Tarawih

Tarawih (تراويح‎) or taraweeh refers to extra prayers performed by Sunni Muslims at night in the Islamic Every Third Part Of Night during Ramadan.

Name variations

  • Acehnese: Seumayang Teurawèh
  • Albanian: Namazi i teravive
  • Arabic: صلاة التراويح, translit.Ṣalāt al-Tarāwīḥ
  • Azerbaijani: Təravih namazı
  • Bengali: তারাবীহ, translit.Tarabeeh(taraweeh)
  • Indonesian, Malay, Javanese: Salat tarawihSolat tarawih
  • Kazakh: Тарауих намазы
  • Persian, Dari: نماز تراويح
  • Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian: Teravih-namaz; Teravija
  • Somali: Salaada Taraawiixda
  • Sundanese: Tarawéh
  • Turkish: Terâvih namazı
  • Urdu: نماز تراويح, translit.Namāz Tarāvīḥ
  • Uzbek: Tarovih namozi

Overview

Tarawih prayers are prayed in pairs of two and can be prayed in at least 08/12/20 raka‘āt according to the Hanafi and Shafi’i schools of Sunni Islam. A break is taken after every 4(2+2) raka‘āt. This prayer is performed only during Ramadan of the Islamic calendar after salat of Isha the last Tarawih prayers from moon-sighted evening (Start) to last day of Ramadan . Sunni Muslims believe it is customary to attempt a khatm “complete recitation” of The Holy Quran as one of the religious observances of Ramadan by reciting at least one juz’ per night in tarawih. Tarawih prayers are considered optional, not obligatory.

Tarawih prayer at Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia.

Background

AleviTwelver and Isma’ili Muslims regard Tarawih as bid‘ah, introduced after the death of Muhammad. Instead, Twelvers believe in the Tahajjud prayer or Salat al-Layl (“night prayer”), which is recommended throughout the year, especially during the nights of Ramadan. The Sunni prayer Tarawih has been mentioned in traditions as Qiyamul Layl min Ramadan (“Standing of night in Ramadan”) and Qiyam-ar-Ramadan (“Standing of Ramadan”). Some Sunni Muslims regard the Tarawih prayers as Sunnat Mu’akkadah. Other Sunni Muslims believe Tarawih is an optional prayer that may be performed at home. According to this tradition, Muhammad initially and briefly prayed the Tarawih in congregation during Ramadan, but discontinued this practice out of fear it would be mandated yet never forbade it. During the time when Umar was the caliph, he reinstated the praying of Tarawih in congregation.

Praying Tarawih at Home

Jurists from all four schools of thought agree that tarāwīḥ prayer is a Sunnah for both men and women. According to the Ḥanafīs, Ḥanbalīs and some Mālikīs it’s an emphasized Sunnah. The Prophet ﷺ established it as a practice and encouraged his companions to do so as well. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAwf (ra) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah has made fasting the month of Ramadān obligatory upon you and I have made standing in prayer during its nights a practice.” Abū Hurairah narrated that the Prophet ﷺ would encourage his companions to stand in prayer at night without commanding them to do so. He would say, “Whoever stands in prayer at night during Ramadān with faith and expecting reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.” The commentators on this narration mention that it’s referring to tarāwīḥ prayer. This Sunnah can be practiced and fulfilled by praying at home. Under these circumstances, where the masājid are closed, we shouldn’t feel that our practice or performance of tarāwīh at home is in some way deficient. The narrations mentioned above are general and absolute and do not specify where tarāwīḥ should be performed. Allah’s mercy is infinite and inshAllah we will receive unimaginable rewards for praying at home. 

As a matter of fact, there is a discussion among the jurists regarding which is more virtuous; praying tarāwīḥ in the masjid or praying tarāwīḥ at home. The majority of scholars (al-jumhūr) are of the opinion that praying tarāwīḥ in congregation at the masjid is Sunnah while others are of the opinion that it is recommended to pray at home.

