A Muslima's Guide To Tahajjud and Qiyam ul Layl


The tahajjud salat is one of my favorite nawafil (subjugatory) prayers as a mom. I began performing this salah during an extremely traumatic time in my life and I can honestly say that it saved my sanity and helped me cope. At a time when I felt at loss to handle deep pain and extreme despair, praying tahajjud was my only anchor. The Prophet (saw) has said:

Verily, there is one hour during the (entire) night when any Muslim (submitting to the Will of Allah the Almighty) may call upon Allah and request anything of Him, regardless of whether the matter be worldly or of the hereafter. Allah, the Almighty will grant and fulfill the request. This is the case every night. (Muslim).

The Prophet has also mentioned that "The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer (Muslim)". When any of my family and friends go through extenuating circumstances, I urge them to pray tahajjud as I know how much it helps me in my life. Until now, I try to perform tahajjud daily because I have seen how it brings peace, fulfillment, contentment, and barakah to my day. Of course when I don't pray tahajjud, I feel sad but I don't beat myself up and lose hope, I just make the intention to keep trying the next day. The Prophet's (saw) wife Ayisha (r.a) narrated,

Do not ever stop praying Qiyaam. The Prophet (saw) never ceased praying it. When he (saw) was sick or weak, he prayed sitting. (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (saw) also said:

You should pray Qiyaam al-Layl, for it is the habit of the righteous people who came before you, and it will bring you closer to your Lord, expiate for bad deeds, prevent sin, and expel disease from the body. (At-Tirmithi and Ahmad)

Presently what I find cope-able right now is to get up earlier for fajr salah, perform tahajjud, say my duas, and then pray fajr. You can also perform tahajjud earlier and go back to sleep until fajr, or if nothing else, pray it before going to sleep as it is better than not doing it at all. Also, I began performing two rakats only for fear that I will find it burdensome and not keep to it, but as soon as I feel my habit is strong, I will add more rakats in following the tradition of the Prophet (saw).

If you get up for night prayer, start with two short rakats. (Muslim)

I find tahajjud salah is an ideal time as a busy mom for contemplation, because things that busy your heart are absent so your concentration and understanding is better. This is one of the reasons I love this time of the morning because I will not be interrupted by my children and duties and I find solitude which helps starts my day with calm. I'm also able to focus on my dua and ask for the things I need the most from Allah swt because at this time of the night Allah is closest and He wants to answer your dua. It a time when the sky is open, supplications are answered, the needs of those who ask are fulfilled, and is a shield from sin. The Prophet (saw) said,

The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him? (Bukhari, Muslim)

How To Pray Tahajjud Salah

Step 1: Find the optimal time to pray tahajjud:

You can divide the night in thirds, then the final middle third is most virtuous. (Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar). If one divides the night in half, then the second half is more virtuous. (ibid). It is preferable to divide the night in six portions, one should sleep in the first three portions, 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 (pbuh).

Step 2: Make your intention for your voluntary prayer (to pray tahajjud).

Step 3: Make your intention for why you are praying (for the sake of Allah).

Step 4: Perform the minimal night prayer which is 2 rakats. Though the recommended rakats are 8 (as the practice of the Prophet saw), it is recommended to start with two short rakats. Also, a lengthier recitation in tahajjud is superior to a larger number of rakats prayed.

Step 5: Even though the tahajjud salah can be made after isha salah, the full reward mentioned in the Quran and Hadiths refer to worship that is preceded by sleep. This is also understood from the meaning of tahajjud - which is the struggle to rid oneself of sleep. (Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar).

Step 6: Thereafter I usually say my duas of the day and for any problems that are affecting me and my family the most.

It should be noted that the time to perform the tahajjud prayer starts after isha salah and ends by fajr salah, so if you perform any voluntary prayers after fajr time, it will not be considered as tahajjud prayers. Also, once tahajjud becomes a habit, it is disliked to leave it unless there is an excuse. The Prophet (saw) said,

O Abdullah! Do not be like so-and-so. He used to pray at night and then left it. (Bukhari and Muslim).

If you find that the tahajjud is too difficult, it is good to reflect on the words of Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) when he was told,

"I cannot pray at night.” and he said, “Your sins have prevented you.

Tahajjud or Qiyam ul Layl?

Qiyaam al-layl means "standing in the night" and pertains to when you spend some part of the night (even if only one hour) in prayer, recitation of the Qur’an, in remembrance of Allah (dhikr), or any acts of worship after isha until fajr. Tahajjud salah on the other hand, though considered qiyam ul-layl, is the actual nawafil prayer performed after isha and before fajr. Thus tahajjud is qiyaam al-layl but qiyaam also encompasses other acts of worship during the night instead of only the tahajjud salah.

The scholars have informed us that performing nawafil prayers in the night has more blessings than in the day because it is more concealed, closer to sincerity, and harder on your nafs. This is due to nighttime being when you are most tired and in a state of deep sleep, and to leave your slumber despite your desire to sleep is a tremendous struggle (mujahada).

O! The night vigil is (a time) when impression is more keen and speech more certain. Lo! You have by day a chain of business. So remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself with a complete devotion. (73: 6-7).

“Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of the night, and the Qur an at dawn. Lo! the Qur an at dawn is ever witnessed. And some part of the night awake for its recital, as voluntary worship for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praised estate.” (17: 78-79)

Read more at www.seekershub.org

I end by beseeching you to try the tahajjud salah (if you have'nt yet), because it will help you more than you can imagine inshAllah. Read about the other nawafil prayers that I love to implement in my life as a mom to help make your difficult days run smooth. Read A Mom's Guide to Istikhara and A Mom's Guide to Salat ul-Haja and also get a free printable of the accompanying duas when you subscribe to Muslimommy.