The Virtues and Way of observing Tahajjud
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
Question: As-Salām `alaykum! Could you tell me how to pray Tahajjud (late night prayer)? Is there any supplication before starting and after finishing it according to Sunnah? Jazakum Allāh Khayran
Description: Solat Tahajjud or Qiyamulail is a night prayer which is performed by getting up in later part of the night after having a sleep after observed Solat Isha’. Tahajjud Prayer is a Sunnah Mu’akadah prayer. It is a most meritorious solāt next to the five daily prayers. Tahajjud may be performed in twos, a minimum of two raka’at; either 8 raka’at or 10 raka’at; in accordance with one’s capability. But, it has to be capped with witir. One may perform this prayer at any suitable places at night.
Qiyam and Solāt Tahajjud is infact the same Solāt with different names. But when these two names are used in Ramadhān, it is also referred as Qiyam of Ramadhān or Solāt Tarāwīh including Witr; while spending the late night in worship after some sleep is called Tahajjud or Qiyamulail.
Both names have been used in the Qur'ān. The Qur’ān uses the phrase Qum al-layl when Allāh says: "O thou wrapped up in thy raiment! Keep vigil the night long (Qum al-layl), save a little, a half thereof, or abate a little thereof, or add (a little) thereto and recite the Qur’ān in measure…" [Al-Muzzammil, 73: 1-4] The verb Fatahajjad is a derivative from the root word Hajada (to keep vigil), Allāh says: "And some part of the night awake for it (fatahajjad), a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate." [Al-Isra', 17: 79] The later verse means to get up and perform Solāt Tahajjud.
It derives from night prayers or Qiyam, which means standing. Qiyam or Tahajjud also refers to spending the night in worship in general, whether it is solāh or any other form acts of worship.
The Qiyamulail was initially an obligatory prayer before the five daily prayers were prescribed as an obligation upon every Muslim during Mi’raj, the night of the Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) miraculous journey to heaven, which was believed on the night of 27th Rajab, during the first periods of Islam in Makkah. Sa’ad Ibn Hisham Ibn ‘Amir said to ‘A’ishah (radiallāhu`anhu): “Tell me about how the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) prayed qiyam.” She said: “Have you not read “Yā ayyuha’l-Muzzammil (O you wrapped in your garments!)?” He said, “Of course.” She said: “Allāh, may He be exalted and glorified, made Qiyam obligatory at the beginning of this surah, so the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his companions observed Qiyam for a year, and Allāh withheld the end of this surah for twelve months, until He revealed something at the end of this surah to make things easier, so Qiyam al-layl became voluntary after it had been obligatory.” [Muslim].
When the Five Daily Prayers’ has been legislated as Fardhu, Solat Tahajjud was made as nafilah prayer (a supererogatory prayer), yet the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) maintained observing it to attain a praised position with Allah: “And some part of the night awake for prayer, a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised position.” [Al-Isra’, 17: 79]. Although the ayat specifically directed to the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), it also refers to all Muslims, since the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) is a perfect example and guide for us in all matters.
In short Tahajjud derives from the term night prayers or Qiyam, which means standing. Qiyam also refers to spending the night in worship in general, whether it is solāh or any other form acts of worship. The occasion of such long prayers is known as Qiyam Al-Layl. Muslims are encouraged to perform Qiyam Al-Layl throughout the years.
The Excellence Tahajjud
Al- Quran and ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) and his early followers clearly illustrate merits of Qiyam Al-Layl. It indicates the boundless blessings Allāh would bestow upon those who observes it.
1. Allāh Subhānahu wa ta’ala praises the characters of the devout believers who observes Tahajjud.
Allāh says of such devotees:
“Say, Shall I inform you of things far better than those? For the pious ones, there are gardens (Paradise) with their Lord, underneath which rivers flow. Therein is their eternal home and purified wives. And Allāh will be pleased with them. And Allāh is All-Seer of the slaves. Those who say: Our Lord! We have indeed believed, so forgive us our sins and save us from the punishment of Fire. They are those who are the patients’ ones, those who are truthful and obedient with sincere devotion in worship to Allāh. Those who spend (in the way of Allāh) and those who pray and seek Allāh’s pardon in the last hours of the night.” [Al-’Imran 3: 15-17]
“They do forsake their beds of sleep, the while they call on their Lord, in fear and hope....” [As-Sajdah, 32:16]
“They were in the habit of sleeping but little by night, and in the hours of early dawn, they [were found] praying for forgiveness…” [Adh-Dhariyat, 51:17-18]
"The slaves of the Beneficent are they who walk upon the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: 'Peace' and they who spend the night prostrating before their Lord and standing." [Al-Furqān, 25: 63-64]
They engaged most of the night in worshipful remembrance of Allāh and prayers for His grace and mercy. The verses make obvious reference to Qiyam Al-Layl.
Salman al-Farsi (radiallāhu`anhu) reported the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) as saying: "Observe the night prayer, it was the practice of the righteous before you and it brings you closer to your Lord and it is penance for evil deeds and erases the sins and repels disease from the body." [Narrated by, at-Tirmidzi, an-Nasa'ie and ibn Majah: Sahih]
Aishah, (radiallāhu`anha) reported, “The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) used to keep standing - in long night prayer - so long that the skin of his feet would crack. When asked, why he did this while all his past and future sins were forgiven, he (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: "Should I not be a grateful slave of Allāh?" [Al-Bukhāri and Muslim]
2. Performing Tahajjud prayers regularly qualifies one as of the Righteous and earns one Allāh’s bounty and mercy.
Allāh says: "Lo! Those who keep from evil will dwell amid gardens and water springs, taking that which their Lord gives them. For, lo, they were doers of good. They used to sleep but little of the night and before the dawning of each day would seek forgiveness.'' [Adh-Dhariyat, 51: 15-18]
`Abdullah ibn as-Salam (radiallāhu`anhu) reported: "When the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) came to Medinah, the people gathered around him and I was one of them. I looked at his face and understood that it was not the face of a liar. The first words I heard him say were: 'O people, spread the salutations, feed the people, keep the ties of kinship, and pray during the night while the others sleep and you will enter Paradise in peace."' [Narrated by al-Hakim, Ibn Mājah, and at-Tirmidzi: sahih]
Salman al-Farsi (radiallāhu`anhu) reprted the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) as saying: "Observe the night prayer, it was the practice of the righteous before you and it brings you closer to your Lord and it is penance for evil deeds and erases the sins and repels disease from the body." [Narrated by an-Nasa'ie and ibn Majah: Sahih]
Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) has said: “The best of prayers, after the prescribed prayers, is prayer in the depths of the night, and the best of fasting after the month of Ramadhān is fasting the month of Allāh, Muharram.” [Muslim]
‘Abdallāh Ibn ‘Amr (radiallāhu`anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “The most beloved of solāh to Allāh is the solāh of Dawud, and the most beloved of fasts to Allāh is the fast of Dawud. He used to sleep for half of the night, then get up and pray for a third of the night, then sleep for a sixth of the night, and he used to fast every other day.” [Al-Bukhāri and Muslim]
‘Amr ibn `Absah, (radiallāhu`anhu) narrated that the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) has said: “The time when the closest the Lord is to His slave is in the later part of the night, so if you can be one of those who remember Allāh at that time, then do so.” [At-Tirmidzi]
‘Uqbah ibn `Amir (radiallāhu`anhu) reported the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) has said: “When a man from my Ummah (nation) gets up to pray at night, striving against his own self to get up and purify himself, there are knots on him. When he washes his hands in wudu', one knot is undone. When he washes his face, another knot is undone. When he wipes his head another knot is undone. When he washes his feet, another knot is undone. Then Allāh says to those who are veiled (in the unseen): Look at this slave of Mine, he is striving against his own self and asking for Me. Whatever My slave asks of Me shall be his.” [Ahmad]
3. Qiyam Al-Layl is an act of worship that attaches the heart to Allāh and enables it to overcome the temptations of life and to strive against one’s own self, at the time when voices are stilled, eyes are closed in sleep, and sleepers are tossing and turning in their beds. Therefore, Qiyam Al-Layl is one of the measures of sincere determination and one of the qualities of those who have great ambitions. Allāh has praised them and distinguished them from others.
