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The 1400 Year History of Taraweeh Salaah

Amongst the special Ibaadah of the month of Ramadhaan are the fasts and the Taraweeh
salaah. The information below will be dedicated to the history of the number of Rakaahs of
Taraweeh that have always been performed in the two holy Harams.

The Taraweeh Salaah During the Time of Rasulullah (‫صلى الله عليه‬
‫)وسلم‬

Saheeh Muslim reports a hadith from Hadhrat Aaisha (‫ )رضى الله عنها‬that when (during
Ramadhaan) Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬once performed the Taraweeh salaah in the
Masjidun Nabawi, the Sahabah ‫ رضى الله تعالى عنهم‬followed him in the salaah. When
Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬again performed the salaah the following night, an even
larger congregation followed him. It was then either on the third or fourth night that
Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬did not come to the Masjid for the Taraweeh salaah.
Explaining his reason the following morning, Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬said to the
Sahabah ‫رضى الله تعالى عنهم‬, "I noticed your fervour and did not come to the Masjid to
perform the Salaah fearing that this Taraweeh salaah should become compulsory for you." 1

It is therefore evident that Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬performed the Taraweeh salaah
in congregation at least twice or thrice in his lifetime. Imaam Ibn Taymiyyah ‫ رحمة الله‬and
Allaama Showkaani ‫ رحمة الله‬have both mentioned that a study of Ahadeeth regarding
Taraweeh reveals that Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬never specified the number of
rakaahs for Taraweeh.

During the Period of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (‫)رضى الله تعالى عنه‬

During this period, the Sahabah ‫ رضى الله تعالى عنهم‬meticulously performed the Taraweeh
salaah individually or in small congregations.

During the Period of Hadhrat Umar (‫)رضى الله تعالى عنه‬

During his Khilaafah, the second Khalifah Hadhrat Umar Faarooq (‫)رضى الله تعالى عنه‬
combined all the small congregations into one because of the possibility of the Taraweeh
salaah becoming Fardh no longer existed. With the approval of all the Sahabah ‫رضى الله‬
‫تعالى عنهم‬, twenty rakaahs Taraweeh salaah was performed every night of Ramadhaan after
the Isha salaah, followed by three Rakaahs Witr salaah. 2

There are many people nowadays who perform the Taraweeh salaah with Jamaah throughout
Ramadhaan because it was carried out during the time of hadrat Umar (‫)رضى الله تعالى عنه‬
with the consent of all the Sahabah ‫رضى الله تعالى عنهم‬. However, these people object to
the number of Rakaahs. If they keep the following Hadith in mind, their objection will Inshaa
Allah be removed.

Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬said, "I advise you fear Allah, to listen and to obey (your
leaders) even though your leader be an Abyssinian slave because those of you who live after
me shall see great disputes. It is therefore compulsory for you to adhere to my practices and
to the practice of the righteous and rightly guided successors (Khulafaa Raashideen). Hold
fast to these practices and bite on them with your molars." 3
In this Hadith Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬has emphasised to his Ummah that it is
imperative for them to emulate his practices as well as the practices of the Khulafaa
Raashideen. When Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬has instructed the following of the
practices of his Khulafaa, how can their practices be labelled as Bidah? How can one promote
forsaking something that Rasulullah (‫ )صلى الله عليه وسلم‬empathetically wanted done?
How can there be scope to oppose something that the Sahabah ‫رضى الله تعالى عنهم‬
unanimously agreed upon?

This practice of the righteous Khalifah Hadhrat Umar (‫ )رضى الله تعالى عنه‬falls perfectly
within the purport of this Hadith. Therefore one should perform twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh
salaah in congregation every night of Ramadhaan after the Isha salaah. This is then followed
by three Rakaahs of Witr salaah.

During the period of Hadhrat Uthmaan (‫)رضى الله تعالى عنه‬

The third righteous khalifah Hadhrat Uthmaan (‫ )رضى الله تعالى عنه‬also continued the
practice of twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah in congregation, followed by the three Rakaahs
of Witr salaah. 4

During the period of Hadhrat Ali (‫)رضى الله تعالى عنه‬

The fourth righteous khalifah Hadhrat Ali (‫ )رضى الله تعالى عنه‬also continued the practice
of twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah in congregation, followed by the three Rakaahs of Witr
salaah. 5

