Night Prayer During Ramadan (Taraweeh)
(Mohamed Baianonie, Imam of the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC, delivered this Friday speech on December 3, 1999)
Allah (S.W.T) has legislated different forms of worship so that we do not continuously perform only one,
which would lead us to get tired of it, and as a consequence, halt performing that kind of worship.
Allah (S.W.T) made certain forms of worship obligatory that we may not fall short of performing. He (S.W.T) also
prescribed the recommended acts of worship that would increase the rewards. In a Qudsi Hadeeth, The Prophet (S.A.W.)
said:" Allah (S.W.T.) said:' My servant draws not near to Me with any thing more loved by Me than the religious duties
I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him.
When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing, with which he sees his hand with which he strikes and
his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me
for refuge, I would surely grant him it." [Recorded by Imam Bukhaari]
The prayer is one of these forms. Allah (S.W.T) prescribed upon us five in a day and a night. Five to perform and fifty
in rewards in the scale on the Day of Judgment. Allah (S.W.T) recommended us to increase our non-obligatory prayers so
that they can make up for the less perfect obligatory prayer. The Prophet Muhammad said: "The first of his actions for
which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on The Day Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order,
then he will have prospered and succeeded; and if they are wanting, then he will have failed and lost. If there is
something defective in his obligatory prayers, the Lord (S.W.T) will say: see if my servant has any voluntarily prayers
with which may complete that which was defective in his obligatory prayers. Then the rest of his religious duties will
be judged in like fashion." [An authentic Hadeeth recorded by Imam At-Tirmidhi, Abuu-Daawud, An-Nisaai and others]
From the recommended prayers that accompany the obligatory ones are: the two Rak'ahs before Fajr, four before Dhuhr,
two after it, two after Maghrib, and two after Isha.
And from the recommended ones are special ones that are greatest after the obligatory prayers. This is the night prayer.
The prophet (S.A.W.) said: "The best prayer after the obligatory is the night prayer." [Recorded by Imam Muslim]
From the night prayer is the Witr prayer which is an emphatic Sunnah according to the opinion of the major scholars and
obligatory according to Imam Abu Haneefah. The least Witr prayer is one Rak'ah and eleven Rak'ah is the most it can get.
All this is evidenced from the sayings and actions of the prophet (S.A.W.).
Taraaweeh prayer during the nights of Ramadan:
The night prayer in Ramadan is more special than the voluntary prayers performed at other times of the year. The Prophet
Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "Whoever offers optional prayers (like Taraaweeh prayers) throughout the nights of Ramadan, while
believing in Allah and seeking His rewards, will have his previous sins forgiven." [Recorded by Imams Bukhaari and Muslim]
Qi-yaam (optional night prayer) in Ramadan can be performed early or late at night. We should perform Taraaweeh because
it is considered to be part of Qi-yaam of Ramadan. It is called Taraaweeh because the companions of the prophet and the
successors to the companions used to make a lengthy standing in them, and they would rest after offering four Rak'ahs.
This is how this prayer came to be named Taraaweeh (Resting prayer). (Four Rak'ah are called Tarweeha).
The prophet (S.A.W.) was the first who made it Sunnah to pray Taraaweeh as a congregation, and then he stopped praying it
regularly, fearing that it may become obligatory upon his Ummah. A'eeshah (R.A.) said that the prophet (S.A.W.) prayed once
in the Masjid during one of the nights of Ramadan. People joined him, and then more people joined him in the next night.
Then more people waited for the prophet (S.A.W.) in the third and the fourth night, but the prophet (S.A.W.) did not come
out to them. The next morning, the prophet (S.A.W.) said: "I have seen what you did; nothing had prevented me from coming
out to you except that I feared that it may become obligatory upon you." [Recorded by Imams Bukhaari and Muslim]
Then, during the rule of Umar (R.A.), he saw the companions praying in the Masjid individually, or in different smaller
congregations so he ordered them to prayer behind one Imam. During his caliphate, "Umar (R.A.) ordered Ubayy ibnu K'ab
and Tamim Ad-Daari to offer the Taraaweeh prayer as a congregation. He asked them to offer eight Rak'ahs of Taraaweeh
and three Rak'ahs of Witr. [An authentic narration recorded by Imam Maalik] This practice has been going on ever since.
