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Tahajjud (Arabic: تهجد), also known as the "night prayer", is a voluntary prayer performed by followers of Islam. It is not one of the five obligatory prayers required of all Muslims, although the Islamic prophet, Muhammad was recorded as performing the tahajjud prayer regularly himself and encouraging his companions too.
In Fiqh As-Sunnah, Sheikh Sayyid Sabiq elaborates on the subject of Tahajjud as follows:
— Al-Isra 17:79
And they who pass the night prostrating themselves before their Lord and standing.— Al-Furqan 25:64
Next to these Qur'anic verses, there also exist a number of hadiths (narrated and confirmed traditions from Muhammad) that reinforce the importance of Tahajjud Prayer. In various hadiths, it has been mentioned as Qiyamul Layl (standing of night), Salatul Layl (prayer of night) and Tahajjud.
Tahajjud may be performed in the early part of the night, the middle part of the night, or the later part of the night, but after the obligatory `Isha’ Prayer (night Prayer).
Commenting on this subject, Ibn Hajar says:
There was no specific time in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would perform his late night Prayer; but he used to do whatever was easiest for him.
`Amr ibn `Absah claimed that he heard Muhammad as saying:
The closest that a servant comes to his Lord is during the middle of the latter portion of the night. If you can be among those who remember Allah the Exalted One at that time, then do so.
Tahajjud Prayer does not entail a specific number of rak`ahs that must be performed, nor is there any maximum limit that may be performed. It would be fulfilled even if one prayed just one rak`ah of Witr after `Isha'; however, it is traditionally prayed with at least two rak'at which is known as shif'a followed by witr as this is what Muhammad did. Abdullah ibn Umar narrated that Muhammad said:
"Salatul Layl (Night Prayer, i.e. Tahajjud) is offered as two rak'at followed by two rak'at and (so on) and if anyone is afraid of the approaching dawn (Fajr prayer) he should pray one rak'at and this will be a Witr for all the rak'at which he has prayed before."
Bukhari, hadith 990