Witr in the Ḥaram: Response to Ml. Yusuf Shabbir (Islamic Portal)

by | 2 Feb 2024 | Fiqh, Ḥadīth, Research & Articles

By: Mufti Zameelur Rahman

I have been asked to address the following piece:

nawadir.org/2016/04/02/witr-salah-in-makkah-and-madinah/ *

The article is misleading on several points.

On the classical Ḥanafī position on following an imām belonging to another madhhab, the major early fuqahā’ of the school agree that this would only be valid if the ṣalah of the imām is valid according to the muqtadi’s madhhab; if it is invalid according to the muqtadi’s madhhab, his ṣalāh behind him is not valid. In the first several centuries of the madhhab, disagreement on this principle is found only from one recorded view of Abū Bakr al-Jaṣṣāṣ – which is, however, not to be found directly in any of his available works, and is only quoted from him in books written several centuries later. 

The above-mentioned principle is inferred from masā’il found in the ẓāhir al-riwāyah (al-Aṣl and al-Jāmi‘ al-Saghīr), as well as explicitly from statements of eminent early jurists like Abū Muṭī‘ al-Balkhī, Shaddād ibn Ḥakīm and Nuṣayr ibn Yaḥyā. The view of Abū Ja‘far al-Hinduwānī is also in agreement with the accepted Ḥanafī view, contrary to what is mentioned in the article. For a brief overview and explanation, see: archive.org/details/the-masalah-of-iqtida-bil-mukhalif-in-the-hanafi-madhab-english-summary-by-mufti-zameelur-rahman

Since in the first several centuries of the madhhab there is only one lone view in opposition to this unanimously accepted principle, the opposing view cannot be regarded as a valid opinion in the madhhab. Hence, Raḥmatullāh al-Sindī (930 – 993 H) said after outlining the aforementioned principle: “This is the basic principle from which a Ḥanafī has no recourse.” In other words, a person subscribing to the Hanafī madhhab has no option but to accept this principle.

The reference to al-‘Aynī in the article is also incorrect. Al-‘Aynī held the correct Ḥanafī position that once it is established the imām has done something that violates the madhhab of the muqtadī, his ṣalāh behind him is not valid. Al-‘Aynī only rejected the more extreme position that it would only be permissible to pray behind a non-Ḥanafī when he is known to be observant of the rulings of the muqtadī’s madhhab; in response, he states that this is not a condition, but a Ḥanafī can unconditionally pray behind a non-Ḥanafī as long as it is not known he did something that violates the ṣalāh according to the muqtadī’s madhhab. This is clear from his Ramz al-Ḥaqā’iq [1] and al-Bināyah (Dār al-Fikr, 2:598-600).

Moreover, the long list of mostly recent Deobandī ‘ulamā’ holding the opposing view is also misleading, since the vast majority of the celebrated muftīs of Deoband held the accepted Hanafī position, like:

1. Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī

2. Muftī ‘Azīzur Raḥmān Deobandī

3. Ḥakīm al-Ummah al-Thānawī

4. ‘Allāmah Ẓafar Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī

5. Muftī Muḥammad Shafī‘

6. Muftī Kifāyatullāh al-Dehlawī

7. Muftī Maḥmūdul Hasan Gangohī

8. Muftī Rashīd Aḥmad Ludhyānwī.

Even Muftī Taqi Usmani in his collection of Fatāwā upholds the correct Ḥanafī view, although more recently he has signed a very flawed fatwā supporting the opposing view.

In presenting reasons for giving preference to the opposing view, the article states:

The Prophet ﷺ performed Witr Ṣalāh in this manner as well, as narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (990, 993) and other ḥadīth books.

These ḥadīths do not state clearly that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) performed salām after two rak‘ahs and then performed a separate, standalone, rak‘ah. According to Ibn Ḥajar, these ḥadīths which state the performance of “one rak‘ah” may well mean “one rak‘ah” attached to two rak‘ahs before it (Fatḥ al-Bārī, Dār Ṭaybah, 3:325), as the Ḥanafīs understand it. The reason for mentioning “one rak‘ah” specifically is because it is this one rak‘ah that makes the entire night-prayer (tahajjud + witr) odd (witr), while without it, it would have been even. In short, there is no explicit mention in these ḥadīths that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) performed one rak‘ah after making salām from the previous two rak‘ahs.

The article states:

Many companions performed Witr Ṣalāh in this manner including ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿUmar (d.73/693)[23], ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān (d.35/656)[24], Abū Mūsa al-Ashʿarī (d. 4/665)[25], Abū Hurayrah (d.57/676-7)[26] and others [27] (may Allah be pleased with them).

