By Asma bint Shameem
Alhamdulillaah Ramadhaan is here and we’ve been praying Taraaweeh. This prayer is a perfect chance to have our sins forgiven and earn the pleasure of Allaah. But there are some issues or points associated with this beautiful prayer that may need some clarification. Here are some of them:
What is Taraaweeh?
Taraaweeh is the prayer that is prayed in Ramadhaan at night after praying Ishaa’. It is a confirmed Sunnah of the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) and a regularly established practiced of the Sahaabah. It is called ‘Taraaweeh’ because the Sahaabah used to make their prayers very long in Ramadhaan, eager to please Allaah and do their best to earn Jannah. And when they got tired, they would rest (istaraahu) after every two or four rak’ahs.
The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Whoever prays qiyaam (Taraaweeh) in Ramadhaan out of faith and in the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.”
Al-Haafiz Ibn Rajab said: “Note that in the month of Ramadhaan the believer engages in jihad al-nafs on two fronts: during the day by fasting and during the night by praying qiyaam. Whoever combines these two types of jihad will be given reward without limit.
Don’t make it more important than Ishaa’
Some people are very keen to read the Taraaweeh prayer, which is very good, of course. That is to be highly encouraged. But the problem arises if we give things more importance than what Allaah places on it.
Some people are so keen to pray Taraaweeh that they will give it even more importance than they give to Ishaa’ prayer. They may miss Ishaa’, but they will never, ever miss Taraaweeh.
And we all see, and know, so many people doing that. They never pray or maybe pray occasionally here and there. We never see them at the masjid, not even for Jumu’ah. And come Ramadhaan, they will come every single day to the masjid, even if they are tired, even if it is late. But they will not miss Taraaweeh.
Or they may even be regular in their daily prayers in Ramadhaan but after Ramadhaan is over, they stop praying altogether, although they are very, very regular and very keen to pray Taraaweeh.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not discouraging them from coming to Taraaweeh. At least they are making the effort, alhamdulillaah. It becomes an issue if Taraaweeh takes precedence and more importance over Fardh prayers.
Dear brothers and sisters, we have to keep our priorities straight. Remember that Taraaweeh prayer is mustahabb,and recommended while Ishaa prayer is Fardh.
Allaah will not punish us if we don’t pray Taraaweeh. But Allaah WILL ask us if we don’t pray our Fardh prayers.
The questioning will be about the Faraidh, the obligations, NOT the voluntary or nawaafil Ibaadaat.
Missing Taraaweeh and not praying it at all
Indeed, Taraaweeh is one of the greatest acts of worship by means of which we can come closer to Allaah, our Lord, beg Him for forgiveness and hope for His Mercy, all the while earning immense reward from Him.
Yet, some people don’t understand the virtues of this beautiful prayer and have a very casual attitude towards it. They either just sit at home doing nothing, although they are awake, or they spend their time at the gym, or shopping, eating, playing, watching TV or movies, etc. and miss out on this golden chance. And although, we will not be sinful if we don’t pray Taraaweeh, what a waste of a beautiful opportunity!
Here Allaah is handing it out to us by the handfuls! He’s showering us with blessings upon blessings…mercy upon mercy….forgiveness upon forgiveness! And we just sit at home and let this chance of a lifetime pass by?! What could be a greater loss than that?!!
Taraaweeh in the masjid is much better than Taraaweeh at home
It is much better for the brothers to pray Taraaweeh in the masjid. That’s because the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) gathered the people in the masjid to pray Taraaweeh for three consecutive nights, as was narrated in Saheeh Bukhaari by Aaishah Radhi Allaahu anha. Also that was the practice of Umar Radhi Allaahu anhu and the other Sahaabah and because the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Whoever prays qiyaam with the imam until he leaves, it will be as if he spent the whole night in prayer.”
(Tirmidhi– saheeh by al-Albaani)
It was said to Ahmad ibn Hanbal: “Do you prefer a man to pray with the people in Ramadhaan or on his own? He said: He should pray with the people.” (Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi)
But Taraaweeh can also be prayed at home
If some people cannot go to the masjid for some reason, they miss the Taraaweeh prayers all together thinking that it can only be prayed in the masjid.
Although it is much better for them to pray it in the masjid, it is also allowed to pray Taraaweeh at home. So don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity, thinking that you cannot pray this virtuous prayer at home.
Oh no! I missed Isha and they’re praying Taraaweeh! What should I do?
Sometimes you may get to the masjid late for whatever reason, and the Ishaa prayer has already finished. The Imaam is praying Taraaweeh, but you have not yet prayed ‘Ishaa.
So what to do?
Don’t be the like the ones who go to the back, quickly read four fast Rakaat Ishaa’, separate from the rest of the congregation while they are praying Taraaweeh and then quickly join the congregation.
That is against the etiquette of prayer, and there’s no khushoo’ in your fardh prayer.
