Voluntary Night Prayer
What are some ways that help to pray Qiyaam ul-Layl or Tahajjud?
Praise be to Allaah.
There are many things that one can do to help oneself pray qiyaam al-layl, among which are the following:
1 – Being sincere towards Allaah, as He has commanded us to be sincere towards Him and none other in our deeds. He tells us (interpretation of the meaning):
“And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allaah, and worship none but Him Alone…” [al-Bayyinah 98:5].
The more sincere a person is towards Allaah, the more he will be guided and helped to obey Allaah and draw closer to Him. Ubayy ibn Ka’b (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Give glad tidings to this ummah of splendour, religion, high rank, victory and prevalence on earth. Whoever does the deeds of the Hereafter to gain some worldly benefit, will have no share of the Hereafter.” (Reported by Ahmad. Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2825). Mutarraf ibn ‘Abd-Allaah ibn al-Shakheer said: “The goodness of a deed is related to the goodness of the heart, and the goodness of the heart is related to the goodness of the intention.” Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The degree to which a person is helped and aided by Allaah depends on the degree of his intention, drive, aim and hopes. Help from Allaah comes to people in proportion to their drive, intention, hopes and fears, and failure comes to them in like manner.”
Therefore the salaf were very keen to conceal their acts of worship such as qiyaam al-layl. A man asked Tameem ibn Aws al-Daari (may Allaah be pleased with him), ‘How do you pray at night?’ He got very angry and said, ‘By Allaah, one rak’ah that I pray in secret in the small hours of the night is more beloved to me than praying the whole night long and then telling people about it.’ Ayyoob al-Sakhtiyaani used to spend the entire night in prayer, then when dawn approached, he would go back to bed and lie down, and when dawn came, he would raise his voice as if he had just woken up.
2 – The person who wants to pray qiyaam al-layl should realize that Allaah is calling him to qiyaam. When the slave realizes that his Master, Who has no need of people’s worship, is calling him to do this, he will respond. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you wrapped in your garments (i.e., Prophet Muhammad)! Stand (to pray) all night, except a little. Half of it, or a little less than that, or a little more; and recite the Qur’aan (aloud) in a slow, (pleasant tone and) style.” [al-Muzzammil 73:1-4].
Sa’d ibn Hishaam ibn ‘Aamir said to ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her): “Tell me about how the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) prayed qiyaam.” She said: “Have you not read “Yaa ayyuha’l-muzzammil (O you wrapped in your garments!)?” He said, “Of course.” She said: “Allaah, may He be exalted and glorified, made qiyaam obligatory at the beginning of this soorah, so the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and his companions prayed qiyaam for a year, and Allaah withheld the end of this soorah for twelve months, until He revealed something at the end of this soorah to make things easier, so qiyaam al-layl became voluntary after it had been obligatory.” (Reported by Muslim).
3 – Knowing the virtues of qiyaam al-layl. Whoever knows the virtues of this act of worship will be keen to talk to Allaah, may He be exalted, and to stand before Him at that time. Among the reports that describe the virtues of this act of worship is the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him), in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The best of prayers after the prescribed prayers is prayer in the depths of the night, and the best of fasting after the month of Ramadaan is fasting the month of Allaah, Muharram.” (reported by Muslim).
‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr (may Allaah be pleased with them both) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The most beloved of prayer to Allaah is the prayer of Dawood, and the most beloved of fasts to Allaah is the fast of Dawood. He used to sleep for half of the night, then get up and pray for a third of the night, then sleep for a sixth of the night, and he used to fast every other day.” (Agreed upon).
‘Amr ibn ‘Absah reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The closest that the Lord is to His slave is in the later part of the night, so if you can be one of those who remember Allaah at that time, then do so.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nisaa’i).
According to a hadeeth narrated by Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Our Lord admires two men: a man who leaves his mattress and cover, and slips away from his wife and lover, to go and pray. Allaah says, ‘O My angels, look at My slave. He has left his mattress and cover and slipped away from his lover and wife to pray, out of hope for what is with Me and out of fear of what is with Me.” (Reported by Ahmad. It is a hasan report. Saheeh al-Targheeb, 258).
Qiyaam al-Layl expels forgetfulness from the heart, as is stated in the hadeeth narrated by ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (may Allaah be pleased with them both), in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever recites ten aayaat in qiyaam will not be recorded as one of the forgetful. Whoever recites a hundred aayaat in qiyaam will be recorded as one of the devout, and whoever prays a thousand aayaat in qiyaam will be recorded as one of the muqantareen (those who pile up good deeds).” (Reported by Abu Dawood and Ibn Hibbaan. It is a hasan report. Saheeh al-Targheeb, 635).
Yahyaa ibn Mu’aadh said: “The medicine of the heart is five things: reading Qur’aan and pondering the meaning, having an empty stomach, praying at night (qiyaam al-layl), beseeching Allaah at the time of suhoor, and keeping company with righteous people.”
4 – Studying how the salaf and righteous people practised qiyaam al-layl and adhered to it. The salaf used to enjoy qiyaam al-layl and rejoice greatly in doing it. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Wahb said: “Every type of pleasure is enjoyed only once, except for acts of worship, which are enjoyed three times: when you do it, when you remember it, and when you are given the reward for it.”
Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir said: “There is nothing left of the joys of this life except three: qiyaam al-layl, meeting one’s brothers in faith, and praying in congregation.”
Thaabit al-Banaani said: “There is nothing I enjoy more than qiyaam al-layl.”
Yazeed al-Riqaashi said: “A lot of tahajjud brings delight to the worshippers, and a lot of thirst (i.e., fasting), brings joy when they meet Allaah.”
Mukhallad ibn Husayn said: “I never woke up at night except I saw Ibraaheem ibn Adham remembering Allaah and praying, and this made me depressed, so I consoled myself with this aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
‘…That is the Grace of Allaah which He bestows on whom He pleases. And Allaah is the Owner of Great Bounty’ [al-Hadeed 54:21].”
Abu ‘Aasim al-Nabeel said: “Abu Haneefah used to be called al-Watad (pole or pillar) because he prayed so much.”
Al-Qaasim ibn Ma’een said: “Abu Haneefah spent an entire night in qiyaam reciting this aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
‘Nay, but the Hour is their appointed time (for their full recompense), and the Hour will be more grievous and more bitter’ [al-Qamar 54:46],
repeating it and weeping, beseeching Allaah until morning came.”
Ibraaheem ibn Shammaas said: “I used to see Ahmad ibn Hanbal staying up at night to pray when he was a young man.”
Abu Bakr al-Marwadhi said: “I was with Imaam Ahmad for nearly four months in the army, and he never stopped praying qiyaam at night or reading Qur’aan during the day, and I never knew when he completed the Qur’aan, because he kept that secret.”
Imaam al-Bukhaari used to pray qiyaam and tahajjud at night until the time of suhoor, and he would read between a half and a third of the Qur’aan, and complete it at suhoor every third night.
Al-‘Allaamah Ibn ‘Abd al-Haadi said, describing the qiyaam of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah: “At night he would keep away from people, and spend that time only with his Lord, beseeching Him continually and reciting Qur’aan, repeating different kinds of acts of worship by night and by day. When he began to pray, his body would start to tremble, leaning to the left and right.”
Ibn Rajab said concerning his shaykh Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim: “He was a man of worship, tahajjud and lengthy prayers. I have never seen his equal in worship and knowledge of the Qur’aan, hadeeth and principles of faith.”
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar said, describing his shaykh al-Haafiz al-‘Iraaqi: “I stayed with him, and I never saw him forsake qiyaam al-layl: it was like a habit for him.”