Q. Is there any tradition/hadith that nabi peace be upon him used to pray 2 rakaat nafl salaat in sitting position after Isha salaat?
A. It is evident from an authentic tradition of Aisha (RA) (as recorded by Imam Muslim in his sahih) that the Prophet (SA) performed two rakaats of Salaah after the Tahajjud (Salaah) while in the sitting posture (Sahih Muslim). It is also narrated in many authentic traditions that the Prophet (SA) said that one must perform his witr as the last Salaah of the night (Bukhari, Muslim).
In order to reconcile between these traditions, many scholars have given different opinions. One such opinion which is acceptable is that which Allama Zafar Ahmad Uthmani has recorded in his Ila’us Sunnan. While explaining the matter regarding the two rakaats after witr, he writes, ‘Some scholars have stated that the two rakaats of witr, conveys the ruling of ‘permissibility’ (Jawaz), while the command of making one’s last Salaah of the night as witr, conveys the ruling of that which is commendable (Istihbaab).(In other words these scholars have stated that to perform the witr as the last Salaah of the night(not engaging in the two rakaats of nafl) is commendable. However, if one performs the two rakaats after it, this will be permissible and allowed, based on the hadith). Allama Zafar goes further to write, ‘Imam An Nawawi has said in ‘Sharh Muslim’, “this hadith (of the two rakaats after witr) has been taken in its literal sense by Imam Awza’i and Imam Ahmad, and they have given the allowance for one to perform these two rakaats after witr in the sitting posture. Imam Ahmad has said, ‘I do not do it, but I do not prevent one from doing it. However, Imam Malik has rejected it’.
Allama Zafar further states, ‘the correct position is that these two rakaats were done by the Prophet (SA) after the witr in the sitting posture, to show the permissibility of Salaah after witr, and also to show the permissibility of performing nafl Salaah in the sitting posture. However, he (the Prophet (SA) was not continuous on this practice. He did it once, or twice, or only a few times. This is the explaination we have given to these two rakaats while sitting, since the famous traditions in the two Sahih compilations and others from Aisha and other Sahabahs, clearly indicate that the last Salaah of the Prophet (SA) in the night was witr Salaah. In the two Sahihs, there are many famous traditions which give the order that one should make the last Salaah of the night as witr.
The meaning therefore, is that it was done by the Prophet (SA) to show the permissibility, and this is the correct answer.
As for what Qazi Ayaz has indicated to, by giving preference to the famous authentic traditions and rejecting the tradition of the two rakaats while sitting, this is not correct. For indeed whenever traditions are sound, and they can be reconciled, then they should become fixed for practice. (That is, they must not be left out). (Ilaa’us Sunnah vol.6 pg.127).
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan