SIX DIFFERENT WAYS TO OFFER THE NIGHT PRAYER
1⃣ – Praying a single rak’ah.
The Prophet ﷺ said:
((الوتر ركعة من آخر الليل))
“Witr is a rak’ah at the end of the night.”
[Reported by Muslim on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar -raḍhiyallāhu ‘anhu-]
And in the ḥadīth of Ḥudhayfah raḍhiyallāhu ‘anhu the Prophet ﷺ demonstrated this practically;
2⃣ – Praying nine consecutively with tashahhud in the eighth, then without making tasleem you stand for the ninth. Upon completion you make tasleem and offer two separate rak’ahs while seated (you should stand to perform rukoo’) = 11 Rak’ahs in total
3⃣ – Praying seven consecutively with tashahhud in the sixth, then without making tasleem you stand for the seventh. Upon completion you make tasleem and offer two separate rak’ahs while seated (you should stand to perform rukoo’) = 9 Rak’ahs in total.
NOTE: this occurred when the Prophet ﷺ grew old. See previous link.
4⃣ – Praying 10 rak’ahs in pairs, then offering one rak’ah separately = 11 Rak’ahs in total.
This is the most common method due to the statement of Prophet ﷺ:
((صلاة الليل مثنى مثنى، فإذا خفت الصبح فأوتر بواحدة))
“The night prayers consist of pairs, but if you fear that morning is near, then pray one Rak’ah as Witr.”
[Bukhāri and Muslim]
5⃣ – Praying 8 rak’ahs in pairs, then five consecutive rak’ahs with one tasleem = 13 rak’ahs in total.
NOTE: The first two rak’ahs in this method are either the two voluntary rak’ahs after ‘Ishā, or two introductory rak’ahs with which one begins the Night Prayer as stated by Sheikh Albāni -raḥimahullāh. It’s also possible that the two extra rak’ahs are un fact the two voluntary rak’ahs for Fajr as mentioned in some of the narrations.
6⃣ – Praying four consecutive rak’ahs with one tasleem, then another four consecutive rak’ahs in the same manner, then three consecutive rak’ahs with one tashahhud in the final rak‘ah = 11 Rak’ahs in total
NOTE: in the last two methods (5 & 6) you can offer the final three/five rak’ahs with one tasleem at the end, or make tasleem between every two rak’ahs.
These are the methods reported from the Prophet ﷺ, although it’s permissible for one to pray any odd number of rak’ahs between one to 11/13; the more the better as An-Nawawi mentions:
«قد سبق أن مذهبنا أن أقله ركعة، وأكثره إحدى عشرة، وفي وجه ثلاث عشرة، وما بين ذلك جائز، وكلما قرب من أكثره كان أفضل، وبهذا قال جمهور العلماء من الصحابة والتابعين»
[Sharḥul Muhadh-dhab (4/21)]
One should avoid praying more than eleven rak’ahs a night because the best guidance is the guidance of the Prophet ﷺ.
Ā’ishah -raḍhiyallāhu ‘anhā- said: “The Prophet ﷺ did not offer more than eleven rak’ah (during the night prayer) in Ramaḍhān or in any other month.”
[Reported by Bukhāri & Muslim]
Bear in mind, Ā’ishah radhiyallahu anha is unmatched in her knowledge in this field, as Ibn Abbās confirmed when he said to Sa‘d ibn Hishām: “Shall I not direct you to the most knowledgeable person on earth with regards to the Prophet’s night prayer (Witr)? He (Hishām) asked, Who? So he said, ‘Ā’ishah. Go to her and ask her, then return back to me and inform me of her answer.
(2) ‘Salātu-Tarāwīḥ’ of Sheikh Albāni