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Didn’t the Shi’ah Imams Pray Tarawih ?

And during a part of the night, engage in the night prayer

Imam al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) were asked about the permissibility
of praying optional prayers in congregation during the nights of Ramadan. They
(Tahajjud) beyond what is incumbent on you; perhaps your
both narrated a tradition of the Prophet (s) where he said: Lord will raise you to a position of great glory. (17:79)
 “Verily, the offering of nafila (recommended prayers) in congregation
during the nights of Ramadan is an INNOVATION… O people! do not say Prophet Muhammad (s) said regarding the month of Ramadan:
nafila prayers of Ramadan in congregation…. Without doubt, performing a “Whoever establishes the night prayer (Qiyam al-Layl) in it out of sincere
minor act of worship which is according to the sunna is better than Faith and hope for reward from Allah, all of his previous sins will be
performing a major act of worship which is an innovation.” forgiven.”
[al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi`ah, volume 8, page 45] [Sahih al-Bukhari, volume 3, book 32, number 226]
This view of the Imams from the Prophet’s progeny is confirmed by a scholar
well-known amongst the Ahl al-Sunnah who writes:
 “The progeny of the Prophet (s) say that congregation in Tarawih is an
[al-Shawkani, Nayl al-Awtar, volume 3, page 50]

What do Sunni scholars say about praying

Tarawih at home ?
Why do the
“The scholars agree on its merit, but they differ on whether it is better to pray
it in one’s home individually or in congregation in a mosque.” Al-Nawawi, the
famous commentator of Sahih Muslim, then goes on to list scholars who support
Shi’ah avoid
the second and dominant view. He then writes: “Malik, Abu Yusuf, some
Shafi’i scholars, and others say that it is better to pray it individually in the
[al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, volume 6, page 286]

The Shi’ah always aspire to pray the night prayer – called the Tahajjud or
Qiyam al-Layl or Salat al-Layl – in the last part of the nights of every month,
particularly during Ramadan. They are also commended to offer additional
nawafil prayers during the nights of Ramadan. However, they offer these
optional prayers mostly in their homes and never in congregation. By doing so The Ahl al-Sunnah generally consider it a sunnah to offer
they abide by the Qur’an and the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (s).
specific evening prayers – the Tarawih – in congregation
To find out more about authentic Islam, visit: during the holy month of Ramadan. The Shi’ah, while being
commended to offer similar nawafil (recommended prayers), are not allowed to offer them in congregation. This practice of
v1.0 the Shi’ah is in accordance with the orders and sunnah of the
Prophet (s). number of units.”
[al-Qastallani, Irshad al-Sari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, volume 5, page 4]
[al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, volume 6, page 287]
Brothers and sisters from the Ahl al-Sunnah come together in Tarawih  “‘Umar was the first who set the example of the night prayer of Ramadan,
congregations during the early evenings of the month of Ramadan. They stand the Tarawih, and gathered people for it, and instructed different regions
in prayer and recite the Qur’an, and may Allah (swt) reward them for their regarding it. This was during the month of Ramadhan of the year 14 (hijri).
sincere intentions and actions. However, the word Tarawih was never He appointed for the people reciters of the Qur’an who led the Tarawih
mentioned by the Qur’an or the Prophet (s) to describe these extra prayer for men and women.”
congregational prayers during the evenings of the month of [Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat, volume 3, page 281]
Ramadan. It is a term developed later amongst Muslims. Linguistically, the [al-Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa', page 137]
word “Tarawih” is the plural of the word ‘tarwiha’ referring to the short period [al-‘Ayni, ‘Umdat al-Qari fi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, volume 6, page 125]
of rest between every four units of the prayer. Later, the entire congregational
prayers in the nights of Ramadan were called by this term. Congregation in Mosque or Individually at
Origins of Tarawih as a Congregational Prayer Home?

