Witr (Arapça: وتر) is an Islamic prayer (salah) that is performed at night after isha'a (night-time prayer) and before fajr (dawn prayer). There are a few distinguishing factors of the witr prayer that sets it apart from the fard (mandatory) and sunnah (recommended) prayers. Witr has an odd number of rakat prayed in pairs, with the final raka'ah prayed separately. Therefore, as little as one rakat can be prayed, and eleven at most. This differs from the usual trend of two and four rakat of the fard and sunnah prayers.
According to `Abd Allah ibn `Umar, Muhammad said, "The night prayer is offered as two rakat followed by two rakat and so on and if anyone is afraid of the approaching dawn (fajr prayer) he should pray one raka'ah and this will be a witr for all the rakat which he has prayed before."Summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari (Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan translation of Zubidi's Mukhtasar Sahih Bukhari) Hadith 539, pg. 282
In a hadith transmitted by Abu Darda, he states that Muhammad enjoined to him three things: to fast three days every month, to offer the Witr salah before sleep, and to offer two rakat sunnah of fajr. From Al-Tabarani and Majma al-Zawa'id. The hadith also clearify it "Narrated 'Aisha: Allah's Apostle offered Witr prayer at different nights at various hours extending (from the 'Isha' prayer) up to the last hour of the night." (Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 16, Number 110).
But there are many aḥādīth that shows the best time for the witr salah is at night. If someone fears that he would not be able to awake, or may die in their sleep, then the prayer should be performed before sleeping. Hadith about this is given below: Narrated `Abdullah bin `Umar: The Prophet said,"Make witr as your last prayer at night." (Bukhari Volume 2 Book 16 112). Also, "Narrated 'Aisha : The Prophet used to offer his night prayer while I was sleeping across in his bed. Whenever he intended to offer the Witr prayer, he used to wake me up and I would offer the Witr prayer too." (Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 16, Number 111). Therefore he who performs tahajjud (night prayer) regularly should perform witr after tahajjud.
It is recorded that Ali bin Abu Talib ra said, "The Witr prayer is not required like your obligatory prayers but Mohamed would perform the Witr prayer and say, 'O you people of the Quran, perform the Witr prayer, for Allah is One and He Loves the Witr.'" This is related by Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, Nasa'i, Abu Dawud, ibn Majah and Tirmidhi, who calls is hasan, and Al-Hakim who grades it sahih.
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- Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 16: Witr Prayer Hadith no 111,112
- The Status of Sunnah & Witr Prayers, The Time for Fajr & Maghrib and the Allowance of Combining Prayers <--- no longer working
- Clarification on the timing of Witr and Taraweeh prayers
- The Witr Prayer