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Tahajjud (Arabic: تهجد), also known as the "night prayer" is a voluntary prayer, performed by followers of Islam. It is not one of the five obligatory prayers required of all Muslims, yet still, the Islamic prophet, Muhammad as been recorded as performing the tahajjud prayer regularly and encouraging his companions to offer it to Allah for its many rewards and benefits, and a way to purify the soul, enabling it to approach the Realm of Allah.
Evidence in the Qur'an for Tahajjud prayer (Tahajjud Salah)
In his famous work, Fiqh As-Sunnah, Sheikh Sayyid Sabiq elaborates on the subject of Tahajjud as follows:
Ordering His Messenger to perform Tahajjud, Allah Almighty says what means:
And during a part of the night, pray Tahajjud beyond what is incumbent on you; maybe your Lord will raise you to a position of great glory.—Al-Isra 17:79
This order, although it was specifically directed to Muhammad, also refers to all Muslims, since Muhammad is to be the perfect example and guide for them in all matters.
Moreover, performing Tahajjud prayers regularly qualifies one as one of the righteous and helps one earn God's bounty and mercy. In praising those who perform the late night prayers, God says what means:
And they who pass the night prostrating themselves before their Lord and standing.—Al-Furqan 25:64
Evidence in hadith
Etiquette of prayer
The following acts are recommended for one who wishes to perform the Tahajjud prayer:
Whoever goes to his bed with the intention of getting up and praying during the night, but, being overcome by sleep, fails to do that, he will have recorded for him what he has intended, and his sleep will be reckoned as a charity (an act of mercy) for him from his Lord.
On waking up, it is recommended that one wipes the face, use a toothbrush, and look to the sky and make the supplication which has been reported from Muhammad.
Abu-Hudhayfah ibn Utbah reported:
Whenever the Prophet intended to go to bed, he would recite: (With Your name, O Allah, I die and I live)." And when he woke up from his sleep, he would say: (All the Praises are for Allah Who has made us alive after He made us die (sleep) and unto Him is the Resurrection.
When the Prophet prayed during the late-night, he would begin his Prayers with two quick rak`ahs.—Muslim
It is recommended that one wakes up one's family, for Abu Hurairah quoted Muhammad as saying:
May Allah bless the man who gets up during the night to pray and wakes up his wife and who, if she refuses to get up, sprinkles water on her face. And may Allah bless the woman who gets up during the night to pray and wakes up her husband and who, if he refuses, sprinkles water on his face.—Ahmad
Recommended time for Tahajjud
Tahajjud may be performed in the early part of the night, the middle part of the night, or the later part of the night, but after the obligatory `Isha’ Prayer (night Prayer).
Commenting on this subject, Ibn Hajar says:
There was no specific time in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would perform his late night Prayer; but he used to do whatever was easiest for him.
`Amr ibn `Absah claimed that he heard Muhammad saying:
The closest that a servant comes to his Lord is during the middle of the latter portion of the night. If you can be among those who remember Allah the Exalted One at that time, then do so.—At-Tirmidhi
The number of rak`ahs in Tahajjud
Tahajjud Prayer does not entail a specific number of rak`ahs that must be performed, nor is there any maximum limit that may be performed. It would be fulfilled even if one prayed just one rak`ah of Witr after `Isha'; however, it is traditionally prayed with at least two rak'at which is known as shif'a followed by witr as this is what Muhammad did. Abdullah ibn Umar narrated that Muhammad said:
"Salatul Layl (Night Prayer, i.e. Tahajjud) is offered as two rak'at followed by two rak'at and (so on) and if anyone is afraid of the approaching dawn (Fajr prayer) he should pray one rak'at and this will be a Witr for all the rak'at which he has prayed before."
Bukhari, hadith 990