Abu Abdus-Samad

During the month of Ramadan Muslims join in large congregation in Masjids to perform twenty Rak'ats of Tarawih prayer. Many consider that fasting of Ramadan reaches only halfway to heaven unless Tarawih prayers are meticulously performed. To ensure that their fastings are immaculate, muslims will make sure to attend masjids at the time of 'Isha. Even those people that did not fast arrive at masjid for Tarawih. After the salaat of 'Isha, they offer twenty Rak'ah Tarawih prayer, thereafter perform the Witr Prayer. Masjid management prefer to recruit one or two Hafiz in order to recite the entire Qur'an during the Tarawih Prayer, completing more than one Part (Para or juz) out of thirty Parts in each night. This is called "Khatam Tarawih", and is considered an act of high virtue. Naturally, the devotees come home almost at midnight. They sleep for about three or four hours and then get up at later part of the night to eat during Suhoor before the Fajr prayer. The fasting starts from pre-dawn and continues till sunset. At Maghrib, the fasting devotees take breakfast or Iftar, then perform the Salat, and thereafter take full meal. Every Muslim of course, knows this routine procedure.

Many Muslims may not know how this Tarawih Prayer came into effect. It is known that the Prophet performed it for only three nights in his lifetime, and then gave it up. This Prayer was not practiced during the Khilafat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr. Hadhrat Umar (RA) has introduced Tarawih Prayer in the present form in the third year of his Khilafat.



Let us examine the relevant Hadith and find out the ground on which the Tarawih Prayer has been based.

(I). It is narrated in the Hadith on the version of Hadhrat Ayishah that on a certain night the Holy Prophet went to the mosque at dead of night to perform prayers. A couple of people present in the mosque at that time stood behind the Prophet and offered Salaat with him. As this news spread, on the second and the third nights more people came to the mosque and joined the prayers . On the fourth night, the Masjid was full with people, but the Holy Prophet did not come out to lead the prayers. Thinking that he was in sound sleep, some people talked loudly so that he wakes up. But the Holy Prophet (PBH) did not come out of his enclosure till it was Fajr prayer. After the Fajr prayer, the Holy Prophet told that he was aware of the gathering; but did not come out to lead that prayer, as he did not wish that such night prayers should become obligatory. He also told the gathering that except the Fard Salaat, other prayers are better performed individually at home. This was in a month of Ramadan. (This Hadith is related under the chapters for Tahajjud Prayer also. Further, this Hadith categorically forbids offering this Prayer in congregation.)

(ii) Narrated Zaid bin Thabit: The Prophet took a room made of date palm leaves mats in the mosque. Allah's Apostle prayed in it for a few nights till the people gathered (to pray the night prayer (Tarawih) (behind him.) Then on the 4th night the people did not hear his voice and they thought he had slept, so some of them started humming in order that he might come out. The Prophet then said, "You continued doing what I saw you doing till I was afraid that this (Tarawih prayer) might be enjoined on you, and if it were enjoined on you, you would not continue performing it. Therefore, O people! Perform your prayers at your homes, for the best prayer of a person is what is performed at his home except the compulsory (congregational) prayer." (See Hadith No. 229,Vol. 3) (See Hadith No. 134, Vol. 8)

Regarding introduction of Tarawih Prayer by Hadhrat Umar Farooq. It has been recorded from narration of Abdul Rahman ibn Abdul Qari as follows:

(iii). On one night of Ramadan, Abdul Rahman went out with Hadhrat Umar to the Masjid and found that people have been performing Salaat in a scattered way individually and also in small groups. Hadhrat Umar expressed that he felt it better to collect them behind one good Qari. He asked Ubay ibn Kaab to lead the Prayer. Thereafter, on another night, Abdul Rahman went out with Hadhrat Umar and found that people have been offering Salaat behind that Qari. At this, Hadhrat Umar said that it is an excellent Bid'at. (See the full text of the hadith below in the appendix and also read about ruling on Bida't)

These are the two Hadith basing on which the institution of Tararawih prayer has been introduced in the month of Ramadan with all its fervors. The great enthusiasm shown in performing this Prayer is indeed noteworthy.


Before we start scrutinizing the two Hadith, let us find out what the Holy Qur-an says about the practice of the Holy Prophet (PBH) and the Salaat in question.

