The Tahajjud is a special Islamic prayer which is recommended (but not compulsory) for all Muslims. The Tahajjud is prayed after Isha (the obligatory nightly prayer) and before Fajr (the obligatory morning prayer). If possible, it is most desirable to perform the Tahajjud between midnight and Fajr, preferably in the last third of the night. Though the Tahajjud isn’t compulsory, many devout Muslims try to make it part of their daily routine as an act of worship and to earn redemption and forgiveness from Allah. To learn how to pray the Tahajjud in the way laid out by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), see Step 1 below.
Step 1: Arrange to wake up after midnight. After praying the Isha prayer and before going to sleep, make arrangements to wake up during the night before the Fajr prayer (for instance, you may want to set an alarm clock or have a family member agree to wake you). Though the Tahajjud can be prayed at any part of the night, if possible, it is best to pray it after midnight, especially during the last third of the night. The time two-thirds of the way between Isha and Fajr is a good time for Tahajjud. This is because Allah descends to the lowest heaven during the last third of the night, asking, “Who is asking me, so I can give to him? Who is calling upon me, so I can answer him? Who is seeking my forgiveness, so I can forgive him?’”
If you make an honest effort to wake up and perform the Tahajjud but accidentally sleep through the night, don’t feel guilty. According to ahadeeth, Allah records your genuine intention to perform the Tahajjud and grants you sleep as an act of mercy. You will be rewarded as if your intention had been fulfilled. However, if you make a conscious decision to abandon your intention to pray Tahajjud without good reason, for example through laziness, then it may not be overlooked.
Prayer Step 2: Wake up and perform Wudu. Wake up during the night at the time you’ve chosen. Once you wake, perform Wudu, the ritual ablution Muslims use to cleanse themselves before they pray or handle the Holy Quran. Traditionally, performing Wudu means using clean water to wash oneself:
Prayer Step 3: Go somewhere clean, quiet, and dignified to conduct your prayer. This is done because Allah’s names are pure, so, whenever possible, Muslims are encouraged to speak of Him in clean, holy places as a form of reverence. Wearing your normal prayer clothes, sit down on a prayer mat and face the Holy Kabah in Mecca as you would for your obligatory prayers.
To be clear, you don’t need to be anywhere special, like a mosque or a lavishly-decorated room in your house, to pray the Tahajjud. All that’s needed is a spot that’s clean which can even be in your room.
Prayer Step 4: Remove all worldly worries from your heart. At the time for prayer, calmly focus and reflect on the glory of your Lord. Do not worry about fleeting worldly problems that are ultimately meaningless in comparison to His infinite wisdom and mercy. Calm yourself and forget your worldly problems, hopes, and fears. Ignore any negative, distracting thoughts or feelings. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your heart as you begin to achieve a heightened state of spiritual awareness.
Step 5: Make your intention to pray known. As you start your prayer, make a definitive mental declaration to yourself that you are about to perform the Tahajjud. Decide that you are going to complete the Tahajjud in the specific way you have chosen, including how many rakats and which surahs you will recite. Also decide why you are saying the Tahajjud — for instance, to glorify Allah, thank Allah or ask for His forgiveness. You don’t have to make this declaration out loud — Allah knows your thoughts, so your intentions will be clear to him as long as they are clear to you.
The Tahajjud is typically performed by repeating multiple rakats (cycles) of Salah, the ritual that Muslims use for their required daily prayer. For the Tahajjud, the rakats are usually performed in pairs, so you’ll also want to decide exactly how many rakats you intend to perform at this time. See below for more information.
Step 6: Perform two rakats. To begin your Tahajjud, start by performing two rakats (cycles) of Salah. Salah begins by standing and reciting verses from the Holy Quran. Then, the person praying continues by bowing low with his hands on his knees, then prostrating on the ground with his forehead, nose, and palms on the floor and his elbows raised, sitting on his knees with his feet folded under him, and finally standing and reciting “Allahu Akbar.” This description of Salah is a generalization — if you’re not sure how to perform Salah properly, learn this fundamental Muslim skill before attempting the Tahajjud.
Emulate the practices of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who used to recite the following surahs after each rakat in Tahajjud: After reciting the Al-Fatihah in the first rakat, recite the surah “Al-Kafirun.” After reciting the Al-Fatihah for the second rakat, recite the surah “Al-Ikhlas.”
Step 7: Repeat rakats as you wish. Generally, two rakats is seen as the minimum necessary for a proper Tahajjud. However, it’s possible to repeat as many more as you wish. For instance, according to the Hadiths, the Prophet Muhammad frequently prayed up to thirteen rakats. Tahajjud rakats are performed in pairs and eight rakats is seen as a good number by many Muslims. In other words, most people will say two, four, six, or eight rakats, though more is not discouraged. If you are able to, then reciting long surahs such as Al-Baqarah, An-Nisā’ or Al-‘Imran are highly commended, even if you can manage them only from time to time.Following in the example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), if you notice dawn approaching while you say your Tahajjud, you may end by performing one rakat as Witr (an optional pre-dawn prayer said before the required Fajr).
Step 8: Add your own prayers (dua) after the rakats. After you’ve completed the number of rakats you set out to pray, you may add your own dua as long as they’re sincere, respectful, and done in complete devotion to Allah. These may be offered in extended prostration in your own words and language. You may want to offer additional thanks and praise to Allah, pray for strength and guidance, or make a special request for help. For instance, you may ask for blessings for a friend who is suffering through difficult times or help with your own worship or simply spend a few moments thanking Allah for a blessing that He granted you the previous day. Prayers should be offered with humbleness, fear, hope and patience. This is an ideal time to ask for forgiveness for your mistakes and sins as Allah is especially open to our repentance at night according to many ahadeeth.
Acknowledge each of your wrongdoings, however big or small – you may feel that some are insignificant, but Allah may still decide that a penalty is due. Sincerely promise not to repeat your sins and ask Allah for forgiveness