How many Rak'ahs are there in Taraaweeh prayer?
The Muslim scholars have different opinions about the number of Rak'ahs of Taraaweeh along with the Witr. Some said
forty-one Rak'ahs, Imam Maalik said thirty-nine, some said twenty-nine, Imam Abu Hanifah, As-Shaafi'i and Ahmad Ibn
Hanbal said: twenty-three, some said nineteen, some said thirteen and some said eleven.
The strongest of these opinions calls for eleven Rak'ahs including the Witr. The prophet prayed eight rak'as, not
including the witr, this is proven by the hadeeth of A'eeshah (R.A.) when she was asked about the prayer of the prophet
(S.A.W.) in Ramadan, she replied: "Allah's Messenger did not increase the number of rak'as prayed over eleven during
Ramadan, or outside of it (Ramadan)." [Recorded by Imams Bukhaari and Muslim]
This statement of 'Aa'ishah (R.A.), is confirmed by Jaabir bin Abdilaah (R.A.) who mentioned: "When the prophet led
the people in prayer, during the nights of Ramadan, he prayed eight rak'ahs and the witr." [Recorded by Imam Ibn Hibbaan]
Also Aisha (R.A.) said: "The prophet used to offer thirteen Rak'at of the night prayer and that included the Witr and
two Rak'at Sunnah of the Fajr prayer." [Recorded by Imam Bukhaari] Also Ibn' Abbaas (R.A.) said: "The Salaat (prayer)
of the prophet used to be thirteen Rak'at, i.e. of the night prayer." [Recorded by Imam Bukhaarii] This included the
Witr and two Rak'at Sunnah of the fajr prayer.
In-Sha'a Allah, we will pray Taraaweeh prayer in this Masjid. We will start Isha'a prayer at 9:30. And you can choose
to pray 8 Rak'kt plus Witr, or 20 Rak'at plus Witr.
The early Muslims used to recite long recitations during Taraaweeh prayer. Assaa'ib ibnu Yazeed said: "The Imam used
to read hundreds of verses and we used to use the staff to help us stand up from the lengthy Qi-yaam (standing)." This
is contrary to what many Muslim do these days. Some people today pray Taraaweeh reciting the Qur'aan so quickly that it
is hard to understand. We should be cautious about our recitation.
Since Ramadan is coming soon, we should prepare ourselves for it. We should prepare ourselves to pray Taraaweeh in the
Masjid as a congregation with the Imam and not leave until the Imam has finished both the Taraaweeh and Witr prayer,
so that we all gain the rewards of praying the entire night. The prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Whoever prays with the Imam
until he leaves, it is considered as Qi-yaam of one night." [An authentic recorded by all sunan collector of hadeeth]
The scholars have a consensus that women are allowed to come to pray Taraaweeh in the Masjid with men if they are wearing
the Hijab, and men should not prevent the women from coming to the Masjid. The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "Do not
prevent women from coming to the Massaajid." [Recorded by Imams Bukhaari and Muslim]
It is necessary that women have a designated place in the Masjid like it was during the life of the prophet (S.A.W.). Also
women should begin lining up for Salaah starting from the back row to the front, unlike men who line up from the front to
the back. The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "The best of the men's rows [In salaat (prayer)] is the first row and the
worst row is the last; but the best of the women's row is the last row and the worst of their rows is the first."
[Recorded by Imam Muslim]
For those women who come to the Masjid for the congregation prayer, they should leave the Masjid as soon as the Imam makes
Tasleem, or they should have special doors for them to leave the Masjid so that they do not come into contact with men.
Um Salamah (R.A.) said: "When the prophet (S.A.W.) used to make Tasleem, the women got up and left while the prophet (S.A.W.)
remained shortly in his place before he got up. This is (Allah knows best) because the prophet (S.A.W.) wanted the women to
leave before the men could catch up with them." [Recorded by Imam Bukhaari]
We ask Allah (S.W.T.) to make Ramadan a blessed month for us all, where we are in good health and Iman. We ask Him to guide
us during this time of self-discipline and to help us take advantage of Ramadan's great blessings. Ameen.