(A). Timing for 'Isha is the early part of the night: The Holy Qur-an says:

(a) Establish worship at the two ends of the day and in some watches of the night ... (11:114)

(b) So glory be to Allah when ye enter the night and when ye enter the morning. ... and at the sun's decline and in the noonday. (30:17-18)

(B). 'Isha prayer is the last thing to do in a day: A Muslim's daily life should start with prayer to Allah at Fajr, and end with prayer to Him at 'Isha, besides praying to Him at three other times in between. People should go to bed after Salaat of 'Isha. The Holy Our-an teaches

O ye who believe! Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence): Before the prayer of dawn, and when ye lay aside your raiment for the heat of the noon, and after the prayer of night. Three times of privacy for you......(24:58)

It is therefore clear that after 'Isha Prayer, there should be no further intermingling or gossiping with people, no night engagement. Intermingling with family members, minor children, domestic servants is also forbidden after 'Isha Prayer. It is the last activity in the daily life of a Muslim. If people go to bed immediately after 'Isha Prayer, he sleeps in the state of Wudu, enjoying Divine blessings. The Traditions say that the practice of the Holy Prophet was to go to bed immediately after 'Isha Prayer.

(C). Importance of Tahajjud Prayer. Salaat of Tahajjud is held with great importance in the Holy Qur-an. There is no mention of any other additional Salaat in the Holy Our-an like Tarawih, Salaatal-'Id, Salaat ,of Janazah etc. except Tahajjud Prayer.

And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee. it may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate. ... (17:79)

(D). Long hours of Prayer at night: The Holy Prophet (PBH) used to pray for long hours at night. After Salaat Of 'lsha he would go to bed, and then wake up at midnight or at late hours of the night, and start praying to Allah. The Holy Qur-an has in record as

(a) O thou wrapped up in thy raiment! Keep vigil the night long, save a little - A half thereof, or abate little thereof Or add (a little) thereto and chant the Quran in measure ... (73:1-4)

(b) Lo! Thy Lord knoweth how thou keepest vigil some times nearly two-thirds of the night, or (sometimes) half or a third thereof, as do a party of those with thee. Allah measureth the night and the day. He knoweth that ye count it not, and turneth unto you in mercy. Recite, then of the Quran that which is easy for you. He knoweth that there are sick folk among you, while others travel in the land in search of Allah's bounty, and others (still) are fighting for the cause of Allah. So recite of it that which is easy (for you)......

The Traditions say that the Holy Prophet (PBH) would invariably get up at late part of the night and perform Tahajjud Prayer which he had never missed. At nighttime, he often would keep standing in Salaat for such a long time that his legs used to swell up. He used to offer Tahajjud Prayer, from four Rak'ats to twenty Rak'ats, and sometimes even more. Along with the Holy Prophet, many devout Muslims also used to pray for long hours at night as recorded above.


1. The Hadith referred at (I) above on the authority of Hadhrat Ayishah, the wife of the Prophet (PBH), states that the Prophet got up at dead of night to offer Prayer. It was the habit and practice of the Holy Prophet (PBH) to get up at night and pray as stated at (a) and (b) under (c) above. What Prayer was it? It was obviously Tahajjud Prayer.

2. There were only few people in the Masjid on the first day, more on the second day, still more on the third day, and it was full on the fourth day. This indicates that the timing of this gathering was not for regular Prayer. What Prayer was it then? It was obviously Tahajjud Prayer.

3. On the fourth day the Masjid was full with devotees, the Prophet was awake, yet he did not come out until it was Fajr Prayer time. What time was it then? Obviously it was Tahajjud Prayer time.

4. The Prophet did not like to act as Imam for this Prayer, as he apprehended that it may be equated with Fard Salaat. Fard Salaats are at five times a day, the Prophet did not want this particular Salaat to become the Prayer of the sixth time. It therefore was not a seasonal Salaat of a particular month, but a Salaat for all the seasons. What Prayer that can be then? That was of course the Tahajjud Salaat.

