Assalamualaikum. I want to ask regarding the methodology of witir prayer. Is it prioritized to perform the witir prayer of three rakaat and one salam or three rakaat and two salam?
Waalaikumussalam wrt, wbt.,
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
The word witir ofوَتْر / وِتْر watru or witru lexically means singular (odd number) is the opposite of the word syafa’ (even number). The term witir means: “Certain prayer which is performed at certain times to close or end the night prayers, regardless whether it is performed at the beginning, middle or end of the night.” The number of rakaat are odd and this is the reason it is named as witir.
Witir prayer is a greatly encouraged worship for every Muslim. This can be seen mentioned in several narrations which encourage us to perform witir prayer. Among them is hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, where he said:
أَوْصَانِي خَلِيلِي صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِثَلاَثٍ: صِيَامِ ثَلاَثَةِ أَيَّامٍ مِنْ كُلِّ شَهْرٍ، وَرَكْعَتَيِ الضُّحَى، وَأَنْ أُوتِرَ قَبْلَ أَنْ أَنَامَ
“My friend (the Prophet (ﷺ) advised me to observe three things: (1) to fast three days a month; (2) to pray two rak`at of Duha prayer (forenoon prayer); and (3) to pray witr before sleeping.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1981)
The same is stated in a hadith narrated by Abdullah Ibn Umar RA where the Prophet PBUH said:
اجْعَلُوا آخِرَ صَلاَتِكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وِتْرًا
"Make witr as your last prayer at night."
Sahih al-Bukhari (998)
Regarding the kaifiat or methodology of performing witir prayer, the following are the methodology stated by scholars related to performing witir prayer:
First: One rakaat witir
According to the majority of scholars, it is permissible to perform witir prayer for only one rakaat. This is in accordance with a narration from Ibn Umar R.Anhuma where the Prophet PBUH said:
الْوِتْرُ رَكْعَةٌ مِنْ آخِرِ اللَّيْلِ
“It (witir) is a rak'ah at the end of the night prayer.”
Sahih Muslim (752)
We would like to state that for witir prayer, the minimum is one rakaat, however, it is makruh (undesirable) to perform only one rakaat. For a complete witir prayer, it should be performed for three rakaat where two rakaat is performed first then continued with a single rakaat. While the perfection of witir prayer is by performing eleven rakaat, performed in twos (two rakaat and a salam) and ending it with one rakaat.
Further discussion on this issue has been discussed in our previous article: al-Kafi #1131: Is It Permissible to Perform Only One Rakaat for Witir Prayer?
Second: Three rakaat witir prayer
In this category, three rakaat witir prayer can be performed through two methods:
- Perform three rakaat prayer with one salam
This is in accordance with the sunnah of the prophet PBUH. What differentiates three rakaat witir prayer and Maghrib prayer is the number of tasyahhud. Three rakaat witir prayer only has one tasyahhud (only the final tasyahhud) while three rakaat Maghrib prayer has two tasyahhud.
- Perform two rakaat prayer then give salam. Then, it is followed with one rakaat prayer after it.
This is according to a hadith narrated from Ibn Umar R.Anhuma, where it is said:
كَانَ يُسَلِّمُ بَيْنَ الرَّكْعَةِ وَالرَّكْعَتَيْنِ فِي الْوِتْرِ، حَتَّى يَأْمُرَ بِبَعْضِ حَاجَتِهِ
“`Abdullah bin `Umar used to say Taslim between (the first) two Rak`at and (the third) odd one in the Witr prayer,”
Sahih al-Bukhari (991)
The same is stated in another narration from Ibn Umar, where he said:
أنَّهُ صَلَّى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ يفصلُ بَينَ الشَّفَعِ وَالوِتْر
“Indeed, the Prophet PBUH once separate between syafa’ and witr prayer.”
Musnad Ahmad (2/76)
In answering the issue of which is prioritized between performing it three rakaat with one salam or three rakaat with two salam, here we share an Islamic legal maxim which states:
ما كان أكثر فعلا كان أكثر فضلا
“As the number of actions increases, so does its rewards (fadhilat).”
This maxim explains that an act or deed will be rewarded and its rewards are based on the effort put into it. This maxim is based from a hadith narrated from Aisyah R.Anha, the Prophet PBUH said:
وَلَكِنَّهَا عَلَى قَدْرِ نَصَبِكِ - أَوْ قَالَ – نَفَقَتِكِ
“But it (i.e. the rewards) is according to your expenses or the hardship (which you will undergo while performing it).”
Sahih Muslim (1211)
Imam al-Nawawi Rahimahullah in his commentary on the above hadith said:
هَذَا ظَاهِرٌ فِي أَنَّ الثَّوَابَ وَالْفَضْلَ فِي الْعِبَادَةِ يَكْثُرُ بِكَثْرَةِ النَّصَبِ وَالنَّفَقَةِ وَالْمُرَادُ النَّصَبُ الَّذِي لَا يَذُمُّهُ الشَّرْعُ وَكَذَا النَّفَقَةُ
“This clearly explains that for every deed in worship, the rewards of it depends on the effort and expenses a person puts into it. And what is meant by the effort and expenses are among the matters which is not prohibited in syarak.” Refer Al-Minhaj Syarah Sahih Muslim, Al-Nawawi (8/153).
Likewise, Imam al-Zarkasyi said: “A worship which is a lot and heavy is prioritized compared to worships which are not so.” Refer Al-Mantsur fil Qawa’id, Al-Zarkasyi (2/415).
Thus, scholars gave examples for worships that follow the above maxim such as for a person who is capable but decides to perform the sunnah prayer while sitting, then he would only get half of the rewards if he performs it standing. The same for if a person is capable to donate RM 10 than this is prioritized for him compared to if he donates just RM 1.
Imam al-Suyuthi Rahimahullah said: “Hence, separating witir is prioritized compared with performing it in one prayer (with just one salam).” Refer Al-Asybah wal-Nazhair, Al-Suyuthi (pg. 271).
To conclude, we would like to state that three rakaat witir performed with two salam is prioritized compared to three rakaat witir with one salam. The reason is there will be an increase of the niyyah (intention), takbir and salam.
Lastly, may Allah SWT give us all the correct understanding in religion. Amin.