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Muharram: Mankind’s Memorial – Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

* Originally Published on 3/10/2016

Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said explains why Muharram, the first in the Islamic calendar, is an especially auspicious month on many levels.

 

The Prophets Before Muhammad ﷺ

For one, it celebrates the achievement of the prophets who preceded Prophet Muhammad, – on him peace and blessings, in particular the struggle and victory of Moses. Following the Migration, the Prophet – and on him salutations – discerned that the Jewish tribal federations in Madinah observed a ritual fast annually on the tenth day of Muharram. The Jews’ claim to commemorate the day in gratitude for Moses’ victory over Pharaoh prompted the Prophet – on him peace and blessings – to assert, “The obligation is greater on us [the Muslims] to be grateful to God for Moses’ victory.”
This emphatic statement reveals, on one level, the spiritual connection between the Seal of the Prophets – on him peace and blessings – and his ‘brother-prophets’ who preceded him; on another level, through his innate ability to connect with every God-centred tradition, Muslims are at once given to understand the need to learn from others. And the elemental lesson here is that all prophetic traditions, rites and customs – past and present – actually form a composite whole: remembrance and gratitude to God, – cherisher of mankind, all praise to Him.

Mankind’s Achievement

Furthermore, the achievement of every prophet is universal, that is to say, their sacrifice and striving is mankind’s achievement. The victory God granted to Moses was not based on material strength or logistical superiority, but on the strength of faith that Moses possessed. Moses’ armour cladding was his Faith, and Truth his spear of submission; he won through despite Pharaoh’s vast resources in men and materiel. Faith, as embodied by Moses, persuaded first Pharaoh’s sorcerers and then many other reasonable minds, whilst the snake of Unfaith, quite literally, was swallowed up.

Truth over Falsehood

Muharram, which commemorates Moses’ achievement, is therefore our achievement, insofar as it is a timeless commemoration of the victory of Truth over Falsehood. It should be obvious that ‘victory’ does not at all relate to feat of arms, economic gain or tribal boast (after all, Pharaoh’s dethroning was not, strictly speaking, a battlefield victory; Moses and his people, instead of gaining mastery in Egypt, actually became exiles in the desert for 40 years). Rather, Muslims must understand ‘victory’ as standing firm in Faith, to prevail in the face of adversity.
For this reason, the Prophet – on him peace and blessings – considered the Treaty of Hudaybiyya a great victory; this, despite his not accomplishing what he had initially set out to do in the events leading to the famous treaty: namely, the performance of Umrah, the opportunity to visit the Sacred Mosque. On the other hand, the Prophet – and on him salutations – discerned in the bitterness of defeat at ‘Uhud and at Hunayn the sweet fragrance of victory. How so, when he suffered great personal loss at ‘Uhud and humbling at Hunayn? On both occasions, despite the temporary impediments, God’s Religion was preserved. Faith defeated unfaith because Truth strove on whilst Falsehood briefly strutted but ultimately vanished.
Victory, therefore, is to prevail after enduring the test. It is the natural outcome of firm conviction, of standing firm, regardless of the intensity or even duration of adversity. It is the absolute conviction that God is present all along.
[cwa id=’cta’]

