What Is the Importance of Qiyam-ul-Layl?

Question and answer details
Please tell me the importance of Qiyam prayers (long night prayers) that takes place in Ramadan and how would it make me a better Muslim?
Shahul Hameed

Salam Dear Kareema,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

The expression “Qiyam Al-Layl” is derived from the Quran for what is also known as Tahajjud prayer. Tahajjud is preferably offered after midnight, but before Fajr.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world, following the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stay awake, standing in long prayers, striving to get closer to Allah. The occasion of such long prayers is known as Qiyam Al-Layl.

Virtues of Qiyam Al-Layl:

The Quran says what means:

{And as for the night keep awake a part of it as an additional prayer for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of praise and glory!} (Al-Israa' 17:79)

This was a command directly addressed to the prophet (peace be upon him), but it is also meant for his followers to adopt these special prayers, as additional prayers of devotion to Allah. In the Quran, Allah speaks of such devotees who "...fall down in adoration and celebrate the praises of their Lord and are so God-fearing that they leave their comfortable beds to remember God and seek His forgiveness..."

{They do forsake their beds of sleep, the while they call on their Lord, in fear and hope....} (As-Sajdah 32:16)

And again, we read about the blessed souls who are engaged most of the night in worshipful remembrance of Allah and prayers for His grace and mercy:

{They were in the habit of sleeping but little by night, and in the hours of early dawn, they [were found] praying for forgiveness…} (Adh-Dhariyat 51:17-18)

All the above verses make obvious reference to Qiyam Al-Layl. In addition, the Prophet has said:


"Keep up Qiyam Al-Layl. It was the way of the virtuous who came before you, it draws you nearer to your Lord, atones for your sins, forbids you from evil and protects the body from sickness." (At-Tirmidhi)

Aishah, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) reported that he used to keep standing - in long night prayer - so long that the skin of his feet would crack. When asked, why he did this while all his past and future sins were forgiven, he said:


"Should I not be a grateful slave of Allah?" (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)


Abdullah ibn Salam also reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:


"O people, promote the greetings, feed [the poor and needy] and perform prayers, when others are asleep, so that you will enter paradise safely." (At-Tirmidhi)


On the other hand, Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:


“The best of prayers, after the prescribed prayers, is prayer in the depths of the night, and the best of fasting after the month of Ramadan is fasting the month of Allah, Muharram.” (Muslim)


According to Amr ibn Absah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:


“The time when the closest the Lord is to His slave is in the later part of the night, so if you can be one of those who remember Allah at that time, then do so.” (At-Tirmidhi)


Also, Yahya ibn Muaadh said:


“Remedy of the heart consists of five things: reading the Quran and pondering over its meaning, having an empty stomach, praying at night (Qiyam Al-Layl), beseeching Allah at the time of sahar and keeping company with righteous people.”


Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) preferred to go to sleep early, after Isha prayer. The reason was to avoid sleeping too long, for fear of missing Fajr prayer, or Qiyam Al-Layl. Also, Umar ibn al-Khatab used to urge people to sleep early, so that they would not miss Qiyam Al-Layl.

Uqbah ibn Aamir reported the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:


“When a man from my Ummah (nation) gets up to pray at night, striving against his own self to get up and purify himself, there are knots on him. When he washes his hands in wudu', one knot is undone. When he washes his face, another knot is undone. When he wipes his head another knot is undone. When he washes his feet, another knot is undone. Then Allah says to those who are veiled (in the unseen): Look at this slave of Mine, he is striving against his own self and asking for Me. Whatever My slave asks of Me shall be his.” (Ahmad)


Qiyam Al-Layl is an act of worship that connects the heart to Allah and enables it to overcome the temptations of life and to strive against one’s own self, at the time when voices are stilled, eyes are closed in sleep, and sleepers are tossing and turning in their beds.


Therefore, Qiyam Al-Layl is one of the measures of sincere determination and one of the qualities of those who have great ambitions. Allah has praised them and distinguished them from others in the Quran, where He says:

{Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing [in prayer] during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord [like one who disbelieves]? Say: ‘Are those who know equal to those who know not?’ It is only men of understanding who will remember.} (Az-Zumar 39:9)

Qiyam Al-Layl is a sunnah mu'akkadah (confirmed habit of the Prophet, recommended to be followed), which he (peace be upon him) urged us to do when he said:


“You should pray Qiyam Al-Layl, for it is the habit of the righteous people who came before you, and it will bring you closer to your Lord, will expiate for bad deeds, prevent sin and expel disease from the body.” (At-Tirmidhi and Ahmad)


He (peace be upon him) always had the habit of praying Qiyam Al-Layl, and never gave it up, whether he was traveling or staying at home.

Among the pious ladies of the old times too, we read of many who were very keen to pray Qiyam Al-Layl. Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:


“Jibreel said to me, ‘Go back to Hafsah, for she fasts a lot and prays a lot at night (Qiyam Al-Layl).’” (Al-Hakim)


Muadhah al-Adawiyah, one of the righteous women physicians spent her wedding night, along with her husband Silah ibn Ashyam, praying until dawn. Then, when her husband and son were killed in the land of Jihad, she would spend the whole night in prayer, worshipping and beseeching Allah. Then, she would sleep during the day. If she felt sleepy whilst she was praying at night, she would tell herself: “O soul, there is plenty of sleep ahead of you.”

The above sayings and anecdotes of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his early followers clearly illustrate the importance of Qiyam Al-Layl. It tells us about the boundless blessings Allah would bestow on us, if we care to spend the few hours of the night in prayerful worship of our All-Merciful Lord.

May Allah bless us to be His sincere devotees, to merit His rewards here and hereafter!

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.


Useful Links:

Prayers and Healing

Striving for a Night of Mercy

What's the Right Way to Perform Tahajjud?