The Holy Qur-an, as stated at (A) and (B) above advised that the 'lsha Prayer should be offered at early part of the night, and thereafter people should go to bed. The Holy Prophet (PBH) used to comply with this teaching of the Qur-an. His Companions also did not offer any other Salaat after performing the 'Isha prayer. What then Hadhrat Umar do in the Hadith narrated at (II) above ? Let us examine this Hadith minutely.

(i) What was the purpose of their going to the Masjids? It is narrated that in the month of Ramadan, one night Hadhrat Umar accompanied by Abdul Rahman, went towards the Masjid and saw people praying haphazardly. Hadhrat Umar fixed up a Qari for them. On another night as they went towards the Masjid, they saw people praying behind that Qari. Did the Khalifa and the pious Sahabi went towards the Masjid for offering Salaat? No, they did not ; they were only passing by.

(ii) Was it a regular prayer time? Obviously not; as in that case the Khalifa and the Sahabi would also have joined in the prayer. Not only that, it would have been incumbent on the Khalifa to lead the prayer as Imam. There is no doubt that it was Tahajjud time, not 'Isha. Further, had it been 'Isha hours, Hadhrat Umar would have already been in the Masjid for the prayer, and not a casual passerby.

(iii) Was it a time after 'Isha for Tarawih Prayer? No, for two reasons. Firstly, after 'Isha prayer people must have retired to bed. Secondly, Tarawih Prayer was unknown to the Muslims of that age.

(iv) What can be the timing of the night stroll? It may be borne in mind that after Fasting whole day in Ramadan and taking a heavy meal after lftar, no one would like to go out for a walk in early hours of the night, and no one would do so after 'Isha Prayer. Therefore the timing of this night-stroll must have been the late hours of the night.

(v) Why should they wake up at the late hours and do the night-stroll? In fact, all Muslims wake up every night in Ramadan in the late hours to eat at Suhoor. In hot desert country people prefer to go out for a walk or visit friends at nighttime. It is quite natural for the two to go out for the night-stroll in Ramadan at Suhoor hours.

(vi) What part of Ramadan the narration relates to? During those days of the world, there was no electricity and streetlights in the cities, and people are not expected to go out for a stroll with flashlights in hand. It must therefore have been the moonlit nights; and the late hours of the nights become moonlit in the last days of the lunar month. It can reasonably be inferred that Hadhrat Urnar and Abdul Rahman must have gone out for the night-stroll at the late hours of the night during the last days of Ramadan.

(vii) Who were the people praying in the Masjid? In the last ten days of the month of Ramadan, quite a number of people retire to the Masjids for I'tikaf. These people spend as much time as they can in prayer and meditation. So there is nothing unusual for Hadhrat Umar and Abdul Rahman to find people praying in the Masjid at the late hours of the night during the last days of Ramadan.

(viii) Why did the two not join in the prayer? The Khalifa and the Sahabi did not join in the prayer as they were not under I'tikaf, and because these prayers were not obligatory prayers.

(ix) Why did Hadhrat Umar ask the devotees to pray in congregation? Hadhrat Umar was a great General and a strong Administrator. He loved discipline. Seeing people praying haphazardly in undisciplined way, he grouped them together to pray in unison; but at the same time he called it a Bid'at.

(x) What is a Bid'at ? Any innovation into the religious practices of Islam is called Bid 'at. The rites and rituals of Islam have fully been stated and explained in the Our-an and Hadith. Any new introduction means that the dictates in these Scriptures are not enough, and such idea is clear blasphemy. The Holy Prophet (PBH) in his famous sermon in the Farewell Hajj has very strictly forbid bringing innovation into Islam. Therefore it is not proper to ascribe this innovation of performing Tahajjud Prayer in congregation on Hadhrat Umar and naming it subsequently as Tarawih. Hadhrat Umar has the distinction as a highly judicious, spirited and devout Khalifa of the Muslim world. It appears to be derogatory to ascribe introduction of a Bid'at as Tarawih Prayer on him and calling it "
Bid 'at al-hasanah". It is necessary to exonerate Hadhrat Umar from such an allegation.

