Taraweeh prayers are part of the physical and spiritual exercise Muslims perform during the month of Ramadan. They are daily nightly prayers that are observed after Isha’a prayers and are carried out in congregation. The leader of the congregation recites the entire Qur’an throughout the month because it is mustahab, preferred according to the consensus of Muslim scholars. It gives the listeners a chance to hear the Holy Qur’an in its entirety and gives them a chance to reflect over its meanings.
The Messenger of Allah, sala Allahu alahi wa sallam, said: “Whoever observes night prayer in Ramadan as an expression of his faith and to seek reward from Allah, his previous sins will be blotted out.” (Muslim)
The origin of the word, Taraweeh, lies in the Arabic root, raaha, which means to rest and or relax. Taraweeh has been so named because after every four raka’ats, the early Muslims would often relax for a few minutes and then continue praying until the completion of the Taraweeh. The practice of performing Taraweeh prayers in the mosque was established by our beloved Prophet Mohammed, sala Allahu alahi wa sallam. He did not continually observe the Taraweeh prayers for fear that it would be made compulsory on all Muslims to do so throughout the Holy month of Ramadan. According to the compilations of Bukhari and Muslim, Aisha, radiu Allahu anha, has been reported as saying:
“The Messenger of Allah, sala Allahu alahi wa sallam, observed Taraweeh prayer in the mosque one night and people prayed with him. He repeated so the following night and the number of participants grew. The companions congregated the third and fourth night, but the Messenger did not show up. In the morning he told them, “I saw what you did last night, but nothing prevented me from joining you except my fear that it might be made mandatory on you in Ramadan.”
Taraweeh prayers consist of various numbers of raka’ats, ranging from 11 to 39. Aisha, radiu Allahu anha, was asked about the prayer of the Prophet, sala Allahu alahi wa sallam? She replied: “He prayed in Ramadan as well as other times eleven raka’ats.” (Muslim/Bukhari). When the Prophet, sala Allahu alahi wa sallam, was asked about Taraweeh prayers, he said “It may be done in two raka’ats, and if anyone fears the appearance of morning, he should pray one rak’ah as a witr for what he has already prayed.” (Bukhari/Muslim)
Muslims are encouraged to perform the Taraweeh prayers to increase their level of spirituality. Also, the sense of unity amongst Muslims strengthens as they meet daily in the mosque for the performance of the prayers.
Both men and women alike are encouraged to perform Taraweeh prayers in the mosque. Prophet Mohammed, sala Allahu alahi wa sallam, said: “Prevent not the women servants of Allah, from going to the masjid of Allah.”
Muslims are often moved upon hearing the recitation of the Qur’an however, it is not recommended that they cry in a loud voice. Light weeping is acceptable but loud cries may detract others from focusing during their prayer.
There are many spiritual rewards to performing the Taraweeh prayer so we should participate in them this Ramadan and actively seek the pleasure of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, Allah.
By Marwa Afifi