By Haroon Ishola Balogun
Qiyaamu-lail and Tahjud can be used interchangeably, but with slight difference. The difference is implied only in when it is done. However, the similarity is that both are prayers and acts of worship done in the night. The former is more general than the latter, because it includes prayer and other actions and it includes prayer before and after sleeping.
However, Tahjud 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 scholars.
It is permissible to pray voluntary prayers in congregation and individually. The Prophet (s.a.w) did both, but most of his voluntary prayers were offered individually.
He led Hudhayfah in praying a voluntary prayer once, and Ibn ‘Abbas once, and Anas and his mother and the orphan once, and he led his companions in the house of ‘Utmaan once, and he led them during the night in Ramadan three times. These are from the sahih collections.
Although some scholars are saying if it is done on agreement prior to the prayer it becomes bid’ah, explaining that because the Prophet never did it based on prior agreement, we should not be distracted and confused because the Prophet did it. However, the important thing is that the Prophet was reported to have led qiyam lail in congregation with some of his companions.