Aspects of the Taraweeh Prayer


All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May peace and blessings of Allah be upon the final Prophet, Muhammamd (SAW).

What is Taraweh?

Taraweh, as it is commonly known, is a group prayer during the nights of Ramadan. In Arabic language, the word Taraweeh is the plural of the word Tarweeha which literally means ‘to rest’. In Islamic Law, the word Taraweeh means to rest between every (two raka’ats). Taraweeh prayer is performed after Eisha prayers. In some cases others call this kind of prayer ‘salatullayl’ but it should be noted that Salat Al-Taraweeh is not the same as Salat Al-Lail.  The latter term is used for the Tahajjud prayer which is done late after Taraweeh prayer.

Ruling of Taraweeh Prayer

Taraweeh prayer is not one of the five daily prayers but is obligatory only in the month of Ramadhan. It cannot be performed anytime after or before the month of Ramadhan. Taraweeh is the symbol of Muslims in Ramadan. It is a great sunnah in this holy month.

Performing Taraweeh in group durng the nights of Ramadhan is a commanded-sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAW), but he did not make it compulsory at that time fearing that people would make it compulsory and it would be hard for them consequently. It is narrated by Aisha (RA) that once, in the holy month of Ramadan, the Prophet (SAW) came out of his home and led Salat Al-Taraweeh.  The Sahabah (RA) who were present at the time, prayed behind him in congregation.  The second and the third nights, a larger number of Sahabah (RA) came and performed Salat Al-Taraweeh behind the Prophet (SAW).  On the fourth night, an even larger number of Sahabah (RA) showed up in the Masjid expecting to pray this new salat behind the Prophet (SAW). But, he did not come out to lead Salat Al-Taraweeh that night.  The Sahabah (RA) waited all night. When the Prophet (SAW) finally emerged for the Fajr prayer, he told them:

“I knew you were waiting for me, but I did not come out to lead Salat Al-Taraweeh last night because I was afraid it might become an obligation (Fard) on the Ummah which they might find difficult to fulfill.”  (Bukhari, hadith 872; Muslim, hadith 1271; Abu Dawood, hadith 1166)

After the death of the Prophet (SAW), Umar (RA) strenghtened the existence of this Sunnah of taraweeh; In Bukhariy, Adbullah Ibn al-Qari got out for Masjid with Umar (RA) in the night during Ramadhan. Then they saw men, everyone praying alone, Umar said, “I think if all of you could gather behind one recitor, it would be nice” this means that Taraweeh prayers has to be performed in congregation (jamaat).  The jamaat for taraweeh starts from 2 people. For this reason, there must not be thought to leave the prayers because there are only three people in the masjid.

According to the number of Rakaats for Taraweeh prayer, it is narrated by Hafez Ibn Hajar in Talkhees Alkhabeer, translating what was reported by Bukhari on the authority of ‘Aishah (ra) that the Prophet (SAW) performed twenty raka’at Taraweeh on the first three nights (Hadith 540). On this matter, there are some weak hadiths explaining that the Prophet (SAW) performed eight raka’at of Taraweeh on the first three nights.

From looking at the hadith, the practice of Sahaba, Tabieen, and the consensus of the four great Imams, it should now be very clear that:

  • It is the Sunnah of the Prophet () to perform twenty raka’at Salah Al-Taraweeh.
  • Sahabah (R A) followed this practice throughout their lives in Masjid Al-Nabawi.
  • None of the Sahabah (R A) including ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa) opposed ‘Umar (R A) in the establishment of twenty raka’at of Salat Al-Taraweeh in congregation.
  • The hadith in Bukhari narrated by ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa) is        about Salat al-Tahajjud and not Salat Al-Taraweeh.
  • All four Imams have declared that Salat Al-Taraweeh consists of twenty raka’at.
  • Throughout the history, in the Haram of Makkah and Madinah, Taraweeh has never been performed less than   twenty raka’at.
  • All of the great scholars used to perform twenty raka’at for Salat Al-Taraweeh. The hadith narrated by ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa) has never been applied to Salat Al-Taraweeh by any of the great scholars in the history of Islam.
  • Never in the history of Islam for 1400 years was there a disagreement among scholars about the number of raka’at in Salat Al-Taraweeh.
  • The assertion about the eight raka’at has begun by some in the last one hundred years only.

Reference: Bulooghul Maraam – a commentary of the book of Bukhariy by Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani “Kitabu Siyaam”

Talkhees Al-Khabeer – Ibn Hajar

Fathul Bari – Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani and

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