 According to the Ḥanafīs, praying tarāwīḥ at the masjid is a communal Sunnah (Sunnah ʿalā al-kifāyah). If some members of the community are praying in the masjid they will be fulfilling the Sunnah on behalf of the entire community and if the entire community abandons it they would be blameworthy. If an individual decides to pray at home they would be missing out on some virtue. If they pray in congregation at home they would miss out on the virtue of praying in congregation at the masjid. According to the Shāfiʿīs and Ḥanbalīs, praying tarāwīḥ in congregation at the masjid is also more virtuous. According to the Mālikīs, it is recommended to pray tarāwīḥ at home as long as the masājid are not abandoned and the individual will pray it at home and not skip it. All of this is under normal circumstances. In our current situation, the only option we have is to pray at home and by doing so we will, inshAllah, be fulfilling the Sunnah and deserving of the full virtue and reward of having our previous sins forgiven.

Can I Pray Tarawīḥ while Reading from the Muṣḥaf?

The short answer, yes. According to the Mālikīs, Shāfiʿīs, and Ḥanbalīs it is permissible for the Imām to recite from the muṣḥaf while praying voluntary prayers, including tarāwīḥ. According to the Ḥanafīs, specifically Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (r), it is impermissible for the Imām to recite from a copy of the muṣḥaf and doing so will invalidate the prayer.  The rationale mentioned behind this ruling is that reading from the muṣḥaf entails excessive movement (ʿaml kathīr) or learning (talaqqun), and both invalidate the prayer. 

However, the two students of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (r), Abū Yūsuf and Muḥammad (r), disagreed with their teacher and were of the opinion that it doesn’t invalidate the prayer, but is still disliked. They argue that looking in the muṣḥaf itself is a form of worship and does not invalidate the prayer. However, it is disliked because it resembles the worship of the People of the Book (tashabbuh bi Ahl al-Kitāb).

As understood from the above, this is an issue in which there is a valid and legitimate difference of opinion. As someone who ascribes to the Ḥanafī School of thought in issues of jurisprudence, studied it, and has been teaching it for the past nine years, under these circumstances I would argue that there is absolutely nothing wrong with acting upon the opinion of the Mālikīs, Shāfiʿīs, Ḥanbalīs, and the Ṣāḥibān, Abū Yūsuf and Muḥammad (r). 

Building off the position of the Ṣāḥibān, I would also argue that it is not disliked for the imām to read from the muṣḥaf in tarāwīḥ because it doesn’t entail tashabbuh. The disliked nature of tashabbuh is derived from the statement of the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever [intentionally] copies a people, he is from them.” There is a difference between resembling (mushābahah) a people and intentionally resembling (tashabbuh) a people. Our Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī teacher when explaining this ḥadīth provided very important clarification regarding the intended meaning of the ḥadīth. He mentioned that, first and foremost, linguistically the verb “tashabbaha” is on the pattern tafaʿala (verb form v) that conveys the meaning of intentionality (takalluf). Based on this, tashabbuh is intentionally trying to imitate, copy, or resemble the practice or dress of someone. Secondly, the dress or act that is being copied or imitated has to be a dress or act that is exclusive to a particular group of people or religion. Third, tashabbuh can vary based on time, place, context, and custom. What is considered tashabbuh in one generation, society, or locality may not be tashabbuh in a different generation, society, or locality. With this understanding of the ḥadīth, an imām reading from a muṣḥaf during tarāwīḥ would not be considered tashabbuh because they are not trying to intentionally imitate the religious practice of another community. 

Practical Guidelines for Tarawīḥ at Home

1) Dedicate a clean and comfortable space for prayer in your home. 

2) Set a time to pray ʿIshā’ nightly. Give the adhān, iqāmah, and pray with those at home with you in congregation. If you live by yourself or are the only Muslim in your household still give the adhān and iqāmah as you will be leading a noble congregation of Angels.