Since the Taraaweeh prayer is read ONLY after you’re done with Ishaa’ so what you can do is to join the congregation and pray with them. However, you make the intention for your Ishaa prayer while they are praying with the intention of Taraaweeh. Then, when the Imaam finishes and says salaam after two rakaat, you don’t say salaam; rather you stand up and complete the rest of your Ishaa prayer. It is perfectly OKAY for you to have a different intention and the Imaam has a different intention.
Shaikh Ibn Baaz said: “There is nothing wrong with his praying with them with the intention of praying ‘Isha’, according to the more correct of the two scholarly views. When the imam says the tasleem he should stand up and complete his prayer. It was proven in Saheeh al-Bukhaari and Muslim from Mu’aadh ibn Jabal that he used to pray ‘Isha’, then he would go back to his people and lead them in ‘Isha’ prayer, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not denounce that. This indicates that it is permissible to offer a fard prayer behind someone who is praying a naafil prayer.” (Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz)
Stay till the end
Some people leave the congregation before the Imaam is finished because of various reasons. It could be that they want to pray more Nawaafil once they go home or they think that one shouldn’t be praying more than eight rakaat (if the Imaam is reading more than that) or because they want to pray witr just before suhoor, etc.
But in doing so, they miss out on the reward of praying the whole night.
That’s because the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Whoever prays with the imam until he finishes, Allaah will record for him as if he spent the whole night in prayer”
(al-Tirmidhi–saheeh by al-Albaani)
So whoever finishes with the Imaam will have the reward of spending the whole night in prayer, even if you go home and sleep! Subhaan Allaah!
And whoever left early, will only get the reward of whatever he prayed.
Someone asked Shaykh Ibn Baaz:
If a person prays in Ramadhaan with someone who prays twenty-three rak‘ahs, but he only prays eleven and does not complete the prayer with the imam, is this action of his in accordance with the Sunnah?
He replied: “The Sunnah is to complete the prayer with the imam, even if he prays twenty-three rak ‘ahs, because the Messenger (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said:
“Whoever stands (in prayer) with the imam until he finishes, Allah will record for him (the reward of) spending a night in prayer.”
According to another report: “… The rest of that night.”
It is better for one who is praying behind an imam to stay with him until he finishes, whether he prays eleven rak‘ahs or thirteen or twenty three or whatever. That is preferable, to follow the imam until he finishes.” (Majmoo‘ Fataawa Ibn Baaz)
And Imam Ahmad used to pray with the imam and not leave until he finished, acting in accordance with the hadeeth.
If there are two Imaams leading Taraaweeh in the masjid, then Taraaweeh prayer is the prayer of both the imaams. So if you want to attain the reward of spending the whole night in prayer, then do not leave until the second imam has completed his prayer.
What if I can’t stay till the end?
Try and do your best to stay till the Imaam finishes so that you can get the reward of praying the whole night.
However, it happens that sometimes we just have to leave even if we so desperately want to stay till the end. And this may be because of very valid reasons such as work, school, kids, health reasons, etc.
In this situation, stay as much as you can and pray whatever Allaah enables you to.
فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ
“Therefore fear Allah as much as you are able”
Praying even two rakaat with the Imaam is much better than not praying at all. And of course, Allaah is well aware of your situation and your niyyah. So do your best and hope in the Mercy of Allaah.
bn al-Mubaarak said, “Maybe a small action is made great by its intention, and maybe a great action is made small by its intention.”
I want to finish with the Imaam but I want to delay my Witr
There are many well-known ahaadeeth which encourage us to delay our Witr, and to make it the last prayer. That is indeed a preferred thing to do.
For example, the Prophet (sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Make the last of your prayer at night Witr.”
and he (sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Night prayers are two by two, and when you feel that dawn is approaching, pray one rak’ah.”
So you want to follow the hadeeth and make Witr your last prayer of the night but you also want to get the reward of praying the whole night when you finish with the Imaam. How does one do that?
The Ulama tell us: When the Imaam stands up for Witr, you stand up with him and join him in the prayer. However, you make your intention to pray more rakaat for taraaweeh, although the Imaam will have the intention of praying witr. Then when the Imaam says salaam, you dont say salaam; rather you stand up and add a rakah to the Witr and make it an even number. This way you finish with the Imaam and you can then go home and pray as much Tahajjud as you want before Suhoor and then pray your witr so as to make it your last prayer of the night.
Shaykh Ibn Baaz was asked: “When some people pray Witr with the imam and the imam says the salaam, they stand up and do another rak’ah so that their Witr will be at the end of the night. What is the ruling on doing this? Is it regarded as finishing the prayer with the imam?”
“We do not know of there being anything wrong with this. The scholars stated that there is nothing wrong with doing that so that one will pray Witr at the end of the night. It is still true that he has stood with the imam until he finishes, because he stayed with him until the imam finished, then he prayed an extra rak’ah for a legitimate shar’i purpose, so that his Witr will be at the end of the night. There is nothing wrong with that, and that does not mean that he did not stay with the imam, rather he stayed with the imam until he finished, but then he did not finish with him, rather he delayed a little. (Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Baaz)
Can I pray witr twice in one night?
