Question # 421: Is the qaza prayer for witr necessary? Or just the qaza for Isha prayer?

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).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Witr is not obligatory in the view of Maalik and al-Shafi’i, while the opinion of Abu Hanifah that the witr prayer is obligatory is considered to be weak. The fact that it is not obligatory is indicated by the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim. Nevertheless, Witr prayer is Sunnah mu’akkadah (a confirmed Sunnah) which the believer should adhere to and therefore, offer regularly. The majority of the scholars maintain that it is correct to make qada’ for a missed witr prayer. It is prescribed to make it up with an even number of rak’ahs if a person misses it, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to do that. In other words, if he is habituated to offering three rak’ahs of witr, he should perform four rak’ahs when he makes it up. Next, the Hanafi school holds that the witr qada’ should be performed during those times in which it is not forbidden to observe prayers. The Shafi’i school say that it may be made up during any time of the night or day, while according to Maalik and Ahmad, a missed witr prayer is to be made up for after the dawn.

Long Answer: Witr prayer is Sunnah mu’akkadah (a confirmed sunnah) according to the majority of scholars, and some of the fuqaha’ regarded it as obligatory. The fact that it is not obligatory is indicated by the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim from Talhah ibn ‘Ubayd-Allah (رضي الله عنه) who said: A man [Bedouin] came to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, what prayers has Allah enjoined on me?” He said: “The five prayers, unless you do anything voluntarily.” The version narrated by Muslim says: “Five prayers every day and night.” He said: “Do I have to do anything else?’ He said, “No, unless you do it voluntarily.”

Al-Nawawi said: This indicates that Witr prayer is not obligatory.

Al-Haafiz said in al-Fath: This indicates that no prayers during the day and night are obligatory apart from the five prayers; this is contrary to the view of those who say that Witr or the two Sunnah rak’ahs of Fajr are obligatory.

However, it is the most confirmed Sunnah and was enjoined by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in more than one hadith.

Muslim narrated from Abu Sa’eed (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Perform Witr before morning comes.” Abu Dawood narrated that ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “O people of the Qur’an, pray Witr, for Allah is One and loves that which is odd-numbered.” (Classed as sahih by al-Albani in Saheeh Abi Dawood)

Hence, we should continue to offer Witr prayer regularly, whether travelling or not, as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to do. Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) said: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was on a journey, atop his mount, whichever direction it was facing, gesturing the motions of the night prayer, except the obligatory prayer, and he prayed Witr atop his mount.”

Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Witr is not obligatory. This is the view of Maalik and al-Shafi’i. Abu Hanifah said: it is obligatory. Then he said: Ahmad said: Whoever omits to pray Witr deliberately is a bad man, whose testimony should not be accepted. He wanted to emphasize that it is confirmed because of the ahadith which say that it is enjoined and encouraged. (al-Mughni)

The scholars of the Standing Committee were asked: Is Witr prayer obligatory, and will the one who prays it on some days and not on others be punished for that?

They replied: “Witr prayer is Sunnah mu’akkadah (a confirmed Sunnah) which the believer should adhere to. Whoever prays it on some days and not on others will not be blamed for that, but he should be advised to pray Witr regularly. It is prescribed to pray two rak’ahs during the day instead if a person misses it, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to do that, as it was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنهما) said: If sleep or sickness kept him from praying at night, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) would pray twelve rak’ahs during the day. (Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh) The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) usually prayed eleven rak’ahs at night, saying the salaam after each two rak’ahs then praying one rak’ah on its own. But if sleep or sickness kept him from doing that, he would pray twelve rak’ahs during the day, as ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنهما) stated. Based on this, if a person usually prays five rak’ahs at night but he sleeps or misses them for any other reason, it is prescribed for him to pray six rak’ahs during the day, saying salaam after each two rak’ahs. If his habit is to pray three rak’ahs, then he should pray four rak’ahs with two salaams, and if his habit is to pray seven rak’ahs, he should pray eight with the salaam after each two rak’ahs. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah)

(The above reply is based on answer provided by Islamqa.info on the topic)

The following is an excerpt from the book ‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq:

The opinion of Abu Hanifah that the witr prayer is obligatory is a weak opinion. Ibn al-Mundhir says: “I don ‘t know anyone who agrees with Abu Hanifah on this point.” …

Ahmad, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah record that AI-Mukhdaji [a person of the Kinana tribe) heard from one of the Ansar, nicknamed Abu Muhammad, that the witr prayer is obligatory. He went to ‘Ibadah ibn as-Samit and mentioned to him what Abu Muhammad had said. ‘lbadah observed: “Abu Muhammad is mistaken for I heard the Messenger of Allah say: ‘Five prayers are ordained by Allah for his slaves. Whoever fulfills them properly without any shortcoming, he will have a pact with Allah that He will admit him into paradise. whoever does not do them, he will have no pact with Allah, and if He wills He may punish him and if He wills He may forgive him.’” …

According to al-Baihaqi and al-Hakim, the majority of the scholars maintain that it is correct to make qada’ for a missed witr prayer. Al-Hakim grades the following report by Abu Hurairah as sahih according to the criterion of al-Bukhari and Muslim. Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: ” If the morning approaches, and you have yet to pray witr, you should pray the witr prayer.” Abu Dawud records from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “If one of you sleeps [past the time of] the witr prayer or he forgets it, he should pray it when he remembers it.” (AI-‘Iraqi says that the chain of this hadith is sahih)

Ahmad and at-Tabarani record with a hasan chain that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) perform the witr prayer in the morning [if, for some reason, he had missed it during the night]. Generally speaking, there is a difference of opinion over what time it may be made up. The Hanafi school holds it should be performed during those times in which it is not forbidden to observe prayers. The followers of Shafi’i say that it may be made up during any time of the night or day, while according to Maalik and Ahmad a missed witr prayer is to be made up for after the dawn.

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.

Wassalaam