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Friday, August 12, 2011

TARAAWEEH OR TAHAJJUD

Taraaweeh and Tahajjud are two sets of naafilah, supererogatory prayers mostly observed by Muslims in Ramadan. Taraaweeh is performed immediately after the Ishaa prayers; Tahajjud (otherwise called Qiyaam) is offered much later, starting, usually, around midnight, and ending within the period of Suhur, before the Subhi prayers.


What is the Sunnah in observing Taraaweeh or Tahajjud? Do I have to offer both or observing one of the two will suffice? Is there a limit to the number of raka’aat to be performed? What portion of the Qur’an should be read in such prayers? Are all the supplications we hear during the last part of Taraaweeh and Tahajjud sanctioned by the Law Giver, or there is an element of innovation in them?


On the authority of ‘Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, who said: ‘The Messenger of Allah has never exceeded 11 rak’ah (during his night prayers) be it in Ramadan or in any other time; he would offer four (raka’aat); how beautiful and prolonged were they! Then, he would offer (another set of) four (raka’aat) in the same beautiful and prolonged fashion. Afterwards, he would perform three (raka’aat).’ ‘Aishah further said: ‘I said, O Messenger of Allah! Do you go to bed before saying your witr prayers? He said: ‘O ‘Aishah! If my eyes sleep, my heart does not sleep.’


In the above, reported in both Bukhari and Muslim, is proof that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon, used to offer only 11 (eleven) raka’aat in Ramadan. There is no blame on those who offer more than that; but what is better and closer to the Sunnah is for one to offer not more than 11 (eleven) rak’ah as did the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon.


In another narration on ‘Aishah’s authority: the Messenger (SAW) used to offer 10 (ten) raka’aat in the night, perform his witr and then observe his rak’ataiyil fajr, thus making a total of 13 (thirteen) rak’ah.


It should be clear, from the above tradition, to those who assume the Messenger of Allah (SAW) to be offering 13 (thirteen) raka’aat in the night, that rak’ataiyil fajr that has two rak’ah units was added to his normal 11 (eleven) to complete the number to 13 (thirteen). There is no discrepancy in this. His night prayers remain 11 (eleven) raka’aat.‘Aishah also reported the Messenger of Allah (SAW) to be offering 13 (thirteen) raka’aat and observing his witr in the last five sitting only at the tail end of the final (thirteenth) rak’ah. This further strengthened the earlier narration about the Messenger of Allah (SAW) including rak’ataiyil fajr in his night prayers as discussed.


Now we come to the issue of observing Taraaweeh at the early part of the night and offering Tahajjud or Qiyaam in the latter part the night that we see in mosques within and outside Nigeria. The quoted traditions above have shown what the Sunnah of the Prophet is in that regard. In fact, there is not a single authentic Hadeeth or a narration from any of the Prophet’s companions or those who came after them, showing that both Taraaweeh and Qiyaam were offered in the same night in congregation. What will be more rewarding for anybody is to offer either of the two and remain within the precincts of the Sunnah as practiced by the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.


Offering up to 23 (twenty three) raka’aat in Ramadan as we see via satellite television in some countries is allowed but, as I’ve stated in this piece, that is not in line with the custom and practice of the Messenger (SAW) who never exceeded 11 (eleven) rak’ah during Ramadan or any other time. Offering 11 (eleven) rak’ah in total tranquillity, consciousness of Allah and pondering over the meaning of the verses read is better than the difficulty worshippers undergo in hastening to complete 23 (twenty three) raka’aat daily.


I saw something peculiar than the above example in South Africa among the Indian Muslims. Taraaweeh is led by children below the age 13. This is not what was strange to me. I cannot remember how many raka’aat we used to offer in that Ramadan way back in 1988, the speed at which the child-imams were reciting the Qur’an was beyond any speed limit of qiraa’ah stipulated by scholars of tajweed; these children were so fast that you could hardly make meaning of the verses recited in taraaweeh. There was an invisible air of competition among mosques on what masjid will be the first to recite the whole Qur’an in Taraaweeh in the shortest possible days. The strangest part was whenever a mosque finishes the Qur’an that was the end of their Taraaweeh in that masjid for Ramadan. You see people dispersing after Ishaa prayers; why…..are they not going to offer Taraaweeh? No, would be the response, because they completed the Qur’an two days ago. This is not part of the teachings of the Messenger of Allah!


