Number of Rakats in Witr Prayer
I want some information about the witr prayer. I have a book named Akaid-e-Aamal by Molana Muhammad Manzoor Al Waheedi and in that it is clearly stated that one can also pray one witr instead of three. Because of that, for two years I have just been praying one witr instead of three. One of my friends also agreed that one witr is allowed, and confirmed the following method:
I used to say takbeer, followed by surahs Fateha and Ikhlas, and then takbeer followed by Dua e Kanoot. After that I performed the ruku and sajda and read the rest of the namaz in one rakat.
Now I have recently heard from a mufti that there is no such thing as one witr. I am worried about my prayed namaz. I did it because of reading about it from a mustanad book of Islam, and believing it to be right, I didn’t consult any scholar. Do I have to pray all those namaz e Isha again or it is ok on the basis that I was (mis)guided in that direction. If I have to perform all those again, should I leave the farz and perform only the witr, or should I perform both?
In all matters of religion, you will have to come to your own decision about whether what you are doing is right or wrong. If you have taken a decision to that effect based on your honest understanding, God the Gracious is not going to hold you responsible for a sin you never committed. Be absolutely sure about it: Allah will not make any soul accountable for anything beyond his/her potential.
Scholars give their verdicts on the basis of what they believe is correct. That’s what they should do. However, if you are confronted with two or more conflicting opinions of scholars about the same issue, it is your decision to find out which of them is correct. In case you later realize that the one you chose earlier was not quite as convincing as one of the others, you should unhesitatingly change yourself accordingly. This life is a trial at two levels: at the level of your intellect, where your honest opinion-forming ability is being tested and ii) at the level of your actions, where your character is being tested.
Now let’s come to the question you have asked. Witr prayer is nothing but tahajud prayer, which the prophet, alaihissalaam, always said in the early hours of the morning. He never said those prayers immediately after Isha. However, he allowed Muslims to say them after Isha prayers. Normally people say these prayers in three rakats. However, at least one of the companions of the prophet, Abdullah Ibn Umar, is reported to have said them, at least some times, in one rakat.
I personally don’t understand the one-rakat witr logic, but cannot criticize someone who prays like that because at least one companion of the prophet is reported to have said the prayer like that. The reason why I don’t understand the logic of one-rakat witr is that the statement of the prophet for making the tahajud prayer witr goes somewhat like this: “Make it witr (odd)”. You can make a number odd when it is already in existence in the form of an even even number. How can we make a number that is non-existent odd?
Having said that, I would also like to clarify that witr, like tahajud prayer, is an additional (nafil) prayer which brings sawab (reward) if you pray it and doesn’t entail sin if you don’t say it. We all know that the prophet, alaihissalaam, taught us that tahajud was a nafil prayer. Witr is a part of tahajud and is therefore a nafil prayer as well.