What exactly is the Witr prayer


بســـم اللــه الرحــمــن الـرحـــيــم

▪️What exactly is the Witr prayer▪️

Our Shaykh, Muhammad ibn Hizaam – may Allaah preserve him – was asked the following question:

? Question:

Is Witr the name of the last unit (Rak’ah), or is it the entire night prayer as a whole?

? Answer:

It is used in reference to both; ‘Witr’ (odd) may refer to the odd unit(s) offered at the end, or to the night prayer as a whole; because the sum of the total units become odd with the inclusion of these final odd unit(s).

‘Abdullah ibn Qays – may Allaah have mercy on him – said: I asked ‘Aaishah – may Allaah be pleased with her -, “How many (Rak’ah) did the prophet ﷺ offer for Witr?” She said: “He used to perform Witr (with 7 units, praying) four then three, sometimes (with 9 units, praying) six then three, or (with 11 units, praying) eight then three, or thirteen units in total, and he never offered Witr with less than seven (units), nor did he ever pray more than thirteen.” [Reported by Abu Daawood and others]

In her statement, ‘he never offered Witr with less than seven (units), nor did he ever pray more than thirteen’, she uses the term ‘Witr’ in reference to the night prayer as a whole.

Similarly, it comes on the authority of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr that the prophet ﷺ said:

اجْعَلُوا آخِرَ صَلاَتِكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وِتْرًا

‘Make the last of your prayers at night Witr’ [relayed by Bukhaari and Muslim]

Therefore, it’s used in reference to the last unit(s) of the prayer, i.e. the last 1, or 3 units, and with this, the prayer as a whole consists of an odd number of units i.e. the even units at the start become Witr (odd) when you include the final odd unit(s).

This is also demonstrated by the Hadeeth of ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib – may Allaah be pleased with him – who said: “Witr is certainly not obligatory, unlike the daily prayers, however the prophet ﷺ performed Witr then said:

أَوْتِرُوا يَا أَهْلَ الْقُرْآنِ، أَوْتِرُوا فَإِنَّ اللهَ وَتْرٌ يُحِبُّ الْوَتْرَ ”

“Perform Witr O people of the Qur’an (i.e. Night prayer), for indeed Allaah is Witr (i.e. He is One, without any partner) and He loves the Witr (prayer).” [Reported by Ahmed, Tirmidhi and ibn Maajah]

What is meant here is the whole night prayer – not just the final unit or three, as indicated by the Hadeeth of Abu Ayyoob – may Allaah be pleased with him – that the messenger of Allaah ﷺ said:

الْوِتْرُ حَقٌّ عَلَى كُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ، فَمَنْ أَحَبَّ أَنْ يُوتِرَ بِخَمْسٍ فَلْيَفْعَلْ، وَمَنْ أَحَبَّ أَنْ يُوتِرَ بِثَلَاثٍ فَلْيَفْعَلْ، وَمَنْ أَحَبَّ أَنْ يُوتِرَ بِوَاحِدَةٍ فَلْيَفْعَلْ

‘Witr is a right upon every muslim, so whoever wishes to perform Witr with five (Raka’aat) then let him do so. Whoever wishes to perform Witr with three then let him do so. Whoever wishes to perform Witr with one then let him do so. [Reported by Abu Daawood]. However this Hadeeth is Mawqoof (i.e. the chain is cut between the narrating Sahaabi and the prophet ﷺ, in other words, this is the statement of Abu Ayyoob – not the Prophet ﷺ)

So the term ‘Witr’ may be used in reference to both. It’s used in reference to the night prayer as a whole because the sum of the total units becomes Witr (odd) with the inclusion of the final odd unit(s).

It is also used in reference to the final unit(s), as proven by the Hadeeth of ‘Aaishah – may Allaah be pleased with her – in Sahih Muslim, that the prophet ﷺ

used to offer the night prayer while she lay down next to him, so when Witr remained, he would wake her up to pray.

Her statement, “when Witr remained”, refers to the final unit(s), and with it the entire prayer becomes Witr (odd); the even (units) become odd.

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Translated by:

Abu Sulaymaan Khaalid Al-Haatimi

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Original Fatwa: https://t.me/ibnhezam/6084