By: Mowlana Aftab Haider
8 June 2016
A discussion on the Philosophy of Salatul Layl deserves a 10 night detailed lecture, and this short post will not do justice to it.
The concept of Qiyamul Layl which is overwhelmingly referred to in various narrations encompasses all ibaadat made at night.
From among all of these recommendations, the one that stands out is Salatul Layl (Tahajjud).
This is so important such that it was compulsory on the Prophet (sawa).
Allah refers to it in the Quran in various places.
Surah Muzzammil Verse 6 says:
إِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ اللَّيْلِ هِيَ أَشَدُّ وَطْئًا وَأَقْوَمُ قِيلًا
“Your nightly prayers are certainly stronger and more steadfastly.”
This verse singles out the power of prayers at night for various reasons which include, among others, the privacy and intimate conditions that exist for you to communicate with your Creator while everyone else is sleeping and productivity is generally low.
In other places in Quran, the early morning (which is still part of the night) is praised and those who take advantage of its spiritual value.
Surah al-Dhariyat Verse 18 says:
وَبِالْأسْحَارِ هُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ
“And at dawn, they were invoking [Allah] for forgiveness.”
An aalim conducted research on the benefits of Salatul Layl and managed to count 76 benefits!! These range from its benefits in this world to your grave and the Hereafter.
How to Perform Salatul Layl
Firstly, it’s always done in an odd number.
So you can perform 2 rakaats or 4 rakaats or 6 rakaats or 8 rakaats of Salatul Layl followed by 2 rakaats of Salatul Shaf and 1 Rakaat of Witr
The Shaf and Witr are 2 realities by which Allah takes an oath in Suratul Fajr! Verse 3 says:
“By the even and the odd”
This is the very basic performance of this salaah.
Certain surahs are recommended for Witr together with a list of Duas in the Qunoot.
The time to perform it is between Midnight to Fajr, while the period before Fajr is the best time.
If you want to be more serious and try to emulate the Prophet (sawa), then you can do it with breaks in between each 2 rakaats and take a short sleep, then wake up again and perform fresh wudu to perform the next 2 rakaats, etc.
Due to the greatness of Salatul Layl, Prophet (sawa) even said you can do it after Isha before you to bed!
And if you wake up in the morning before Fajr and there’s little time left, try to even do 2 Rakaats of Shaf and the 1 Witr.
Imam Saadiq was even asked if you can make Qadaa of Salatul Layl and he said “yes”. He even added that Almighty Allah addresses the Angels informing them that one of Allah’s slaves is making Qadaa of Salatul Layl even though it’s not a compulsory salaah.
Narrations state that in hereafter there will be a “being” with a most beautiful face which will be the reality of your salatul layl.
Final Word of encouragement
Secret of the achievements of our great ulama of Ahlul Bait (a.s) was that they never missed Salatul Layl in their whole life.
This also occurred on eve of Ashura in the camp of Imam Hussain (a.s).
And before Imam Hussain (a.s) was martyred, he requested Lady Zainab (a.s) to pray for him during her performance of Salatul Layl.
Thus ulama of Akhlaaq believe that secret of their success is salatul layl.
Imam Khomenei has a similar emphasis on this and people like Ayatullah Behjat. They encourage you to even try your best to make a measly 2 rakaats in the middle of the night because the joy of Salatul Layl cannot be explained but needs to be experienced.
Mujahideen in the battlefield even receive energy from Salatul Layl. Recently Sayed Nasrullah spoke of Ayatullah Behjat and his impact on the Mujahideen and how he inspired them with spiritual advise and encouraged them to perform Salatul Layl to achieve success in their Jihad.
May Almighty Allah inspire us to uphold this great recommendation, Insha’Allah, especially in this Holy Month of Ramadaan.