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Tarawih Recitation: A message to all Imams

Imāms should respect the Qur’ān when leading the Tarāwīḥ Prayer

The greatest favour bestowed upon humanity is the revelation of the Qur’ān as it is the only way human beings can be in continuous touch with their Creator. People can easily measure their level of attachment to their Lord by measuring their level of attachment to the Qur’ān – recitation, study and contemplation of it. This divine writ was not revealed to be a book of hymns for aural enjoyment, but instead as a book of guidance, for Allāh says in the Qur’ān, “(This is) a Book (the Qur’ān) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its verses, and that men of understanding may remember.”[1] As the Qur’ān is the unique and inimitable speech of Allāh, reciting it is a tremendous act of worship. However, its reward and comprehensive benefit can only be achieved once we put into practice what we understand. In fact, not putting enough attention to understanding the Qur’ān is condemned as Allāh the Most High says, “Do they not then think deeply about the Qur’ān, or are there locks upon their hearts (from understanding it?)”[2] Many early scholars also condemned those who read the Qur’ān without putting enough effort into understanding it, for example, it is narrated from Ibn Masʽūd that he said, “Do not scatter it (i.e., recitation of the Qur’ān) like the scattering of cheap dates, and do not ramble with it like the rambling of poetry. Stop at its marvels and stir your heart with it. None of you should let his concern be to reach the end of the chapter.”[3]
The way many Imāms recite during the Tarāwīḥ prayer is inexcusable and should be condemned in the strongest of ways by the people of knowledge, and in fact, any individual who respects the words of God. These Imāms recite the Qur’ān as if they are competing with the allocated time in order to finish the set amount and be rid of a heavy burden placed on their shoulders. In listening to some of them it is extremely difficult to make out what they are saying, whilst simultaneously, they make constant mistakes. There are reports of some mosques completing both twenty rak‘ah (units) of the Tarāwīḥ prayer and a whole juz’ of the Qur’ān in thirty minutes. This means that each rak‘ah takes ninety seconds in which one page of the Qur’ān is recited! What justification can such Imāms (and consequently the committees of such mosques) possibly give?
I would like to pose the following question to individuals who legitimize such conduct and deem it acceptable: Imagine that you are standing before God and that He is looking at you while you are praying, do you think Allāh is happy seeing and hearing His words read in this manner without giving them their due rights in terms of recitation and contemplation? Furthermore, I wonder if any of these Imāms or committee members are bold enough to allege that the Prophet would endorse this kind of prayer.
This kind of recitation is exactly what has been condemned by many of the scholars of the early generation. In fact, of one the characteristics of the Khawārij, a deviant sect, the Prophet informed us of is that their recitation of the Qur’ān will not go beyond their throats, i.e., they only pay lip-service to it; we should be very concerned not to have this trait within us. It was reported that Abῑ Jamrah, a scholar of the second generation, informed Ibn ʽAbbās that he recited very quickly and read the Qur’ān in three days, Ibn ʽAbbās replied by saying. ‘That I recite al-Baqarah in a night and reflect on it and reciting it slowly is more beloved to me than to recite in the manner you mention.’
