Standing in Prayer at Night - Qiyam Al Layl

Qiyam means 'standing' and ‘Qiyam al-Layl’ means 'standing at night'. In the Shari’ah term both terms refer to 'the voluntary night prayer, whose time extends after the Isha prayer (the last of the five obligatory prayers, whose time extends from the disappearance of the reddish light in the sky until the middle of the night) until dawn.’
Seek The help of Allah Rabbul Jalil in Tahajjud.
This voluntary prayer is described as Qiyam al-Layl because it involves long standings, in which long portions of the Qur’an are recited. Other common names for this prayer are 'Salat al-Layl' (the night prayer), Tahajjud (from hajjada meaning awake at night), Witr and Tarawih (resting).

[Lisaan ul-Arab under 'Hajjada' and 'Rawaha']

Allah, The Most Exalted, says:

"And in some parts of the night (also) perform the Salat (prayer) with it (i.e., recite the Qur'an in the prayer) as an additional prayer (Tahajjud optional prayer - Nawafil) for you (O! Rasulullah ) It may be that your Rabb will raise you to Maqam Mahmudah (a station of praise and glory, i.e., the honor of intercession on the Day of Resurrection).''

"Their sides forsake their beds...''

"They used to sleep but little by night [invoking their Rabb (Allah) and praying, with fear and hope].''

Hadith on - “Standing in Prayer at Night” – Tahajjud.

Aisyah RA reported: “Rasulullah kept standing (in prayer) so long that the skin of his feet would crack. I asked Rasulullah : "Why do you do this, while you have been forgiven of your former and latter sins?'' Rasulullah said, "Should I not be a grateful slave of Allah?'' 
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadith has already been mentioned. It is reproduced here to illustrate the practice of Rasulullah in respect of Qiyam-ul-Lail. It tells us that:
1. The Nafl Salat should be performed with full concentration and peace of mind.
2. The more one is endowed with gifts from Allah, the greater gratitude and worship one should express for them to Allah.
3. The best time for showing one's humility before Allah and for worship is the later period of night.
Qiyam Al Layl - Standing In Prayer at Night
Saidina Ali Ibn Abi Talib RA reported: Rasulullah visited me and Fatimah one night and said, "Do you not observe prayer (at night)?'' 
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadith tells us that one should also awaken others at night for prayer so that they also avail the benefits of performing prayer at this particular hour of the night.

Salim bin Abdullah bin Umar bin Al-Khattab RA reported, on the authority of his father, that Rasulullah said; "What an excellent man, Abdullah is! If only he could perform optional prayers at night.'' Salim said that after this, (his father) Abdullah ibn Umar RA slept very little at night. 

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadith points out the excellence of Abdullah bin Umar RA as well as the merits of Qiyam-ul-Lail. It also tells us that it is permissible to praise someone in his presence if one is sure that he will not become proud due to that praise. Another aspect of this Hadith is that it induces one to wish for others' welfare and happiness.

Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-As RA reported:

Rasulullah said to me; “Do not be like so-and-so O! Abdullah! He used to pray during the night, then stopped the practice.''

 [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Abdullah bin Masud RA reported: “Mention was made before Rasulullah of a man who slept throughout the night till morning. Rasulullah remarked, "He is a man in whose ears Satan urinated.'' 

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadith holds inducement for Qiyam-ul-Lail and highlights its merits. It also urges one to perpetuate his good actions, follow the practice of the righteous and avoid the way of those who are negligent or become negligent in the performance of virtuous deeds. Urination of Satan in a person's ear or ears can be literally true (although we cannot perceive it) because if a person does not seek the protection of Allah against Satan, then Satan joins him in food and other activities, as is evident from other Ahadith. Therefore, urination of Satan is also possible. Some people think it is a metaphor to the effect that he who does not get up at night for prayer and goes on enjoying his sleep, Satan closes' his ears until he does not hear the remembrance of Allah. Some others consider it a metaphor for the contempt and insult of Satan. In either case, we learn from this Hadith that missing the Qiyam-ul-Lail is disliked because it provides Satan an opportunity to create mischief, and he succeeds in creating obstructions in the worship and obedience of Allah.

Abu Hurairah RA reported: Rasulullah said, "When any one of you sleeps, Satan ties three knots at the back of his neck. They (Satan) recite this incantation at every knot: You have a long night, so sleep.' If he awakes and remembers Allah, one knot is loosened. If he performs Wudu', the (second) knot is loosened; and if he performs prayer, (all) knots are loosened. He begins his morning in a happy and refreshed mood; otherwise, he gets up in bad spirits and sluggish state.'' 