The practice of some companions who performed it in this manner was condemned, criticised or found to be strange by others, showing it was not a common practice, and was in all probability a fringe view and method upheld by a minority of the ṣaḥābah. 

Sa‘d ibn Abī Waqqāṣ (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu), for instance, was condemned by Ibn Mas‘ūd (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu) for praying in this way, saying: “One rak‘ah is never valid!” (I‘lā’ al-Sunan, 6:62)

‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān’s (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu) prayer in this manner was found to be strange by ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Taymī (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu), another ṣaḥābī, demonstrating, as stated by al-Ṭaḥāwī, that this was not the normal way of praying it. (Sharḥ Ma‘āni al-Ᾱthār, 1:294-5)

Hence, it could easily be argued that this manner of praying was an isolated ijtihād of a few ṣaḥābah that went against the normal practice of the community, and the established practice of the Prophet. (For further evidence that this is the case, see: www.darultahqiq.com/hadith-proofs-for-the-hanafi-procedure-of-witr/ )

‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhumā) may have prayed at times in this manner, but according to Ibn Ḥajar, it seems his normal practice was to pray Witr as three continuous rak‘ahs with only one salām. (Fatḥ al-Bārī, Dār Ṭaybah, 3:327) 

Regarding Abū Hurayrah (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu) and Abū Mūsā al-Ash‘arī (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu), the article refers to one narration from Muṣannaf ‘Abd al-Razzāq (4672) in which ‘Abd al-Razzāq narrates from ‘Abdullāh ibn Muḥarrar from Qatādah that Abū Mūsā, Abū Hurayrah and Ibn ‘Umar would make salām between the two rak‘ahs and the final rakah of Witr. ‘Abdullāh ibn Muḥarrar is a well-known discarded narrator, while Qatādah did not meet either Abū Musa or Abū Hurayrah. This is therefore an extremely weak source for this attribution to these two companions.

The article further states:

There is no narration or historical account that indicates that the companions or their followers would refrain from performing Ṣalāh behind an Imam who held another opinion on a jurisprudential matter such as this one.

The Ḥanafī view is that it is permissible to pray behind someone who holds a different view, so this point in itself does not contradict the Ḥanafī stance. The only point of contention is when someone holding a different view does something that renders the ṣalah invalid according to the muqtadī but not the imām. There is no evidence that the ṣaḥābah would not take this into consideration. 

The following is an incident narrated from Abū Muṭī‘ al-Ḥakam ibn ‘Abdillāh al-Balkhī (115 – 199 H), one of the senior disciples of Abū Ḥanīfah who was Qāḍī of Balkh for 16 years. He was not from the companions or their successors, but was from the generation after, which is also counted amongst the blessed generations of the Salaf. He said: 

“I would offer ṣalāh behind Hishām ibn ‘Urwah (61 – 146 H) on Friday, and he held the view of ‘water from water’, that is, he did not believe ghusl is necessary from intercourse unless there is ejaculation, so I was afraid that my ṣalāh behind him would not be valid if he did this and did not perform ghusl, but I was not able to ask him about this, so I said to him: ‘Allāh have mercy on you, do you regard ghusl on Friday to be necessary?’ He said: ‘Pay attention, indeed I have not left ghusl on Friday for this many years!’ The concern then went away from my heart.” (Nawāzil)

This incident clearly shows that this was something taken into consideration in the early period. Hishām ibn ‘Urwah was from the Tābi‘īn while Abū Muṭī‘ al-Balkhī was from the Tab‘ Tābi‘īn.

The article states:

Advising the general public to refrain and walk away from the congregational Witr Ṣalāh could result in many people believing that the other schools of thought are erroneous and that the Ḥanafī school of thought is the only correct school of thought.

A person belonging to a specific madhhab may not believe that followers of other madhhabs are in error for following their chosen madhhab, but must believe that any position opposing their own madhhab is in error. That is, he must believe that followers of those madhhabs are correct in what they are doing since they are following a correct methodology; but the position that they follow, if different to one’s own madhhab, is erroneous. As stated in the well-known principle: “My madhhab (position) is correct with the potential of being in error and your madhhab is incorrect with the potential of being right.” Thus, a Ḥanafī muqallid will believe that his position is correct while opposing opinions are incorrect. (al-Ashbāh wa l-Naẓā’ir, p. 452) 

Moreover, the article argues in favour of the opposing view, making it appear the Ḥanafī stance (of a standalone rak‘ah being invalid) is weak in terms of evidence. Thus, it appears to argue that Ḥanafīs must be accepting of other opinions, while non-Ḥanafīs are free to attack the Ḥanafī opinion!

