Qiyâm al-Layl means “The night prayer”. It is also known as the Tahajjud prayer. It is the most virtuous and recommended of all the voluntary prayers. The Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed it every night and encouraged his followers to do so as well.
Allah commanded Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to offer this prayer.
He says in the Qur’ân: “And as for the night, keep awake a part of it as an additional prayer for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of praise and glory.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 79]
He also says: “O thou folded in garments, stand (to prayer) by night, but not all night, half of it, or a little less. Or a little more; and recite the Qur’ân in a slow, measured tone.” [Sûrah al-Muzzammil: 1-4].
Although these verses were addressed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), they were not confined to him. They are an encouragement for all of us.
Observing this prayer is one of the reasons for attaining Paradise by Allah’s grace. Allah says: “They were in the habit of sleeping but little by night, and in the hours of early dawn they (were found) praying for forgiveness” [Sûrah al-Dhâriyât: 17-18]
It is confirmed in the authentic hadîth that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pray Qiyâm al-Layl for many long hours at a time, until his feet would become swollen.
Qiyâm al-Layl can be prayed at any time at night before the time of the Fajr prayer. Preferably, it should be offered in the last third of the night. It is also preferable to sleep before praying it, but it is not obligatory to do so.
You can pray as few or as many units of prayer as you want to. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The night prayer is performed as two units of prayers at a time. When you anticipating the arrival of dawn, then perform one unit of prayer as witr.”
It is preferable to offer eleven units of prayer, including witr, since the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to do this. However, there is no harm in praying more or less.
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