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Arrival of the Month of Ramadan & Taraweeh Prayer

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

(Friday Speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC on November 28, 2000)

We are expecting within few days to welcome the blessed month of Ramadan. This is indeed a great month. Allah has distinguished this month from all other with the obligation of fasting. He (S.W.T) made its fasting a pillar of the fundamental pillars of Islam. A pillar without which this deen could not be established. Due to the importance of fasting in the lives of people, Allah (S.W.T.) made it obligatory upon the previous nations that existed before us. Allah (S.W.T.) addresses us in surat Al-Baqarah, (verse 183), what can be translated as, "O you who believe, Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may achieve taqwa (righteousness, God-fearing)". So, we see that Allah (S.W.T.) makes it clear that the objective of fasting is to achieve taqwa in our hearts and to increase it and nourish it.

Taqwa, in reality, is the secret behind the good conduct of man in this life. taqwa is not a word to be merely uttered on the tongue, but it is a word derived from protection. In other words the servant seeks protection for himself from the punishment and wrath of Allah (S.W.T), and this does not occur unless the servant does what Allah and His Messenger commanded, and keeps away from what Allah and His Messenger forbade.

Ramadan is a great month because it is a month of fasting, and fasting is great because it leads to taqwa in the souls, and taqwa is great because it restricts the conduct within the commands of Allah (S.W.T.). For this reason, the prophet (S.A.W.) warns in an authentic hadith reported by All Ahadith collectors except Imam Muslim, "He whose fasting does not prevent him from evil talk and doing it acridly, Allah does not have any need that he quits having his food and his drink."

How is the arrival of the month of Ramadan established?

The beginning of the month of Ramadan is confirmed in one of two ways.

  • By sighting of the new crescent:

    Because of Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) saying, "When you see the new crescent (of the month of Ramadan), start fasting." {Reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim.}

    There is no requirement that each person sees it by himself. Rather, if it is seen by one just person, fasting becomes obligatory on the whole ummah. A Bedouin came to the Prophet (S.A.W.) and said, "I have seen the crescent of Ramadan." And he (S.A.W.) said, "Do you bear witness there is no deity of worship except Allah?" And the Bedouin said, "Yes!" The Prophet said, "Do you bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah?" The man said, "Yes!" The Prophet said, "O Bilal announce to the people to start fasting tomorrow." {Authentic Hadith reported by the group except Imam Ahmed.} In addition Abdullah-bin-Umar (R.A.) said "The people went to see the crescent; and I told the Prophet (S.A.W.) that I have seen it. He fasted and ordered the people to fast." {Atlantic Hadith reported by Imams Abu-Dawud and Al-Hakim.}

  • By completing thirty days of the month of Sha’ban:
    Because of Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) saying, "Start fasting on seeing it (the new crescent of Ramadan) and give up fasting when you see it (the new crescent of Shawwal), and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it), complete thirty days of Sha’ban." {Reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim.}

Astronomical calculations are not accepted to establish the beginning of the month. This is agreed upon by all scholars. For a man said to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), "Do we not calculate for it?" He (S.A.W.) said "No! We are unlettered Umamah (nation) who can neither write nor count. The month is thus, and thus, (and the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) pointed with his hand fingers.)" {Reported by Imam Muslim.}

And also, the prophet (S.A.W.) confined precisely in a clear statement "when you see the crescent (of Ramadan) start fasting." {Reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim.} Surely, beginning of the month is by seeing the crescent, not by its presence.

It does not matter if the new moon has been sighted in a different location this is according to the majority of scholars. In other words, after the new moon is seen anywhere in the world, it becomes obligatory for all Muslims to begin fasting, as the Prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Fast due to its sighting and break the fast due to its sighting." This Hadith is a general address directed to the whole Muslim Ummah without boundary – that is, "if any one of you sees the moon in any place, then that will be a sighting for all of the people."

Imam As-Shaf’I’s opinion that for every territory and regain is its own sighting and they are not obligated to follow the sighting of others.

Tarawih prayer during the nights of Ramdan:

And the Prophet (S.A.W.) says: "Whoever prays during the nights of Ramadan with a firm belief and seeks Allah’s pleasure and reward will have his previous sins forgiven." {Reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim.}

Night prayer in Ramadan [Al-Tarawih] has its distinct virtues. The prophet (S.A.W.) was the first who prayed in congregation in the Masjid and then left it for fear that it would be made obligatory on his Ummah: In the authentic Hadith narrated by ‘Aisha (R.A.) "The Prophet (S.A.W.)

offered Salah in the Masjid and many people prayed with him. Then the people gathered on the third and fourth night but the Prophet (S.A.W.) did not come out to them. In the morning, he (S.A.W.) said to them: "Surely, I saw what you did, and nothing prevented me from coming out to you, save that I feared that [the prayer] would be made obligatory upon you. (And that was during Ramadan.)" People used to pray Tarawih individually until the Khilafah of Umar (R.A.). Then, he gathered them under one Imam in congregation.

How many rak’at are there in Tarawih prayer?

The scholars have differed on this matter. With Witr, there are those who said 41, and 39, and 29, and 23, and 19, and 13, and 11…. The best and the strongest of these opinions is that it is 11 including Witr. ‘Aisha (R.A.) reported that:" ‘She was asked how was the prayer of the Prophet (S.A.W.) in Rammadan?’ And she said ‘He (S.A.W.) would not pray more than eleven rak’at during Ramadan or otherwise." {Reported by Imams Bukari and Muslim.} And ibn ‘Abas (R.A.) said, "The prayer of the Prophet (S.A.W.) was thirteen rak’at (meaning prayer of the night). {Reported by Imam Bukhari.} This is also confirmed by narration of Imam Malik in his ‘Mu-wa-‘ta’ with authentic chain: "Umar bin Al-khatab (R.A.) ordered Ubayy ibn K’ab and Tamiman Al-Dari (R.A.) to lead the prayer in Tarawih for eleven rak’at."

The early Muslims used to pray the Taraweeh prayer. Assae’eb bin 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 standing." This is contrary to what many Muslim do these days. The people today pray the Taraweeh with great speed so that the recitation is almost not understood. So we should be really cautious.

Since Ramadan is coming soon, we should prepare ourselves for it. We should prepare ourselves to pray the Taraweeh in the Masjid in congregation with the Imam and not to leave until the Imam has finished it and finished the Witr prayer so that we all gain the rewards of praying the whole night. The prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Whoever prays with the Imam until he leaves, it is considered as Qi-yam of one night."

The scholars have a consensus that women are allowed to come to pray the Taraweeh in the Masjid with men if they are wearing the Hijab, and men should not prevent the women from coming to the Masjid. Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "Do not prevent women from coming to the Massajid."

It is a must that women should have a designated place in the Masjid in the back of it like it was during the life of the prophet (S.A.W.) and that they start with the last row unlike men. Imam Muslim reported that the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "The best of the men's rows [In salat (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."

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 from, so that they would not mingle with men. Imam Bukhari reported that Umu 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. She said: this is (Allah knows best) because the prophet (S.A.W.) wanted the women to leave before the men can catch up with them."

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