Naturally, those who upheld the Ḥanafī stance did not view the opposing opinion as being correct, but considered it to be an erroneous opinion.

Based on the overwhelming evidence in favour of the Ḥanafī method of praying Witr, Imām al-Ṭaḥawi says: “This (method of three rak‘ahs of Witr with only one set of salām at the end) is of that which ought not be opposed since it is supported by the ḥadīth of the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), then the practice of his companions and the views of most of them after him, and then their successors agreed upon it.” (Sharḥ Ma‘āni al-Ᾱthar, 1:296)

It is obvious from this that al-Ṭaḥawi would not regard it to be valid to pray a single, standalone, rak‘ah of Witr, whether it is preceded by two rak‘ahs before it or not. Nor it seems would Ibn Mas‘ūd (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu), who said: “One rak‘ah is never valid!”

Mawlānā Ẓafar Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī similarly concludes: “Witr with one [rak‘ah], or separating between the one rak‘ah and the two rakahs of it, had its validity been recognised amongst the ṣaḥābah, they would not have condemned the one who did it and would not have criticised him. Thus, the truth is what our Ḥanafī imāms are upon, that Witr is three continuous rak‘ahs like the three of Maghrib with two tashahhuds and no salām except at the end; this is what is established from him (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) in practice and speech, and this is what the vast majority of ṣaḥābah had agreed upon after him, all of which we have documented in detail above.” (I‘lā’ al-Sunan, 6:68) 

If a person subscribing to the Ḥanafī understanding believes this to be true, it would be against the protocols of disagreement (adab al-ikhtilāf) to force him to act against it or to suggest his view is invalid. 

Moreover, it is incorrect for Ḥanafīs of recent times to make tarjīḥ on the basis of evidence; see: ahlussunnah.boards.net/thread/380/anaf-muft-today-transmitters-capable

[1] The passage from Ramz al-Ḥaqā’iq is as follows:

لا يتبع المؤتم الإمام القانت فى الفجر…ودلت المسألة على جواز اقتداء الحنفي بالشافعي لا كما قيل أن رفع اليدين عند الركوع وعند الرفع منه عمل كثير يفسد الصلاة لأن حد التكثير لا يصدق عليه، ويقال: إنما يجوز اقتداء الحنفي بالشافعي إذا كان محتاطا في مواضع الخلاف بأن كان يجدد الوضوء من الحجامة والفصد وأن يغسل ثوبه من المني ولا يكون شاكا في إيمانه بالاستثناء ولا منحرفا عن القبلة ولا يقطع وتره، قلت: هذا عجيب من هذا القائل لأن الشافعي يقول مثله في حق الحنفي: لا يجوز اقتداء الشافعي بالحنفي إلا إذا كان يحتاط في مواضع الخلاف بأن كان يجدد الوضوء من مس الذكر ومس المرأة وغسل النجاسة القليلة ولا يترك قراءة الفاتحة ولا الجهر بالبسملة ولا يترك الطمئنينة فى الركوع والسجود ولا يترك الصلاة على النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم…ونحو ذلك، والطريق في هذا أن يقال: يجوز اقتداء الحنفي بالشافعي والشافعي بالحنفي وكذا المالكي والحنبلي ما لم يتحقق من إمامه ما يفسد صلاته فى اعتقاده [أي: اعتقاد المقتدي] (رمز الحقائق، مخطوط، ص٧٦)
Post taken from here

* This article is reproduced here for ease of reference (footnotes excluded):

According to the Ḥanafī school of thought, Witr Ṣalāh consists of three Rakʿah with one set of Salām at the end of the third Rakʿah. However, according to the Shāfiʿī, Mālikī and Ḥanbalī schools of thought, Witr Ṣalāh consists of three Rakʿah with Salām after the second Rakʿah as well as after the third Rakʿah. Accordingly, there is a difference of opinion regarding the validity of a Ḥanafī performing Witr Ṣalāh behind an Imam who leads Witr in this manner with two sets of Salām. The dominant position of the Ḥanafī school of thought is that this is not valid[1] because the Salām after the second Rak’ah invalidates the Ṣalāh. However, some Ḥanafī scholars are of the opinion that the Witr Ṣalāh is valid. This view is shared by many of my teachers as well as many Hanafi scholars from the past and present. They include:

1. Imam Abū Jaʿfar al-Hinduwānī[2](d. 362/973)[3].

2. Imam Abū Bakr al-Jaṣṣāṣ al-Rāzī[4](d. 370/981)[5].

3. Qaḍī Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Wahhāb ibn Aḥmad ibn Wahbān al-Dimishqī[6](d. 768/1367)[7].

4. Shaykh al-Islām Sirāj al-Dīn Abū Ḥafṣ ʿUmar ibn ʿAlī ibn Fāris[8](d. 829/1426)[9], the teacher of ʿAllāmah Ibn al-Humām (d. 861/1457).

5. Hāfiẓ Badr al-Din al-ʿAynī (d. 855/1451).[10]

6. ʿAllāmah ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Laknawī (d. 1304/1886).[11]

7. Shaykh al-Hind Mawlānā Maḥmūd Ḥasan Deobandī(d. 1339/1920).[12]

8. ʿAllāmah Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī (d. 1352/1933).[13]

9. Shaykh Muḥammad Yūsuf Binorī (d. 1397/1977).[14]

10. Mawlānā ʿAbd al-Ḥaq (d. 1409/1988), Peshawar, Pakistan.[15]

11. Mawlānā Mujāhid al-Islām Qāsmī (d. 1423/2002) and a group of Indian scholars.[16] This is also the view of Darul Uloom Deoband.[17]

12. Muḥaddith al-ʿAṣr Shaykh Muḥammad Yūnus Jownpūrī (b. 1355/1936 ).

13. Mufti Muḥammad Taqī ʿUthmānī (b. 1362/1943).[18]

14. Mufti Muḥammad Rafīʿ ʿUthmānī (b. 1355/1936 ).[19]

15. Shaykh Yūsuf Motālā (b. 1366/1946), Darul Uloom Bury, UK.

16. Mufti Shabbīr Aḥmad (b. 1376/1957), Darul Uloom Bury, UK.

17. Mufti Ṭāhir Wādī (b. 1376/1957), Darul Uloom Bury, UK.

18. Mufti Muḥammad Salmān Manṣūrpūrī (b. 1386/1967), Moradabad, India.[20]

19. Mufti Shabbīr Aḥmad Qāsmī, Moradabad, India.[21]

20. Mawlānā Khālid Sayf Allah Raḥmānī (b. 1376/1956 ), India.[22]

The preferred opinion is that Witr Ṣalāh in Makkah and Madīnah is valid and should be performed for the following reasons:

1. The Prophet ﷺ performed Witr Ṣalāh in this manner as well, as narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (990, 993) and other ḥadīth books.

2. Many companions performed Witr Ṣalāh in this manner including ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿUmar (d. 73/693)[23], ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān (d. 35/656)[24], Abū Mūsa al-Ashʿarī (d. 44/665)[25], Abū Hurayrah (d. 57/676-7)[26]and others[27] (may Allah be pleased with them).

3. Performing Witr Ṣalāh in this manner has been narrated from great luminaries and scholars including Muḥammad ibn Sīrīn (d. 110/729)[28], Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (d. 110/728)[29], ʿAṭāʾ ibn Abī Rabāḥ (d. 114/732)[30], Saʿīd ibn al-Musayyib (d. 94/712-3)[31], Awzāʿī (d. 157/773-4)[32], Abū Thawr (d. 240/854)[33], Mālik ibn Anas (d. 179/795)[34], Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī (d. 204/820)[35], Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (d. 241/855)[36], Isḥāq ibn Rāhwayh/Rāhūyah (d. 238/853)[37]and others.

4. There is no narration or historical account that indicates that the companions or their followers would refrain from performing Ṣalāh behind an Imam who held another opinion on a jurisprudential matter such as this one.

5. Performing Ṣalāh with the large congregation in Makkah and Madīnah is a means of immense reward.

6. Abstention from performing Witr Ṣalāh in congregation in Makkah and Madīnah is not conducive to unity and could lead to friction and division.

7. Advising the general public to refrain and walk away from the congregational Witr Ṣalāh could result in many people believing that the other schools of thought are erroneous and that the Ḥanafī school of thought is the only correct school of thought. This also results in disregard for the narrations cited above.

8. Thousands of people walking away as the congregational Witr Ṣalāh begins would disturb and possibly harm others due to the congestion.

9. This would also create gaps within rows.

10. Following another school of thought or a minority view within a school is not impermissible if there is a need to do so, especially when there is no fulfilment of personal desires.

It is therefore advisable for those visiting Saudi Arabia to perform Witr Ṣalāh behind the Imam. Additionally, there is no need to repeat the Witr Ṣalāh as this is contrary to the Prophetic narration that suggests that Witr Ṣalāh should not be performed twice in one night.[38] Similarly, one should follow the Imam and perform the Salām after the second Rakʿah. This is because the Prophet ﷺ has said, “The Imam is appointed so that he is followed.”[39] It should also be borne in mind that the validity of Witr Ṣalāh described above is not restricted to Makkah and Madīnah. [40]