Allah says: “Is one who is obedient to Allāh, prostrating himself or standing [in prayer] during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord [like one who disbelieves]? Say: ‘Are those who know equal to those who know not?’ It is only men of understanding who will remember.” [Az-Zumar, 39:9]
4. Night prayers strengthen the bond between man and his Lord.
The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “Solāh is the best matter - and let one who can pray to perform it as much as possible.” [Muslim] The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam said: “The best prayer after the obligatory ones is the night prayer.” [Muslim]
5. The best of prayers after the prescribed prayers is prayer in the depths of the night.
Abu Hurairah (radiallāhu`anhu) narrated the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “The best of prayers after the prescribed prayers is prayer in the depths of the night, and the best of fasting after the month of Ramadhān is fasting the month of Allāh, Muharram.” [Muslim]
6. Qiyam Al-Layl is an established Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) which he (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) urged us to do it.
The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) e said: “You should pray Qiyam Al-Layl, for it is the habit of the righteous people who came before you, and it will bring you closer to your Lord, will expiate for bad deeds, prevent sin and expel disease from the body.” [At-Tirmidzi and Ahmad] He (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) always had the habit of praying Qiyam Al-Layl, and never missed it, whether he was traveling or staying at home.
7. Among the pious ladies of the old times too, were very keen observers of Qiyam Al-Layl.
Anas Ibn Malik (radiallāhu`anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “Jibreel said to me, ‘Go back to Hafsah, for she fasts a lot and prays a lot at night (Qiyam Al-Layl).’” [Al-Hakim]
Mu’adhah Al-`Adawiyyah, one of the righteous women physicians spent her wedding night; along with her husband Silah ibn Ashyam, praying until dawn. Then, when her husband and son were killed in Jihad, she would spend the whole night in prayer, worshipping and beseeching Allāh. Then, she would sleep during the day. If she felt sleepy whilst she was praying at night, she would tell herself: “O soul, there is plenty of sleep ahead of you.”
The verses and hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) and his early followers clearly illustrate merits of Qiyam Al-Layl. It tells us about the boundless blessings Allāh would bestow on us, if we spend the later parts the night in prayerful worship of our All-Merciful Lord.
Etiquettes of Tahajjud Prayer
The following acts are recommended for one who wishes to perform Solāt Tahajjud:
1. Upon going to sleep, one should make the intention to perform Tahajjud. Abu ad-Darda'(radiallāhu`anhu) quoted the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) as saying: "Whoever goes to his bed with the intention of getting up and praying during the night, but, being overcome by sleep, fails to do that, he will have recorded for him what he has intended, and his sleep will be reckoned as a charity (an act of mercy) for him from his Lord." [Narrated by an-Nasā'ie and Ibn Majah: Sahih]
2. On waking up, one should wipe one's face, brush the tooth, and look to the sky and make the supplication. It was reported the duā’ from the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam):
"O Allāh! There is no god but Thee, Glory is to Thee, I seek Thy forgiveness for my sins, and I ask for Your mercy. O Allāh increases my knowledge and let my heart not swerve after You have guided me, and bestow mercy upon me from Thyself. All praise is to Allāh who has given us back life after our death and unto Him is the resurrection."
Then, one should recite the last ten verses of Surat Al-`Imran starting with, “Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, - there are indeed Signs for men of understanding.”
2. Then one should say the supplication as Abdullah Ibn Abbas (radiallāhu`anhu) narrated that when the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) got up at night to offer the Tahajjud prayer, he used to say:
Allāhumma lakal-hamd. Anta qaiyimus-samawati wal-ard wa man fihinna. Walakal-hamd, Laka mulkus-samawati wal-ard wa man fihinna. Walakal-hamd, anta nurus-samawati wal-ard. Walakalhamd, anta-l-haq wa wa'duka-l-haq, wa liqa'uka Haq, wa qualuka Haq, wal-jannatu Han wan-naru Haq wannabiyuna Haq. Wa Muhammadun, sallāl-lahu'alaihi wasallam, Haq, was-sa'atu Haq.
Allāhumma aslamtu Laka wabika amantu, wa 'Alaika tawakkaltu, wa ilaika anabtu wa bika khasamtu, wa ilaika hakamtu faghfir li ma qaddamtu wama akh-khartu wama as-rartu wama'a lantu, anta-l-muqaddimu wa anta-l-mu akh-khir, lā ilāha illa anta (or la ilaha ghairuka).