The Taraweeh salaah in the Masjid Haraam in Makkah

The famous book of Ahadeeth Jaami Tirmidhi states that according to the majority of
scholars, the number of Rakaahs in the Taraweeh salaah is twenty, as reported from Hadhrat
Umar ‫رضى الله تعالى عنه‬, Hadhrat Ali ‫ رضى الله تعالى عنه‬and other Sahabah ‫رضى الله‬
‫تعالى عنهم‬. This is also the opinion of Hadhrat Sufyan Thowri ‫ رحمة الله‬and Hadhrat
Abdullah ibn Mubaarak ‫رحمة الله‬. Hadhrat Imaam Shafiee ‫ رحمة الله‬says, "I have seen the
learned scholars of Makkah perform twenty Rakaahs of Taraweeh salaah." 6

In his famous book Kitaabul Umm (vol 1 page 142), Imaam Shaafiee ‫ رحمة الله‬says that
twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah is reported from Hadhrat Umar ‫ رضى الله تعالى عنه‬and the
learned scholars of Makkah also perform twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh with three Rakaahs Witr.

In the third century A.H., the famous historian of Makkah Muhammad bin Ishaaq Faakihi
documented that during the month of Ramadhaan it was the practice of the people of Makkah
to sit five periods of Taraweeh (rest periods between every four Rakaahs of the Taraweeh
salaah. This denotes that they performed twenty Rakaahs of salaah.) 7

It is therefore evident twenty Rakaahs of Taraweeh salaah has been performed in the Masjid
Haraam of Makkah for the past fourteen hundred years. Throughout, this period, there has
never been a single night when only Rakaahs have been performed.

Taraweeh salaah in the Masjidun Nabawi ‫صلى الله عليه وسلم‬


The renowned Saudi scholar and Mufassir Sheikh Atiyya Saalim ‫ رحمة الله‬who was a
Sheikhul Hadeeth, judge and lecturer in the Masjidun Nabawi ‫ صلى الله عليه وسلم‬wrote a
book in Arabic entitled "The history of the Taraweeh salaah in the Masjidun Nabawi ‫صلى‬
‫ الله عليه وسلم‬for more than a thousand years." In this book[8], he conclusively proves from
historical evidence that twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah has been performed in the Masjidun
Nabawi ‫ صلى الله عليه وسلم‬for the past fourteen centuries. He adds further that even after
the establishment of the Saudi rule, both the Harams in Makkah and Madinah have twenty
Rakaahs of Taraweeh salaah with three witr. 9

The heart-rending and beautiful Taraweeh salaah in both the Harams is broadcast live
throughout both on radio and television.

A fourteen century old practice

Twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah is being performed from the first century of Islaam up to
this fifteenth century.

THE TARAWÎH PRAYER


Tarwihah (pl. Tarawîh) is the pause observed after every four rakâhs of the Night Prayer
during Ramadhân. The Tarawîh Prayer consists of twenty rakâhs and has the status of Sunnah
both for the men and women. Rasulullâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam observed this Prayer
and after him his Companions also kept up the practice. It is independent of the fast and
should be offered even by the person who does not observe the fast due to some reason,
unless otherwise exempted.

MERIT OF THE TARAWÎH PRAYER


Once Rasulullâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam addressed his followers on the last day of
Sha’bân, on the eve of Ramadhân, and said: “There is a night in this month which is greater
in excellence than a thousand months; Allâh has enjoined an extra prayer to be offered in the
nights of this month. If a person performs a voluntary good act out of his own free choice
during this month, he will be entitled to receive the reward of an imperative act performed in
the other months…” (Mishkât).

In another tradition, he has regarded the Tarawîh Prayer as a means of the forgiveness of sins.
He has said: “The one who observes the Tarawîh Prayer at night during Ramadhân with
complete faith and devotion only for the sake of the recompense of the Âkhirat [Hereafter],
will have all his previous sins forgiven by Allâh.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

TIME OF THE TARAWÎH PRAYER


First Tarawîh Prayer has to start from the evening the Ramadhân moon is sighted and has to
be discontinued in the evening the Eid moon is sighted. The time for it starts after the Isha
Prayer and lasts till the break of dawn. If a person offers his Tarawîh Prayer before the Isha
Prayer, it will not be valid, or if he offers it after the Isha prayer, but then has to repeat his
Isha Prayer due to some reason, he will have to repeat his Tarawîh Prayer as well (Durrul
Mukhtâr). It is, however, commendable that the Tarawîh prger is offered after one third of
the.night has passed and before it is midnight.