The Triumph of Faith

The sacred month of Muharram, celebrating the advent of the Islamic New Year, provides Muslims with a direct linkage to the triumph of Faith – and even more deep connections to the Prophet – on him peace and blessings. And in all God’s Creation, none embodied Faith as did the Prophet, – on him the finest salutations! For Muharram also commemorates the Hijra, the Prophet’s Migration from Makkah, then the seat of Unfaith and irrational pride, to Madinah, the emergent site of Faith and reason.
Oppressed by Unfaith, in Makkah the Prophet – on him peace and blessings – would say, “Leave me to call upon God alone.” But he was denied even this basic human right, as was his dignity, his person and his property. The Prophet’s Hijrahas yet to be fully appreciated by even his own people. It was not a simple matter of relocation: in making Hijra, the personal sacrifice of the Prophet – on him peace and blessings – remains a thing of wonder: his daughters Fatimah, Zaynab, Ruqaiyya and Umm Kulthum were left behind. One can only begin to understand the scale of his sacrifice if there is an appreciation of the wider social context of Makkah’s tribal society, then dominated by the most ruthless of enemies. The Prophet – on him peace and blessings – in wrenching himself from his daughters, sacrificed all that was dear to him in this world. How could such a man, the epitome of parental love, sacrifice so? As if to say, “My daughters are safer under God’s Gaze than under my wing,” he could so sacrifice because he knew intimately the nature of God’s Protection. Great was his sacrifice, yes, but his trust in God was still greater.
What special influence can cause such repeat action, on such scale? It was repeated by the Imam Hussain, grandson of the Prophet – on him the finest salutations. Like his father and grandfather before him, the Imam Hussain strived hard against the oppression of the weak by the strong, against social injustice and against aggression in all its forms. Sallying out from Madinah, like his grandfather had done on so many occasions, the Imam Hussain died the desired death on the dusty plains of Kerbala, but his spirit of sacrifice lives on. The Imam Hussain’s death must not be reduced to the heroic end of ancient epics, although certainly true; it was the supreme sacrifice that is for God’s Sake. Sacred sacrifice indeed. Muharram may just as easily be called the ‘month of sacrifice’.

The Prophet’s Migration

And yet the story of Muharram has no ending, for our commemoration of its sanctity and significance has so many deep spiritual channels and confluences.
The Islamic calendar self-consciously celebrates the Hijra of the Prophet – on him peace and blessings. And Arab tradition, hitherto without a universal calendar, in so doing, itself migrated from culture to civilization. Confused by conflicting despatches, the despair of regional governors compelled the Caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab to initiate a systematic Time Record. Far more edifying and significant is the process that led to the institution. A brilliant example of democratic counsel ended with agreement over the Muslims’ need for a calendar, but there remained uncertainty over the precise start date. Three proposals were championed, each possessing enormous meaning: the birthday of the Prophet, on him peace and blessings; the day that he died; and the beginning of the Hijra.
The very fact that the Prophet’s birthday was cause celebre in the eyes of his Companions has great significance of its own. In fact, some of the Companions clamoured for the month of Rabi Awwal to become the first month of the new Islamic calendar, citing the Prophet’s birth, his anointment to the office of prophet, the actual commencement of the Hijra, and the Prophet’s death in Rabi Awwal.
The day of the Prophet’s departure from this world remains, of course, the single greatest distress to all Muslims in all times, and the argument for the Islamic calendar to be pegged to the Prophet’s death was a powerful one.
However, the third option – the case for the Hijra as the start of the Islamic calendar –reveals much about the intellect of ‘Ali ibn Abu Taalib. The man recognised as the last of the rightly-guided Caliphs quite rightly surmised that the Hijra marked an epochal change, ushering in a new dawn for humanity that swept away the cobwebs of dead history. The Hijra-Migration was nothing short of a new world order, and this one could be precisely pinpointed in time.
Although the Arabian months pre-dated Islam, Uthman ibn Affan made a powerful intervention: he cited the long-held sacred status of Muharram and explained that its position in the calendar of Islam’s rites and rituals, coming after the Hajj climax, represented a new beginning after individual purification, thus symbolically mirroring the fresh start for humanity after the purification of Religion itself. Uthman’sintervention was decisive and the ‘Hijri Calendar’ was thus founded.
As Islam makes no sharp distinction between the prophets – God in His Book expressly forbids otherwise – both the achievements and sacrifices of Moses and of Muhammad – on them peace and blessings – are symbolically bound by the month of Muharram. And we have seen how the inheritors of faith, such as the Imam Hussain, have emulated and preserved the spirit of sacrifice. This sacrifice has a name: ‘Islam’. And ‘Islam’ is trust in, and submission to, the Divine Will. And as their inheritors in faith, our lives are thus connected by the commemoration of Muharram.
May God gather us in the company of the Family of Prophets and preserve the faithful, and peace and blessings upon Muhammad, mercy to all the worlds.

