What Should I Do If I Don’t Have Time to Pray the Witr Prayer?
Answered by Ustadh Sufyan Qufi
What do we do when we know we don’t have enough time to pray Isha and Witr and we only have time to pray Isha? Can we then take the weaker Hanafi position that Witr is sunna?
The same goes for Fajr: if we know we won’t be able to finish before Fajr time expires, can we take the Shafi ruling that if one cycle of Fajr is prayed before time expires, the prayer is valid?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
I pray this finds you in the best of states.
Witr Prayer in Hanafi School
No, if you choose to follow the rulings of the Hanafi school for the validity of your worship, there is no leeway for you to deem the Witr prayer sunna. According to the Hanafi school, the Fatwa position regarding the legal status of the Witr prayer is that it is necessary (wajib). This means that it is obligatory to perform. As for statements from Imam Abu Hanifa (Allah be pleased with him) entailing that the Witr prayer is sunna, what is meant is that the obligation of the Witr prayer has been established through the sunna of the Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings upon him).
The Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings upon him) said: “The Witr prayer is a duty (Haq).” [Abu Dawud]
The word duty (Haq) indicates obligation. Thus the Witr prayer is necessary. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah]
Another position in the Hanafi school indicates that the Witr prayer is sunna. But there is no leeway for a follower of the Hanafi school to follow this position because it is not the Fatwa position in the Hanafi school. When a position within the Hanafi school is deemed the Fatwa position, other positions are deemed non-existent. Following them is forbidden (Haram) as it is akin to following one’s desires. [Ibn Abidin, Sharh Uqud Rasm al-Mufti]
Allah, Most High, says: “If We had willed, We would have elevated him with Our signs, but he clung to this life—following his desires. His example is that of a dog: if you chase it away, it pants, and if you leave it, it ˹still˺ pants. This is the example of the people who deny Our signs.” [Quran, 7:176]
Nonetheless, you are not obligated to follow the Hanafi school in your worship. In other schools, the Witr prayer is not obligatory. But you should make sure to fulfill the conditions for the validity of the prayer according to one of these schools, which are often more stringent than the Hanafi school.
Please see: Can I Follow Another School (Madhhab) When I Need To?
The answer below explains what one should do according to the Hanafi school when one has little time to pray the Fajr prayer.
Please see: What Happens If the Current Prayer Time Exits While I Am Praying?
As explained above, you will only be allowed to follow the Shafi’i school if you fulfill all the elements necessary to pray a valid prayer according to the Shafi’i school.
And Allah knows best.
[Ustadh] Sufyan Qufi
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Sufyan Qufi is an advanced seeker of knowledge, originally from Algeria, who grew up in France. He began searching far and wide for answers to the fundamental questions of life and was disappointed at the answers he found. Then he connected with various traditional teachers and gradually connected with SeekersGuidance. He embarked on his journey of learning through the various teachers at SeekersGuidance, including his mentor Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. He studied numerous texts in Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith, and other areas with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and other teachers, including Shaykh Abdurrahman al-Sha‘ar, Shaykh Ali Hani, and others. He is an active instructor at SeekersGuidance and answers questions through the SeekersGuidance Answers Service.