All the scholars agree that the time for the witr prayer does not begin until after salatul ‘isha and it continues until the time of salatul fajr.
Abu Tamim al-Jishani relates that ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas was addressing the people during a Friday Khutbah and he said: “Abu Basra related to me that the Prophet said: ‘Verily, Allah has added a prayer for you, and it is the witr prayer. Pray it between salatul ‘isha and salatul fajr.'” Abu Tamim said: “Abu Zharr took me by my hand and we went in the mosque to Abu Basra and [Abu Zharr] said: ‘Did you hear what ‘Amr just said from the Messenger of Allah?’ He answered: ‘I heard it from the Messenger of Allah!”‘ This is related by Ahmad with a sahih chain.
Abu Mas’ud al-Ansari relates: “The Prophet sallellahu alehi wasallam would make the witr prayer in the first part of the night or the middle of it or the latter part of it.” Ahmad has reported it with a sound chain.
‘Abdullah ibn Abi Qais relates that he asked ‘Aishah about the witr prayer of the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam and she said: “Sometimes he would make the witr prayer in the first part of the night and sometimes he would make the witr prayer in the latter portion of the night.” Then ‘Abdullah asked: “How was his recitation, audible or inaudible?” She replied: “He did both. Sometimes he would be inaudible and sometimes audible. Sometimes he would make ghusl and sleep and sometimes he would make ablution and sleep [i.e., when he was sexually defiled].” This is related by Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Muslim, and at-Tirmizhi. It is preferred to pray it early if one suspects that one will not wake during the latter portion of the night. It is, on the other hand, advisable to delay it if one believes that one will be able to wake up during the latter portion of the night.
If one suspects that one will not be able to perform the prayer in the latter portion of the night, it should be prayed during the early portion of the night (before sleeping).
Jabir reports that the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever of you fears that he will not be able to wake during the latter portion [of the night], he should make the witr prayer during the early part [of the night]. And whoever of you believes that he will be able to wake during the latter portion of the night, he should make the witr prayer during that latter portion as it is the blessed time [the angels are attentive to the prayers in the last portion of the night].” This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, atTirmizhi, and Ibn Majah.
Jabir also narrates that the Messenger of Allah inquired of Abu Bakr: “When do you perform the witr prayer?” Abu Bakr replied: “In the early portion of the night after the night prayer” Then the Prophet said: “And you, O ‘Umar?” He answered: “During the latter portion of the night.” The Prophet said: “As for you, O Abu Bakr, you have taken the careful way. As for you, ‘Umar, you have taken the way of hardship and firm will.” This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and al-Hakim who says it is sahih according to Muslim’s criterion. However, the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam would pray the witr prayer near dawn time for it is the most blessed time, as mentioned previously.
‘Aisha reports: “Out of the entire night, the Messenger of Allah would sometimes perform the witr prayer during the early portion; sometimes he would perform it during the middle portion; and sometimes in the latter portion of the night, just before dawn.” This is related by the group.
Nevertheless, considering the possibility ofÂ losing witr, the Prophet advised some of his companions not to sleep until they had performed the witr prayer in order to be on the safe side.
Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas would pray salatul ‘isha in the Prophet’s mosque and then would pray one rak’ah of witr without making any addition to it. The people said to him: “Abu Ishaq, do you make the witr with just one rak’ah without adding any (other rak’ah) to it?” He said: “Yes, for I heard the Messenger of Allah say: ‘The one who does not sleep until he makes the witr prayer is prudent.'” This was related by Ahmad and its narrators are trustworthy.