Litanies and Night Vigil: A Comprehensive SeekersHub Reader

09Litanies and night vigil form the 10th chapter of Imam Al-Ghazali’s seminal work, the Ihya, which is widely regarded as the greatest work on Islamic spirituality in the world.

[cwa id=’cta’]

 

Are Tarawih and Tahajjud Prayers Different or the Same? Are they both from the sunna of the Prophet?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Asalamo alykum
The Imam at the mosque where I go for tarawih prayer also prays witr jamaat. Does this mean that the taraweeh count as the tahajjud?
If not then should I leave the mosque after offering the tarawih and pray the witr at home with tahajjud?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
No, the tarawih prayer and the night-vigil (tahajjud) prayer are not the same thing.
The tarawih prayer is twenty units (rak`ats) and a confirmed sunna in the Hanafi school. [see: Can I Just Pray 8 Cycles of Tarawih?]
The tahajjud prayer is a recommended sunna and optimally eight units (rak`ats). [see: Tahajjud Prayer: Description & Merits]
And during Ramadan, it is superior to pray the Witr in congregation.
And Allah alone gives success.
Wassalam,
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Fiqh of The Islamic Month of Muharram

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: What is the fiqh of the Islamic month of Muharram?

Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Merciful.

Duties of the Month of Muharram

1. It is the best of months for general voluntary fasts, after Ramadan.

2. It is especially recommended to fast the 10th of Muharram (known as the Day of `Ashura), with a day before it or after it [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, quoting Kasani’s al-Bada’i`].

3. It is also virtuous to give in charity on this day.

Extracts from Ibn Rajab’s Lata’if al-Ma`arif, regarding the month of Muharram:

The Virtues of Fasting in the Month of Muharram and Its First Ten Days

Muslim reported from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The best of fasts after the month of Ramadan are in the Month of Allah, which you call Muharram. And the best of prayer after the obligatory prayer is the night prayer.” [Muslim, 1163]

This refers to general voluntary fasts. According to Imam Ibn Rajab (Allah have mercy on him), these are best in the month of Muharram, just as the best general voluntary prayer is night prayer.

The virtue and honor of this month can be attested to by the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) called it, “the Month of Allah.” Such ascription is only made by Allah to the most special of His creation, such as the ascription of the Prophets Muhammad, Ibrahim, Ishaq, Ya`qub, and others to his slavehood (Allah’s peace and blessings be on them all), and His ascription of the House (Ka`ba) and the camel to himself.

Given that Allah ascribed fasting, amongst all spiritual works, to Himself, [saying, “It is Mine,”] it was suitable that this month, which is also ascribed to Allah, be selected for this particular form of worship.

Fasting is a secret between the servant and his Lord. This is why Allah Mighty and Exalted says, [in the divine hadith (hadith qudsi),] “Every action of the son of Adam is his, except for fasting. It is Mine, and it is I who reward it.” [Bukhari and Muslim, from Abu Hurayra]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said, “The fasting person has two joys: one when he breaks his fast, and the other when he meets his Lord.” [Muslim]

Night Prayer

As for voluntary night prayer (qiyam al-layl), it is superior to voluntary prayer during the day because it is closer to secrecy, and nearer to sincerity.

Allah Most High said, “Lo! the vigil of the night is (a time) when impression is more keen and speech more certain.” [Qur’an, 73.9]

This is because the time of the night vigil (tahajjud) is the best of times for voluntary prayer, and the closest a servant gets to his Lord. It is a time when the doors of the skies are opened, supplications answered, and needs fulfilled.

Allah Most High has praised those who wake up at night in His remembrance, supplication, seeking forgiveness, and intimate entreating (munajat), saying, “Who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of that We have bestowed on them. No soul knows what is kept hid for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do.” [Qur’an, 32.16-17]

And, “Or he who pays adoration in the watches of the night, prostrate and standing, bewaring of the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord? Say: Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only those of understanding will pay heed.” [Qur’an, 39.9]

And He said to His Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), “And some part of the night awake for it, as voluntary worship for you. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate.” [Qur’an, 17.79]

It has been said that those who worship at night will enter Paradise without reckoning, and that standing in night prayer shortens the length of one’s Standing on the Day of Judgment.

This is why the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Stick to night prayer, for it was the way of the righteous before you. Night prayer is a means of closeness to Allah Most High, of expiating for bad deeds, avoiding sins, and keeping away illness from one’s body.” [Tirmidhi (3543), Bayhaqi, and others; it is a sound (hasan) hadith]

Similarly, it has been related that fasting is a means for good health. The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) is reported to have said, “Fast, and you shall have good health.” [Ahmad, from Abu Hurayra]

Lovers have no time more joyous than when they are alone in entreating their Beloved. This is the healing for their hearts, and the greatest thing that they could long for.

This is why Abu Sulayman al-Darani would say, “The people of the night find more joy than the people of distraction (lahw) in their distractions. Were it not for the night, I would not like to remain living.”

The Day of ‘Ashura’: The Tenth of Muharram

It is mentioned in Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him and his father) that he was asked about fasting the Day of ‘Ashura’ [10th of Muharram]. He said, “I did not see the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fast a day while more avid to seek its virtue than this day,” meaning the Day of ‘Ashura’. [Bukhari (2006), and Muslim (1132)]

The Day of ‘Ashura’ has great virtue, and tremendous sanctity (hurma). The virtue of fasting it was known among the Prophets (peace be upon them all). Both Prophet Nuh and Prophet Musa (peace be upon them both) fasted it.

The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) used to fast this day even in Mecca, though he had not yet ordered others to do so, as mentioned in both Bukhari and Muslim. [Bukhari (2002), Muslim (1125)]

When he migrated to Medina and found the People of the Book fasting this day and venerating it, he ordered the Muslims to fast it, and encouraged it so much that even the children would fast it.

It has been reported in both Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him), that, “When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) reached Medina, he found the Jews fasting the Day of ‘Ashura’, so he asked them, What is this day you are fasting? They said, “This is a tremendous day. Allah saved Musa and his people on this day and drowned Pharaoh and his people. Musa fasted it out of thanks, so we fast it too.” The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) said, “And we are more deserving of Musa than you are.” So he fasted this day, and ordered that it be fasted. [Bukhari (2004) and Muslim (1130)]

At the end of his life, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) made the determination not to fast this day alone, but with another day [F: either before or after it], in order to be different from the People of the Book.

It has been reported in the Sahih of Imam Muslim (Allah have mercy on him), also from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that, “When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fasted the Day of ‘Ashura’ and ordered his companions to fast it, they said, “O Messenger of Allah! This is a day that the Jews and Christians venerate.” So the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) said, “When next year comes, if Allah wills, we will fast the Ninth [of Muharram with it].” But the next year did not come before the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) passed away [Muslim (1134), Abu Dawud (2445)].

And it is reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him), from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Fast the Day of ‘Ashura’ and be different from the Jews by fasting a day before it or a day after it.” [Ahmad]

Giving in Charity on the Day of ‘Ashura’

It has been reported from Abd Allah ibn `Amr ibn al-`As (Allah be pleased with him) that, “Whoever fasts ‘Ashura’ it is as if he has fasted the entire year. And whoever gives charity this day it is like the charity of an entire year.”

