James Kingston, Paul McGinley and Philip Golding share second place two shots back at 4-under 68.
Howell, who played all 18 holes this morning, began his round on the back nine of the Doha Golf Club. He started quickly too with birdies at each of his first two holes.
The Englishman however faltered with a bogey at the 13th. He then caught fire at the end on the side. Howell carded four straight birdies beginning at the par-4 16th to move to minus-5.
Howell went on to birdie the par-4 fourth to grab a two-stroke advantage.
Kingston, who had played 13 holes and led when play was halted on Thursday, opened his round with a birdie at the par-5 first. He also birdied the fourth before dropping a shot with a bogey at the par-4 seventh.
Kingston recovered that stroke with a birdie at the ninth and moved to minus-3 with a birdie at the 11th. After a string of pars, the South African capped his round with a birdie at the par-3 17th.
McGinley, who also played all 18 holes on Friday morning, started slowly with pars on his first four holes. He got on the board with a birdie at the par-4 fifth.
The Irishman got hot around the turn. He birdied the back-to-back par-5s, Nos. 9 and 10, before notching his third straight birdie at the 11th. McGinley birdied the 17th to move into second place by himself. However, he faltered with a bogey at the last to fall back into a share of second.
Golding, who like Kingston was through 13 holes Thursday when play was stopped, started on the back nine with birdies at the 12th and 13th. He moved to 3-under with a birdie at the 16th.
On the front side, Golding dropped a shot with a bogey at the fourth before play was halted Thursday. He finished strong when play resumed with birdies at the eighth and ninth to claim his share of second place.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jose Manuel Lara, Gregory Havret, Thomas Norret, Marten Olander, Paul Broadhurst and Marc Farry share fifth place at 3-under 69.
Padraig Harrington led a group of 12 players at 2-under.