COLLECTIVE OFFERING OF THE TARAWÎH PRAYER


Rasulullâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam led the Tarawîh Prayer in congregation on the 23rd,
25th and 27th of Ramadhân. Then when he saw the great keenness and enthusiasm of the
Companions for the Prayer he decided to stay back in his house. The companions thought that
perhaps he had gone to sleep, and so came to his door to call him out for the prayer.
Rasulullâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam came out and said:

“May Allâh increase your keenness and bless you; I have purposely not come out for the
Prayer lest it should be made incumbent upon you and then you are not able to observe it
regularly as a prescribed Prayer; so you should offer it privately in your houses, because
offering a voluntary prayer in the house carries much more rewards (than offering it in the
Mosque).” (Muslim)

This Hadîth at least shows that it is permissible to offer the Tarawîh Prayer in congregation,
because Rasulullâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam himself led it in congregation during three
nights. After him the Companions also kept up this practice in small groups till Hadrat’
‘Umâr Radiallâhu anhu, the second Caliph of Islâm, decided to establish it as a regular
congregational prayer to which none of the Companions objected. This practice continued in
the times of the later Caliphs also. That is why the scholars have regarded collective offering
of the Tarawîh Prayer as a compulsory Sunnah having the Kifayah status.

RAKÂHS OF TARAWÎH
According to the consensus of the Companions the Tarawîh Prayer consists of 20 rakâhs
which are to be offered two at a time with one salutation, and after every four rakâhs a short
pause of rest has to be observed for the convenience of the people.

WHAT SHOULD BE RECITED DURING THE PAUSE


The worshipper has the option to sit quiet during the pause after each four rakahs, or recite
some Tasbih, or offer a voluntary prayer. The people of Makkah, as mentioned above, used to
perform a tawaf of the Ka’bah, and the people of Madinah offered four rakahs of Nafl.
Somejurists, however, have recommended that the following Tasbih be recited in the pause:
Subhana dhil Mulki wal Malakuti
[Glorified is the Owner of the Kingdom of the earth and the heavens]

Subhana zil izzati wal ‘azmati wal haibati


[Glorified is the Possessor of Honour and Magnificence and Awe]

wal qudrati wal kibriy,âi waljabarut


[and Power and Greatness and Omnipotence].

Subhanal Maliki il Hayy, illazi la yanamu wa la yamut.


[Glorified is the Sovereign, the Living, Who does neither sleep nor die].

Subbuhun Quddusun Rabbuna wa Rabb ul Mala’ikati war Rûh.


[He is the most praised and the most Holy, our Rabb and Rabb of the Angels and the Spirit
(Gabriel).]

CONGREGATION FOR WITR PRAYER


The Witr Prayer is allowed to be offered collectively only during Ramadhân, and not in any
other month. The people who happen to offer the Tarawîh prayer individually, may also join
in the Witr congregation, but those who offer the Sunnah prayer of Tarawîh behind an Imâm
are under obligation to offer the wâjib Prayer of Witr as well behind the Imâm. It is not
proper to go to sleep after the Tarawîh Prayer and defer the Witr Prayer till Tahajjud time and
offer it privately then. (Hidâyah, vol. 1, p. 131)

RECITAL OF THE WHOLE QUR’ÂN DURING TARAWÎH


It is a Sunnah of Rasulullâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam to complete recital of the whole
Qur’ân, from the beginning to the end, during Ramadhân. It has been related that the
Rasulullâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam himself used to recite the whole Qur’ân before Angel
Jibra’îl Alayhis Salâm during every Ramadhân, but in the year he passed away he recited it
twice before him. He has exhorted his followers also to keep up the practice. According to
Hadrat Abdullah bin ‘Umâr Radiallâhu anhu, he has said:

“The Fast and the Qur’ân will intercede for the believer (on the Day of Judgment). The Fast
will say: ‘My Rabb, I stopped this person from eating and drinking and gratifying his desires
during the day and he abstained from these, so do accept my intercession on his behalf’ and
the Qur’ân will say: ‘I stopped him from seeking ease and comfort during the night, and he
abstained from sleep and kept standing in Thy presence, reciting the Qur’ân; so my Rabb, do
accept my intercession on his behalf.’ So Allâh will accept the intercession of both.”
(Mishkât)

The Companions kept up this practice. Hadrat ‘Umâr Radiallâhu anhu would make special
arrangements for offering the Tarawîh Prayer collectively and recital of the whole Qur’ân
during Ramadhân.

