Allah’s Apostle used to offer eleven Rakat and that was his prayer. He used to prolong the prostration to such an extent that one could recite fifty verses (of the Quran) before he would lift his head. He used to pray two Rakat (Sunna) before the Fajr prayer and then used to lie down on his right side till the call-maker came and informed him about the prayer.
Qiyaam al-layl means spending the night, or part of it, even if it is only one hour, in prayer, reading Qur’aan, remembering Allah (dhikr) and other acts of worship. It is not stipulated that it should take up most of the night.
It says in Maraaqi al-Falaah: What is meant by qiyaam is spending most of the night in worship, or it was said: spending one hour of it, in reading Qur’aan, listening to hadeeth, glorifying Allah (tasbeeh) or sending blessings upon the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). End quote.
Al-Mawsoo‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, 34/117.
Tahajjud means specifically praying at night, and some scholars limited it to prayers that are offered at night after sleeping.
Al-Hajjaaj ibn ‘Amr al-Ansaari (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
One of you thinks that if he gets up at night and prays until morning comes that he has done tahajjud. But in fact tahajjud means praying after sleeping, then praying after sleeping. That is how the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah upon him) prayed. Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar said in al-Talkhees al-Habeer (2/35): Its isnaad is hasan; it includes Abu Saalih, the scribe of al-Layth, and it is somewhat weak. It was also narrated by al-Tabaraani, whose isnaad includes Ibn Luhay‘ah, whose report is supported by the one that came before it.
Thus it becomes clear that qiyaam al-layl is more general than tahajjud, because it includes prayer and other actions, and it includes prayer before and after sleeping.
But tahajjud is exclusively praying, and there are two opinions concerning it. The first is that it means praying at any time of the night, which is the view of the majority of fuqaha’.
The second is that it is prayer after sleeping. See: al-Mawsoo‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah, 2/232.
[Taken from IslamQA]
Read more details on it here.
Narrated Salim’s father:
In the life-time of the Prophet whosoever saw a dream would narrate it to Allah’s Apostle. I had a wish of seeing a dream to narrate it to Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) I was a grown-up boy and used to sleep in the Mosque in the life-time of the Prophet. I saw in the dream that two angels caught hold of me and took me to the Fire which was built all round like a built well and had two poles in it and the people in it were known to me. I started saying, “I seek refuge with Allah from the Fire.” Then I met another angel who told me not to be afraid. I narrated the dream to Hafsa who told it to Allah’s Apostle. The Prophet said, “Abdullah is a good man. I wish he prayed Tahajjud.” After that ‘Abdullah (i.e. Salim’s father) used to sleep but a little at night.
Abdullah ibn `Umar was a very pious man. Prophet (SAW) didn’t find anything lacking in him in terms of Deen and `ibadaat etc. That he used to fulfill his fara’id in a good manner. But he did not pray Tahajjud. So he (SAW) said “Abdullah is a good man. I wish he prayed Tahajjud”. Relate this to the dream he had, and we can easily draw the conclusion that Tahajjud will save a person from the Fire.
This Hadith points out the excellence of `Abdullah ibn `Umar (RA) as well as the merits of Qiyam-ul-Layl (Tahajjud). It also tells us that it is permissible to praise someone in his presence if one is sure that he will not become proud due to that praise. Another aspect of this Hadith is that it induces one to wish for others’ welfare and happiness.
Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying,
Every night there is a special time during which whatever a Muslim asks Allah of any good relating to this life or the Hereafter, it will be granted to him; and this moment comes every night.
Ask Allah for protection against the Fire at that time, if nothing else. Allah talks about the “Slaves of the Compassionate” in the Qur’an:
وَالَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمْ سُجَّدًا وَقِيَامًا
وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اصْرِفْ عَنَّا عَذَابَ جَهَنَّمَ ۖ إِنَّ عَذَابَهَا كَانَ غَرَامًا
إِنَّهَا سَاءَتْ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَمُقَامًا
And those who spend the night in worship of their Lord, prostrate and standing.
And those who say: “Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily its torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment.”
Evil indeed it (Hell) is as an abode and as a place to rest in.
Read about the excellence of Tahajjud here.
Hadith no. 460 is a repeat. Read it here: Debt and Ihsaan.
Ibn ‘Umar said, “While the Prophet was on the pulpit, a man asked him how to offer the night prayers. He replied, ‘Pray two Rakat at a time and then two and then two and so on, and if you are afraid of the dawn (the approach of the time of the Fajr prayer) pray one Rak’a and that will be the witr for all the Rakat which you have offered.” Ibn ‘Umar said, “The last Rakat of the night prayer should be odd for the Prophet ordered it to be so.
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
A man came to the Prophet while he was delivering the sermon and asked him how to offer the night prayers. The Prophet replied, ‘Pray two Rakat at a time and then two and then two and so on and if you are afraid of dawn (the approach of the time of the Fajr prayer) pray one Rak’a and that will be the with for all the Rakat which you have prayed.” Narrated ‘Ubaidullah bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar: A man called the Prophet while he was in the mosque.
So it’s easy. 2 rak’aat at a time. And when you’re done, finish up with a witr (single rak’at).
Ibn Hajar says:
There was no specific time in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would perform his late night Prayer; but he used to do whatever was easiest for him.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) said, “Our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior, comes every night down on the nearest Heaven to us when the last third of the night remains, saying: “Is there anyone to invoke Me, so that I may respond to invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me, so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him?”
`Amr ibn `Absah claimed that he heard Muhammad saying:
The closest that a servant comes to his Lord is during the middle of the latter portion of the night. If you can be among those who remember Allah the Exalted One at that time, then do so.—At-Tirmidhi