Ramadan is just around the corner and people have already started making preparations for the month of blessings. While the prices of food stuff often go beyond control during this month the whole lifestyle of Muslims also change. Part of that lifestyle change also includes the Taraweeh Prayers after Ishaa at the mosque. However, very few will ever question the historical background of these extra prayers and even fewer will dare to ask how this prayer became part of Muslim’s Rituals.
You should pray in your houses, for the best prayer of a person is that which he prays in his house except the compulsory prayers – Prophet Muhammad
To start with, people will claim that although its not Fard (compulsory), its Sunat-e-Muakida (some people refer to as Wajib in Urdu language) which means something that is not compulsory but you’re still supposed to do it. Another view is that its niether Fard nor Sunat but rather Nafal which means if you do it there will be reward but if you dont there is no punishment. So, in short there is no single (agreed) view on this particular type of prayers but still you’ll find people pushing you to give them company to the mosque for Taraweeh and in some cases people will also question your wisdom for not offering these prayers.
He used not to pray more than eleven Rakat whether in Ramadan or in any other month – Bibi Ayesha, the wife of Prophet Muhammad
Interesting thing that the Taraweeh Prayers has no history in the life of Prophet Muhammad and these prayers were invented after his death by the Muslim Caliph Umer. Apparently, Muslims mixed up the Tahajudd (late night prayers Prophet used to offer) with Ramadan. Here are some of the interesting Sahi Ahadith on this topic:
- Narrated by Abu Salama bin Abdur Rahman: That he asked ‘Aisha “How was the prayer of Allah’s Apostle in the month of Ramadan?” She replied, “He used not to pray more than eleven Rakat whether in Ramadan or in any other month. He used to offer four Rakat, let alone their beauty and length, and then four Rakat, let alone their beauty and length. Afterwards he would offer three Rakat. I said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Do you go to bed before offering the Witr prayer?’ He said, ‘My eyes sleep, but my heart does not sleep.’ ” (Sahih Al-Bukhari – 4.769)
- Narrated by Zaid bin Thabit: Allah’s Apostle made a small room in the month of Ramadan (Sa’id said, “I think that Zaid bin Thabit said that it was made of a mat”) and he prayed there for a few nights, and so some of his companions prayed behind him. When he came to know about it, he kept on sitting. In the morning, he went out to them and said, “I have seen and understood what you did. You should pray in your houses, for the best prayer of a person is that which he prays in his house except the compulsory prayers.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari – 1.698)
- Narrated by 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.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari – 8.134)
- Narrated by Ursa: That he was informed by ‘Aisha, “Allah’s Apostle went out in the middle of the night and prayed in the mosque and some men prayed behind him. In the morning, the people spoke about it and then a large number of them gathered and prayed behind him (on the second night). In the next morning the people again talked about it and on the third night the mosque was full with a large number of people. Allah’s Apostle came out and the people prayed behind him. On the fourth night the Mosque was overwhelmed with people and could not accommodate them, but the Prophet came out (only) for the morning prayer. When the morning prayer was finished he recited Tashah-hud and (addressing the people) said, “Amma ba’du, your presence was not hidden from me but I was afraid lest the night prayer (Qiyam) should be enjoined on you and you might not be able to carry it on.” So, Allah’s Apostle died and the situation remained like that (i.e. people prayed individually).” (Sahih Al-Bukhari – 3.229)
The issue with Islam is the lack of ability to question its practices and the ability to tell others what really happened in past or what exactly the Quran and Ahadith say about a particular topic. You’re expected to follow the religion like a herd and without asking questions …