 [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Seek Forgiveness from Allah and Repent for Good.

Commentary: "Tying knots'' can be literal, the way magicians do it in their magical exercises. With this practice Satan tries to withhold people from the worship of Allah. Some people are of the opinion that it is a metaphor for sleepiness/dozing. In any case, Satan does his level best to withhold a person from the worship of Allah. Satan experiences frustration if someone gets up at night for prayer; he also experiences happiness if he manages to keep someone asleep until dawn.

Abdullah bin Salam RA reported: Rasulullah said, "O people, promote the greetings, feed (the poor and needy) and perform Salat when others are asleep so that you will enter Jannah safely.'' 


Commentary: This Hadith has glad tidings for those who enthusiastically do all the good works mentioned in this Hadith. "Enter Jannah in peace'' here means that they will enter Jannah without suffering any punishment in Hell.

Abu Hurairah RA reported: Rasulullah said, "The best month for observing Syaum (fasting) after Ramadan is Muharram, and the best Salat after the prescribed Salat is Salat at night (Tahajjud).''


Commentary: The month of Muharram is related to Allah which makes its eminence clear. It shows that in the optional Syaum (fasting) the most meritorious are those which are observed in this month. After the obligatory Salat, the most meritorious is the optional Salat performed at night.

Anas Ibn Malik RA reported: Rasulullah used to leave off observing Syaum (fasting) during a month until we thought that he would not observe Syaum at all during it; and (sometimes) he would observe Syaum till we began to think that he would not omit any day of that month. If one wished to see him performing Salat during the night, he could do that; and if one wished to see him sleeping at night, he could do that.


Commentary: What this Hadith tells us is that whether it was optional Syaum (fasting) or optional Salat (Nawafil) of the night, that is to say Qiyam-ul-Lail, Rasulullah did not have a permanent routine for it. Sometimes it so happened that almost the month passed but Rasulullah did not observe fasting and then a few days before the end of the month he would start fasting. Sometimes, he would fast day after day continuously, and it would appear as if he would continue fasts for the whole month, but he would then suddenly terminate fasts. Similar was the case of Tahajjud. Sometimes, Rasulullah would perform Tahajjud prayer in the first portion of the night, sometimes in the second, and sometimes in its later portion. Thus, he was found sleeping and performing Salat in every part of the night.

Saidatuna Aisyah RA reported: Rasulullah used to perform eleven Raka’ah (of Tahajjud) prayers at night. Rasulullah would prostrate so long as one of you might recite fifty Ayat (of the Qur'an). Thereafter, he would perform two Raka’ah before Fajr prayers and would lie down on his right side till the Mu'adhdhin would come and inform him about the time of (Fajr) prayer. 


Commentary: This Hadith tells us that it was a practice of Rasulullah to sleep on his right side after performing two Sunnah of Fajr prayers. It also tells us that Rasulullah used to make long prostrations in Tahajjud prayer, because one gets closer to Allah in a state of prostration. This Hadith also stresses on utmost concentration in Salat as it is highly pleasing to Allah and there is a greater possibility of acceptance of prayer which is made in a state of prostration.

Saidatuna Aisyah RA reported: “Rasulullah did not observe more than eleven Raka’ah (of Tahajjud prayers), be it in Ramadan or any other month. First Rasulullah would perform four Raka’ah. Ask not about their excellence and their length. Rasulullah would then perform four more Raka’ah; and do not ask about their excellence and their length. Then Rasulullah would perform three Raka’ah (Witr prayer). Saidatuna Aisyah RA added I submitted: "O Rasul of Allah! Do you sleep before performing the Witr prayer?'' Rasulullah said, "O Aisyah! My eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep.''

 [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

1."My heart does not sleep'' signifies that "usually I am not so overwhelmed by sleep that I miss the Salat''. Some people give a different interpretation of this by saying that his Wudu' remained intact as his heart was awake. This is one of the attributes of Rasulullah . This Hadith stresses on performing Salat with full decorum and concentration because this is the way Rasulullah did it. The real beauty of Salat lies in performing it in accordance with the Sunnah of Rasulullah and with full peace of mind in a tranquil environment.
2. If one is confident of getting up in the later part of the night, one can perform Witr after Tahajjud prayer; but if one is not sure of getting up at the time of Tahajjud then it is better to perform Witr after Isha' prayer.