(O Allah! All the praises are for you, You are the Holder of the Heavens and the Earth, And whatever is in them. All the praises are for You; You have the possession of the Heavens and the Earth And whatever is in them. All the praises are for You; You are the Light of the Heavens and the Earth And all the praises are for You; You are the King of the Heavens and the Earth; And all the praises are for You; You are the Truth and Your Promise is the truth, And to meet You is true, Your Word is the truth And Paradise is true And Hell is true. And all the Prophets (Peace be upon them) are true; And Muhammad is true, And the Day of Resurrection is true.
O Allah! I surrender (my will) to You; I believe in You and depend on You. And repent to You, And with Your help I argue (with my opponents, the non-believers) And I take You as a judge (to judge between us). Please forgive me my previous And future sins; And whatever I concealed or revealed And You are the One who make (some people) forward And (some) backward. There is none to be worshipped but you. )
Sufyan said that 'Abdul Karim Abu Umaiya added to the above, 'Wala hawla Wala quwata illa billah' (There is neither might nor power except with Allah).
[Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 21, Number 221]
3. One should begin Tahajjud with two quick raka‘at and then one may pray whatever one wishes after it. ‘A’ishah (radiallāhu`anha) said: "When the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) prayed during the late-night, he would begin his prayers with two quick raka‘at." [Narrated by Muslim]
Ibn Abbās (radiallāhu‘anhu) narrated after that Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) performed Solat Tahajjud eleven raka’at (including Witr).Rasulullah (Sallallāhu ’alayhi wa sallam) then lay down and slept and snored (and it was his habit to snore while asleep) till [Bilal bin Rabab (radiallāhu‘anhu)] the Mu’azzin came to him [and informed him about the Solat Fajar. (Book 004, Number 1671)]
He (Rasulullah Sallallāhu ’alayhi wa sallam) then stood up; did not perform ablution; observed two short raka'ahs (Sunnah Fajar) before proceed to masjid to observed the Dawn Prayer; [and his supplication included the words:
"O Allāh, place light in my heart, light in my tongue, light in my hearing, light on my sight, light behind me, light in front of me, light on my right, light on my left, light above me and light below me; place light in my sinew, in my flesh, in my blood, in my hair and in my skin; place light in my soul and make light abundant for me; make me light and grant me light.” ([Muslim;Book 004, Number 1671)]
4. One should wake up one's family for Tahajjud. Abu Hurairah (radiallāhu`anhu) quoted the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), as saying: "May Allāh bless the man who gets up during the night to pray and wakes up his wife and who, if she refuses to get up, sprinkles water on her face. And may Allāh bless the woman who gets up during the night to pray and wakes up her husband and who, if he refuses, sprinkles water on his face." The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) also said: "If a man wakes his wife and prays during the night or they pray two raka`at together, they will be recorded among those (men and women) who (constantly) make remembrance of Allāh." [Narrated by Abu Dawud and others: sahih]
5. If one gets sleepy while performing Tahajjud one should sleep as narrated by ‘A’ishah (radiallāhu`anha) as she quoted Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) as saying: "When one of you gets up during the night for prayer and his Qur'anic recital gets mixed up to the extent that he does not know what he says, he should lie down." [Narrated by Muslim]
6. The more virtuous way and time of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) is after perform Solāt Isha’ is to retire to bed, then wake up at midnight or after one third of the night and perform the Tahajjud by extending the time of each raka’ah if possible, then concludes it with Solah Al-Witr, took again a brief sleep before observing nāfil and Salat Al-Fajar. [Muwatta, Muslim, Bukhari]
The Time Frame for Tahajjud
The Qiyam and Solāt Tahajjud (and witr) is to be offered after Solāt ‘Isha until before Solāt Fajar. [Al-Bukhari, Muslim] Allah Says: “Verily, your Lord knows that you stand (to pray at night) a little less than two-thirds of the night, or half the night, or a third of the night, and so do a party of those with you, And Allah measures the night and the day. He knows that you are unable to pray the whole night, so He has turned to you (in mercy). So, recite the Quran as much as may be easy for you…” [Muzzammil, 73:20] Allāh has praised those who observe them: "Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord, prostrate and standing." [Al-Furqan, 25:64] "Their limbs do forsake their beds of sleep, the while they call on their Lord in fear and hope and they spend (in charity) out of the sustenance which we have bestowed on them." [As-Sajdah, 32:16]. It also indicates the basis for nightly prayer and the good rewards for those who observe it.
Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "The best prayer after the obligatory ones is the night prayer." [Muslim] Elsewhere he (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "O people! Disseminate the salutations of peace As-Salām 'Alaikum; feed the needy food, and join the blood ties among the next of kin; and observe night prayer while people are at sleep, you will enter paradise peacefully." [Tirmidzi]
With regard to witr, Rasulullah (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allāh has added one more prayer for you, which is witir, so pray it between Salat al-‘Isha’ and Salat al-Fajar.” [Al-Tirmidzi, 425: sahih]. Jabir bin Abdullah (radiallāhu’anhu) said: The Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever fears that he will not get up at the end of the night, let him pray Witir at the beginning of the night, but whoever thinks that he will be able to get up at the end of the night (i.e. Tahajjud prayer), let him pray Witir at the end of the night, for prayer at the end of the night is witnessed (by the angels) and that would be better.” [Muslim 755]
Many narrations that tell about actual Sunnah that the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) of observing Solat al-Tahajjud. Tahajjud may be performed in the early part of the night, the middle part of the night, or the latter part of the night, but after the obligatory Salāt`Isha’ .
Anās bin Malik (radiallāhu’anhu) said: "If we wanted to see him praying during the night, we could see him praying. If we wanted to see him sleeping during the night, we could see him sleeping. And sometimes he would fast for so many days that we thought he would not leave fasting throughout that month. And sometimes he would not fast (for so many days) that we thought he would not fast during that month." [Narrated by Ahmad, al-Bukhāri, and an-Nasā'ie]
Ibn Hajar (rahimahullāh) says: "There was no specific time in which the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) would perform his late night prayer; but he used to do whatever was easiest for him."
The Best time for Tahajjud
The best time to perform it at the last third portion of the night as Abu Hurairah (radiallāhu`anhu) quoted that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), as saying: "Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven during the last third of the night, inquiring: 'Who will call on Me so that I may respond to him? Who is asking something of Me so I may give it to him? Who is asking for My forgiveness so I may forgive him?" [Narrated by Ahmad, al-Bukhāri, and an-Nasā'ie]
‘Amr ibn Abasah (radiallāhu`anhu) reported that he heard the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) saying: "The closest that a slave comes to his Lord is during the middle of the latter portion of the night. If you can be among those who remember Allāh, the Exalted One, at that time then does so." [Narrated by Ahmad, al-Bukhari, and an-Nasā'ie]
Abdullāh ibn 'Amr (radiallāhu’anhu) reported Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) as saying: With Allāh the best fasting is that of Dawud and the best prayer is that of Dawud (‘alaihissalam) for he slept half of the night and stood for prayer for the third of it and (then) slept the sixth part of it and he observed fast one day and broke on the other. [Narrated by Muslim (2595)]
The number of raka`at to be performed during Tahajjud
Solāt Tahajjud does not entail a specific number of raka`at which must be performed nor is there any maximum limit which has to be performed. Aishah (radiallāhu`anha) narrated that the number of raka’at was not fixed by Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) but rather a changeable according to the situation of his health, or whether it was done in standing or sitting form.
