Verily, the rising by night (for Tahajjud prayer) is very hard and most potent and good for governing (the soul), and most suitable for (understanding) the Word (of Allah).
Verily, there is for you by day prolonged occupation with ordinary duties.
And remember the Name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with a complete devotion.
[He is] the Lord of the East and the West; there is no deity except Him, so take Him as Disposer of [your] affairs.
Chapter 73 Al-Muzammil : Verses 6-9
The Virtue of standing at Night for Prayer
(Verily, rising (Nashi’ah) at night is better for understanding and more suitable for speech (recitation).) `Umar, Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Zubayr, all said, “The entire night is Nashi’ah.” Mujahid and others said the same. It is said “Nasha’a” when a person stands at night to pray. In one narration from Mujahid he said, “(It is) after `Isha’ (prayer).” This was also said by Abu Mijlaz, Qatadah, Salim, Abu Hazim and Muhammad bin Al-Munkadir. The point is that Nashi’ah of the night refers to its hours and its times, every hour of it is called Nashi’ah, so it refers to the periods of time. The purpose of this is that standing at night (for prayer) is better for training the heart and the tongue, and more conducive to recitation. Thus, Allah says,
(is better for understanding and more suitable for speech (recitation).) meaning, more comprehensive for the matter of performing the recitation and better for understanding it than in the recitation of the day. This is because the daytime is the time for people to disperse and move about, to raise voices and be lively. Al-Hafiz Abu Ya`la Al-Mawsili said, “Ibrahim bin Sa`id Al-Jawhari told us that Abu Usamah told us that Al-A`mash informed us that Anas bin Malik recited this Ayah as: (إِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ اللَّيْلِ هِيَ أَشَدُّ وَأَصْوَبُ قِيلًا) (`Verily, rising at night is better for understanding and more correct for the speech.’) So a man said to him, `We recite it;
(more suitable for speech).’ So Anas said to him, `Most correct (Aswab), most suitable (Aqwam), the best for preparation (Ahya’) and similar words are all the same (in meaning).”’ Thus, Allah continues saying,
(Verily, for you in the day is lengthy Sabh.) Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah and “Ata’ bin Abi Muslim, all said, “Leisure time and sleep.” Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, Abu Malik, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and Sufyan Ath-Thawri, all said, “A long amount of leisure time.” Qatadah said, “Leisure, aspirations and activities.” `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said concerning the statement,
(Verily, for you in the day is lengthy Sabh.) “This means for your needs. Therefore, leave the night open for your religious devotion. Allah said this when the (voluntary) night prayer was obligatory. Then, Allah blessed His servants, lightened the matter and removed its obligation.” Then he recited,
(Stand (to pray) all night, except a little.) to the end of the Ayah, then he recited,
(Verily, your Lord knows that you do stand less than two- thirds of the night, or half of it.) (73:20) until he reached,
(So recite of it what is easy.) (73:20) and Allah says,
(And Tahajjud in some parts of the night (also offer the Salah with it), as an additional prayer for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqam Mahmud.) (17:79) In fact, this is as true as what he (`Abdur-Rahman) said, The proof for this view is what Imam Ahmad recorded in his Musnad, that Sa`id bin Hisham divorced his wife and then traveled to Al-Madinah in order to sell some property he had with her. He intended to use its money to buy an animal and a weapon and then go for Jihad against the Romans until he died. In the process of this he met a group of his people and they informed him that a group of six men from his people had intended that in the time of the Messenger of Allah , upon which he said,
(Is there not for you all an excellent example in me) So he forbade them from that and made them testify that they would take their wives back. Then he (Sa`id) returned to us and informed us that he went to Ibn `Abbas and asked him about the Witr (prayer). Ibn `Abbas said, “Shall I not inform you of the person who is the most knowledgeable person on the earth about the Witr prayer of the Messenger of Allah ” He said, “Yes.” Ibn `Abbas then said, “Go to `A’ishah and ask her, then return to me and inform me of what she tells you.” He said, “Then I went to Hakim bin Aflah and requested him to go with me to her. But he said, `I do not want to be near her. Verily, I forbade her from saying anything concerning these two parties (the parties of `Ali and Mu`awiyah), but she refused and continued being involved with them (in their conflict).’ So I adjured him by Allah, so he came with me and we entered upon her (in her house).” So she said, “Is this the Hakim that I know” He (Hakim) said, “Yes.” Then she said, “Who is this that is with you” He said, “Sa`id bin Hisham.” She said, “Who is Hisham” He said, “He is Ibn `Amir.” She then asked Allah to have mercy upon him (`Amir). Then she said, “Yes, `Amir was a true man.” Then I (Sa`id) said, “O Mother of the believers! Inform me about the character of the Messenger of Allah .” She replied, “Have you not read the Qur’an” I said, “Of course.” Then she said, “Verily, the character of the Messenger of Allah was the Qur’an.” I was about to stand and leave, but then I remembered to ask about the night prayer of the Messenger of Allah . I said, “O Mother of the believers! Inform me about the night prayer of the Messenger of Allah .” She said, “Have you not read the Surah,
