Question # 171: Until what time before fajr can we pray tahajud salah?
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: There was no specific time in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) would perform his Tahajjud prayer; but he would do whatever was easier for him. However, it is best to delay this prayer to the last third portion of the night. Nevertheless, any prayer offered after salatul ‘isha during earliest part of the night or mid-night or last third portion of the night (with or without sleeping) is considered tahajjud. In summary, the time for tahajjud starts after salatul ‘isha and ends before the Fajr Adhan.
Long Answer: Tahajjud prayer 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 salatul ‘isha… Commenting on this subject, Ibn Hajar says: “There was no specific time in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) would perform his late night prayer; but he would do whatever was easiest for him.”
[However,] it is best to delay this prayer to the last third portion of the night. Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) reports that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “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?”‘ (This is related by the group)
‘Arur ibn Abasah reports that he heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “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 Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) at that time, then do so.” (This is related by al-Hakim who grades it sahih according to Muslim’s standards, and at-Tirmidhi calls it hasan sahih. An-Nasa’i and Ibn Khuzaimah also recorded it)
Abu Muslim asked Abu Dharr (رضي الله عنه): “Which late-night prayer is the best?” He said: “I asked the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) the same that you asked me and he said, ‘The (one done during) middle of the latter half of the night, and very few do it.”‘ (This is related by Ahmad with a good chain)
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Arur reports that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The most beloved fast to Allah is the fast of David. And the most beloved prayer to Allah is the prayer of David. He would sleep half of the night and then pray during the next third of the night and then sleep during the last sixth of the night. And he would fast one day and not fast the next.” (This is related by the group except at-Tirmidhi)
(The above is an excerpt from the book ‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)
Tahajjud is exclusively praying, and there are two opinions concerning it. The first is that it means praying at any time of the night, which is the view of the majority of fuqaha’. The second is that it is prayer after sleeping. (al-Mawsoo‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah) And the one who gets up to pray is called mutahajjid. (Shaykh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid)
However, according to Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Salah: “…According to the vast majority of the scholars, it is not required really to sleep before praying tahajjud; rather any prayer offered after salatul ‘isha during earliest part of the night or mid-night or last third portion of the night; it is called the night prayer/ tahajjud… ” (Video Lecture by Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Salah)
According to Shaykh Assim Al-Hakeem, whatever one prays after waking up and before the Fajr Adhan is tahajjud and it is the best especially when prayed before Fajr in the last third of the night.
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.