Saidatuna Aisyah RA reported: “Rasulullah would sleep during the early part of night and stand in Salat during the latter part. 

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadith tells us about the ordinary routine of Rasulullah . Ordinarily, Rasulullah would go to sleep in the first part of the night and perform Tahajjud prayer in the later portion, which is the best time for it. But, as already mentioned in the preceding Ahadith, he sometimes also performed it in the early as well as middle hours of the night.

Ibn Mas’ud RA  reported: “One night I joined Rasulullah in his (optional) Salat. Rasulullah prolonged the Qiyam (standing) so much that I made up my mind to commit an act of wrong. He was questioned: "What did you intend to do?'' He replied: "I intended to sit down and stop following Rasulullah (in Salat).''  

 [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: We learn from this Hadith that:
1. Qiyam-ul-Lail (Tahajjud prayer) must be fairly long and every constituent of it should be performed with full peace of mind.
2. It is permissible to perform Nafl Salat in congregation.
3. In case an Imam inordinately lengthens a Salat, it is permissible for his followers to detach themselves from the congregation. But Ibn Mas’ud RA has regarded his intention to do so as bad, and for this reason, its justification becomes doubtful. Since the Imam has been exhorted to take care of his followers in Salat, this apparently furnishes justification for the detachment.

Hudhaifa RA reported: I performed Salat with Rasulullah one night, and he started reciting Surat Al-Baqarah. I thought that Rasulullah would go in Ruku? (Bowing posture in Salat) at the end of one hundred Ayat, but Rasulullah continued (reciting); and I thought that Rasulullah would perhaps recite (this Surah) in the whole Raka’ah (prayer), but he continued the recitation; I thought Rasulullah would perhaps bow on completing (this Surah). Rasulullah then started reciting Surat An-Nisa' which Rasulullah followed with Surat Al-Imran. Rasulullah recited leisurely. When Rasulullah recited an Ayah which mentioned the tasbeeh, Rasulullah would say Subhan Allah and when he recited the Ayat which tells how the Rabb is to be asked, Rasulullah would then ask from Him; and when Rasulullah recited an Ayat asking one to seek Protection of Allah, Rasulullah would seek Protection of Allah. Then Rasulullah bowed and said, "Subhana Rabbiyal-Azim (My Rabb the Great is free from imperfection)''; his bowing lasted about the same length of time as his standing, (and then on returning to the standing posture after Ruku?) Rasulullah would say, "Sami' Allahu liman hamidah, Rabbana lakal-hamd (Allah listens to him who praises Him. Praise be to You, Our Rabb!),'' and Rasulullah would then stand about the same length of time as he had spent in bowing. Rasulullah would then prostrate himself and say, "Subhana Rabbiyal-A’la (My Rabb the Supreme is free from imperfection),'' and Rasulullah prostration lasted nearly the same length of time as his standing (Qiyam). 


Commentary: This Hadith has already been mentioned. In his commentary on Sahih Muslim, Imam An-Nawawi has interpreted the words (occurring in this Hadith) as "I thought he would perhaps recite in the whole Raka’ah.'' Here Raka’ah means complete Salat (two Raka’ah). This interpretation is necessary for the reason that in its absence, the meanings of the next sentence go wrong. Due to this reason, we have kept these meanings in view in our translation. In any case, it furnishes justification for the desirability of long Qiyam (standing in Salat), the desirability of congregation in Nafl Salat, and the maintenance of the correct sequence in the recitation of the Surah of the Qur'an in prayers, which is not accepted by many people.

Jabir RA reported: “Rasulullah was asked: "Which Salat is the best?'' Rasulullah replied, '' The best Salat is that in which Qiyam (the duration of standing) is longer.'' 


Commentary: We learn from this Hadith that of all the articles of Salat (Ruku, Sujud, etc.), it is best to lengthen the Qiyam because the greater the Qiyam is, the longer the recitation of the Qur'an will be. Since the recitation of the Qur'an is the best form of remembrance of Allah, the lengthening of the Qiyam is also most meritorious.

Abdullah bin ‘Amr RA reported: Rasulullah said, "The Salat which is dearest to Allah is that of (Prophet) Dawud; and As-Syaum (the fasting) which is dearest to Allah is that of (Prophet) Dawud. He used to sleep half the night, get up to perform Salat for one-third of it, then sleep through the remaining one-sixth of it; and he used to observe Syaum on alternative days.'' 

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Standing In The Night - For Qiyam Al Layl.

