Q. Many Imams recite the Quran very fast in ‘taraweeh’ and they perform ‘ruku’ and ‘sujood’ in a fast manner which makes it difficult for the follower to supplicate properly. Is it allowed to pray in this manner?

Praying Taraweeh Very FastA. (Dr Zakir Naik): It is very common in many of the mosques, because they want to finish the Quran in the month of Ramadan in ‘taraweeh’ so they make it as short as possible. They do recite very fast and very often you see they go into the ‘ruku’ and ‘sajood’ very fast and many times once I was in one of the mosques and when the imam went in the sujood I went after him and he got up again and went again I was still in my first sujood while he was doing the second sujood. So is it right or wrong? It is mentioned in Sahih Al-Bukhari, “Once the Prophet he enters the mosque and there is another man he follows him and the man offers salaah, after offering his salaah he wishes the prophet As-Salaam-Alykum , the Prophet greets back and he says that “go back and pray because you have not prayed!”, the man goes back and comes back to the prophet, the prophet again says “go back and pray as you have not prayed!”, so again the person goes the third time. He prays and he comes back. The Prophet again says “go back and pray for you have not prayed”, the third time the man says, “I cannot pray better than this, O Prophet please teach me how to pray.” So then the prophet says, “after saying the taqbeer you recite while standing in the qiyaam as much as you want then you bow down i.e. go into ‘ruku’ until you are at ease and then say “Subhana Rabil Adheem” (Glory be to Allah) (three times) and stand up straight until you are at ease then go in ‘sujood’ with calmness until you are at ease and then say “subhana rabil aala” (glory be to Allah who is most high) (thrice), then get up again till you are at ease and continue your prayer like that.” That means all specially your ‘ruku’ and ‘sujood’ and when you get up from your ruku and in between your ‘sujood’ you should be at ease. You can’t go up and down.  If you do that it is as though your prayer has not been accepted, it as though you have not prayed. So if you pray in such a manner the tarweeh like fast fast… It is like you have not prayed. So it is best you pray slowly with calmness and if you think you can’t offer 20 rakat then offer 8 rakat but with peace, ease and calmness and long. It should not be having competition with other mosques.

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Q. Is the taraweeh prayer a fardh or sunnah? Can a person miss it?

A. (#DrZakirNaik):   As I discussed earlier as it is mentioned in the hadith that how Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed taraweeh and people joined him, the next day the news spread and when he came the next day the full mosque was filled, the third day it was overflowing and the 4th day purposely even though the mosque was overflowing the prophet did not come out for qiyam-ul-layl (taraweeh) and when he came for the fajar salaah he said, “it’s not that i didn’t know that people were waiting for me, the reason I didn’t come because I didn’t want offering the qiyam-ul-layl in Ramadan to be Fardh.” So from this hadith we come to know that it is not a fardh. But the other hadith of sahih bukhari in which our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “whoever offers the night prayer in Ramadan with the belief and seeking Allah’s reward all his past sins will be forgiven.” So from this we come to know that though it is not a fardh it is a very important sunnah. It is ‘sunnatil mokidah’, that means a very highly recommended sunnah of the Prophet. No Muslim should miss it unless he has a valid reason. He should try his best to offer it and seek Allah’s reward so that all his sins will be forgiven.

Q. Could you tell us about the excellence of the night prayer i.e. ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ in Islam?

Excellence of Night Prayer (Qiyam-ul-Layl)

Excellence of Night Prayer (Qiyam-ul-Layl)