Mourning on the 10th of Muharram is an Innovation

As for the mourning and grieving of the Shia on this day because of the martyrdom of Sayyiduna Husayn ibn Ali (Allah be pleased with him and his father), this is of the actions of those whose actions in this life are misguided while they think that they are doing well. Neither Allah Most High nor His Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace) commanded us to mourn on the days of the tribulations of the Prophets, or their deaths, let alone anyone else.

[F: The jurists have mentioned that it is an innovation to consider Muharram a month of mourning. It is not disliked to marry in this month. It is a highly reprehensible innovation to participate in the rituals of the Shia in mourning the death of Husayn (Allah be pleased with him).]

Some of the Virtues of the Day of ‘Ashura’

It is a day in which Allah forgave an entire people. Tirmidhi relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to a man, “If you want to fast a month after Ramadan, then fast Muharram, for it has a day in which Allah forgave an entire people, and He turns to others in repentance in.” [Tirmidhi (841)]

And Allah alone gives success.
Faraz Rabbani

Virtues of the Sacred Month of Muharram, Its First Ten Days, and the Day of `Ashura

Duties of the Month of Muharram

1. It is the best of months for general voluntary fasts, after Ramadan.

2. It is especially recommended to fast the 10th of Muharram (known as the Day of `Ashura), with a day before it or after it. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, quoting Kasani’s al-Bada`i]

3. It is also virtuous to give in charity on this day.

Extracts from Ibn Rajab’s Lataif al-Ma`arif, regarding the month of Muharram:

The Virtues of Fasting in the Month of Muharram and Its First Ten Days

Muslim reported from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said , “The best of fasts after the month of Ramadan are in the Month of Allah, which you call Muharram. And the best of prayer after the obligatory prayer is the night prayer.” [Muslim, 1163]

This refers to general voluntary fasts according to Imam Ibn Rajab (Allah have mercy on him): These are best in the month of Muharram, just as the best general voluntary prayer is night prayer.

The virtue and honor of this month can be attested to by the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) called it, “the Month of Allah.” (Shahr Allah) Such ascription is only made by Allah to the most special of His creation, such as the ascription of the Prophets Muhammad, Ibrahim, Ishaq, Ya`qub, and others to his slavehood (Allah’s peace and blessings be on them all), and His ascription of the House (Ka`ba) and the camel to himself.

Given that Allah ascribed fasting, between all spiritual works, to Himself [saying, “It is Mine,”] it was suitable that this month, which is also ascribed to Allah, be selected for this particular form of worship.

Fasting is a secret between the servant and his Lord. This is why Allah Mighty and Exalted says, [in the divine hadith (hadith qudsi)], “Every action of the son of Adam is his, except for fasting. It is Mine, and it is I who reward it.” [Bukhari and Muslim, from Abu Hurayra]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said, “The fasting person has two joys: one when he breaks his fast, and the other when he meets his Lord.”[Muslim]

Night Prayer

As for voluntary night prayer (qiyam al-layl), it is superior to voluntary prayer during the day because it is closer to secrecy, and nearer to sincerity (ikhlas).

Allah Most High said, “Lo! the vigil of the night is (a time) when impression is more keen and speech more certain.” [Qur`an, 73.9]

This is because the time of the night vigil (tahajjud) is the best of times for voluntary prayer, and the closest a servant gets to his Lord. It is a time when the doors of the skies are opened, supplications answered, and needs fulfilled.

Allah Most High has praised those who wake up at night in His remembrance, supplication, seeking forgiveness, and intimate entreating (munajat), saying, “Who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of that We have bestowed on them. No soul knows what is kept hid for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do.” [Qur`an, 32.16-17]

And, “Or he who pays adoration in the watches of the night, prostrate and standing, bewaring of the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord? Say: Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only those of understanding will pay heed.” [Qur`an, 39.9]

And He said to His Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), “And some part of the night awake for it, as voluntary worship for you. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate.” [Qur`an, 17.79]

It has been said that those who worship at night will enter Paradise without reckoning, and that standing in night prayer shortens the length of one’s Standing on the Day of Judgment.

