Throughout the year, if there is one month for which Muslims wait most anxiously, it is the month of Ramadan. It is one of the most blessed months of the year as it brings with it countless blessings and rewards for those who fast the whole month and pray to Allah Almighty. Therefore, it is the wish of every Muslim to gain as much blessings in this month as possible.
One of the best ways of gaining maximum blessings in Ramadan and observe it in true spirit is the offering of Taraweeh prayer. The offering of Taraweeh prayer in Ramadan is the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and it originated in His life time and became an integral part of Ramadan since then. Now the word Taraweeh is synonymous with Ramadan and it has been the case for the past over 1400 years. The lines below discus the offering of Taraweeh prayer in the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)and during the reign of the Caliphs.
Life of Prophet (PBUH):
Taraweeh was one of the deeds Prophet Muhammad S.A.W use to practice in the month of Ramadan. There are numerous traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) reported by different Companions of His, according to which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to offer 20 rakats of Taraweeh during the month of Ramadan. The lines below give those traditions and the saying of Prophet (PBUH) in this regard as well.
It is narrated by Hazrat Ibn Abbas (RA):
“The Prophet (PBUH) would pray 20 Rakats and then Witr in the month of Ramadan.” (baihaqi)
From this narration of Hazrat Ibn Abbas (RA), it is clear that offering twenty Rakats of Taraweeh after Isha prayer is a Sunnah of Prophet (PBUH) and the Witr of the Isha prayer were offered after the Taraweeh by Him.
Hazrat Abu Dhar Ghifari (RA) narrates in the same regard in the following way:
“We (the Companions) observed the fasts of Ramadan with the Prophet (PBUH). In the whole month the Prophet (PBUH) did not lead us in prayer, until there were 7 days left in the month. The Prophet (PBUH) then led us in prayer on the 23rd, 25th and 27th night.” (Abu Dawood)
This narration shows that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lead the congregation of the Taraweeh prayer during these three nights of Ramadan. Pertaining to the same nights of Ramadan, Hazrat Aisha (RA) narrates the following :
“After these nights (23,25 & 27th) the congregation grew to a very large number on the 29th night. The Masjid of the Prophet (PBUH) had become filled to capacity. On this night, the Prophet (PBUH) only came out to lead the people for the Fajr prayer. After the Fajr prayer, the Prophet (PBUH) stated: ‘I knew that you had gathered for the night prayer (Taraweeh) but I feared that this prayer would become compulsory (Fard) upon you and you would find it difficult to fulfill.” (Bukhari)
This hadith of Prophet (PBUH) shows the grandeur of the status of Taraweeh. Prophet (PBUH) avoided offering it in congregation just because He feared that it might get the status of Fard and then the people of the Ummah would find it hard to offer it in congregation throughout the whole month.
As far as the number of Taraweeh rakats performed by prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is concerned there is a difference of opinion regarding the number. Some say the number was eight; some say the number was twelve, while the others say it was twenty. Although the majority of Muslims follow the 20 Rakats in Taraweeh tradition, however, none of the schools of thoughts contradict on the importance and imperativeness of Taraweeh in the month of Ramadan.
Reign of Caliph Abu Bakar (RA):
During the reign of Hazrat Abu Bakar (RA), the Companions continued on offering the Taraweeh prayer in Ramadan either individually or in the form of small congregations in their respective mosques.
Reign of Caliph Umar (RA):
It was in the reign of Hazrat Umar (RA) that Taraweeh gained the stature that it enjoys today pertaining to its offering in congregation.
Hazrat Abu Rahman bin Abdul Qari (RA) narrates:
“I left one night in Ramadan with Hazrat Umar bin Khattab (RA) and we headed towards the Masjid e Nabwi. In the Masjid we saw various groups of people praying alone or behind an Imam and they were scattered over the Masjid. Umar bin Khattab (RA) made a decision to congregate all the people behind Hazrat Ubay ibn Ka’ab (RA).” (Bukhari)
The reason why Hazrat Umar (RA) asked people to offer Taraweeh in one congregation is the fact that as Prophet (PBUH) was not alive at that time and the Deen was complete, therefore, there was no chance of it becoming a Fard. Hence, if Muslims performed it with congregation it would bring them the same reward without making the Taraweeh a Fard. Since the time of Hazrat Umar (RA) the offering of Taraweeh in congregation has become a part of the daily Ramadan prayers for all the Muslims.
Reign of Caliph Usman (RA):
In the reign of Hazrat Usman (RA) the same tradition of offering Taraweeh in congregation continued and Muslims continued on offering Taraweeh prayer in congregation.
Reign of Caliph Ali (RA):
Pertaining to the offering of Taraweeh in the reign of Hazrat Ali (RA), Hazrat Abi Abdur Rahman Salmi (RA) narrates:
“In the nights of Ramadan, Hazrat Ali (RA) called upon the recitors of the Quran and ordered one amongst them to lead the people in twenty Rakats of Taraweeh. Hazrat Ali (RA) would lead the people himself in the Witr Salah.” (Sunan Kabeer Baihaqi)
In a nutshell, the imperativeness of Taraweeh and its being one of the recommended deeds in Ramadan is evident from the life of Prophet (PBUH) and its observance in the reigns of different Caliph. Therefore, every Muslim must try offering Taraweeh regularly and not take it casually during Ramadan.