When I was in the Middle East, the imam would always announce about performing syafa’ prayer together with witir. What did he mean by saying that? Is there such prayer (known as syafa’ prayer)?
Waalaikumussalam wrt, wbt.,
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
In this issue, there are two words that should be considered which are the word syafa’ and witir. Lexically, syafa’ means even or in pairs while the antonym for it is single or alone.
While for the word witir or read وَتْر / وِتْر watru and witru it means single which is the antonym of syafa’. The term witir means: Certain prayer performed in certain times to end the night. Regardless whether it is performed at the beginning, middle or end of the night. It is performed in odd number rakaat, thus this is why it is known as witir.
The discussion related to syafa’ and witir involves the kaifiat or methodology of the witir prayer itself. The reason is scholars have stated several methods of performing the witir prayer:
First: One rakaat witir
According to the majority of scholars, it is permissible to perform witir prayer for only one rakaat. This is in accordance with a narration from Ibn Umar R.Anhuma where the Prophet PBUH said:
الْوِتْرُ رَكْعَةٌ مِنْ آخِرِ اللَّيْلِ
“It (witir) is a rak'ah at the end of the night prayer.”
Sahih Muslim (752)
Second: Three rakaat witir prayer
In this category, three rakaat witir prayer can be performed through two methods:
- Perform three rakaat prayer with one salam
This is in accordance with the sunnah of the prophet PBUH. What differentiates three rakaat witir prayer and Maghrib prayer is the number of tasyahhud. Three rakaat witir prayer only has one tasyahhud (only the final tasyahhud) while three rakaat Maghrib prayer has two tasyahhud.
- Perform two rakaat prayer then give salam. Then, it is followed with one rakaat prayer after it.
This is according to a hadith narrated from Ibn Umar R.Anhuma, where it is said:
كَانَ يُسَلِّمُ بَيْنَ الرَّكْعَةِ وَالرَّكْعَتَيْنِ فِي الْوِتْرِ، حَتَّى يَأْمُرَ بِبَعْضِ حَاجَتِهِ
“`Abdullah bin `Umar used to say Taslim between (the first) two Rak`at and (the third) odd one in the Witr prayer,”
Sahih al-Bukhari (991)
The same is stated in another narration from Ibn Umar, where he said:
أنَّهُ صَلَّى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ يفصلُ بَينَ الشَّفَعِ وَالوِتْر
“Indeed, the Prophet PBUH once separate between syafa’ and witr prayer.”
Musnad Ahmad (2/76)
Thus, this is the methodology named as syafa’ prayer, although in truth it is witir prayer but the three rakaat is performed separately with two salam.
To close, what is meant by the word syafa’ prayer is the two rakaat prayer ending with one rakaat witir prayer. Actually, it has the same meaning with how the imams in our country announcing the witir prayer by saying: “Three rakaat witir prayer performed with two salam”
Accurately, syafa’ is not a type of prayer but an antonym for the word witir. It is named as syafa’ because it is performed in two rakaat.
Lastly, may Allah SWT give us all the correct understanding in practising the religion. Amin.