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allāh have mercy on him) summarised what the Muslim has to do in order to remedy the hardness of his heart with the Qur’ān. He said, ‘There is nothing more beneficial for the heart than reading the Qur’ān with contemplation and reflection. The Qur’ān encompasses all the levels of the travelers, the conditions of the workers, and stations of those possessing knowledge. It is the Qur’ān that generates love, desire, fear, hope, repentance, reliance, pleasure, entrustment, gratitude, patience and the rest of the different states that are life to the heart and perfection of it. Likewise, it repels all the rebuked characteristics and actions that cause the corruption and ruin of the heart. If people were to possess a realization of what the recitation of the Qur’ān with contemplation contains, they would devote themselves to it at the expense of everything else. When the person reads it with reflection and he comes across an āyah (verse) that he is in need of for curing his heart, he repeats it, even if he does so a hundred times or the whole night. Hence, to recite a single āyah of the Qur’ān with contemplation and reflection is better than reciting the Qur’ān to completion without any contemplation. It is also more beneficial for the heart and more conducive to attaining īmān (faith) and tasting the sweetness of the Qur’ān.’
The Prophet used to read in a very slow style and stop at verses that mention paradise or the hell fire. Once he repeated the verse where Allāh says ‘If You punish them, they are Your slaves, and if You forgive them, verily You, only You are   the All-Mighty, the All-Wise’[4] for the whole night.[5] Muhammad Ibn al-Kaʽb al-Quraẓῑ (d. 120H) preferred to read Sūrah al-Zalzalah and al-Qāriʽah and repeat them a number of times over reading the whole Qur’ān in a very hasty way. Imām Abū Ḥanῑfah once kept repeating Sūrah al-Zalzalah for the whole night.
Many of our acts of worship (ʽibādāt) have lost their spirit and have been transformed into meaningless ritual images where the focus is on completing them irrespective of whether they leave an impact on our souls or not and if they were perfected or at least performed in a truly satisfactory manner. That is why our worship does not change us for the better; our commitment to the dīn (religion/way of life) of Allāh is very weak and our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of Allāh is even more so – our morals and manners are not improving. Many of us want to be rid of the Tarāwīḥ prayer, no matter how it is offered. Humility, tranquility and reflection are insignificant elements for such Muslims. This is the opposite of what Allāh wants from us; we have removed the very elements from our acts of worship that have been purposely placed there to better us and focus instead on quantity rather quality – for those of us who have any focus at all.
I believe it is time we should put a stop to this and mend our relationship with the Qur’ān as Allāh has commanded: “O mankind! There has come to you a good advice (i.e. the Qur’ān) from your Lord, and a healing for that (diseases of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences, etc.) in your breasts, – a guidance and a mercy for   the believers.”
I call upon committee members and Imāms to seek the pleasure of Allah and not the pleasure of their congregation. I call upon Muslims to advice such Imāms and committee members who do not manifest enough respect to the Qur’ān and to consider appointing other Imāms who recite according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). We should also remember that completing twenty Rak’ah or even the whole Qur’an during Tarāwīḥ is not compulsory, yet listening to it attentively and reciting it with moderate speed is. If the Tarāwīḥ prayer has to be completed in a specific time, then the amount set to be recited should be reduced so that a better quality of worship is achieved.
I ask Allah to guide us all to follow His Book and the Sunnah of his Messenger and to pardon our shortcomings for He is the Oft-Forgiving Oft-Pardoning.

