In a Hadith-i-Qudsi -a tradition that was communicated by Allah by inspiration to the Prophet (pbuh) and related by him as if Allah was speaking:
“Whoever bears enmity to My saintly servant I will proclaim war on him. The thing that I like most among the acts that bring My servant closer to me is his performance of the acts that I enjoined on him. At the same time, My servant keeps coming closer to Me through optional worship. In the end he attains My Love. And when I love him I become the ears that he hears with; I become the eyes he sees with, I become the hands that he holds with, I become the feet that he walks with (I become the heart that he reasons with, and I become the tongue that he speaks with). When he asks for anything from Me, I immediately grant it to him. When he seeks refuge in Me, I safeguard him. I never hesitate about anything as I do in taking the life of a believing servant: He dislikes death, and I do not like anything he dislikes...” (Bukhari, Rikak, 38).
Therefore, pious Muslims, following the tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) offer optional prayers in times of fear, during the latter part of the night and at other times, and when they need something- in addition to performing the obligatory prayers. They are among those who are praised in the Qur’an:
They get endless pleasure from prayer and optional prayers are offered to keep up this endless pleasure. The Prophet (pbuh), though he committed no sin, used to pray at nights until his feet became sore, and he used to read the Qur’an until he was exhausted. So, optional prayers do not hinder obligatory prayers but, on the contrary, fortify them. The point here is to try to perform them in their proper way.
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
So, regarding obligatory prayers as sufficient will be a grave mistake, for it is almost impossible to perform the obligatory ones perfectly and duly. No matter how much weight we give to them we may, any time, make mistakes in our performance. Thus, we have no other chance, but optional prayers to complement our mistakes. Our deficiencies in offering the obligatory ones may be complemented by optional ones as we do not have a second chance to perform the obligatory prayers in case we miss or perform them incorrectly them. However, this does not mean that we should leave out the obligatory prayers for optional ones. We should try to observe both at the same time. The practice of the Prophet (pbuh) in this regard is a unique example before us. On the other hand, those who did not offer obligatory prayers in time should not try to supplement only the unperformed prayers, but try to offer optional prayers as unperformed prayers could be done any time of the day whereas such optional prayers as those done during the night, forenoon, the rising of sun, and late-evening are to be done only at certain times.
Rabia bin Ka’b al-Aslamî said:
Another saying of the Prophet (pbuh) in this regard is as follows:
Shaqeeq al-Balkh said:
There are various optional prayers. The most important ones are as follows:
Dukha Prayer (Prayer done in the earlier part of the forenoon)
Awabeen Prayer (late-evening prayer)
Tahiyyat al-Masjeed Prayer (prayer done to greet the Mosque)
Tarawih Prayer (prayer performed after the prescribed night service of worship in the month of Ramadan)
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
Istikhara Prayer (prayer done before lying down to sleep in the hope that Allah will decide for the best between two or more options by a dream)
Hajat Prayer (prayer done for the fulfillment of wishes)
O my Lord! I wish things that come out of Your Mercy, and I wish Your forgiveness, and I also wish to reach righteousness. O the Lord, the Most Compassionate! Please do not let any sin be unforgiven, any sorrow unrelieved, and any lawful wish declined!..” (Tirmizi, Witr, 17).
Tahajjud prayer (prayer performed by becoming awake after sleep at night) and other prayers offered at night-time
The value that Allah ascribes to night-time and the secrets hidden in it are countless. Allah says: “The night and its homing!” (Al-Inshiqaq 84: 17). “And by the night when it is still!..” (Ad-Dhuha 93: 2). The secret of the swearing of Allah by the night is a Divine window to get our hearts and souls to watch many facts.
The night is the time to prostrate before the Divine Being with love and affection for the sake of pleasing Him instead of lying down in smooth beds. Therefore, extra prayers performed at night are of great importance in achieving immediacy with Allah. Thus, one desires and performs prayers at night as much Divine Love as s/he has. It may be said that praying at night is like meeting and conversing with one’s lover at night. Being awake at a time when everybody is asleep means being included in the group of love and mercy.
The Prophet (pbuh) used to pray at night until he is footsore. He was once asked:
“Two units of prayer performed at night is more beneficial than anything in the world. If I thought that it would not be a burden on my people I would enjoin it on them.” (Fadail al-Amal, 257).
“If a man wakes up at night and also wakes his wife up to offer two units of prayer together, Allah registers their names among those who remember Allah most.” (Abu Dawud, Tatawwu, 18).
“Do not you ever disregard praying at night! Because it was a custom of righteous people before you. Worshipping at night brings one closer to Allah, atones for ones sins, keeps the body from illnesses, and prevents one from performing sinful acts.” (Tirmizi).
“Let Allah show mercy to the man who wakes up at night to pray, and also wakes his wife up to do so. Let Allah show mercy to the woman who wakes up at night to pray, and also wakes her husband up to do so!” (Abu Dawud, Vitr, 13).
The Prophet (pbuh) told Abu Zarr:
The Prophet (pbuh) said to Abu Hurayra in this regard:
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“ – What makes this servant of Mine care about praying at this time of the night?”
“I grant him/her what s/he wishes from Me then. And I safeguard him/her from what s/he fears from.” (Fadail al-Amal, 299).
“And during part of the night, (also), celebrate His praises, and (so likewise) after the postures of adoration.” (Qaf, 50: 40).
“Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrate and standing.” (Al-Furqan 25: 64).
Allah explains the features of those who will be saved from the Divine punishment and be placed in paradise:
In addition to this honoring, Allah cites those believers who remember Him at night-time as superior when comparing believers with disbelievers:
As Allah describes those who devoutly worship at night as such, He forewarns those unwary servants who do not behave accordingly:
“As to these they love the fleeting life, and put away behind them a Day (that will be) hard.” (Al-Insan 76: 26-27).
The second part of the night is said to be more valuable. The Prophet (pbuh) was once asked about it:
However, as it is not too easy to worship at night, one is supposed to observe some points. In addition to the strong desire to worship at night, one is supposed to have a light dinner and keep early nights. It is narrated that:
“The Prophet (pbuh) used to discourage people to sleep before the late-night prayer, and he also used to discourage them to have long conversations after it.” (Bukhari, Mawaqit al-Salat, 23).
“The Prophet (pbuh), sometimes, used to speak with Abu Bakr about the affairs of Muslims until daybreak. And I used to stay with them.” (Tirmizi).
These principles are necessary to remove the strain of waking up for prayer and also to untie the knots of Satan tied through sleep. The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“When you sleep Satan ties three knots on the back of your neck. And he says to each knot ‘let a long night stay with you.’ When you wake up and cite the name of Allah one of the knots unties. When you make ablution another knot unties. And when you offer a prayer all of the knots untie. Thus, you wake up hale and hearty in the morning. Otherwise, you wake up asleep and downhearted.” (Bukhari, Tahajjud, 12).
So, it is clear that the prayer offered at night is so valuable that it comes second only after obligatory prayers. However, those who do prayers at night are to be reminded that they should not sing their praises just because they do worship at night. If so, they lose the blessing they would get. They should always bear the following saying of the Prophet (pbuh) in mind:
“There are many who worship at night, yet they get nothing out of it. They just stay awake.” (Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad, II, 373).