Commentary: Since Islam has strictly forbidden self-affliction to the extent that it has forbidden hardship even in worship, compulsory awakening for Salat at midnight and observing Syaum (fasting) for the whole month (except of the month of Ramadan) is disapproved. The model set by Rasulullah is the ideal pattern of moderation in this respect. In this Hadith the fasting and the prayer of Prophet Dawud have been regarded most pleasing to Allah, because their conduct had a moderation which is enjoined by Islam.

Jabir RA  reported: I heard Rasulullah saying, "Every night there is a special time during which whatever a Muslim asks Allah of any good relating to this life or the Hereafter, it will be granted to him; and this moment comes every night.'' 


Commentary: Like the special moment in Jumu’ah, the time when this special moment occurs every night is not determined. But it is generally in the late hours of the night because that is the best time for worship. As in the case of Lailat-ul-Qadr the wisdom of keeping it secret lies in the inducement to search it by means of worship and prayer, praise and remembrance of Allah Azza Wajalla.

Abu Hurairah RA reported: Rasulullah said, "When one of you gets up at night to perform (Tahajjud) prayer, let him start Salat with two short Raka'ah.'' 


Saidatuna Aisyah RA reported: “Whenever Rasulullah stood for Salat at night, Rasulullah would start his prayer with two brief Raka’ah. 


Commentary: These two Ahadith point out the desirability of performing two brief Raka’ah before one embarks on Tahajjud prayers, as this was the practice of Rasulullah . The wisdom behind this is to drive away laziness and pave the way for the nocturnal prayers in a proper manner. Allah knows best.

Saidatuna Aisyah RA reported: “If Rasulullah missed his night (Tahajjud) Salat because of indisposition or the like, Rasulullah would perform twelve Raka’ah during the day. 


Saidina Umar bin Al-Khattab RA  reported: “Rasulullah said: "If anyone falls asleep and therefore fails to observe his Hizb (share) or part of it, if he observes it between the Fajr and the Zuhr prayers, it will be recorded for him as though he had observed it during the night.'' 


Commentary: This Hadith has already been mentioned. The word "Hizb'' literally means "share'' and "turn''. Here it means that (daily round of recitation) which a person determines for himself, such as prayer or recitation of the Qur'an. For instance, if a person decides that he will perform eight Raka’ah in Tahajjud, recite one Juz (part) of the Qur'an every day, remember Allah in such and such form for so many times etc., etc. And then he makes every possible effort to put into practice his decision, but if casually he is unable to fulfill his routine, he should do it afterwards. This action of his will be credited to his account by Allah as if he completed it at the appointed time. This Hadith furnishes justification for the performance of optional righteous acts even after their due time.

Abu Hurairah RA reported: “Rasulullah said, "May Allah show mercy to a man who gets up during the night and performs Salat, awakens his wife to pray and if she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face (to make her get up). May Allah show mercy to a woman who gets up during the night and performs Salat, awakens her husband for the same purpose; and if he refuses, she sprinkles water on his face.''

[Abu Dawud]
Dua & Repent to Allah Azza Wajalla.

Commentary: This Hadith tells us about the conduct of pious husbands and wives. Its outstanding feature mentioned here is that they help each other in acts of virtue and obedience of Allah.

Abu Sa’id RA and Abu Hurairah RA reported: “Rasulullah said, "When a man awakens his wife during the night and they both perform two Raka’ah Salat together, they are recorded among the men and women who celebrate remembrance of Allah.'' 

[Abu Dawud].

Commentary: This Hadith points out the excellence of performing Tahajjud prayers with one's wife. Those who do so will be recorded as (the men and the women who remember Allah much, with their hearts and tongues). For such people, as the Verse concludes.

“Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e., Jannah)”.

Saidatuna Aisyah RA reported: Rasulullah said, "When one of you dozes off while performing Salat, he should lie down till his drowsiness has gone away from him. When one of you performs Salat while dozing, he may abuse himself instead of seeking pardon (as a result of drowsiness).''

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Abu Hurairah RA reported: Rasulullah said, "When anyone of you stands up for Salat at night and finds it difficult to recite the Qur'an accurately and he is unaware of what he is reciting, he should go back to sleep.''


Commentary: Since peace of mind and concentration are essential for performing Salat, it should be performed when one is fresh and free from tiredness and drowsiness. This is the reason Muslims have been prohibited through these two Ahadith from performing Salat when they are overwhelmed by sleep. In such conditions one cannot make proper expression of one's humility before Allah, which is the essence of Salat. Therefore, in such conditions one should first have some sleep because only then one will get real pleasure from the recitation of the Qur'an, prayer and praise of Allah, and will be in a position to beseech Him earnestly for pardoning one's sins.

