Answered by Shaykh Ilyas Patel
When is the “third part of the night”? I usually guess it to be 1/2 hour to 45 minutes before the prescribed time for Fajr.
These days, in Montreal, Canada, the time between Isha and Fajr is extremely short: At this calendar period the prescribed time of Isha starts 11:09pm. And the Fajr is at 2:48am
There is barely 3.5 hours difference by the time the Isha prayer is completed. When there is so little time what is best to do? And when is the third part of the night in this case? How long is that period of the third part of the night?
I like to get up for the night vigil, so my intention is to wake up for 2:00am so that I am praying the night prayer when the fajr time arrives and I complete with witr, then perform fajr/subh.
I do not get much sleep between Isha and Fajr and I find it extremely disruptive to sleep only two or so hours and then get up again, and too often I have overslept my intention to get up. So instead I resolve this by staying up between Isha and Fajr, usually I study Muslim material at that time, and I start the night vigil at 2, and then pray the fajr/subh, and then I go to bed for 4 hours.
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
One has to have moderation and a balance in every aspect of ones life.
Allah states in the Qur’an,
‘We have made night as a garment and the day for earning’ (Sura Al-Naba 78:10-11)
Night sleep is different than sleeping in the morning till late. But due to your circumstances you would like to stay awake in order to perform the Tahajjud Prayer. If you have the aspiration and strength to hold on to sleep it would be with the condition that it does not disrupt your duties to the day, especially if you are working or have family members to care of, if you are a housewife.
It is stated in Umdat al-Fiqh that:
“It is sunnah to go to sleep after Isha and wake up for the Tahajjud Prayer. It is better to pray in the next half portion of the night. If one wants to sleep two-thirds of the night to worship one-third of the night then it is better for him to sleep in the first third and last third of the night and worship in the second third. Also it is preferable to divide the night in six portions and sleep in the first three portions and worship and perform the Tahajjud prayer in the fourth and fifth, then go to sleep in the sixth, as this is the salah of Dawud (peace be upon him) whom Allah and his prophet liked.
The above understanding of the Fuqaha regarding the issue is from the Quranic verse in which Allah commands his Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)
‘ O’ you wrapped in garments, stand to pray all night, except a little. Half of it,-or a little less than that, or a little more.’ (Al-Muzzammil 73:1-4)
The upshot is that the time for Tahajjud is from after Isha to the true dawn, and sunnah is to go to sleep and then wake up for the prayer. The Fuqaha have mentioned guidelines of how to go on about it, as mentioned above.” [Umdat al-Fiqh (2.302-303)]
And Allah Knows Best