Aishah (radiallāhu`anha) narrated Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to perform eleven raka’at, in form of an extended two four-raka’at [eight raka’at of Tahajjud], then perform three-raka’at [of Solat Witir.] [Bukhari, Muwatta, Muslim], and in some narrations, he used to perform it in the raka’at-of-twos, which is mustahab way, as Ibn 'Umar (radiallāhu`anhu) reported that a companion asked the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) about the night prayer. The Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: "In sets of two, in sets of two. Then when one of you fears the coming of morning, he prays one (raka'ah) that will serve as a Solat Witir (i.e. make the number odd) of what he has prayed." [Al-Bukhari no. 990 and Muslim no. 749] Many narrations, Rasūlullāh (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) would begin the tahajjud with a two short raka’at [Muslim, Abu Dawud]. And in some narrations, Tahajjud Prayer is mentioned only as a two raka’at [Bakhari]. And it is narrated that this number lessened to 9 and 7 as his age progressed [Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud]
Make Witir the end of your night prayer
Ibn 'Umar (radiallāhu`anhu) reported Allāh's Messenger (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as saying: “Make Witir the end of your night prayer” [Muslim (1639)]. And the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “There should not be two Witirs in one night.” [Abu Dawud 1439]
Scholars are in consensus that The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) would normally perform eight raka’at and ending with three raka’at of solat witir. And it may be perform with a two raka’at tahajjud with one solat witir. It would be fulfilled even if one just prayed one rak`ah of Witir after the `Isha’.
Samurah ibn Jundub (radiallāhu`anhu) said: "The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) ordered us to pray during the night, a little or a lot, and to make the last of the prayer the Witir prayer." [Narrated by at-Tabarāni and al-Bazzār]
Anas ibn Mālik (radiallāhu`anhu) quoted Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), as saying: "Prayer in my mosque is equal to ten thousand prayers [elsewhere]. And prayer in the Sacred Mosque is equivalent to one hundred thousand prayers [elsewhere]. And prayer in the battlefield is equivalent to one million prayers [elsewhere]. And what is more than all of that is two raka`at performed by a servant [of Allāh] during the middle of the night.” [Reported by Abu ash-Shaikh, Ibn Hibban in his work ath-Thawab, and al-Munzhiri, in his book at-Targhib wa Tarhib, is silent about it.]
What should we recite at night prayers?
The Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to recite long surah during qiyam (standing up position in a prayer) at the night prayers. Those were the surah such as Al-Baqarah, An-Nisā’ or Al-‘Imran. And he used to keep long the rukū’ (bowing position) and (sujud) prostrations as well. He used to think about the deep meaning of the verses.
Following the solāh, he often used to supplicate concisely, remembers Allāh, and aplenty used to repent and ask for forgiveness. Many hadiths narrated about Allāh’s acceptance of the prayers, presence of the hour of acceptance [Muslim, 757] and certainty that it will be accepted [Bukhari, Tahajjud, Muwatta, The Qur’ān, 1, 214; Muslim, 758, 2800; Tirmidzi, 446] therefore, one should make use between of the time well for repenting and praying profusely.
Here, the criterion should be as follows: We should choose a recital which we can apply it any time and suitable with our time and potential. However, even if we do not it every time, when we are convenient, we can recite long chapters. For example, as one may recite a short chapter or several verses at every raka’ah, also she or he may recite a page or the chapters such as Yā-sīn, Fath, al-Rahmān, Al-Mulk or Juzuk Amma.
Seeking Lailatul-Qadar in last ten days of Ramadhān
‘Aishah (radiallāhu`anha) reported: “When the (last) ten started, the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) would tighten his izar (i.e. he stayed away from his wives in order to have more time for worship), spend the whole night awake (in prayer), and wake up his family.” [Al-Bukhāri and Muslim]
‘Aishah (radiallāhu`anha) also said: “Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) used to exert more (in worship) on the last ten than on other nights.”[Muslim]
The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “Seek it in the last ten nights, on the odd-numbered nights.”[Al-Bukhāri and Muslim]
Abu Hurairah (radiallāhu`anhu) narrated that the Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “Whoever stands (in qiyam) in Lailatul-Qadar [and it is facilitated for him] out of faith and expectation (of Allāh’s reward), will have all of his previous sins forgiven.” [Al-Bukhāri and Muslim; the addition "and it is facilitated for him" is recorded by Ahmad from the report of ‘Ubadah Ibn As-Samit; it means that he is permitted to be among the sincere worshippers during that blessed night]
‘Aishah (radiallāhu`anha) reported that she asked Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), “O Messenger of Allāh! If I knew which night is Lailatul-Qadar, what should I say during it?” And he (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) instructed her to say: “Allāhumma innaka ’afuw wun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ’anni” (O Allāh! You are forgiving, and you love forgiveness. So forgive me) [Recorded by Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and At-Tirmidzi]
[Adapted from Islam online]