Taraweeh Prayer – Its Origin, Method and Rewards with Hadith

What does Taraweeh prayer mean?

Taraweeh prayer refers to additional prayers performed by Muslims at night after the Isha prayer during the Holy month of Ramadan. Taraweeh comes from the Arabic word ‘Raahah’, which means to take a short rest. This refers to the short breaks they take after every four rakats.

Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): I heard Allah’s Apostle (SAW) saying regarding Ramadan, “Whoever prayed at night in it (the month of Ramadan) out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”

(Bukhari)

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Origin of Taraweeh prayer

Taraweeh is a sunnah prayer as stated by the Prophet (SAW) and means ‘rest and relax.’  This is because after every 4 rakahs, you rest for a short time.

‘A’isha reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) prayed one night in the mosque and people also prayed along with him. He then prayed on the following night and there were many persons. Then on the third or fourth night (many people) gathered there, but the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) did not come out to them (for leading the Tarawih prayer). When it was morning he said: I saw what you were doing, but I desisted to come to you (and lead the prayer) for I feared that this prayer might become obligatory for you. (He the narrator) said: It was the month of Ramadan.

Sahih Muslim

During the year 14 AH in Ramadan, Umar ibn Al-Khattab RA saw small groups of people praying behind various sahaba who were hafiz. He thought that it would be more beneficial if everyone gathered and prayed behind one imam. He had seen Nabi SAW do this when He SAW was still with them, and now that the Prophet has gone from this world, there was no risk that the taraweeh prayer would be made compulsory for them.

He told Ubay Ibn Ka’b RA to lead the people and to pray 20 rakats. There are some narrations which state that they only prayed 8 rakats but the more preferred opinion and the opinion with the most narrations say that it was 20 rakats. It could have been that they had 8 to start with but due to difficulty in lengthy standings, Umar RA may have increased the number of rakats so that each rakat was shortened and the people wouldn’t have much difficulty because they didn’t have to stand for too long.

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Narrations on the origins of taraweeh

Abdul aziz ibn Rufay RH says: Ubay ibn Ka’b RA would lead the people in Ramadan with 20 rakats of taraweeh, then he would finish with 3 rakats of witr.

Ibn abi Shyabah

Saa’ib ibn Yazeed RH said that the sahaba would stand in Ramadan with 20 rakats during the time of Umar RA and during the era of Uthman RA.

Bayhaqi, Sunan al Kubra

Can you pray taraweeh at home?

Today, most people offer it in mosques in congregation. This is not obligatory. Anyone can offer it at home, with his family or friends, or alone. It is all acceptable. However, in congregation it earns a greater reward. Any salah offered with jama’ah (congregation) is rewarded at 25-27 times its normal reward when offered alone.

In many countries, people prefer to have a long prayer, with the whole of the Quran recited in this prayer over the month of Ramadan. This is a great practice and long may it continue.

To pray taraweeh with congregation is sunnah alal kifayah. This means that if there is no taraweeh prayed with jama’ah in an area then the whole area will be sinful.

How do you pray Taraweeh in the masjids and at home? 

  1. Pray Isha (four raka’at)
  2. Pray two raka’at sunnah of Isha.
  3. Set your intention to start praying taraweeh/qiyam.
  4. Take a short break.
  5. Pray the next four raka’at (again, two raka’at at a time).
  6. Here, you can either end your taraweeh and move on to witr, or continue praying.
  7. Pray witr (either one or three raka’at).
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Rewards of praying taraweeh

Taraweeh is sunnah muakkadah, which is the highest form of sunnah. If you miss it without a valid excuse then there is sin upon you. If you pray it then you get the reward of following a sunnah. You will also get the reward of praying in congregation if you pray with others in the masjid. For every letter you recite or listen to of the Quran within salah, then you will be rewarded with 10 good deeds. Now imagine listening to the entire Quran.

Completing one Quran is sunnah and completing it more than once is mustahab. The reason completing the Quran is sunnah in taraweeh is because it is something the rightly-guided companions and successors of Nabi SAW did. It comes in a hadith:

Hold onto my sunnah, and the sunnah of the rightly-guided khulafaa. Bite onto them with your molar teeth.

Ibn Majah

Another reward is that for those who have memorized the Quran, it is a perfect time for them to recap and strengthen what they have learnt. So many of us forget everything throughout the year, then when Ramadan comes and we have to lead, we learn everything again no matter how difficult it is for us.

Taraweeh dua

taraweeh prayer dua

How many rakat are in taraweeh prayers?

Some people pray 8 rakahs then the waajib Witr, while others pray 20 rakahs for Taraweeh then the witr prayer.  Imam Maalik said it is 36 rakahs.  There is a difference of opinion among the scholars regarding number as long as it’s done in rakahs of two by two.

The more preferred opinion is praying 20 rakats. The sahaba prayed 20 and they all agreed that there was 20. So we can’t come along and say we will pray 8. If majority of the ummah says 20 then we must follow the majority.

If everyone prays 20 and someone decides to pray 8, so he leaves after 8 have been completed, then they are missing out on so much reward:

  • The sunnah of praying 20 rakats
  • The sunnah of listening to the entire Quran
  • The sunnah of praying witr with congregation in Ramadan
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Hadith on taraweeh prayer

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to urge (the people) to perform (optional Tarawih) prayer at night during the month of Ramadan. He did not order them or make it obligatory on them. He (ﷺ) said, “Whosoever performs (optional Tarawih) prayers at night during the month of Ramadan, with Faith and in the hope of receiving Allah’s reward, will have his past sins forgiven.”

Muslim

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “He who observes optional prayer (Tarawih prayers) throughout Ramadan, out of sincerity of Faith and in the hope of earning reward will have his past sins pardoned.”

Bukhari & Muslim

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) made a small room (with a palm leaf mat). Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) 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 Messenger (ﷺ) 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.”

Bukhari