MISCELLANEOUS REGULATIONS ON TARAWÎH


1. Tarawîh Salâh is Sunnah e Muakkada for both men and women.

2. To perform Tarawîh in Jarnât for Men is Sunnah e Kifaya.

3. If a person performs Tarawîh at his home while Tarawîh Salâh are said in the neighbouring
masjid, the person who says it alone will not be sinful, but if all of the neighbours say it alone
in their homes, all of them will be sinful for neglecting Tarawîh Jamât.

4. The intention is to observe two rakâhs of sunnah of the Tarawîh Prayer, and thus to
complete 20 rakâhs with 10 salutations.

5. It is preferable to offer the Witr Prayer after the completion of the Tarawîh Prayer, but if
the Witr Prayer is offered before the Tarawîh Prayer, or after offering some rakâhs of the
Tarawîh, Prayer, there is no harm (Ilm al Fiqh, vol. II, p. 52)

6. If a late comer for the Tarawîh Prayer finds that the Imâm has stood up for the Witr Prayer
when he has yet to complete some of his Tarawîh rakâhs, he should join in the Witr
congregation, and should complete his remaining rakâhs of Tarawîh later in his own time.

7. It is desirable to observe the pause of rest after each four rakâhs for as long as the time
taken for observing the four rakâhs; however, if the followers find it hard and inconvenient
they may observe a shorter pause. 8. It is not valid to join in the Tarawîh congregation before
first observing the Fard Prayer of Isha, for the Tarawîh Prayer has to start after the Isha
Prayer.

8. If a person has oberved his Fardh Prayer of Isha in congregation, but has not observed the
Tarawîh Prayer in congregation, he is permitted to offer his Witr Prayer in congregation.
9. Even if he has not observed the Fard Prayer of Isha in congregation, he is allowed to offer
the Witr Prayer in congregation.

10. It is undesirable to offer the Tarawîh, Prayer sitting unless one has a genuine excuse for
doing so.

11. If a person is not able to observe the Fard Prayer of Isha in congregation, he can offer his
Tarawîh Prayer in congregation.

12. It is permissible that the Fard and Witr congregational Prayers are led by one Imâm and
the Tarawîh congregation by another. Hadrat ‘Umar (R.A.) used to lead the Fard and Witr
Prayers while the Tarawîh congregation was led by Hadrat Abi bin Ka’b (R.A.).

13. If a few rakâhs of Tarawîh, are invalidated due to some reason, and they have to be
repeated, the relevant portion of the Qur’ân should also be repeated so as to make the recital
of the Qur’ân complete and valid.

14. If the Imâm stands up by mistake after completing two rakahs of Tarawîh, and realizes his
mistake before going down for Sajdah, or is reminded by a follower, he should sit down in
Qadah, recite Tashahhud and complete the prayer with Sajdah Sahwa. If, however, he realizes
the mistake after the Sajdah of the third Rakâh has been performed, he should observe the
fourth Rakâh as well; in this case the four rakahs thus performed will represent the original
two rakahs only.

15. If the Imarn sits in Qadah after two rakahs, but then stands up by mistake for the third
Rakâh, he should complete four rakahs, which will be counted valid and in order.

16. It is not proper to offer the Tarawîh Prayer in congregation for the persons who have not
first offered the Fard Prayer of Isha in congregation, because this would mean giving
preference to a voluntary prayer over an obligatory prayer which is not good.

17. If some people have started the Tarawîh Prayer collectively after observing the Isha
Prayer duly in congregation, they may be joined by other people who did not observe the
Fard Prayer in congregation, because in this case the latecomers would only be following
those who have observed the Isha Prayer duly in congregation before starting the Tarawîh
Prayer.
18. If a person reaches the masjid at a time when the Isha congregational Prayer has already
been held, he should first offer the Isha Prayer independently, and then join the Tarawîh
congregation; the rakahs of Tarawîh which he has missed may either be offered during the
pauses or at the end of the Witr Prayer.

19. The persons who have not offered the Isha Prayer in congregation, but individually, may
also join in the Witr congregation along with those who may be offering it after having
observed the Isha Prayer in congregation.

