An important sign of the month of Ramadan is tarawih prayer. What are the issues that we should pay attention to about tarawih prayer?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Tarawih is the plural form of the word "tarwiha" in Arabic and it means "to breathe, to relax the spirit and to make the body rest". The sitting after every four rak’ahs of the sunnah prayer performed after the night prayer only in the month of Ramadan was called "tarwiha"; afterwards, "tarawih", the plural form of this word, became the name of the nafilah prayer performed on the nights of Ramadan. Tarawih prayer is sunnah al-muakkadah; it is the sunnah of the month of Ramadan and the night time, not the sunnah of fasting. Therefore, it is sunnah to perform tarawih prayer for those who do not have to fast in Ramadan due to being ill or travelling.

The Prophet (pbuh) led tarawih prayers for a few times in Ramadan but he preferred praying it alone afterwards fearing that it could be rendered fard and that Muslims could not perform it. However, he encouraged his Companions to perform it by saying, "If a person performs Ramadan prayer (tarawih) by believing and expecting the reward from Allah, all his past sins will be forgiven."

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) expresses the importance of performing tarawih prayer and that it is sunnah as follows in a hadith: "Allah rendered it fard to perform fasting in Ramadan. I encourage you to stand (to perform tarawih prayer) on Ramadan nights as my sunnah. If a person performs fasting sincerely and stands (performs tarawih prayer) by believing and expecting the reward from Allah, he will be as clean as the day he was born."

It is sunnah al-kifayah to perform tarawih prayer in congregation in a residential area; that is, it is necessary to perform tarawih prayer in congregation at least in one place in a residential area. It is most virtuous to perform it by saluting after every two rak’ahs. Various salawat and greetings, asma al-husna, supplications and prayers like "hizbul-hasin" and "hizbul-masun" can be said between prayers.

Some people today insistently say that tarawih prayer consists of eight rak’ahs acting upon a hadith reported from Hz. Aisha. However, Ibn Abbas narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) led twenty rak’ahs and witr prayer to the congregation in Ramadan. Besides, there is actual consensus of the Companions regarding the issue. As a matter of fact, tarawih prayer consists of twenty rak’ahs according to Hanafi, Shafii and Hanbali madhhabs. There are two views in Maliki madhhab: twenty rak’ahs or thirty-six rak’ahs; the view that it is twenty rak’ahs is more common. Therefore, very old and very ill people should perform at least eight rak’ahs if they can but healthy and strong believers should definitely perform tarawih prayer as twenty rak’ahs.

Scholars state that it is a virtue to perform tarawih prayer by reading the whole Quran at least once in the month of Ramadan and it is a virtue to perform it by reading the whole Quran more than once. The righteous Muslims of the first era read the whole Quran in tarawih during Ramadan or performed it by following an imam who read the whole Quran. However, the view that it would be more appropriate to perform tarawih prayer in a way that will not distance people from mosques became dominant afterwards based on the state of the congregation.

Tarawih prayer should be performed slowly and the verses should be pronounced clearly whether it is performed by reading short chapters or the whole Quran. It is not appropriate to read the verses very fast and to perform ruku’s and sajdahs very quickly as if racing. Unfortunately, there have been some people called "jet (fast) imams" recently; there are scenes that harm the seriousness and health of tarawih prayer. Believers should act carefully regarding the issue; it is necessary to make sure that the verses are read slowly and clearly and ta’dil al-arkan is observed.

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