It is a well-established fact that the Tarawih, as a congregational night prayer of Offering the optional prayers individually inside the home and away from
Ramadan, owes its existence to the order of the second caliph, ‘Umar b. al- congregation in mosque is highly recommended by the Prophet (s) as it brings
Khattab. more blessings for the home and family and helps in the Islamic upbringing of
 Narrated Abu Hurayra: Allah's Apostle said, “Whoever prayed at night the children.
whole month of Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from The Prophet (s) said: “O people! Perform your prayers at your homes, for the
Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” Ibn Shihab (a sub-
best prayer of a person is what he performs at his home, except the
narrator) said, “When Allah's Apostle died, the people continued observing
that (i.e. Nawafil offered individually, not in congregation), and it compulsory (congregational) prayer."
remained as such during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr and in the early days of [Sahih al-Bukhari, volume 9, book 92, number 393]
‘Umar's Caliphate.” ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Abdul Qari said, “I went out in the [al-Nasa’i, Sunan, volume 3, p. 161, p. 198]
company of ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab one night in Ramadan to the mosque and  Once Abdullah bin Mas’ud asked the Prophet (s): “Which is better; to pray
found the people praying in different groups – a man praying alone or a man in my house or in the mosque?” The Prophet (s) replied: “Do you not see
praying with a little group behind him. Then, ‘Umar said, ‘ In my opinion I how near to the mosque my house is? To pray in my house is more
would better collect these (people) under the leadership of one Qari (reciter) beloved to me than to pray in the mosque except for the
[i.e. let them pray in congregation!]'. So, he made up his mind to congregate
obligatory prayers.”
them behind Ubayy bin Ka’b. Then, on another night, I went again in his
[Ibn Majah, Sunan, volume 1, page 439, number 1378]
company and the people were praying behind their reciter. On that, ‘Umar
remarked, 'What an excellent BID'A (INNOVATION in religion) this is; Narrated Zayd bin Thabit: Allah's Apostle (s) made a small room (with a palm
but the prayer which they do not perform, but rather sleep at its time, is leaf mat). He (s) came out (of his house) and prayed in it. Some men came and
better than the one they are offering.' He meant the prayer in the last part of joined him in his prayer. Then again the next night they came for the prayer, but
the night." the Prophet (s) delayed and did not come out to them. So they raised their voices
[Sahih al-Bukhari, volume 3, book 32, number 227] and knocked the door with small stones (to draw his attention). He came out
 “It was called BID’AH because the Prophet (s) did not use to pray it in to them in a state of anger, saying, “You are still insisting (on your deed)
congregation, and neither was it prayed like that in the time of al-Siddiq that I fear this prayer might become obligatory on you. So, O you people!
(referring to the first Caliph), nor in the early part of night or with these 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) THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. Some Sunni writers have tried to prove that
prayer.” this Hadith is actually about TARAWEEH. Nothing could be further from the
[Sahih al-Bukhari, volume 8, book 73, number 134] truth. This Hadith is about NAMAZ-E-SHAB also known as TAHAJJUD. It
is this prayer which is eleven Rakat that is done in the middle of the night. It
is not specific to Ramadhan. It is done or can be done all year round. And
The following article was published in the community News & Views of TARAWEEH is not done in the Middle of the Night; it is done after Isha
January 1996. It has since been circulated almost every year during the month before the midnight sets in.
of Ramadhan.
Community News & Views Vol.4 No.9 January 1996 ISSN 1067 5523
I ask you all to have the following perspective in view when reading this