It is quite natural that after a day long Fast and heavy meal at and after lftar, people become lethargic and like to relax. According to the medical science, after a heavy meal, maximum amount of blood goes to the digestive system and spares minimum amount for the brain, muscles and other organs. This is the reason why people feel drowsy and lethargic after a heavy meal, and tend to go to sleep. The Qur-an has declared: "... has not laid upon you any hardship in the religion" (22:78); and while prescribing Fasting of Ramadan, Allah said: "Allah desires facility for you, and He does not desire difficulty for you" (2:185). Allah has told repeatedly that He has created night for rest and day for work (10:67; 25:62; 27:86; 28:73; 40:61; 78:10-11). On analyzing the Hadith and the teachings of the Qur-an, we find that no citation of Salaat in the name Tarawih anywhere in these holy Scriptures. Also, these Books do not instruct the people to offer the lengthy Tarawih Prayer of 20 Rak'ah,
instead of taking rest after the 'Isha Prayer.


Tahajjud Prayer is highly desirable. The Holy Qur-an also mentions this Prayer. The way the Holy Prophet (PBH) performed this Prayer has already been narrated. He used to offer Tahajjud Prayer, two Rak'ahs at a time, making a segment of four Rak'ats, usually for eight and up to twenty Rak'ats, and sometimes even more. The last standing used to be for Witr or odd number of three Rak'ahs. In the present days, the Tarawih Prayer is also performed almost in the same manner as Tahajjud, taking a little resting posture (tarawih) after every four Rak'ahs, and thereafter the Salaat of Witr is offered. Therefore both Tarawih and Tahajjud appear to be the same Salat. The obvious difference is in timing. There has been a shifting of the timing for Tarawih to early night after Salaat of 'Isha from the late night Tahajjud prior to Salaat of Fajr. Whereas, in the month of Ramadan, people get up every night to eat at Sohoor. It is much convenient and easy for people to perform Tahajjud Prayer at Sohoor during the Ramadan, even though they may have missed it in other months.
The advantage in offering this Tahajjud/Tarawih Prayer after 'Isha is that Tarawih can be performed in the Masjids in the same time along with Salaat of 'Isha and in congregation with children and elderly joining together. It is easier for the Hafiz Sahebs to perform "Khatam Tarawih" at this timing. The Jama 'at or the congregation for the Khatam Tarawih thus becomes grand and big, sometimes even surpassing the Friday Prayer. On the other hand, Tahajjud Prayer can be performed in the Masjids in the same sitting prior to Salaat of Fajr. However, at this time, it is likely that children will ramain sleeping, and for many it will be harder to go to Masjid too early in the morning. The Jama'at for Tahajjud, thus, may not be big enough.

But the point remains that, should we perform Tahajjud/Tarawih in congregation? The Holy Prophet (PBH) has expressly forbidden offering this Prayer in Jama'at.

Should Tahajjud be offered in large gathering by coming to the Masjids? The Prophet said that except the Fard Salaat, other Prayers are better performed individually and at homes.

Should the Holy Qur'an be recited at a fast pace to cover more than one Para every night in Tarawih Prayer? The Qur-an says that it should be recited meaningfully and listened to it attentively "And when the Qur'an is recited, listen to it and remain silent, that mercy may be shown to you" (7:204). It also says: "Move not your tongue therewith to make haste with it" (75:16). Does Khatam Tarawih reflect these teachings of the Qur-an, or make the recitation meaningful?

Let us ponder over the validity or otherwise of the Tarawih Prayer as it is performed. Let us choose between Tarawih and Tahajjud, and praying in congregation or in isolation.


1. Narrated Zaid bin Thabit: Allah's Apostle made a small room (with a palm leaf mat). Allah's Apostle came out (of his house) and prayed in it. Some men came and joined him in his prayer. Then again the next night they came for the prayer, but Allah's Apostle delayed and did not come out to them. So they raised their voices and knocked the door with small stones (to draw his attention). He came out to them in a state of anger, saying, "You are still insisting (on your deed, i.e. Tarawih prayer in the mosque) that I thought that this prayer (Tarawih) might become obligatory on you. So you people, offer this prayer at your homes, for the best prayer of a person is the one which he offers at home, except the compulsory (congregational) prayer." [Shahi Al-Bukhari 8:134]

2. Narrated Abu Huraira: 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. Nawafil 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, but 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 Hadith 3.227]

For any questions or suggestions, please contact Abu Samad at [email protected]
The page was last modified on October 31, 2003.


Hosted by