What Is the Ruling of the Witr Prayer and Its Characteristics?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad


What Is the Ruling of the Witr Prayer and Its Characteristics?


All praise be to Allah, and prayers and peace be upon Our Master Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), the Messenger of God, his Family, his Companions, and those who followed him.

The Witr prayer is an emphasized sunna, and it is called Witr Prayer because it concludes with one rak’a, unlike the other prayers.

Imam Nawawi said in Minhaj (the Witr, its minimum is one rak’a, and the most that is read is 11 rak’as; it has been said that it is 13 rak’as.

Tirmidhi and others narrated on the authority of Ali (Allah be pleased with him) who said that the Witr is not incumbent like your obligatory prayers; however, it is a Sunna of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).

The time of the Witr Prayer: what is between the ‘Isha prayer and the Fajr prayer, and it’s better to postpone it until after the night prayer.  Abu Dawud narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: Allah the Exalted has given you an extra prayer which is better for you than the red camels ( i.e., high breed camels). This is Witr, which Allah has appointed for you between ‘Isha and Fajr.

Bukhari and Muslim narrate from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he said make the last of your night prayers the Witr. This is if a person wishes to pray the night prayer, but if someone fears that he may miss it, then he should perform it after the obligatory prayer of ‘Isha and its sunna.

The Characteristics of the Witr Prayer 

The minimum that is to be prayed is one rak’a, and it is disliked to limit oneself to this.

The minimum of perfection is to pray three rak’as, two rak’as that are read together, and the last one on its own, with one salaam or with two, and the utmost perfection is to read 11 rak’as and to give salaam after every two rak’as, then to end with one salam.

Muslim reports from Ibn Umar may Allah be pleased with them both that he said that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that the Witr is a rak’a at the end of the prayer

Aisha reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to pray eleven rak’as at night, observing the Witr with a single rak’a, and when he had finished them, he lay down on his right side, till the Mu’adhin came to him and He (Allah bless him and give him peace) then observed two short rak’as (of sunan of the dawn prayer).

So it is befitting for the seeker of good deeds to preserve the sunna of Witr prayer in order to follow the example of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).

[Shaykh] Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad

Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad, born in Damascus, Syria, in 1965, pursued his Islamic studies in the mosques and institutes of Damascus. A graduate of the Islamic University of Medina in 1985, he holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Bahauddin Zakariya University in Pakistan.

He has extensive experience developing curricula and enhancing the teaching of various academic courses, including conducting intensive courses. Shaykh Awad has taught Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Quranic sciences, the history of legislation, inheritance laws, and more at several institutes and universities such as Al-Furqan Institute for Islamic Sciences and Majma‘ al-Fath al-Islami in Damascus.

He is a lecturer at the Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih Waqf University in Istanbul, teaching various Arabic and Islamic subjects, and teaches at numerous Islamic institutes in Istanbul. Shaykh Awad is a member of the Association of Syrian Scholars, a founding member of the Zayd bin Thabit Foundation, a member of the Syrian Scholars Association, and a member of the Academic Council at the Iman Center for Teaching the Sunna and Quran.

Among his teachers from whom he received Ijazat are his father, Shaykh Muhammad Muhiyiddin Awad, Shaykh Muhiyiddin al-Kurdi, Shaykh Muhammad Karim Rajih, Shaykh Usama al-Rifai, Shaykh Ayman Suwaid, Shaykh Ahmad al-Qalash, Shaykh Muhammad Awwama, and Shaykh Mamduh Junayd.