Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) would sometimes faint on the road because of his extreme hunger, because he was busy learning and memorizing the words of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).
MMVIII © Faraz Rabbani and SunniPath