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Witr; 3 Raka'ahs with One Salam

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Witr; 3 Raka'ahs with One Salam



Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Badat


As a follower of the Quran & Sunnah, in accordance to the Hanafi methodology, I have always performed witr three raka'ahs with one salam. During Ramadan, someone told me this method is wrong. Can you please clarify the Hanafi position?



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

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

The Hanafi understanding regarding the method of performing the witr in three raka'ahs with two sittings and one salam is the prefered way to perform the witr prayer. This method of witr has been adopted from the practice of the Prophet (pbuh) found in various authentic hadiths.  Please refer below:


Witr in 3 Raka'ahs

Ai'sha (ra) states, "... (after Tahajjud prayers), the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would perform the prayer (witr) in three raka'ahs." (Bukhari)

Abdullah ibn Abbas (ra) narrates, "... and thereafter he (pbuh) would perform the witr three raka'ahs." (Muslim)


Witr in 3 Raka'ahs With Only One Salam

Saeed Ibn Jubair (ra) reports, "The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would recite in the witr prayer 'Sabbihis ma rabbikal A'alaa' and in the second rakaah 'Qul yaa ayyuh al kafiroon' and in the third raka'ah 'Qul hu wa Allahu ahad' and he would not make salam except at the end of them (three raka'ahs)" (Nasai)


Zurarah Ibn Auwfa (ra) narrates from Sa'ad Ibn Hishaam (ra) that Aisha (ra) informed him that the Prophet (pbuh) would not make salam after two raka'ahs of the witr prayer." (Nasai, Dar Qutni, Mu'atta, Tabrani & Haakim - Imam Haakim stated that this hadith is Saheeh based on the conditions of Bukhari & Muslim. Imam Dhahabi also concurred to this in his Talkhees.)


Sa'ad Ibn Hishaam (ra) narrates from Aisha (ra), "When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would have performed Esha, he would enter the house and there after perform two raka'ahs and another two after them that were longer than the previous. There after, the Prophet (pbuh) would offer the witr prayer in three raka'ahs with no separation in the three raka'ahs." (Musnad Ahmed)

Anas Ibn Maalik (ra) performed the witr prayer in three raka'ahs and only made salam at the completion of the three raka'ahs. He than declared, "I learnt this from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)". (Tahaawi, I'laa Al Sunan)


Anas Ibn Maalik (ra) said, "O Abu Muhammad, take from me (the understanding of the deen), for indeed I have taken from the Prophet (pbuh) and the Prophet (pbuh) has taken from Allah. You will never find anyone more realiable than me". The narrator mentions, "After saying this, Anas (ra) performed six raka'ahs making the salam at the end of every two raka'ahs. Thereafter he performed the witr prayer in three raka'ahs making salam at the end of the three raka'ahs". (Ruyaani, Ibn Asaakir, I'laa Al Sunan, Kanz Al Ummal - This hadith reaches the status of Marfoo)


Miswar Ibn Makhramah (ra) says, "We were with Abu Bakr (ra) one evening when Omar (ra) exclaimed, "I have not performed the witr prayer". He stood up and we assembled in the lines of prayer behind him. He lead the witr prayer for us in three raka'ahs and he did not make salam in between them (the three raka'ahs) apart from the very last rakah". (Tahaawi)


Abdullah Ibn Masood (ra) says, "The witr prayer is three raka'ahs like the witr of the day; maghrib prayer". (Tahaawi)


Abu Zinaad (ra) narrates from the seven personalities; Saeed ibn Al Musayyib, Urwah Ibn Al Zubair, Qasim Ibn Muhammad, Abu Bakr Ibn Abd Al Rahman, Khaarijah Ibn Zaid, Ubaid Allah Ibn Abdullah, and Sulaiman Ibn Yasaar (may Allah 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 salam except at the end of the three raka'ahs. (Tahaawi)


