Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
I have been praying the witr prayer the same way for a while now, but I was a bit thrown off to find out that hanafi witr differs from the way my family and I normally have been taught to pray it. I hope you don’t mind explaining the hanafi method for the witr…if it does differ from the way I pray it which includes making qunoot al witr (the duaa) right before I go down for sujood on the third rukaa. And in regards to the duaa is it permissible to read it from a book during the prayer or must one have it memorized in order for the prayer to be valid?
It is best to recite the specific dua. Memorize it; its short. But until you do, you can recite any other dua.
The place for the qunut dua in witr is before the ruku in the Hanafi school. If you read it from a book, it will invalidate your prayer, so don’t do it.
It says in Heavenly Ornaments (Imam Ashraf Ali Tahanawi:
THE WITR PRAYER
1. Witr prayer is wajib. The status of wajib is very close to that of fard. To leave out a wajib is a major sin. If a wajib is missed out, one should make qada of it as soon as possible.
2. Witr prayer comprises of three rakaats. After offering two rakaats, one should sit down and read the at-tahiyyaat. The durood should not be read. Instead, one should immediately stand up after the at-tahiyyaat. One should then read the Surah Faatihah and another Surah. Thereafter, one should say Allahu Akbar and raise one’s hands upto one’s ears (and upto the shoulders if it is a woman). The hands should be clasped again, and thereafter, the dua-e-qunoot should be recited. Thereafter, he should go into ruku, complete the third rakaat, sit down for at-tahiyyaat,durood, and a dua and then make the salaam.
3. The dua-e-qunoot is as follows:
4. After the Surah Faatihah, another Surah should also be recited in all the three rakaats of witr prayer as has been mentioned above.
5. If a person forgets to recite dua-e-qunoot in the third rakaat, and remembers it when he goes into ruku, he should not recite it now. Instead, he should make the forgetfulness prostration at the end of his prayer. If a person reads the dua-e-qunoot after standing up from ruku, even then his prayer will be valid, but it is preferable not to do so. In any case, it will still be wajib on him to make the forgetfulness prostration.
6. If a person forgetfully reads dua-e-qunoot in the first or second rakaat, this is not considered. He will still have to recite it in the third rakaat and also make the forgetfulness prostration.
7. If a person does not know the dua-e-qunoot, he should recite the following dua: [f: any short dua] ….. (end of quote)
Hope that helps.