This is why the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Stick to night prayer, for it was the way of the righteous before you. Night prayer is a means of closeness to Allah Most High, of expiating for bad deeds, avoiding sins, and keeping away illness from one’s body.” [Tirmidhi (3543], Bayhaqi, and others; it is a sound (hasan) hadith]

Similarly, it has been related that fasting is a means for good health. The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) is reported to have said, “Fast, and you shall have good health.” [Ahmad, from Abu Hurayra]

Lovers have no time more joyous than when they are alone in entreating their Beloved. This is the healing for their hearts, and the great thing that they could long for.

This is why Abu Sulayman al-Darani would say, “The people of the night find more joy than the people of distraction (lahw) in their distractions. Were it not for the night, I would not like to remain living.”

The Day of `Ashura: The Tenth of Muharram

It is mentioned in Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him and his father) that he was asked about fasting the Day of `Ashura [10th of Muharram]. He said, “I did not see the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fast a day while more avid to seek its virtue than this day,” [meaning the Day of `Ashura]. [Bukhari (2006), and Muslim (1132)].

The Day of `Ashura has great virtue, and tremendous sanctity (hurma). The virtue of fasting it was known among the Prophets (peace be upon them all). Both Prophet Nuh and Prophet Musa (peace be upon them both) fasted it.

The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) used to fast this day even in Mecca, though he had not yet ordered others to do so, as mentioned in both Bukhari and Muslim. [Bukhari (2002), Muslim (1125)]

When he migrated to Medina, and found the People of the Book fasting this day and venerating it, he ordered the Muslims to fast it, and encouraged it so much that even the children would fast it.

It has been reported in both Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him), that, When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) reached Medina, he found the Jews fasting the Day of `Ashura, so he asked them, “What is this day you are fasting?” They said, “This is a tremendous day. Allah saved Musa and his people on this day and drowned Pharaoh and his people. Musa fasted it out of thanks, so we fast it too.” The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) said, “And we are more deserving of Musa than you are.” So he fasted this day, and ordered that it be fasted. [Bukhari (2004) and Muslim (1130)]

At the end of his life, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) made the determination not to fast this day alone, but with another day [f: either before or after it], in order to be different from the People of the Book.

It has been reported in the Sahih of Imam Muslim (Allah have mercy on him), also from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that, “When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fasted the Day of `Ashura and ordered his companions to fast it, they said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! This is a day that the Jews and Christians venerate.’ So the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘When next year comes – if Allah wills – we will fast the Ninth [of Muharram with it].’ But the next year did not come before the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) passed away.” [Muslim (1134), Abu Dawud (2445)]

And it is reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him), from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Fast the Day of `Ashura” and be different from the Jews by fasting a day before it or a day after it.” [Ahmad]

Giving in Charity on the Day of `Ashura

It has been reported from Abd Allah ibn `Amr ibn al-`As (Allah be pleased with him), that “Whoever fasts `Ashura, it is as if he has fasted the entire year. And whoever gives charity this day it is like the charity of an entire year.”

Some of the Virtues of the Day of `Ashura

It is a day in which Allah forgave an entire people. Tirmidhi relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to a man, “If you want to fast a month after Ramadan, then fast Muharram, for it has a day in which Allah forgave an entire people, and He turns to others in repentance in.” [Tirmidhi (841)]

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani

Tahajjud Prayer: How To Pray it, When to Pray It and Its Merits

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Could you please provide some details regarding the tahajjud prayer? What are its merits? How does one pray it?

