Witr; 3 Raka’ahs with One Salām

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Mathabah.org

Answered by Shaykh Yūsuf Badāt

Question:

As a follower of the Qurʿān & Sunnah, in accordance to the Ḥanafī methodology, I have always performed witr three raka’ahs with one salām. During Ramadān, someone told me this method is wrong. Can you please clarify the Ḥanafī position?

Answer:

May Almighty Allāh reward you greatly for your eagerness to learn.

In response to your concern, kindly note that there are several understandings derived from the ḥadīths that describe the method of the witr prayer by various scholars of the Islamic sciences.

The Ḥanafī understanding regarding the method of performing the witr in three raka’ahs with two sittings and one salām is the preferred way to perform the witr prayer. This method of witr has been adopted from the practice of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) found in various authentic ḥadīths.  Please refer below:

Witr in 3 Raka’ahs

ʿĀi’shā (may Allāh be pleased with her) states,

“… (after Tahajjud prayers), the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings upon him) would perform the prayer (witr) in three raka’ahs.” (Bukhārī)

Abd Allāh ibn ʿAbbās (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrates,

“… and thereafter he (peace and blessings upon him) would perform the witr three raka’ahs.” (Muslim)

Witr in 3 Raka’ahs With Only One Salām

Saeed Ibn Jubayr (may Allāh be pleased with him) reports,

“The Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings upon him) would recite in the witr prayer ‘Sabbiḥis ma rabbikal Ā’alā’ and in the second raka’ah ‘Qul yā ayyuh al kāfirūn’ and in the third raka’ah ‘Qul hu wa Allāhu aḥad’ and he would not make salām except at the end of them (three raka’ahs).” (Nasaī)

Zurarah Ibn ‘Auwfa (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrates from Sa’ad Ibn Hishaam (may Allāh be pleased with him) that ʿĀi’shā (may Allāh be pleased with her) informed him that,

“The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) would not make salām after two raka’ahs of the witr prayer.” (Nasaī, Dār Quṭnī, Mu’aṭṭa, Ṭabrānī & Ḥākim – Imam Ḥākim stated that this ḥadīth is Ṣaḥīḥ based on the conditions of Bukhārī and Muslim. Imam Dhahabī also concurred to this in his Talkhīṣ.)

Ṣa’ad Ibn Hishām (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrates from ʿĀi’shā (may Allāh be pleased with her),

“When the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings upon him) would have performed ‘Esha, he would enter the house and thereafter perform two raka’ahs and another two after them that were longer than the previous. Thereafter, the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) would offer the witr prayer in three raka’ahs with no separation in the three raka’ahs.” (Musnad Aḥmad)

Anas Ibn Mālik (may Allāh be pleased with him) performed the witr prayer in three raka’ahs and only made salām at the completion of the three raka’ahs. He than declared, “I learnt this from the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings upon him)”. (Ṭaḥāwī, I’lā Al Sunan)

Anas Ibn Mālik (may Allāh be pleased with him) said,

“O Abū Muḥammad, take from me (the understanding of the dīn), for indeed I have taken from the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) and the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) has taken from Allāh. You will never find anyone more reliable than me”. The narrator mentions, “After saying this, Anas (may Allāh be pleased with him) performed six raka’ahs making the salām at the end of every two raka’ahs. Thereafter he performed the witr prayer in three raka’ahs making salām at the end of the three raka’ahs”. (Ruyāni, Ibn Asākir, I’lā Al Sunan, Kanz Al ‘Ummāl – This ḥadīth reaches the status of Marfū’)

Miswar Ibn Makhramah (may Allāh be pleased with him) says,

“We were with Abū Bakr (may Allāh be pleased with him) one evening when ‘Omar (may Allāh be pleased with him) exclaimed, “I have not performed the witr prayer”. He stood up and we assembled in the lines of prayer behind him. He led the witr prayer for us in three raka’ahs and he did not make salām in between them (the three raka’ahs) apart from the very last rakah”. (Ṭaḥāwī)

Abdullāh Ibn Mas’ūd (may Allāh be pleased with him) says,

“The witr prayer is three raka’ahs like the witr of the day; maghrib prayer”. (Ṭaḥāwī)

Abū Zinād (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrates from the seven personalities;

Sa’īd ibn Al Musayyib, ‘Urwah Ibn Al Zubayr, Qāsim Ibn Muḥammad, Abū Bakr Ibn ‘Abd Al Raḥman, Khārijah Ibn Zayd, ‘Ubaid Allāh Ibn Abdullāh, and Sulayman Ibn Yasār (may Allāh be pleased with all of them) amongst many leaders of jurisprudence, righteousness, and rectification. When ever this group would have a difference amongst them, in a matter, they would take the opinion of the majority and the most upright. From amongst that which I had carefully preserved from all of them, according to this description, was that the witr prayer is three raka’ahs and one is not to make salām except at the end of the three raka’ahs. (Ṭaḥāwī)