Notes: this article is a repost
[1]Sūrah Ṣād, 38:29 
[2]Sūrah Muḥammad, 47:24
[3]Reported in various places such as Akhlāq Ḥamalah al-Qurʽān by al-Ājurrῑ and al-Baghawῑ in his Tafsῑr.
[4]Sūrah al-Mā’idah, 5:118
[5]Reported by Ibn Abī Shaybah and Aḥmad in his Musnad

About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.



    Jazakumullah khair for the article but some of the comments are worrying – the bid’ah gun is always ready to shoot! I pray this isn’t still the case

  2. MashaAllah… your share is so complete! congratulation!!!!

  3. Requestion to repost
    Asalamu Alaikum,
    Can you please do the honour of reposting this post in your website, Inshaa’Allah.

  4. not bidah- prophet said” had i not feared that you woulde have made it complusory on yourselves I would hve continued” this happened during his liftime when he prayed in congrgation for feww days and people piled up.He only stopped because people might misunderstand it as compulsory in congrgation this misunderstanding was lifted after his death when the Umar raa restarted it- and this led to no incubemcy o people because.He did not forbid people from praying it in congregation!!!

  5. Praying 20 Rakaths as Taraweeh is BidAth indeed!
    Salaath alQiyamul Lail later known as Salaath atTaraaweeh was shown by the Prophet of Allaah (Sal). He (Sal) prayed only 11 Rakaths not 20 Rakaths! If anyone claims that he has the authority to change the teachings of the Messenger of Allaah (Sal), then he claims Nubuwwath. (May Allaah protect from going ashtray.)

    Please be clear that praying Taraweeh is not Bidath, but praying more than what Rasoolullaah (Sal) prayed is BidAth.

    May Allaah protect all of us deviating from the right path, the path Allaah showed us and the path His Messenger (Sal) showed us.
    Abu Fawzeema

    • Salam. This is crazy idea and it is intolerance! Are you a scholar? So keep yourselves away from writing which does not befit you.

  6. effectiveness…
    Jazakumullah khair for the article but some of the comments are worrying – the bid’ah gun is always ready to shoot! I pray this isn’t still the case.

    I hope something more practical is being done because I doubt many Imams or Committee members would read this. Arabic isn’t the only language they struggle with. I don’t expect them to listen to us either…

  7. Contemplation and Reflection as Heavier in Weight Than Recitation
    Salaamun aleikum.

    Jazak’Allah khairun to Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad for citing the statement of Ibn al-Qayyim.

    What is sorely neglected is the importance of taffakur, ta’aqqul, taddabbur, taffaquh etc during recitation of The Qur’an. THIS is the reason the Muslims gain little/no benefit from their tilaawat (recitation) of The Qur’an, i.e. because they do NOT follow/study/recite it AS IT SHOULD BE FOLLOWED/STUDIED/RECITED. In short, there is an adab (etiquette) and manhaj (method) for engaging with The Qur’an and if this is ignored, it’s risaalat (message) will not penetrate our hearts (quloob).

    Fi amaan illah

  8. Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said in Majaalis Shahr Ramadaan, p. 22:

    At first the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to pray Taraweeh in congregation in the mosque, then he stopped because he feared that it might be made obligatory upon his ummah…

    Al-Albaani said in Qiyaam Ramadaan: Rather it (praying Taraweeh in congregation) is better than praying it alone, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did it himself and explained its virtue.

    Al-Nawawi said in al-Majmoo’, 3/526:

    Praying Taraweeh is Sunnah according to scholarly consensus… It is permissible to offer this prayer alone or in congregation, but which is better? There are two well-known opinions on this matter. The correct view according to the consensus of our companions is that praying it in congregation is better. The second view is that it is better to pray it individually.

    Our companions said: The difference of opinion has to do with one who has memorized the Qur’aan; there is no fear that he may become lazy and neglect it if he prays on his own, and the congregation in the mosque is not going to be affected if he stays away. But if one of these factors is absent, then praying in congregation is better, and there is no difference of scholarly opinion on this point.

    The author of al-Shaamil said: Abu’l-‘Abbaas and Abu Ishaaq said that praying Taraweeh in congregation is better than praying it individually, because of the consensus of the Sahaabah and the consensus of the scholars of the regions on this point. End quote.

    Asad ibn ‘Amr ibn Abi Yoosuf said: I asked Abu Haneefah about Taraweeh and what ‘Umar did. He said: Taraweeh is a confirmed Sunnah, and ‘Umar did not base his decision on speculation and he was not introducing bid’ah (an innovation). He did not enjoin it except because of what he knew from the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). ‘Umar introduced this and gathered the people behind Ubayy ibn Ka’b and he offered this prayer in congregation, at the time when the Sahaabah – the Muhaajireen and Ansaar – were still alive, and no one among them objected to that, rather they helped him and agreed with him, and also enjoined it. End quote.