Umar Ibn Abd Al Aziz (ra) had established the witr prayer in Madina according to the opinion of the learned jurists as three raka'ahs with no salam except at the completion of the three raka'ahs. (Tahaawi, Aathaar 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 Umar) are describing the ruling if someone, due to a valid reason breaks the witr prayer after two raka'ah, they are permitted to make binaa'(continue) by simply offering one raka'ah without the first two being invalid. Hafiz Ibn Hajar writes in 'Fath Al Baari, "Apparently, Ibn Umar (ra) offered the witr prayer together (with only one salam), however if a need arose, he would perform the witr prayer and make binaa' upon what was already performed. This is substantiated by a narration where it is mentioned that Ibn Umar (ra) performed two raka'ahs and there after stated,"O servant, prepare the logistics of the journey for us!". There after Ibn Umar stood up and offered one raka'ah (to complete the witr)" (I'laa Al Sunan)
  • The narrations practically demonstrating the method of the witr prayer in three raka'as with one salam are more numerous, authentic (diraayatan & riwaayatan) and also narrated by a larger group of the companions.  (I'laa Al Sunan)
  • The Prophet (pbuh) always performed his witr at home. Hense the narrations of the method of witr narrated by Ai'sha (ra) - the beloved wife of the Prophet (pbuh) - would be more appropriate for clarification. The same is said about Anas Ibn Malik (ra) since he was the personal attendant of the Prophet (pbuh) and would be constantly in and out of the household of the Prophet (pbuh).
  • Urwah's (ra) narrations from Aisha (ra) are dissarrayed and conflicting. Hence his narrations will be explained by the narrations of the numerous companions who report very clearly from Aisha (ra) the three raka'ahs with one salam. (Imam Al Tahaawi)
  • There is no such seperation (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 seperate raka'ah was an initial practice which was later abrogated. Very similar to speech being permitted in salah in the early stages but later being abrogated. The Prophet (pbuh) 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 hadith that possibly abrogated the separation in witr. (I'laa Al Sunan)
  • Where ever the one raka'ah is specified, it means "one raka'ah after tashahhud without salam". (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 hadith reported by Abu Hurairah (ra) supports this view wherein the Prophet (pbuh) 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'laa Al Sunan)
  • The salam in the narrations refer to "sending greetings of salam to the Prophet (pbuh) while reciting the al tahiyyaat". Refer to the hadith: Umm Salamah (ra) reports the Prophet (pbuh) saying, "In every two raka'ahs, there is tashahhud, tasleem (greetings of salam) upon the messengers and those who follow them from the righteous servants". (Tabraani in Kabeer & Majma' Al Zawaaid)
  • There is no concept of a single raka'ah. Refer to the following: Ikramah (ra) states, I was with the Ibn Abbas (ra) by Muawiyah (ra) who discussed matters until a portion of the night passed. Muawiyah (ra) then stood up and offered one rakaah. Ibn Abbas (ra) exclaimed, "Where did you adopt this from?" (Tahaawi)




And Allah Knows Best


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Q: I would really appreciate if you could somehow provide with some hadith / reference in support of 3 rakah witr salaat according to the Hanafi Madhab.

In the article that you forwarded to me, the writer has accepted that one may perform 3 Rakaats of Witr Salaat. However, he seems to be imposing the view that this should only be done in the manner that he has understood, i.e. 2 Rakaats with a salaam and thereafter 1 Rakaat. Whilst this method may be correct according to some Madhabs, to impose it on the followers of other Madhabs will not be proper.


Hence, I would hereby mention those proofs that support the Hanafi view on this matter.


According to the Hanafi Madhab, the Witr Salaat should be performed as 3 Rakaats with one salaam at the end only. This view is based on the following:


1 Sayyidatuna Aaisha (Radhiallaahu Anha) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) never used to make salaam after the first 2 Rakaats of Witr.' (Mustadrak Haakim vol.1 pg.304; Imaam Haakim has classified this Hadith as Sahih according to the requirements of Bukhari and Muslim. Hafiz Dhahabi has also accepted this). Imaam Haakim then says, 'There are various other narrations that support this, from them is the following.'


