In Exploring Ramadan Part-I yesterday, we had seen the concept of moon in Islamic Calendar and some of the important virtues of Ramadan. Today, Maulana Izhar Bashir Madani, a graduate from the Islamic University of Madinah and Incharge of Student Section at Jamia Mohammadia Mansoora in Malegaon would briefly describe the virtues of Tarawih, the Special Night Prayer that is normally offered in congregation during Ramadan.
Tarawih, the Special Night Prayer is the first prayer that Muslims offer immediately after the new moon pronounces the beginning of the Holy month Ramadan. Tarawih is sunnah for both men and women, and they are to be performed after the obligatory Isha prayer and before the performance of the witr. They should be prayed in sets of two rakat each. It is allowed to pray them after witr, though, this is not the best thing to do. They may be performed until the end of the night.
The prayer that lasts for more than an hour is offered in congregation. Men, women and children throng the mosques in their vicinity to catch this important prayer. Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) during his lifetime had led this prayer in congregation on three consecutive nights. On fourth, a large number of companions were waiting for Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to lead the night prayer as he had done in last three nights. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) however did not come out. The next morning he said that the prayer that they offered in congregation was enjoyed by the Almighty Allah so much so that he feared the prayer would be made obligatory. This was why he did not lead the prayer on fourth night. The incident is reported by Aisha, the respectable wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the mother of believers in Sahih Al Bukhari:
“One night Allah's Apostle offered the prayer in the Mosque and the people followed him. The next night he also offered the prayer and too many people gathered. On the third and the fourth nights more people gathered, but Allah's Apostle did not come out to them. In the morning he said, 'I saw what you were doing and nothing but the fear that it (i.e. the prayer) might be enjoined on you, stopped me from coming to you.' And that happened in the month of Ramadan.” (Sahih Al Bukhari, Narrated by Aisha Siddiqua)
Before and after this incident the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were used to offer this prayer individually or in smaller groups. It continued even after his death and also during the tenure of Abu Bakra, the first caliph. Second Caliph Omar when he came in power however advised the people to offer Tarawih in congregation. Since then the Muslim Ummah is offering this prayer in congregation everywhere in the world. Imam Bukhari has reported this in his Sahih:
Allah's Apostle said, "Whoever prayed at night the whole month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven."
Ibn Shihab (a sub-narrator) said, "Allah's Apostle died and the people continued observing that (i.e. Tarawih offered individually, not in congregation), and it remained as it was during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr and in the early days of 'Umar's Caliphate."
'Abdur Rahman bin 'Abdul Qari said, "I went out in the company of 'Umar bin Al Khattab one night in Ramadan to the mosque and found the people praying in different groups. A man praying alone or a man praying with a little group behind him. So, 'Umar said, “In my opinion I would better collect these (people) under the leadership of one qari (reciter) (i.e. let them pray in congregation!).”
So, he made up his mind to congregate them behind Ubai bin Ka'b. Then on another night I went again in his company and the people were praying behind their reciter. On that, 'Umar remarked, “What an excellent Bid'a (i.e. innovation in religion) this is! But the prayer which they do not perform, and sleep at its time is better than the one they are offering.” He meant the prayer in the last part of the night. (In those days) people used to pray in the early part of the night." (Sahih Al Bukhari, Narrated by Abu Huraira)
Tarawih, Qayamul Lail or Tahajjud
Tarawih is not any new prayer that is offered in Ramadan. In fact this is same as Tahajjud or Qayamul Lail or the Night Prayer that is normally offered every night during the entire year. The companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were used to offer this prayer in congregation, and for hours. So much so that some of them were used to get exhausted. Hence what they would do. They would offer four Rakah and then take rest for a while before offering the remaining four Rakah. Due to this people started referring this Tahajjud or Qayamul Lail in Ramadan as Tarawih, the Arabic world that means taking rest.
Tarawih is Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and is not obligatory. It can be offered individually or in congregation. If a person has memorized enough parts of the Holy Quran, he can offer Tarawih alone if he wishes so. Those who cannot recite from Quran, can join for Tarawaih so that they can at least listen to the Holy Book.
It is believed that Holy Quran had been descended on Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in Ramadan. It doesn't mean the entire Quran was descended on the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in Ramadan. The Quran in fact has been descended on the prophet (peace and blessings upon him) in parts. It was Ramadan when Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was made prophet and the first five Ayah of Surah Alaq were recited to him. Recitation of the Holy Quran in Ramadan hence becomes more significant, and part or whole of the Holy Quran is recited by Huffaz – the people who memorise the Quran while offering Tarawih prayer.
Number of Rakat in Tarawih
Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was used to offer the night prayers for hours and during Ramadan or in other months he used to offer eleven rakat as Tahajjud and Tarawih. Aisha the respected wife of the prophet and the mother of the believers confirmed this, as reported in Sahih Bukhari, in a very clear term:
I asked 'Aisha, "How is the prayer of Allah's Apostle during the month of Ramadan." She said, "Allah's Apostle never exceeded eleven Rakat in Ramadan or in other months; he used to offer four Rakat – do not ask me about their beauty and length, then four Rakat, do not ask me about their beauty and length, and then three Rakat." Aisha further said, "I said, 'O Allah's Apostle! Do you sleep before offering the Witr prayer?' He replied, 'O 'Aisha! My eyes sleep but my heart remains awake!' (Sahih Al Bukhari, Narrated by Abu Salma bin Abdur Rahman)
So it is better for us if we offer Tarawih lengthy and eleven rakat.
Some people think if they finish the entire Quran in seven or ten or fifteen days, then they don't need to pray Tarawih. This is wrong. Tarawih is nothing to do with the complete recitation of Quran. It has to be offered during entire Ramadan.
Moreover, those who have already offered Tarawih prayer, they don't need to offer Qayamul Lail again as we have already noted that Tarawih and Qayamul Lail are same and in Ramadan as well as other months, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never exceeded eleven rakat.
Let us pray that Allah Almighty grants us the power to utilize these precious moments to seek forgiveness from Him.