Answer: Allah Most High said, “Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark 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 recital, as voluntary worship for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praised estate.” (17: 78-79)

And He says,

“Their sides eschew their beds,” (32:16)

And the Almighty says,

“The part of the night they spent asleep was small.” (51:17)

Prophetic Narrations Relating to Prayer at Night

Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, “The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer.” [Muslim]

Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (blessings 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 the night.” [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasa i, Ibn Majah]

Abd Allah ibn Salam (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (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 others sleep and you will enter Heaven safely.” [Tirmidhi, Hakim]

Abu Umama al-Bahili (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (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 drawing closer to your Lord, an expiation for wrong deeds, and a shield from sin.” [Tirmidhi, and others] In some narrations, there is an addition, “And it repels sickness 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 scholars explain that this refers to voluntary prayers.

The Definition of ‘Night Prayer’ & Tahajjud

‘Night prayer’ is any prayer performed after Isha time. The time for performing the night vigil (tahajjud) prayer ends when Isha time ends and Fajr time enters. Therefore, any voluntary prayers performed after Fajr time has entered does not count for the night vigil prayers.

Imam Saffarini, the Hanbali faqih and sufi, explained in his Sharh Mandhumat al-Adaab:

“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: meaning the actions between them and 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 desirous of it is a tremendous struggle (mujahada). Some have said, ‘The best of works are those the lower self is forced to perform.’

And because recitation in night prayer is closer to contemplation, because things 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 yourself with a complete devotion.’  (73: 6-7) It is because of this that we have been 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 prayer, and the closest a servant is to his Lord.

And because it is a time when the doors of the sky are opened, supplications answered, 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 unto 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.’ (32: 16-17)

And He said, ‘Those who pray for pardon in the watches of the night.’ (3: 17)

And, ‘[The (faithful) servants of the Merciful are they who walk upon the earth modestly, and when the foolish one address them answer: Peace; And who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing ‘  (25: 63-64)

Allah most negated similitude between those who pray at night and those who do not: ‘Is the one who worships devoutly in the watches of the night, prostrate and standing, fearful of the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, (to be accounted equal with a disbeliever)? Say: are those who know equal with those who know know? But only people of understanding will pay heed.'” (39: 9)

[Saffarini, Ghidha al-Albab Sharh Mandhumat al-Adaab]

Details Regarding the Tahajjud Prayer

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 place of the intention is the heart, and has two aspects:

  • To intend what you are doing (such as praying tahajjud);
  • To intend why you are doing this (such as  for the sake of Allah).

Minimally, it is enough for all sunna and nafl prayers to simply intend to pray, though it is best to specify that you are performing the particular sunna prayer you are intending (such as tahajjud or duha).

2. The minimal night vigil prayer is 2 rakats. [Hindiyya, quoting Fath al-Qadir]

3. Its optimal recommended amount is 8 rakats, because this was the general practice of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions). [Hindiyya, quoting Fath al-Qadir]

4. Lengthier recitation is superior to a larger number of rakats prayed. [Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar; Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

5. If one divides the night in thirds, then the final middle third is most virtuous. [Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar]

6. If one divides the night in half, then the second half is more virtuous. [ibid.]

7. It is preferable to divide the night in six portions, one should sleep in the first three portions, worship and perform the Tahajjud prayer in the fourth and fifth, then go to sleep in the sixth, as this is the salah of Dawud (peace be upon him). [Umdat al-Fiqh]

8. Voluntary (nafl) prayer at night is more virtuous than voluntary prayer during 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 from 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]

9. Ibn Nujaym and Haskafi both affirmed that night prayer is recommended. [Bahr al-Ra iq; 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 half of Islamic history, however, wavered between it being recommended or a confirmed sunna. This is because while the spoken hadiths indicate recommendation, the 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]

10. 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 Muslim] 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 little.” [ibid] [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, from Ibn Amir Haajj’s Halba]

11. 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 him peace) said, “It you get up for night prayer, start with two short rakats.” [Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawud]

12. Supplications in the depths of the night are answered, as the hadiths have mentioned.

Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) was asked, “I cannot pray at night.”  He said, “Your sins have prevented you.”

And Allah knows best
Wassalam
Faraz Rabbani

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