‘Omar Ibn ‘Abd Al Aziz (may Allāh be pleased with him) had established the witr prayer in Madīnah according to the opinion of the learned jurists as three raka’ahs with no salām except at the completion of the three raka’ahs. (Ṭaḥāwī, Āthār Al Sunan)

Answer to Narrations that Apparently Oppose the Above Understanding

In narrations that apparently contradict the above understanding for the appropriate method of witr can be clarified as follows:

  • The narrations (particularly that of Ibn ‘Omar) are describing the ruling if someone, due to a valid reason breaks the witr prayer after two raka’ah, they are permitted to make binā'(continue) by simply offering one raka’ah without the first two being invalid. Ḥafidh Ibn Ḥajar writes in ‘Fatḥ Al Bārī, “Apparently, Ibn ‘Omar (may Allāh be pleased with him) offered the witr prayer together (with only one salām), however if a need arose, he would perform the witr prayer and make binā’ upon what was already performed. This is substantiated by a narration where it is mentioned that Ibn ‘Omar (may Allāh be pleased with him) performed two raka’ahs and there after stated, “O servant, prepare the logistics of the journey for us!”. There after Ibn ‘Omar stood up and offered one raka’ah (to complete the witr)” (I’lā Al Sunan)
  • The narrations practically demonstrating the method of the witr prayer in three raka’as with one salām are more numerous, authentic (dirāyatan and riwāyatan) and also narrated by a larger group of the companions.  (I’lā Al Sunan)
  • The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) always performed his witr at home. Hence, the narrations of the method of witr narrated by ʿĀi’shā (may Allāh be pleased with her) – the beloved wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) – would be more appropriate for clarification. The same is said about Anas Ibn Mālik (may Allāh be pleased with him) since he was the personal attendant of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) and would be constantly in and out of the household of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him).
  • ‘Urwah’s (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrations from ʿĀi’shā (may Allāh be pleased with her)  are disarrayed and conflicting. Hence his narrations will be explained by the narrations of the numerous Companions who report very clearly from ʿĀi’shā (may Allāh be pleased with her) the three raka’ahs with one salām. (Imam Al Ṭaḥāwī)
  • There is no such separation (breaking the prayer in between and then continuing by adding one raka’ah) in any other prayer, be it fardh, sunnah or nafl.
  • The practice of breaking the witr prayer after two and there after adding one separate raka’ah was an initial practice which was later abrogated. Very similar to speech being permitted in ṣalāh in the early stages but later being abrogated. The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) is reported to have stated, “There is no such thing as two witrs in one night”. Scholars of the sciences of Islam have suggested that this was the ḥadīth that possibly abrogated the separation in witr. (I’lā Al Sunan)
  • Whereever the one raka’ah is specified, it means “one raka’ah after tashahhud without salām”. (Al Nayl)
  • The meaning of the statement, “Do not make the witr resembling the maghrib prayer” is that one should offer some nafl prayers prior to the witr prayer. Also that there is ‘qunoot’ in the witr prayer unlike the maghrib prayer. The ḥadīth reported by Abū Hurayrah (may Allāh be pleased with him) supports this view wherein the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) stated, “Do not offer only 3 raka’ahs of witr but rather perform the witr as five (2 nafl plus 3 witr) or seven (4 nafl plus 3 witr). Do not make the witr to resemble the maghrib prayer”. (I’lā Al Sunan)
  • The salām in the narrations refer to “sending greetings of salām to the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) while reciting the al-taḥiyyāt”. Refer to the ḥadīth: Umm Salāmah (may Allāh be pleased with her) reports the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) saying, “In every two raka’ahs, there is tashahhud, tasleem (greetings of salām) upon the messengers and those who follow them from the righteous servants”. (Ṭabrānī in Kabīr & Majma’ Al Zawāid)
  • There is no concept of a single raka’ah. Refer to the following: Ikramah (may Allāh be pleased with him) states, I was with Ibn ‘Abbās (may Allāh be pleased with him) by Mu’āwiyah (may Allāh be pleased with him) who discussed matters until a portion of the night passed. Mu’āwiyah (may Allāh be pleased with him) then stood up and offered one rakaah. Ibn ‘Abbās (may Allāh be pleased with him) exclaimed, “Where did you adopt this from?” (Ṭaḥāwī)

And Allāh Knows Best

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