    From Islamqa

    Nice summary of taraweeh salah by sheikh ibn jibreen from Islamqa

  9. May Allah reward you
    MashAllah it is a very beautifully written piece of advice.

  10. Mr
    😮 I am shocked to hear that the trawees are BIDA’H. Moreover I feel that this article/discussion Is “FITNA”. Traweehs are to listen to Qur’an and not necessarily to understand at the same time and act.
    To understand and action is necessary too but not necessarily at the time of traWEEHS. mOREOVER THIS ARTICLE is very poorly refrenced. The references have been given regarding understanding and not listening Qur’an.
    Recitation of Qur’an is proven from Qur’an itself. Understaning of Qur’an at different time is very essential. Please do not mix up two reqirements and commandments.
    FITNA is worse than Murder. Be careful. May Allah bless you with “HADAYAT”

  11. Yes
    Hounslow Mosque is one place where – I’m sad to say – this is a daily recurrence with the imam.

  12. Taraweah, is it a Bid’ah really?
    To the brother/sister who claims that praying Taraweah is a Bidah – then according to you, the companions (all of them) are innovators (mubtadi’oon) since they all congregated in Ramadan, in the night time and prayed 20 raka’s – I guess they all have a chair waiting for them in the fire, right…?

    Actually, before this, it is recorded that the prophet (saw) prayed with them in congregation for 2-3 nights in Ramadan, before retreating back to his home, fearing that it would become compulsory upon his people. I shudder to think that you could call the prophet (saw) an innovator.

    Finally, the prophet (saw) said of the rightly guided successors, their sunnah is one that we should follow, Abu Bakr (ra) and Umer (ra) being from them by consensus of the Muslims – therefore, if Umer (ra) makes an injunction into the religion, it by default becomes part of Islam.

    p.s. If all the companions are all going to Jahanum and the prophet (saw) said that the best of generations was his generation – I wonder where that leaves us 1400 years on…

  13. Prayer at Night
    Assalaamu Alaikum

    Praying 20 Rakath is a bidAh. It is narrated by Ayesha (RA) that the Prophet (Sal) prayed in the night 11 Rakaths. So, please note that the Prophet was sent by Allaah, to guide the people. If anyone add or reduce to any teachings he claim that he is a prophet. (NaUthubillaah) The author of the Article and the Islam21 editors – please note and fear Allaah.
    Abu Fawzeema

  14. Shadow Caster

    Tarweeh prayer in congregation is bid’a… it doesn’t matter how long someone reads quran or not because every innovation is a sin and whoever knowingly maintains a bidah has a seat waiting for him in jahanam.

  15. Taraweeh in congregation is a sunnah of the sahaba
    Umar al-khattab’s sunnah as far as I know. We rather trust their decision rather than your comments today. 😉

  16. Salaam Alaykum

    nice and though provoking article .

  17. Nice Hadith
    Abdullah ibn Masud said to a certain man, “You are in a time when men of understanding (fuqaha) are many and Qur’an reciters are few, when the limits of behaviour defined in the Qur’an are guarded and its letters are lost, when few people ask and many give, when they make the prayer long and the khutba short, and put their actions before their desires.

    A time will come upon men when their fuqaha are few but their Qur’an reciters are many, when the letters of the Qur’an are guarded carefully but its limits are lost, when many ask but few give, when they make the khutba long but the prayer short, and put their desires before their actions.”

    Imam Malik’s Muwatta Chapter No: 9, Shortening the Prayer

  18. “the child and the non-Arab will recite it, without possessing any knowledge about it”
    It is reported that Ibn ‘Umar – Allâh be pleased with him – said, “We were the beginning [the heads] of this Ummah, and perhaps a man from the best of the Companions of Allâh’s Messenger – Allâh’s peace and blessings be upon him – and the most righteous amongst them could maintain only one chapter of the Qur`ân or thereabouts. For the Qur`ân was weighty upon them, and they were given knowledge of it or action based on it. But the last of this Ummah will find the Qur`ân light [and easy] – the child and the non-Arab will recite it, without possessing any knowledge about it.”
    Al-Harawî, Dhamm Al-Kalâm wa Ahlihî Vol. 5 p144.

