Question: Umar b. al-Khattâb was the first person to initiate the practice of praying the Tarâwîh prayer. Does this not make it an innovation?
Answered by Sheikh Sâmî al-Mâjid
It is unacceptable for someone to claim that the Tarâwîh prayer is an innovation. Only an ignorant person would say such a thing. If it were an innovation, the entire Muslim Ummah would not have unanimously accepted it, from the time of Umar - may Allah be pleased with him – up to our own time. Muslims have continuously performed this prayer throughout their history without any objection, and it is known that the Ummah as a whole is protected from erring in such a matter for all of these centuries.
Know, my brother, that the Tarâwîh prayer is “sunnah”, which means that it is part of the Prophet’s tradition (peace be upon him). He did, however, fear that it would become obligatory.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) went out one night in the middle of the night and prayed in the mosque, and some men prayed with him. When morning came, the people started talking and even more people gathered for the prayer on the second night. When morning came again, they talked amongst themselves and an even greater number gathered on the third night. So the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed and they prayed with him. When the fourth night came, the mosque could not contain all those who had come to pray. When dawn came, the Prophet (peace be upon him) appeared and performed the Fajr prayer, then he approached the people and testified that there is no God but Allah and that he was the Messenger of Allah, and then said: “I knew you were here, but I feared that it (the Tarâwîh prayer) would become obligatory, and that then you would fail to perform it.” [Sahih al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
The situation that the Prophet (peace be upon him) feared might happen could not happen after his death, since the religion had become complete and divine revelation had ended.
Because of this, Umar b. al-Khattâb – may Allah be pleased with him - gathered the people behind Tamîm al-Dârî and Ubayy bin Ka`b after he saw the people in the mosque performing the prayer separately or in small groups. He did this in order to reinstate the “sunnah” that the Prophet (peace be upon him) established then refrained from only out of the fear that it would become mandatory.
And one should note that `Umar did not gather the people to perform something that was an innovation. He did not prescribe anything new in Islam of his own accord. Moreover, `Umaar was one of the Righly Guided Caliphs
Al-`Irbâd b. Sâriyah relates:
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) preached to us one day after the morning prayer and gave us a touching sermon that caused our eyes to well up and hearts to shiver with fear, so a man said: “This is a sermon given by someone who is bidding us farewell, so what do you leave us with, O Prophet?”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I leave you with this: the fear of Allah, and to hear and obey even if an Ethiopian slave rules over you, for whoever lives shall see many changes. And be wary of innovations, for they lead one astray. Whoever sees this should abide by my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs who shall come after me. Seize upon that with your molars.”
[Musnad Ahmad, Sunan al-Tirmidhî, Sunan Abî Dâwûd, Sunan Ibn Mâjah, and Sunan al-Dârimî]
And Allah knows best.
Question: How many units of prayer should be performed for the Tarâwîh prayer - eight or twenty?
Answered by Sheikh Sa`d al-Shuwayrikh
The ideal number of units for Tarâwîh prayer is a matter of disagreement among the people of knowledge.
However, there is agreement among the people of knowledge that there is no fixed limit for the number of units of Tarâwîh prayer. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The night prayer is two units then two units then if the one of you expects the falling of morning prayer he can pray one unit to singular what he had prayed”.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) never determined fixed a specific number of units for the Tarâwîh prayer.
It was only related that he used to pray eleven units nightly in Ramadan and at other times.
It is related in Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim that Âishah said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) never prayed more than eleven units, whether in Ramadan or in other times. He used to pray four – do not ask how perfect and long were they – then he would pray four, do not ask how perfect and long were they – then he would pray three.”
The disagreement of the people of knowledge on the number of units of Tarâwîh should ideally be is as follows:
a. The prayer should be performed as twenty units. This to according to the Hanbalî school of thoughts.
b. The prayer should be performed as thirty-six units. This is according to the Mâlikî school of thought.
c. The prayer should be performed as eleven units.
The most balanced opinion on this issue is that the number of units should vary depending upon the length of time given to each unit of prayer. This means that if the imam limits the number of the verses he recites and keeps brief the amount of time he takes for bowing and prostrating, then it is preferred for him to increase the total number of units prayed.
Likewise, if he lengthens his recitation and the time he takes for bowing and prostrating, then it is preferred that he decreases the number of units.
Each and every one of these sayings has evidence. Those who prefer twenty units rely on the act of `Umar gathering the people to pray twenty units as related by al-Sâ’b b. Yazîd in al-Muwatta’. This was also related from Sa`îd b. Jubayr, Abû Mijlad, Abû Ayyûb and others.
No doubt, many of the Companions prayed behind these people. It was never related that any of them had objected or denied the permissibility of such a prayer.
The conclusion is that there is no limit for the number of units that may be prayed in the Tarâwîh prayer. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not determine a specific number. He only said: “The night prayer is two units then two units.” As we said, the might vary according to the length of time alloted to each unit.
Please keep in mind that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever prays with the imam until the imam leaves will have the reward of praying throughout the night.” Therefore, it is better in Ramadan – but not obligatory – to pray with the imam until the imam finishes the prayer.
Also, please note that the night prayer is more general than either Tarâwîh or Tahajjud. It is called Tarâwîh when it occurs in Ramadân and is customarily performed at an earlier time.
Question: What are the virtues of Qiyâm al-Layl (Tahajjud)? What is the best way to perform it?
Answered by the Fatwa Department Research Committee - chaired by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî
Qiyâm al-Layl means “The night prayer”. It is also known as the Tahajjud prayer. It is the most virtuous and recommended of all the voluntary prayers. The Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed it every night and encouraged his followers to do so as well.
Allah commanded Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to offer this prayer.
He says in the Qur’ân: “And as for the night, keep awake a part of it as an additional prayer for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of praise and glory.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 79]
He also says: “O thou folded in garments, stand (to prayer) by night, but not all night, half of it, or a little less. Or a little more; and recite the Qur'ân in a slow, measured tone.” [Sûrah al-Muzzammil: 1-4].
Although these verses were addressed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), they were not confined to him. They are an encouragement for all of us.
Observing this prayer is one of the reasons for attaining Paradise by Allah’s grace. Allah says: “They were in the habit of sleeping but little by night, and in the hours of early dawn they (were found) praying for forgiveness” [Sûrah al-Dhâriyât: 17-18]
It is confirmed in the authentic hadîth that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pray Qiyâm al-Layl for many long hours at a time, until his feet would become swollen.
Qiyâm al-Layl can be prayed at any time at night before the time of the Fajr prayer. Preferably, it should be offered in the last third of the night. It is also preferable to sleep before praying it, but it is not obligatory to do so.
You can pray as few or as many units of prayer as you want to. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The night prayer is performed as two units of prayers at a time. When you anticipating the arrival of dawn, then perform one unit of prayer as witr.”
It is preferable to offer eleven units of prayer, including witr, since the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to do this. However, there is no harm in praying more or less.