20. The custom of holding Shabinahs which has become common these days is not correct;
the Qur’ân needs to be recited most carefully and the followers have to listen to it with due
attention and understanding in order to draw spiritual benefits as was the practice in the time
of the Compainions. The Qur’ân says: “This Book which We have sent down to you is full of
blessings so that the people may ponder over it verses and those endued with understanding
may learn lessons from it.” (38: 29)

Rasulullâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam has warned: “The person who finished recital of the
Qur’ân in less than three days, has drawn no benefit from it.” (Tirmidhi)

And the Qur’ân says: “When the Qur’ân is recited, you should listen to it with due attention.”
(204)

21. According to the Hanafis, ‘Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahim’ is a verse of the Qur’ân and
has to be recited aloud by the Imâm in the beginning of any Sûrah, not necessarily Al-Ikhlas
(112), at least once in the Tarawîh Prayer during Ramadhân. However, according to Imâm
Shafi‘î Rahimahullâh ‘alayhi and the reciters of Makkah and Kufah, it is a verse of every
Sûrah, and thus has to be recited aloud in the beginning of every Sûrah accordingly.

22. It is undesirable to recite Sûrah Ikhlas (112) thrice in the same Rakâh of the Tarawîh
Prayer; some jurists, however, regard this as commendable, but outside the prayer, not inside
it.

23. When recital of the Qur’ân has been completed once, it is commendable to start reciting it
again from the beginning in the next Rakâh of Tarawîh and continue it till the end of v. 5 of
Al-Baqarah (2). (Ilm al Fiqh, vol. 11, p. 174)
24. It is not permissible to appoint a boy who has not yet attained puberty, as an Imâm for the
Tarawîh Salâh (Kabiri). However such a boy may lead the Tarawîh Salâh if the followers of
his congregation are also all immature children. (Kaniyyah).

25. If the Imân of one’s masjid recites the Qur’ân incorrectly, there is no hindrance in
performing the Tarawîh in the Masjid of another area. (Alamgiri).

26. It is makrûh [abominable] to summon an Imarn for Tarawîh on a fixed remuneration basis
(Alamgiri).

27. If someone missed the Tarawîh Salâh (of some night) due to some reason, there is no
Qadhâ for it (after the lapse of that night) neither with nor without Jamât. Albeit, if someone
mAkes the Qadhâ, it will not be regarded as Taraweh but as Nafl Salâh. (Bahr)

28. When the Jamât of Tarawîh commences, a person remains seated. As soon as the Imâm
goes into ruku, he quickly makes his niyyah and joins the Imâm. This type of action is
makrûh [abominable] and is analogous to the actions of hypocrites. (Kabiri)

29. It is mustahab [desirable] to spend a major portion of the night in Tarawîh. (Bahr)

30. To complete the Qur’ân once (either by reciting or listening) is Sunnah. To complete it
twice is superior and to complete it thrice is even better. if the Irnârn recites only ten âyâh
[verses] in each rakât, the Qur’ân can be very conveniently completed once. In this way, it
will not be burdensome on the Muqtadis either. (Khaniyyah).

31. It is better to complete the Qur’ân once in every ten days (Bahr).

32. It is meritorious for those who are Huffâz of the Qur’ân to perform a further twenty rakâts
at home after returning from the masjid, so that they may thereby acquire the virtue of
completing the Qur’ân twice. (Khaniyyah)

33. If the Imâm of one’s local masjid does not complete the Qur’ân in Tarawîh, there is
nothing wrong in performing Tarawîh in another masjid where completion of the Qur’ân does
take place (Kabiri); because the sunnah of completion of the Qur’ân will only be achieved
there. (Fatâwa Mahmoodiya 1 vol. 2)
In Tarawîh, the Imâm should recite Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim at least once in a loud voice
at the beginning of any Sûrah. By reciting it silently, the Imâm will have recited the entire
Qur’ân, but the Muqtadi’s (followers) will not have heard the entire Qur’ân. (ibid.)
Source: The Historyof Makkah Mukarramah
by Dr Muhammad Ilyas Abdul Ghani

References
1 - Muslim - The Chapter concerning encouragement for performing the Taraweeh salaah.
2 - Mu'atta Maalik, as quoted in Nasbur Ra'yah
3 - Tirmidhi - Hadith 6272. The hadith is classified Hasan Saheeh and even Albaani has
verified its authenticity [see Mishkaat annotated by him (Vol. 1 pg. 28)]
4 - Sunan Kubra of Bayhaqi - Chapter concerning the number of Rakaahs during the nights of
Ramadhaan.
5 - Sunan Kubra of Bayhaqi - Chapter concerning the number of Rakaahs during the nights of
Ramadhaan.
6 - Tirmidhi
7 - Akhbaar Makkah by Faakihi (Vol.2 Pg. 156,157)
8 - Pgs. 41-58
9 - Pg. 65