  19. Poor Referencing
    JazakAllah khayran to Shaykh Haddad for this; this is something that i’m sure many people have been frustrated by.

    If i may say though, the article is rendered far less useful because of the poor referencing. This is endemic amongst Muslim scholars and this site does endeavour to be ‘academic’. It’s not meeting its goals with articles referenced like this which would be failed first year bachelors essays.

    Ibn Abi Shaybah and Ahmad are not small collections (!!) – they should be referenced precisely.

    Ibn Abbas’s comment in the 3rd paragraph is not referenced. Ibn Qayyim’s quote is not referenced.

    If someone wants to raise these points with a committee or imam the first hurdle will be their request to take this article away and reference it properly.

    Come on guys…don’t say ‘academic’ and then publish like this…

  20. Tarâweeh in haste…
    Very well written, mâshâ-Allâh.

    I wrote a blog on this matter last year ([url][/url]) but it’s not as eloquent and detailed as the Shaykh has presented here.

    May Allâh give us all the Tawfeeq to act upon his advices!

  21. do you even understand what you read and say??
    With all due respect to those adding comments, but a little diligence would go along way in demonstrating you understand what you read.

    The Shaikh-Allah preserve him-addresses his paper to ‘Imams’-leading a congregation- and ‘Mosque Committees’-organising congregations at such premises!

    Surely if there was an issue of ‘Bid’ah’ concerning the congregational observance of Taraweeh/Qiyam the matter would have been addressed as such.

    Further note: Consensus of the Sahabah cannot render a matter ‘Bid’ah’, especially when a precedent exists.

    Learn before you lip & hurl ill-informed, baseless opinions!

    Allah increase us all in the correct understanding and reward the Shaikh for his sincere words of advice.

  22. in or outside of Ramadan
    This is a message that is important wether the Quran is being read/memorized/studied inside or outside of Ramadan. Sadly, we see too many “hifz” programs for kids that are only interested in just getting the children to “finish the Quran” without ever explaining a single verse to the children. Some even have the children learning from transliterations without any emphasis on teaching the children to learn how to read the Quran in arabic. Then there are some who do not even try to emphasis tajweed or the correct pronounciation of the Quran. “AH-OOOH-ZOO BILL AHEE MENASH SHAYTON EAR RASHEEEM???” The children who learn such nonsense have a really hard time later trying to correct and relearn everything over again.

    Then there are the Mufti/Sheikh/Alim/Dayees etc. who recite in manner meant to impress or show off or elevate their status with the people. They are reciting in a monotone for 5 minutes and then all the sudden they scream,moan,and wail a few words at the top of their lungs, or they enlongate a word with so many high and low notes that you wonder if they are singing opera or reciting Quran.

    Finally, I am truly appalled at how hard it has become in America to find someone to teach Quran correctly without spending your paycheck on it. It costs alot of money to learn Quran now compared to 10 years ago when I remember sisters fighting for just the opportunity to teach me and my children a few verses for the pleasure of Allah with the hope of a continuing charity for their souls.

    Indeed we seem to have reached the beginning of an era where knowledge of the Quran is vanishing. It is now a great accoomplishment to have listened to the Quran once during taraweeh without thought about reading or reciting Quran throughout the rest of the year. If a child finishes Juz ‘Amaa by before puberty, a great party is thrown, where it was once common for children to actually memorize the entire Quran. Few care about correct pronounciation, and fewer still that anyone understands the meaning of what they are mispronouncing. A hafiz today is not the same as it used to be.

  23. Ignorant Alert ^
    It is indeed biddah! His/her being a rafidah or not is irrelevant – a Hindu could have told you this haq! People who enjoin biddah and/or partake in it are incurring great sin. Fear Allah people and follow His messenger’s sunnah – DON’T pray tarawih in congregation.


  24. bid’ah !?
    raafidah alert ! ^^ 8)

  25. tarawih
    in congregation it is a bidah, wake up muslim

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