If you have prayed Witr with the Imaam, it is not allowed to pray Witr again at night later on.
Shaykh Ibn Baaz was asked:
If I have prayed Witr at the beginning of the night, then I get up to pray qiyaam at the end of the night, how should I pray?
If you have prayed Witr at the beginning of the night then Allaah enables you to get up at the end of the night, then pray whatever you can two by two – without Witr, because the said: “There cannot be no two Witrs in one night.” (al-Tirmidhi– saheeh by al-Albaani) (Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Baaz)
Can I pray Tahajjud/Nawaafil even after I prayed witr?
Indeed, the Prophet (sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) told us to make the Witr our last prayer of the night, However, this command is in the sense of it being mustahabb and preferable, not in the sense of it being obligatory and compulsory.
When Aa’ishah Radhi Allaahu anha was asked about the Witr of the Prophet (sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) she described the way he (sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) prayed and then she said: “…. then he would pray two rak’ahs after that, whilst sitting down.” (Muslim)
“The correct view is that he (sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) performed these two rak’ahs after Witr sitting down, to demonstrate that it is permissible to pray after Witr, and to demonstrate that it is permissible to offer naafil prayers sitting down.”
Shaykh Ibn Baaz also said, explaining the reason why the Prophet (sal Allaahu alyahi wa sallam) prayed two rak’ahs after Witr:
“The reason for that – and Allaah knows best – is to show to the people that it is permissible to pray after Witr.” (Fataawa Islamiyyah),
Ibn Hazm said:
“Witr at the end of the night is better, but whoever prays Witr at the beginning of the night, that is fine. It is permissible to pray after Witr but one should not repeat Witr.” (al-Muhalla)
So if you want to pray Tahajjud at night, it is permissible for you to pray Witr with the congregation, then to pray after that. You can pray as many rak’ahs as you want two by two. It does not have to be only two rakaat and do not repeat Witr.
Should I pray 8 or 20?
Some people go to extremes and fight with each other over the number of rakaat in the Taraaweeh prayer. They refuse to pray in the masjid that has eight rakaat or twenty rakaat and or just sit in the back if the Imaam is reading more than eight. Dear brothers and sisters, there’s no need to fight, argue or get angry. It is perfectly okay to read eight rakaat and it is also okay to read twenty.
A man came to the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) and asked: “How are the night prayers done? He (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said:
““The night prayers are two by two, then when you fear that dawn is about to break, pray Witr with one rak’ah.”
Here we see that the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) told the man how to do the night prayer but did not specify the number of rakaat. Yes, the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) himself used to pray eight at night but when the man asked him about it, he did not tell him to pray only eight. Rather he left the number to him.
This shows that the matter is flexible and broad in scope. A person may pray two, twenty or two hundred rakaat if he likes, and then he can pray Witr.
Imam Ahmad said: “There is no set number of rak’ahs for qiyaam during Ramadhaan, because the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) did not set a number.”
Shaykh Ibn Baaz said:
It is proven that ‘Umar Radhi Allaahu anhu told the one whom he appointed among the Sahaabah to pray eleven rak’ahs, and it is also proven that they prayed twenty-three rak’ahs based on his command. This indicates that the matter is broad in scope and that the matter was flexible according to the Sahaabah. That is also indicated by the words of the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) : “The night prayers are two by two.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa)
Can I hold the Qur’aan (Mushaf) while praying Taraaweeh?
It is much better and more preferred that one should not be reading from the Qur’aan while praying Taraaweeh, in order to have full concentration and better khushoo’ and avoiding excessive movements. However, if reading from the Qur’aan while praying Taraaweeh, gives you better understanding of what the Imaam is reading, (that goes especially for non-Arabic speaking people), and gives you more khushoo’ and concentration, then some Ulama allowed holding the Qur’aan and following the recitation of the Imaam
Taraweeh is NOT a bid’ah
The Taraaweeh prayer is a confirmed Sunnah of the Prophet Sal and the established practice of his Sahaabah. The Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) himself prayed it and led the people as did the Sahaabah, Tabi’een and the great Ulama of the following generations, following his example.
Aa’ishah Radhi Allaahu anha said that the Messenger of Allaah (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) prayed one night in the masjid, and the people followed him in prayer. Then he prayed the next night, and many people came. Then they gathered on the third or fourth night, and the Messenger of Allaah (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) did not come out to them. The next morning he (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) said:
“I saw what you did, and nothing kept me from coming out to you except the fact that I feared that it would be made obligatory for you.” And that was in Ramadaan.”
(al-Bukhaari and Muslim)
This proves that praying Taraweeh in congregation is prescribed according to the Sunnah of the Prophet