3) Recite the adhkār for after prayer and make duʿā’. 

4) Pray the two emphasized units of sunnah prayer after ʿIshā’.

5) Pray tarāwīḥ as you would in the masjid with anywhere from 8-20 units. In these units you can recite however much Quran you know from memory or, if you prefer, you can read from the muṣḥaf. 

6) If you are reading from the muṣḥaf try your best to complete a recitation of the Quran by reciting one juz’ a night. If not, no worries, simply recite as much as you can.

7) Try your best to engage with whatever portion of the Quran you are reciting by reading the translation, commentary (tafsīr), and reflecting upon the meanings.

8) Pray Witr.

9) During this time remove distractions such as your cell phone and other electronic devices.

What number of raka’at is the tarawih prayer consist of? Does it have a specific number? What number of raka’at is best?

By the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. All Praise is due to Allah, and may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Allah’s Messenger, and upon his family, companions, and whoever follows his guidance.

What has authentically been reported from the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam confirms the fact that there is much latitude with respect to the number of raka’at to be performed in the night prayer, and that there is no definite number. But it is the Sunnah (way of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that the believer, male and female, pray in pairs of twos, making taslim after every two.

Amongst these narrations is that which has been reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim in the hadith of Ibn ‘Umar radiallahu ‘anhu, that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Salat Al-Layl (the night prayer) is in pairs of two, and whosoever amongst you fears the break of dawn, let him pray one rak’ah, for it will be a Witr for all the raka’at he has previously offered.”

And his saying, “Salat Al-Layl is in pairs of two,” is a declarative statement, but has the implication [in Usul ul-Fiqh] of a command; it is equivalent to his saying, “Pray in the night in pairs of two.”

What is intended here by praying in pairs of two is that one is that the taslim is to be pronounced after every two raka’at. Then, the prayer is to be concluded by performing one rak’ah, which is known as the Witr (odd) prayer. This is how the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would perform his prayer. He sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would pray in the night in pairs of two, and then pray one rak’ah of Witr, as was described in the different narrations of ‘A’ishah, Ibn ‘Abbas, and other Sahabahmay Allah be pleased with them all. ‘A’ishah radiallahu ‘anha said, “The Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would perform ten raka’at of prayer, pronouncing the taslim after every two, and then perform one rak’ah of Witr.”

And she radiallahu ‘anha also said, “The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would not increase the number of raka’at in the night prayer more than eleven, neither in Ramadan nor in any other month. He would pray four raka’at, let alone their excellency and their length, then he would pray another four, let alone their excellency and their length, and then he would pray three … “ [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Some people have mistakenly presumed that these four raka’at are to be performed with one taslim, but this is not correct. What is meant here is that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would conclude the prayer by pronouncing the taslim every two raka’at, as is mentioned in the previous hadith, as well as in his sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam saying, “The night prayer is in pairs of two.” Another evidence is what has been authentically reported in Sahih Al-Bukhari by Ibn ‘Abbas, that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to pronounce the taslim after every two raka’at.

And ‘A’ishah’s statement, may Allah be pleased with her“The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would not increase the number of raka’at in the night prayer more than eleven, neither in Ramadan nor in any other month,” is an evidence that what is preferred in the night prayer, whether in Ramadan or in any other month, is that one performs eleven raka’at, pronouncing the taslim after every two, and then concluding the prayer with one rak’ah of Witr.

And it has also been narrated by ‘A’ishah and other Sahabah that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would also at times pray thirteen rak’ah.

Performing eleven or thirteen rak’ah is what is preferred and what has been most authentically reported of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. And of the two, performing eleven raka’at is preferred, but if he was to perform thirteen, including the Witr, then this is also Sunnah and good. And praying this number is more gentle on the people. It is more favorable to the Imam’s khushu’ and recitation, its beauty, his reflection upon its verses, and the ruku’ and sujud. It also does not cause him to haste in his prayer.