2 Sayyidatuna Aaisha (Radhiallaahu Anha) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) used to perform 3 Rakaats of Witr and he never used to make salaam except in the last Rakaat.' (Ibid)



3 Imaam Nasaaie (RA) has recorded (the following) on the authority of Sayyiduna Ubayy ibn Ka'ab (Radhiallaahu Anhu) that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) used to recite Surah Sabbihisma rabbikal a'alaa in the first Rakaat of Witr, Surah al-Kaafiroon in the 2nd Rakaat and Surah, Qul huwallaahu Ahad in the third and that he (Rasulullah - Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) would not make salaam except in the last of those Rakaats. (Hafiz Iraaqi has classified this narration as Sahih - authentic) – refer Naylul Awtaar vol.1; also see Aathaarus-sunan pg.203; I'elaa-us-sunan vol.6 pg.42



4 Thaabit al-Bunaani (Radhiallaahu Anhu), the famous student of Sayyiduna Anas (Radhiallaahu Anhu) says that Sayyiduna Anas (Radhiallaahu Anhu) lead us in the Witr Salaat he performed 3 Rakaats and he did not make salaam till the last Rakaat. (Tahawi vol.1 pg.206 – Hafiz ibn Hajar (RA) has classified the narration as Sahih (authentic) – see al-Diraayah; I'elaa-us-sunan vol.6 pg.44


5 Sayyiduna Abu-Zinaad (ra) – a Taabi'ee – says that I found most of the Fuqahaa and the people of knowledge saying that the Witr is 3 Rakaats with only one salaam at the end.' (Tahaawi vol.1 pg.207). Muhaddith Nimawi has classified this narration as Hasan (sound); see Aathaarus-sunan pg.204


6 Abu Zinaad (ra) also stated that Khalifah Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz (RA) had established through the verdicts of the Fuqahaa, that Witr Salaat is 3 Rakaats, with no salaam except in the last Rakaat.' (Tahaawi vol.1 pg.207 – Muhaddith Nimawi has declared this narration as Sahih (authentic) – see Aathaarus-sunan pg.204)


7 Sayyiduna Umar ibn al-Khattaab (Radhiallaahu Anhu) is also reported to have performed 3 Rakaats Witr with one salaam only. (Mustadrak al-Haakim vol.1 pg.304; Tahaawi vol.1 pg.205-206)


All the above authentic narrations have proven without a shadow of doubt that the Witr Salaat should be 3 Rakaats with no salaam in between. Narrations 5 and 6 have proven this to be the practice of majority of the Fuqahaa (theologians) during the era of the Taabi'een as well. From among the Sahaaba, this is reported to be the practice of Sayyiduna Umar ibn al-Khattaab, Sayyiduna Ali ibn Abi Talib, Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Mas'ood, Sayyiduna Ubayy ibn Ka'ab, Sayyiduna Zayd ibn Thaabit, Sayyiduna Anas ibn Maalik and Sayyiduna Abu Umaamah (Radhiallaahu Anhum). (refer al-Tamheed of ibn Abdul-Barr vol.4 pg.174)


The following narrations prove that one should definitely sit in Tashahhud after 2 Rakaats and thereafter stand up for the third:


1 Sayyidatuna Aaisha (Radhiallaahu Anha) reports from Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) – as part of a lengthy Hadith – that he also said, 'After every two Rakaats, there is 'Attahiyyaat'.' (Sahih Muslim). This Hadith is general and includes all salawaat as well as the Witr. (I'elaa-us-sunan vol.6 pg.51)


2 Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Mas'ood (Radhiallaahu Anhu) is reported to have said, 'Witr is 3 Rakaats like the Witr of the day, i.e. the Salaat of Maghrib.' (Tahaawi vol.1 pg.206). Muhaddith Nimawi (RA) has declared this narration as Sahih (authentic). (Aathaarus-sunan pg.204). This narration also proves that just as one sits after the first 2 Rakaats in Maghrib Salaat, similarly, one should do so in the Witr Salaat. (I'elaa-us-sunan vol.6 pg.43-44)


3 Abul-Aaliyah (Radhiallaahu Anhu) – a Taabi'ee – states that the companions of Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) have taught us that the Witr is just like Maghrib Salaat. The only difference is that we recite Qiraat in Witr, and not in Maghrib, i.e. in the third Rakaat. (Tahaawi vol.1 pg.206). Muhaddith Nimawi (RA) has declared it Sahih (authentic)


This is a clear proof for the Hanafi Madhab in that the Maghrib Salaat and Witr will be identical in all aspects, except the Qiraat in the third Rakaat. Hence, the Tashahhud in the second Rakaat is also backed / supported by this narration.