A. (#DrZakirNaik):  There are several verses in the Quran and several hadiths talking about the excellence of night prayer. I will just mention few of them. Allah says in the Quran in Surah Al-Sajdah Ch. 32, V. 16, talking about those people who go to jannah, the people of paradise and he describes those people that “Their limbs do forsake the bed of sleep and they call to their Lord in fear and hope…” that means they leave aside their sleep and they pray to Allah subhanwatala in hope and in fear and in ‘Taqwah’. And the verse continues “…They give in charity from the sustenance we have given.” Talking about the people of jannah. Further if you read it is mentioned in Surah Al-Dhariyaat Ch. 51 V. 17-18, “These people they sleep very little at night and during the early hours of dawn these people they pray for forgiveness”. Allah further says in Surah Al-Furqan Ch. 25, V. 64,These are the people who spend their night in the adoration of their Lord standing and in prostration (in ‘qiyam’ and in ‘sujood’).” There are various verses in the Quran, there are various Hadith talking about the excellence of this night prayer. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said which is mentioned in Sahih Muslim that, “The best prayer after the prescribed prayers it is the night prayer”. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said which is mentioned in Sahih Al-Bukhari that, “the best prayer is the prayer of Dawud (a. s) and the best fasting is the fasting of Dawud (a. s).” And Dawud (a. s) used to sleep in the first part of the night and then he used to spend the next one-third of the night in praying to Allah subhanwatala and rest of it the one-sixth of the night he used to again sleep. Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “When a person sleeps the Satan ties three knots at the back of his head and after tying each knot he whispers “the night is long so keep on sleeping” and when a person gets up and remembers Allah subhanwatala the first knot is undone, when he does the wudhu the second knot is undone and when he prays the third knot is undone and the person is energetic and insha’allah he will be on the staright path for the full day.” On the other hand if he gets up without remembering Allah, without doing wudhu without offering Salaah then he is lazy and his heart is mischievous. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) further said which is mentioned in Sahih Muslim that, “Allah subhanwatala he descends in the lowest part of the heaven in the last one-third of the night and he says “is there anyone who wants to supplicate to me and I will answer it, is there anyone who wants to ask from me and I will give it to him, is there anyone who wants to seek forgiveness and I will forgive him, is there anyone who wants to invest a good deed with me for I am not unjust and not wasteful.” And it continues till the break of dawn. And there are various excellences spoken about the night prayer. For example in the Sahih Hadith of Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Tirmidhi in which our beloved Prophet said, “the servant is closest to his Lord in the last one-third of the night and if he asks him, if he prays during this time it is the best time he can pray to Allah subhanwatala.” It is again mentioned that,  “a person asked to “which is the best time to pray?” and Prophet said “the best time when your prayer will be answered is during the last one-third of the night and after the prescribed prayers.” i.e. after the 5 obligatory prayers if you supplicate insha’allah that’s the best time to ask.  It is mentioned in Sunan Abu-Dawud that, “Prophet said that Allah subhanwatala has added one more prayer for you i.e. the Witr and if anyone wants to pray five rakat in witr he may do so, if anyone wants to pray three rakats of witr he may do so, if anyone wants to pray one rakat for witr he may do so.” It is further mentioned in Sunan Abu-Dawud, “beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that a person who gets up in the middle of the night and prays to Allah subhanwatala and wakes up his wife and if she doesn’t wake up sprinkle some water on her. Allah’s mercy and blessing is on such people…” and the hadith further continues that “…Allah’s mercy and blessings is on those woman who wake up during the middle of the night and they pray to Allah subhanwatala and they wake up their husbands and if their husbands don’t wake up they sprinkle water on them. So again it is one of the best prayers after the obligatory prayers. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also said, “The Prophet’s wife (may Allah be pleased with her) she said that the Prophet always used to pray the ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ and he never missed it even when he was sick and ill or lethargic he used to pray even though he used to pray while sitting.”

Q. What is the meaning of term ‘Qiyam-ul-Layl’ and how is it different from ‘Taraweeh’?

A. (#DrZakirNaik): As far as the word ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ is concerned it is broken into two words – ‘qiyam’ and ‘al-layl’. ‘Qiyam’ mean to stand and ‘al-layl’ means the night. So literally it means standing in the night but in the shariya (in Islamic context) it means it is a voluntary prayer which is prayed after Isha and before the break of dawn. And as we are aware Isha starts after the redness of sky disappears after sunset and you can pray the ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ just before the break of dawn i.e. just before the Fajar. So the word ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ was given because the person in this voluntary prayer he recites long verses of the Quran. So the standing is long so it is called standing in the night, and there are various different words called for the same ‘qiyam-ul-layl’. For example it is also called as ‘Salaat-ul-layl’ meaning the prayer at night. It is also called as ‘tahajud’. It is also called as ‘witr’ and also as ‘Taraweeh’. ‘Tahajud’ comes from the word ‘tahajada’ which means to wake up. So when a person sleeps and wakes up to pray it is called as ‘tahajud’ also. The other word used is ‘witr’ which means odd and Prophet always said that after Isha salaah we should offer ‘witr’ in odd rakats. The other word used is ‘taraweeh’ which comes from the Arabic word ‘rah’ which means to rest which means to relax. Because after few generations after the Prophet people when they used to read the ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ in the Ramadan especially this word ‘taraweeh’ is specifically used for ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ in Ramadan. So when they used to pray ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ in Ramadan after four rakats they used to rest. So this word ‘taraweeh’ from that onwards it got stuck to this ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ in Ramadan. Normally after four rakats they used to rest. And this has continued because one used to pray for long hours. And even now though they pray for short time yet in ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ in Ramadan they rest and the word is still used as ‘Taraweeh’ but at the time of Prophet this word ‘taraweeh’ was never used. Even the sahabas never used this word. It came later on. So the more appropriate word is ‘qiyam-ul-layl’. But if a person when he reads for long time the ‘qiyam-ul-layl’ in Ramadan if he wants he can rest but it is not forbidden to rest. A person is tired he can rest but it is not compulsory that he has to rest either.