And if one prayed twenty-three rak’ah, including the Witr, as ‘Umar radiallahu ‘anhu and other Sahabah did in some nights of Ramadan, then there is no harm in that, because there is much latitude in this matter. It has been reported that ‘Umar radiallahu ‘anhu and other companions prayed eleven rak’ah including the Witr, as in the hadith of ‘A’ishah radiallahu ‘anha, and also that he prayed twenty three. And it has also been reported that he ordered whom he appointed to lead the night prayer from the Sahabah to pray eleven rak’ah, as has been reported that he ordered them to pray twenty-three. This gives evidence to the fact that there is much latitude in this matter, as does his sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam saying, “The night prayer is in pairs of two.”

But what is preferred is to pray eleven or thirteen rak’ah as this is what the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did. And it has been previously mentioned that of the two, praying eleven rak’ah is best, on account of the saying of ‘A’ishah radiallahu ‘anha“The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would not increase the number of raka’at in the night prayer more than eleven, neither in Ramadan nor in any other month.” What is meant here is that he would not increase most of the time, and this is due to the fact that she and other Sahabah also reported that he sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam performed thirteen rak’ah, this confirms that he would sometimes increase the prayer more than eleven rak’ah.

‘A’ishah radiallahu ‘anhu was the most understanding in the religion and most knowledgeable of the Sunnah of the Messenger sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam from amongst the women. She would investigate and question what the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would do when she was with him and would inform other Sahabah of it. She would ask other wives of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and companions as well. Because of her devotion to knowledge and her extensive memory, she preserved a substantial amount of knowledge and numerous ahadith of the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

Therefore, if the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam diversified his prayer by performing eleven rak’ah in some nights and thirteen in others, then there is no harm in that, for it is all considered Sunnah. But what is not permissible is to pray four raka’at uninterruptedly. Rather it is obligatory to pray in pairs of two due to his sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam saying, “The night prayer is in pairs if two,” for this is a declarative statement which [in ‘Usul ul-Fiqh] has the implication of a command.

Also, if one prayed the Witr prayer by performing three or five raka’at uninterruptedly with one sitting, then there is no harm in this, for the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also prayed in this way. However, one is not to pray four, six, or eight raka’at simultaneously, as this has not been reported of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. It also contradicts his command, “The night prayer is in pairs of two.” And if one were to continuously perform seven or nine raka’at, then there is no harm in this either, but what is preferred is to sit for the first tashahhud after the sixth or the eighth rak’ah, and then to stand and complete the rest of the prayer.

All of this has been transmitted of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and there is much latitude in this. But what is best is to pronounce the taslim after every two raka’at, and then to perform one rak’ah of Witr prayer, as was previously quoted in the hadith of Ibn ‘Umar, “Salat Al-Layl (the night prayer) is in pairs of two, and whosoever amongst you fears the break of dawn, let him pray one rak’ah, for it will be a Witr for all the raka’at he has previously offered.”

This is what is preferred and easier for the people, for some people might have necessities to fulfill and might have to leave after two, four, or six raka’at. So what is best and more befitting is that the Imam pray in pairs of two raka’at, and not perform five or seven continuously. However, if he were to do that sometimes to clarify the Sunnah, there is no harm.

As for praying the Shaf’a and Witr continuously like the Maghrib prayer by sitting after two raka’at, this is not befitting, and at the very least it is makruh (disliked). This is due to the prohibition of making it resemble the Maghrib prayer. He is to continuously pray three raka’at with one taslim and one sitting, and Allah is the Owner of Tawfiq.

May Allah ﷻ allow us to reach Ramaḍān, take advantage of its amazing blessings and opportunities, and earn the mercy and forgiveness of Allah ﷻ. May Allah ﷻ keep all of us safe and healthy and return life back to normal as soon as possible. 

See also:

Iftar

Suhur or Soohoor

Fasting During Ramadan

How is Fasting in Islam?

What is the Wisdom in Fasting?

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