Now, as for the narrations quoted by the writer in that article, one should first understand that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) always encouraged that one should perform some Nafl Salaat before the Witr Salaat and that the Witr should not be the only Salaat performed after Esha. This was also the constant practice of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). Hafiz ibn Abdul-Barr Maaliki (RA) states that Witr according to them is only after some other Salaat that precedes it.' (al-Tamheed vol.4 pg.177)

It is precisely for this reason that in some narrations – as quoted by the writer – there is mention of 5 Rakaats of Witr and 7 Rakaats as well which in actual fact refers to what we have just mentioned, i.e. from the 5 or 7 Rakaats, the last 3 are actually the Witr and the remaining 2 or 4 would be the Nafl that was supposed to precede it.

The same answer will apply to the first narration that, 'Don't pray 3 Rakaats Witr, pray five Witr or seven Rakaats Witr, but don't make similarity to Maghrib'.


The reason for preventing the Witr from being like Maghrib Salaat is obvious, and that is because there is no Nafl Salaat that precedes it. (see al-Nukatu Tareefah of Allaamah al-Kawthari pg.186)


As for the narration of Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) that mentions that one should make salaam after 2 Rakaats and thereafter perform 1 Rakaats only, this practice is further weakened by a narration of Mustadrak al-Haakim wherein Hasan al-Basri (RA) is reported to have been asked about this narration. It was said to him, 'Verily, Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) used to make salaam after the 2 Rakaats of Witr?' He replied, '(His father) Sayyiduna Umar al-Khattaab (Radhiallaahu Anhu) was more knowledgeable than him and he would (not make salaam and) stand up for the third Rakaat.' (Mustadrak vol.1 pg.304)


This is besides the fact that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) is reported to have prohibited from performing one Rakaat only. (refer al-Tamheed vol.4 pg.177; al-Nukatu Tareefah pgs.182-183)


Lastly, I'm sure that the above information is more than enough to eradicate any sort of doubt concerning the Hanafi viewpoint on this issue.


and Allah Ta'ala Knows Best


Q) Raising Hands in the Takbir for Qunut in Hanafi Madhab?

I had said this a few months back to a young brother:


Some evidences for Raful yadayn in the Takbir for Qunut (which in our Madhhab is before the Ruku).

Imam al-Bukhari in his treatise on Raful Yadayn quoted some narrations:

 حدثنا عبد الرحيم المحاربي حدثنا زائدة عن ليث عن عبد الرحمن بن الأسود عن أبيه عن عبد الله أنه كان يقرأ في آخر ركعة من الوتر قل هو الله ثم يرفع يديه فيقنت قبل الركعة قال البخاري وهذه الأحاديث كلها صحيحة عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وأصحابه

This narration states that Abdullah ibn Mas'ud (ra) would recite in the last Rak'a of Witr Qulhuwallahu ahad and then raise his hands for Qunut before the Ruku.

Imam al-Nimawi in his Athar al-Sunan (p. 210) said it has a Sahih Isnad.

Also, Bukhari in his Juz Raful Yadayn narrated the following

 حدثنا قبيصة حدثنا سفيان عن أبي علي هو جعفر بن ميمون بياع الأنماط قال سمعت أبا عثمان قال كان عمر يرفع يديه في القنوت

The above narration mentions that Umar (ra) would raise his hands in Qunut

Imam al-Nimawi declared this last Isnad to be Hasan in his Athar al-Sunan (p. 210)

He also mentioned from Imam al-Tahawi's Sharh Ma'ani al-Athar from Ibrahim al-Nakha'I that he said that one should raise the hands in 7 places: One of which specifically mentions the Takbir for Qunut in Witr Salah. Imam Nimawi said this narration has a Sahih Isnad (Athar al-Sunan, p. 210)

I also found some very similar narrations as above in the 2nd vol of Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba from Ibn Mas'ud and Ibrahim –

( 141 ) في رفع اليدين في قنوت الوتر ( 1 ) حدثنا أبو بكر قال حدثنا أبو الأحوص عن مغيرة عن إبراهيم قال ارفع يديك للقنوت . ( 2 ) حدثنا معاويه بن هشام قال حدثنا سفيان عن ليث عن عبد الرحمن بن الاسود عن أبيه عن عبد الله أنه كان يرفع يديه في قنوت الوتر . ( 3 ) حدثنا عبد الرحمن ب محمد المحاربي عن ليث عن ابن الاسود عن أبيه عن عبد الله أنه كان يرفع يديه إذا قنت في الوتر



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