(1) In the US University and college campuses MSA's are very active. Every A great majority of our Sunni brothers perform the Taraweeh Salat every
MSA becomes even more active during the holy month of Ramadhan. All evening after Isha prayer during the month of Ramadhan. We, the Shia
Muslim students come together at Iftar time and break their fast together as a Muslims don't. Many of the Sunni brothers do not know that (according to
group. It gives a great sense of solidarity among Muslim students in the their own ulema) Taraweeh is Mustahab, but the great majority of them
American and European campuses. However, soon after the Isha prayers, the perform it as if it was as Wajib as the Ramadhan fasting itself.
group separates. The Sunni students regroup for the TRAWEEH prayers
while the Shia students go back to their dorms. It is natural for those Sunnis In 1983 when I was in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi scholar, answering a question in
who have never come in contact with the Shia Muslims to ask the Shia as to the local English newspaper, gave the following details of how this special
why don't they participate in the TRAWEEH prayers. This article gives a very prayer was introduced in Islam.
brief but comprehensive answer to that basic question. Soon after the death of Hazrat Abu Bakr in the 13th year of Hijra, Hazrat
(2) I ask my Sunni brothers not to take this article trying to demean their Umar took control of the Islamic State as the second Khaleefa. In the
FIQH, Not at all. This is just an effort to explain a basic difference between Ramadhan of 14 Hijra, while he was going round the streets of Madinah, he
the groups. It is a FIQHI difference not a difference in basic faith. I believe noticed people performing supererogatory prayers (Nafl) here and there, a
that not all Sunnis will one day become Shia neither will all Shia become few of them in various places. A bright idea dawned upon him. He decided to
Sunnis. The differences are their and they will last. However, let us try to bring all the Muslims together in a congregation and commanded them to
understand each other and work and live with each other by being a little recite one thirtieth of the Holy Quran every night. This way, the entire Holy
more tolerant towards each other by accepting what we are without labeling Quran was recited by each and every Muslim man at least once in the month
any one as KAFIR or FASIQ. of Ramadhan. A few days later, as he was going round again, he saw the
various congregations and was very pleased. He is reported to have said at
(3) Having said all that, let me add this post-script. Lately some Sunni the sight: O! What a beautiful bidah (innovation) I have established.
institutions have tried to show (falsely) that mention has been made about
TARAWEEH in the Hadith literature. However noble that effort may be The Saudi scholar writing this did not mention his source references. But we
towards legitimizing something which is a bidah (whether you call it bidaht- have confirmed that the establishment of Taraweeh Salat was done by Hazrat
e-Hasan or not), it is baseless. There is a Hadith in Bukhari (and in other Umar ibn Khattab in the 14th year of Hijra as stated in "Tareekh-ul-Khulafa"
books too) that the Prophet of Islam (SAW) did special NAFL prayers in the by Jalal-uddeen Suyooti (d. 911 Hijra) and Murooj-uz Zahab by Masoodi
middle of the night. The Arabic term used here in the HADITH is FI JAWF- (d.346 Hijra).
IL-LAYL. The exact translation of this term in the English language is IN
Of course, there are some slight differences between various Sunni sects in
how this special prayer is performed. The Hanafi do Twenty Rakat every
night, and after the recital of sura Al-Hamd, nearly one-twentieth of each Juz
is recited. The others perform eight rakat of prayer every night and in each
one nearly one eighth of a Juz is recited. The end result is that one full Juz of
the Holy Quran is recited every night.
Although I have not seen this anywhere in writing, but I have a feeling that it
was because of Taraweeh that the Holy Quran, which was compiled by our
Holy Prophet (SAW) into verses (Ayat) and chapters (Suras), was divided
into 30 equal parts and each section named a Juz (Para in Farsi).
As I said earlier, we the Shia do not do this prayer although we are supposed
to perform an extra 1000 Rakat of supererogatory salat during the month of
Ramadhan (as prescribed in Mafateeh-ul-Jinan and other books) and we also
recite Holy Quran at least once over.
Our rejection of Taraweeh is not out of spite. We do not do it for two reasons;
one is purely jurisprudential (Fiqhee) and the other logical (Aqlee).
(1) All our religious teaching is either taken from the Holy Quran or from the
Ahlul-Bayt (peace be unto them all). Hazrat Umar's (or anybody else's for
that matter) statements and acts have no value for us in matters of worship or
law. Taraweeh is not mentioned in the Holy Quran. It was not done by the
Holy Prophet (SAW) in his lifetime and it was never done by any of our
Imams neither did they ever speak about it.
(2) When the Prophet of Islam (SAW) compiled the Holy Quran as we see it
today, he (SAW) also made statements giving the attributes of each chapter
(sura). In this, he gave details about which verses and suras should be recited
as part of salat. Some are recited in pairs like al-Feel (ch. 105) and Quraysh
(ch. 106). Only those suras are supposed to be recited in salat which express
Allah's Power and Majesty etc. It is quite obvious that some verses are not
meant to be recited in salat, like those describing the laws of divorce and
menstruation. Although we do not understand Arabic, those who do will
agree that every verse cannot be recited in salat. So, we do recite the entire
Holy Quran in the month of Ramadhan and we do perform supererogatory
prayers but not as Taraweeh.
By: Syed-Mohsin Naquvi