Salah is the most beloved deed to Allah (SWT). It serves as a way to earn the forgiveness of sins and gain lots of blessings and rewards from Allah (SWT), and it is also a means to seek His protection. Abu Bakr As-Siddique t said, “By performing salah, a person secures the protection of Allah (SWT).”
‘Isha is the last of the five prayers of the day, which is offered at night. ‘Isha salah may be difficult for some people to perform due to it being the last prayer at the end of the day. In some places where the sun sets a little later, the time of ‘Isha salah also begins later and most people may be getting ready to go to bed. Some may go to sleep earlier and thus end up missing the salah.
Although every salah is equally important, the Fajr and ‘Isha prayers are considered as a measure of differentiating between Mumineen (true believers) and Munafiqeen (pretenders of faith). Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates that the Prophet (SAW) said: “The most difficult salah for the hypocrites is ‘Isha and Fajr. Had they known the rewards for them, they would have attended them even if they had to crawl on their knees.”(Bukhari)
Compared to the other four daily prayers, the interval of ‘Isha salah is considerably longer and far stretched than the rest, which begins as soon as the time of Maghrib ends and concludes a little before Fajr begins. But it should be noted that although it is permissible, it is highly disliked to delay the performing of the ‘Isha salah until after midnight. Its desirable session lasts right up to midnight according to the following hadith described by Abdullah bin Amr (RA) who reported the Messenger (SAW) as saying:
“The time of the noon prayer is when the sun passes the meridian and a man’s shadow is the same (length) as his height, (and it lasts) as long as the time for the afternoon prayer has not come; the time for the afternoon prayer is as long as the sun has not become pale; the time of the evening prayer is as long as the twilight has not ended; the time of the night prayer is up to the middle of the average night and the time of the morning prayer is from the appearance of dawn, as long as the sun has not risen; but when the sun rises, refrain from prayer for it rises between the horns of the devil.” (Muslim)
Every salah offers its own benefits; for example, Fajr salah helps us to start our day in the most rightful manner and ensures that the rest of the day is spent productively. So in the same way, ‘Isha salah also provides its own benefits, both physical and spiritual. Physically, it gives one the benefit of a pleasant sleep at night and spiritually, the virtues of the ‘Isha salah are countless.
The following hadith mentions one such spiritual benefit: ‘Uthman bin Affan (RA) reported that the Messenger (SAW) said: “Whoever offers ‘Isha salah in jama’ah, it is as though he spent half the night in worship. And whoever offers Fajr salah in jama’ah, it is as though he spent the entire night in worship.” (Muslim)
Such is the high status of this prayer that one gets the incentives equal to spending half a night in the devoted worship of Allah (SWT). It means taking out only 15 to 20 minutes for a single obligatory salah can be as virtuous as praising Allah I for hours.
‘Isha prayer is four rak’at. There is a two rak’at Sunnah prayer afterwards. Witr prayer is a separate prayer – it is not a part of ‘Isha. Its time starts from the end of ‘Isha and continues until Fajr starts. The Witr prayer (which will be discussed in the next part of the series) is a special unit of prayer and takes place after the ‘Isha salah.
Tips for performing ‘Isha on time:
• Making a sincere intention is important as this will help you to fulfil the salah on time insha Allah.
• ‘Isha salah should be performed as soon as possible, especially if you are feeling tired or sleepy, as you might go to bed and end up missing the prayer altogether. It is said in a hadith, “Do not sleep before saying salatul ‘Isha lest you should miss this prayer itself.” (Mishkaat)
• Sometimes people may feel sluggish and lazy after having supper, especially if it’s a heavy meal and thus may find it hard to perform the ‘Isha salah. Food takes a while to digest and give you the proper amount of energy required, so it is advisable to eat early, at least half an hour prior to the time of ‘Isha salah so that you won’t feel heavy and tired and you can perform your salah properly.
• Keep a reminder about the importance of ‘Isha salah and all the other prayers in general. There is nothing like a powerful reminder to motivate one to pursue good deeds.
• If you are out at night, try to leave the house in the state of wudhu and carry your prayer mat as well so you find it easier to perform your salah wherever you are. Most women find it difficult to make wudhu somewhere other than home, so it is better to ensure you’re well prepared for your salah when you’re out.
• Be consistent in your good deeds throughout the day. Performing the ‘Isha salah on time and with concentration is a good end to the day, and this in turn will encourage the cycle of spending the following day in performing the five daily prayers on time.
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Rafeeah Laher is 24 years old and is from Johannesburg, South Africa. She’s a qualified IT specialist and does freelance writing in her spare time. You can follow her on twitter @Rafeeah_L.