This marathon in reciting the Glorious Qur’an in mosques without careful consideration of the meaning of the verses and their implication to our daily lives is not confined to South Africa; we are all in it. What is special or rewarding in completing the entire Qur’an without pondering over its meaning? Yes uttering the words guarantees reward but it does stop there; we are to live by its teachings, and that can only come about through contemplative reasoning, careful consideration of the meaning of the words. Why will the purpose of offering night prayers be in completing the book, as if Taraaweeh or Tahajjud will not be accepted until the whole Qur’an was recited through them? Night prayer means thinking deeply about the import in some verses of the Qur’an, and not completing the whole book as a condition!


Also, ‘double witr’ is not part of the teachings of the Messenger of Allah (SAW). You find people among those who offer both Taraaweeh and Tahajjud daily offering witr twice, after each set of these naafilah prayers. Their last rak’ah at the end of Taraaweeh will be the witr; they would converge again for Tahajjud, and their final rak’ah will be another witr. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) has said: ‘…no two witr in a single night…’ So, for those brethren who insist upon praying Taraaweeh and Tahajjud in the night of Ramadan, they should choose the end of either of the two for their witr.


Now, to a more delicate one among things we do on which no instruction was given in our observance of Salah in Ramadan – the supplication at the end of the Taraaweeh or Tahajjud prayers. I say delicate because it is disturbing to realise that what we have been doing for years seeking Allah’s countenance; what everybody does, including ministers in faith in high, inviolable places of worship; it is hard to believe that such things have no basis in the practice of the Messenger of Allah (SAW). But alhamdu lillah, correctness in this deen is not based on the personality of who does what; it is in accordance with the practice of the Messenger of Allah (SAW).These lengthy supplications at the end of Taraaweeh or Tahajjud have not been reported from the Messenger of Allah in any authentic tradition. None of his companions or the righteous people who came after them was seen leading people in supplications at the end of Ramadan night Salah or upon the completion of the Glorious Qur’an. This is indeed alien to his sunnah!


Imams around the world will have to memorise long supplications that may last close to an hour to be recited at the end of the daily Ramadan prayers. A special poetic, sobbing intonation is employed by the imams for such recitals which induce weeping in other worshipers. This public display of piety and copious supplications was not part of his sunnah (SAW); he taught us brevity in du’aa and concealment of our emotions towards Allah in order to close the door of riyaa (show off).


I will not comment on the behaviour of those people who do not understand what the imam is praying for in such supplications, and who will chant ameen on everything he says. I reserve whatever comment that may cross my mind on this for another piece. Suffice it to say that ameen should not greet whatever the imam says in du’aa for some of the sentences are praise to Allah or glorifying His Majesty. Those who speak Arabic know what I’m talking about. Whenever I see these people, who answer ameen to everything sentence of the imam’s du’aa, weeping, I keep wondering what makes them cry; may be the sanctity of the place and time, or they might have called to mind some wrong they did in the past and are now regretting their deed; but definitely, the weeping has nothing to do with the imam’s supplications because they don’t know what he is saying; they don’t understand the meaning of his supplications at all.


Often times these end of Taraaweeh supplications include special prayers for leaders that Allah may preserve, grant them good health, guide them and members of their household…; Allah has not sent any authority on this. When you visit the leaders in their places you can supplicate on their behalf, whatever is your intention for that, but I think the mosque should be spared of this abhorrent application for patronage during prayers before Allah. The Messenger of Allah, his companions and succeeding generations of righteous people have not done or seen anything like this!


Imams, in mosque for Ramadan prayers, should restrict themselves to 11 (eleven) raka’aat as practiced by the Messenger of Allah (SAW), reading what is humanly possible of the Glorious Qur’an, making whole their intention and encouraging, among their flock, full consciousness of Allah during salah. Also, they should complete the sujud and ruku’ in their salah according to the sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.



Now, I know I am going to get a lot of flaks from my ‘constituency’ for writing this piece. Those who would show decorum among them will point at the statements of the Imams of the most prominent schools of jurisprudence and tell me they are entitled to their opinions; I wish to state in reply that yes, you are entitled to your own opinions but not to your own facts. The facts of this matter are different from what people hold as opinions. If matters are resolved by stating personal views and not by expounding universal facts, this ‘affair of ours’ would have become a free for all jamboree with every Abdullah and AbdurRahmaan having his own opinion without recourse to proof.With all sense of responsibility, I am quite aware of the differences of opinion on this subject- the layman gets the brunt of this; I am, however, also aware that not all opinions on a matter are correct. I say as Imam Ash Shaafi 'ee used to say in a debate; I am convinced I am right with the possibility that you are right and I am convinced that you are wrong with the possibility that I am wrong too. I pray Allah accept of our meagre ‘ibaadah and make Jannatul Firdaws our final abode.

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