(O you wrapped up.) I said, “Of course.” She then said, “Verily, Allah made standing at night (for prayer) obligatory at the beginning of this Surah. So the Messenger of Allah and his Companions stood for an entire year during the night (in prayer) until their feet swelled. Allah held back the revelation of the end of this Surah for twelve months. Then, Allah revealed the lightening of this burden at the end of this Surah. Then, the standing for night prayer became voluntary after it used to be obligatory.” I was about to leave when I remembered to ask her about the Witr prayer of the Messenger of Allah . So I said, “O Mother of the believers! Inform me about the Witr prayer of the Messenger of Allah .” She said, “We used to prepare his Siwak (toothstick) for him and his ablution water, and Allah would awaken him whenever He wished to awaken him during the night. Then, he would clean his teeth with the Siwak and perform ablution. Then, he would pray eight (Rak`ahs) units of prayer and he would not sit during them except at the end of the eighth one. At this point he would sit and remember his Lord the Most High, and supplicate to Him. Afterwards he would stand without saying the greeting of peace (Taslim). He would then pray a ninth unit of prayer and then sit. He would remember Allah Alone and then supplicate to Him (during this sitting). Then, he would say the greetings of peace (to conclude the prayer) making it audible to us. Then, he would pray two more units of prayer after this salutation of peace, while he would be sitting. So these are eleven units of prayer, O my son. Then, when he became older and heavier, he would perform Witr prayer with seven units of prayer, and then he would pray two extra units of prayer after them while sitting after the salutation of peace. So these are nine units of prayer, O my son. Whenever the Messenger of Allah used to pray a particular prayer, he liked to remain consistent in its performance. If he would ever be preoccupied from performing the night prayer by oversleeping, pain or illness, he would pray twelve units of supererogatory prayer during the day. I do not know of Allah’s Prophet ever reciting the entire Qur’an in one night before morning nor did he fast an entire month other than the month of Ramadan.” So I went to Ibn `Abbas and told him what she had said. Ibn `Abbas then said, “She has spoken truthfully and if I had went to her house I would have remained until she spoke directly to me and I could see her lips moving.” This is how Imam Ahmad recorded this narration in its entirety. Muslim also recorded similarly in his Sahih. Ibn Jarir recorded from Abu `Abdur-Rahman that he said, “When the Ayah
(O you wrapped.) (73:1) was revealed, the people stood in night prayer for an entire year until their feet and shins swelled. This continued until Allah revealed,
(So recite of it what is easy.) (73:20) Then the people relaxed.” Al-Hasan Al-Basri and As-Suddi both said the same. `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said concerning Allah’s statement,
(Stand (to pray) all night, except a little. Half of it or less than that, a little.) (73:2,3) “This became difficult on the believers. Then Allah lightened the matter for them and had mercy on them when He revealed after this,
(He knows that there will be some among you sick, others traveling through the land, seeking of Allah’s bounty.) until Allah says,
(So, recite you of the Qur’an as much as may be easy for you.) (73:20) So Allah made the matter easy – and unto Him is due all praise – and he did not make matters difficult.” Then Allah says,
(And remember the Name of your Lord and (Tabattal) devote yourself to Him with complete devotion.) meaning, make much remembrance (Dhikr) of Him, devote yourself to Him and spend your time worshipping Him when you have completed your occupations and what you need from the affairs of your worldly matters. This is as Allah says,
(So when you have finished (your occupation), devote yourself for Allah’s worship.) (94:7) meaning, when you have completed your tasks and occupations, then busy yourself in His obedience and His worship so that you will have free time for leisure. The meaning of this was said by Ibn Zayd, or close to its meaning. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Abu Salih, `Atiyah, Ad-Dahhak and As-Suddi, all said,
(And (Tabattal) devote yourself to Him with complete devotion.) “This means, make your worship solely for Him alone.” Al-Hasan said, “Strive and devote yourself to Him.” Ibn Jarir said, “A devout worshipper is called Mutabattil. An example of this is the reported Hadith that he (the Prophet ) forbade At-Tabattul, which means total devotion to worship while avoiding getting married.” Allah said,
So worship Him and rely upon him.) (11:123) It is also similar to His statement,
(You (Alone) we worship, and you (Alone) we ask for help.) (1:5) The Ayat with this meaning are numerous. They contain the command to make worship and acts of obedience exclusively for Allah, and to rely solely upon Him.