Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 2: The Special Prayers during the Month of Ramadan(Tarawih)
The specific prayers during the month of Ramadan, which are known astarawih, are sunnah for both men and women, and they are to be performed afterthe obligatory 'isha and before the performance of the witr. They should beprayed in sets of two rak'at each. It is allowed to pray them after witr;though, this is not the best thing to do. They may be performed until the endof the night.
Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam wouldencourage people to perform the special prayers during Ramadan withoutcommanding them as obligatory and he said: "Whoever prays during thenights of Ramadan [tarawih] with a firm belief and hoping for reward, all ofhis previous sins would be forgiven." This is related by the group.
'Aishah says: "The Prophet offered salah in the mosque and many peopleprayed with him. The next day he did the same and more people prayed with him.Then the people gathered on the third night but, the Prophet did not come outto them. In the morning, he said to them: 'Surely I saw what you did, andnothing prevented me from coming out to you, save that I feared that [thatprayer] would be made obligatory upon you.' And that was during Ramadan."This is related by the group except for at-Tirmizhi .
'Aishah reported that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam would not praymore than eleven rak'at during Ramadan or otherwise. This is related by thegroup.
Ibn Khuzaimah and Ibn Hibban have recorded in their sahihs on the authorityof Jabir that the Prophet prayed eight rak'at and the witr prayer with thecompanions. Then, the next day, the people waited for him but he did not comeout to them.
Abu Ya'la and at-Tabarani record, with a hasan chain, from Jabir that Ubayyibn Ka'b came to the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam and said: "OMessenger of Allah, I have done something last night," (i.e., duringRamadan). The Prophet said: 'And what was that, O Ubayy?' He said: The women inmy house said, 'We don't recite Qur'an [well or much] so can we pray behindyou?' I prayed eight rak'at and the witr prayer with them.
The Messenger of Allah sallallahu alehi wasallam was pleased with that anddid not say anything."
This is the sunnah that has been related from the Messenger of Allah andnothing besides that is authentic. It is also true that during the time of'Umar, 'Uthman, and 'Ali the people prayed twenty rak'at, and this is theopinion of the majority of the jurists of the Hanafi and Hanbali schools aswell as that of Dawud.
At-Tirmizhi says: "Most of the people of knowledge follow what has beenrelated from 'Umar and 'Ali and other companions of the Prophet, [i.e., thatthey prayed] twenty rak'at. And this is the opinion of al-Thauri, Ibnal-Mubarak, and ash-Shaf'i. And so I found the people of Makkah praying twentyrak'at."
Some of the scholars are of the opinion that the sunnah is eleven rak'at,including witr, and it is also preferred to pray the remainder [of the twentyrak'at] .
Al-Kamal ibn al-Hamam says: "The evidence indicates that the sunnah ofthe twenty rak'at is what the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam himself did andthen he stopped out of fear that it would become something obligatory (for hisfollowers), therefore, the rest of the rak'at are only preferred. It ishowever, confirmed that he only prayed eleven rak'at, including the witr, as isstated in the two sahihs. According to the scholars, the sunnah is eight rak'atwhile it is preferred to pray twelve rak'at."
It is allowed to pray tarawih of the month of Ramadan in a congregation justas it is allowed to pray them on an individual basis. The majority of thescholars, however, prefer to pray them in congregation. The Prophet sallallahualehi wasallam, as stated earlier, prayed tarawih in congregation with theMuslims but he discontinued since he feared that it would be made obligatory.
'Umar was the one who convoked the Muslims to pray tarawih behind one imam.Abdurahman ibn Abdulqari reports: "One night during Ramadan, I went with'Umar to the mosque and the people were praying in different groups. Some werepraying by themselves and others were praying in small groups. 'Umar said: 'Ithink it would be better if I gathered them under one imam .' Then he did soand appointed Ubayy ibn Ka'b as the leader of the prayer. Then I went out withhim on another night and all the people were praying behind one imam and 'Umarsaid: 'What a good innovation (bid'ah) this is,' but, it is better to sleep anddelay it until the latter portion of the night." The people (however)prayed it at the beginning of the night. This is related by al-Bukhari, IbnKhuzaimah, alBaihaqi, and others.
There is no particular sunnah regarding the recitation during salatat-tarawih. It is related that some people of the early generations would praywith two hundred 'ayyahs or so and the people would be leaning on staffs due tothe protracted standing during the salah. They would not leave their prayersuntil shortly before dawn and some of them would rush their servants to preparefood for them fearing that dawn may break soon. They would recite al-Baqarah ineight rak'at and if they would complete it in twelve rak'at, they wouldconsider their prayers to have been very short.
Ibn Qudamah says: "Ahmad said: 'Recite of the Qur'an what is easy forthe people and do not be hard upon them, especially during the short nights[i.e., during the summer].'"
[On the same subject], Al-Qadi says: 'It is not preferred to recite lessthan the entire Qur'an during the month: in this way, the people will be ableto hear the whole Qur'an. Do not recite more than one reading of the Qur'an asthis may be hard upon the people. [While reciting], consideration should begiven to the condition of the people. If the people concur that they wouldprefer a long recital, that would be best.'
Likewise, Abu Zharr said: 'We prayed with the Prophet sallallahu alehiwasallam until we feared that we would miss the pre-dawn meal. And the imamwould recite two hundred 'ayyahs.'"