What is the ruling on praying 4 rakah after isha? Is it a sunnah and is it supposed to be prayed in 2 sets?
The origin pertaining to the night prayer is that it consists of pairs of rak’ahs. In other words, it is to be performed in sets of two rak’ahs. However, when he intends to pray the Witr prayer, he makes it an odd number. However, some of the shuyookh mentioned there are certain cases where a person can pray all four units with one tasleem as can be understood from the following hadeeth :
يصلي أربعا، فلا تسأل عن حسنهن وطولهن، ثم يصلي أربعا، فلا تسأل عن حسنهن وطولهن، ثم يصلي ثلاثا
“He would pray four rak’at, and don’t ask how perfect or how lengthy they were. Then he would pray four other rak’at and do not ask how perfect they were or how lengthy they were. Then he would pray three rak’at.”
This has been reported on the authority of Aisha as found in Bukhaari and Muslim.
Note: Some of the scholars have mentioned a different interpretation to this hadeeth.
AbdulFattaah bin Uthman