The Evening Prayer (Salatu-l-‘Isha’)
It consists of four units as Fard, two as Sunnah and three as Witr (higher than Sunnah and lower than Fard). The first two units of the four Fard may be said in a low or audible voice. Other than that, it is performed the same way as the noon or mid-afternoon prayer. The two Sunnah units are performed exactly like the early morning prayer.
As for the three Witr units, they are performed just like the sunset prayer with two exceptions: (a) in the third unit the Fatihah is followed by a portion of the Qur’an, and (b) while standing after bowing and before prostration the worshipper says these words:
“Allahumma inna nasta ‘eenuk, wa nastahdeek wa nastaghifiruk, wa natubu ilayk, wa nu’minu bik, wa natawakkalu ‘alayk, wa nuthni ‘alayka-l-Khayra kullah. Nashkurk, wa la nakfruk, wa nakhla’u wa natruku man yafjuruk. Allahumma iyyaka na’bud, wa laka nusalli wa laka nasjud, wa ilayka nas’a wa nahfid. Narju rahmatak, wa nakhsha ‘adhabak; inna adhabaka bi-l-Kuffari mulhaq wa salli-l-llahumma ‘ala Muhammad wa ‘ala alihi wa sahbihi wa sallim.”
This supplication is called Qunut and may be interpreted as follows:
“O God! We beseech You for help and guidance, and seek Your protection and believe in You and rely on You, and extol You and are thankful to You and are not ingrate to You, and we declare ourselves clear of, and forsake, him who disobeys You.
“O God! To You do we pray and prostrate ourselves, and to You do we betake ourselves and to obey You we are quick, and Your mercy do we hope for and Your punishment do we fear, for Your punishment overtakes the unbelievers.
“O God! Exalt Muhammad and his people and its true followers.”
If this Qunut cannot be commanded by memory, it sufficient to say any recitation similar to it till it is mastered.
There are minor differences of interpretation between the various schools of law regarding the wordings and times of qunut. Some require no qunut; others require it in the Early Morning prayer with slight variations. However, following any of the authentic schools is acceptable.
All the Sunnah (supererogatory) prayers are to be said individually, that is, not in congregation except the ‘Eed prayers, and Taraweeh and Witr prayers in the month of Ramadan.
The Sunnah Prayers are not required from a person who has missed some Fard Prayers. Instead, he must make up for what he has missed and offer the obligatory services. Also the Sunnah prayers are not required if the due time of the accompanying Fard Prayers has expired. So if a person misses any prayer and wants to make up for it, he has to offer the Fard only.
If a worshipper does not know how to say his whole prayers in the Arabic version, he should simply say Subhaan Allah, Al-Hamdu Lillaah and Allaahu Akbar, this means: Glory to God, Praise be to God, God is greatest of all, until he learns to recite the prayers in Arabic language.
Explanations: Non-Arabic speakers can always read the translations of the Qur’an in other languages they understand since believers are requested to concentrate in their prayers and to understand or at least grasp the meanings of the words to be recited. However, when it comes to prayers they are required to recite the prayer in Arabic. Allah revealed His Message choosing the Arabic language which means that His Message (Words) must only be read in its original form especially when we consider that Arabic words have no exact equivalents in any language.
The Fard Prayer is much more preferable when offered in a congregation (Jama’ah) led by an Imam. The congregation is best when it is held in a mosque, but it may be held in other places. Those who arrive at the mosque before the Iqamah announcement of the Fard prayer are recommended to offer a two units Sunnah (supereragatory) prayer called “Tahiyatu al Masjid” which means “Moosque greetings”.
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