Ordering His Rasul 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-Israa’ 17:79)

This order, although it was specifically directed to Rasulullah , also refers to all Muslims, since Rasulullah is a perfect example and guide for us in all matters.
Moreover, performing Tahajjud Prayers regularly qualifies one as one of the righteous and makes one earn Allah’s bounty and mercy. In praising those who perform the late night Prayers, Allah says what means:

“And they who pass the night prostrating themselves before their Lord and standing.”
(Al-Furqan 25:64)

Next to these Quranic verses, there also exist a number of hadiths that reinforce the importance of Tahajjud. Abdullah ibn Salam RA reported: “When Rasulullah came to Madinah, the people gathered around him and I was one of them. I looked at his face and understood that it was not the face of a liar. The first words I heard him say were: ‘O people, spread the salutations, feed the people, keep the ties of kinship, and pray during the night while the others sleep, and you will enter Paradise in peace.’”


Salman Al-Farsi Ra quoted  Rasulullah as saying:
“Observe the night Prayer; it was the practice of the righteous before you and it brings you closer to your Lord and it is penance for evil deeds and erases the sins and repels disease from the body.”


The Etiquette of Tahajjud Prayer.

The following acts are recommended for one who wishes to perform the Tahajjud Prayer: Upon going to sleep, one should make the intention to perform the Prayers. Abu Ad-Darda’ RA quoted Rasulullah as saying:

“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.”

(An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah)

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 Rasulullah ﷺ.

Abu Hudhaifa RA reported: “Whenever Rasulullah ﷺ 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.)”


One should begin with two quick Raka’ah and then one may pray whatever one wishes after that. Saidatuna Aisyah RA said:
“When the Prophet prayed during the late-night, he would begin his Prayers with two quick Raka’ah..”


It is recommended that one wakes up one’s family, for Abu Hurairah RA quoted Rasulullah 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.”


What's the Right Way to Perform Tahajjud?
Rasulullah also said:
 “If a man wakes his wife and prays during the night or they pray two Raka’ah together, they will be recorded among those (men and women) who (constantly) make remembrance of Allah.”

(Abu Dawud.)

If one gets sleepy while performing Tahajjud, one should sleep. This is based on the hadith narrated by Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), who quoted Allah’s Messenger as saying:
“When one of you gets up during the night for Prayer and his Quranic recital gets mixed up to the extent that he does not know what he says, he should lie down.”


Recommended Time for Tahajjud.

Tahajjud may be performed in the early part of the night, the middle part of the night, or the latter part of the night, but after the obligatory `Isha’ Prayer (night Prayer).
While describing Rasulullah ’s way of performing Prayer, Anas Ibn Malik RA said:
“If we wanted to see him praying during the night, we could see him praying. If we wanted to see him sleeping during the night, we could see him sleeping. And sometimes he would fast for so many days that we thought he would not leave fasting throughout that month. And sometimes he would not fast (for so many days) that we thought he would not fast during that month.”

(Al-Bukhari, Ahmad and An-Nasa’i.)

Commenting on this subject, Ibn Hajar says:
“There was no specific time in which Rasulullah would perform his late night Prayer; but he used to do whatever was easiest for him.”
“Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven during the last third of the night, inquiring: ‘Who will call on Me so that I may respond to him? Who is asking something of Me so I may give it to him? Who is asking for My forgiveness so I may forgive him?’”


Amr ibn Absah RA reported that he heard Rasulullah saying:
The Number of Raka’ah in Tahajjud and what's the Right Way to Perform Tahajjud.
Tahajjud Prayer does not entail a specific number of Raka’ah that must be performed, nor is there any maximum limit that may be performed. It would be fulfilled even if one prayed just one Raka’ah of Witr after `Isha’.
Samurah ibn Jundub RA said:
The Messenger of Allah ordered us to pray during the night, a little or a lot, and to make the last of the Prayer the Witr Prayer.”

 (At-Tabarani and Al-Bazzar)

Wallahu’alam ( Allah Know Best)

Selected Videos about the importance of Tahajjud (Qiyam al Layl).
Video 1 - English
Video 2 - English
Video 3 - English
Video 4 – English (Dua’a for Salat Tahajjud)
Video 5 - Urdu
Video 6 - English