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Tarawih prayers are prayed in pairs of two and can be prayed in any even amount of rak'ah, although 8 or 20 raka'ahs are what Muslims usually pray. This prayer is performed only during Ramadan of the Islamic Calendar after salah of Isha'a. Sunni Muslims believe it is customary to attempt a 'khatm' (complete recitation) of the Qur'an in Ramadan by reciting at least one juz per night in tarawih. If someone does not know how to read Qur'an or cannot read it very well, they may recite Surahs that they know.
Tarawih prayers are offered in Sunni Muslim communities worldwide, and in the diaspora (North America, United Kingdom, etc.) they are important congregational events for both men and women. In Muslim countries where women do not attend mosques regularly, they tend to pray tarawih at home, while in the diaspora it is common for women to attend tarawih prayers at mosques.
Sunni Muslims regard the Taraweeh prayers as 'Sunnah Al-Muakkadah', a salaat that was performed by Muhammed very consistently. Sunni Muslims believe tarawih is a Sunnah salat and may be performed at home if one is unable to attend a mosque. According to this tradition, Muhammad initially prayed the tarawih in congregation during Ramadan but later discontinued this practice out of fear that Muslims would start to believe the prayers to be mandatory, rather than a sunnah. During the time when Umar ibn al-Khattab was the Caliph, he reinstated the practice when there was no longer any fear of people taking it as something mandatory.
Shi'a Muslims do not perform Tarawih, deeming it a Bid'ah instituted by Umar, the second Baqri Caliph. According to Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 32, Number 227, Umar initiated the practice of Tarawih after seeing the people praying in a scattered and random manner in the mosque during the month of Ramadhan. (Having nothing to do with the practice of Muhammad.) They believe that the misunderstanding lies in the supposed proposition that Muhammad prayed an 8 or 20 rak'aat prayer after the obligatory Isha' prayer, when really, he was praying the 11 rak'aat prayer of Salatul Layl that is prayed after midnight, otherwise known as the Tahajjud prayer that is mentioned in the Qur'an (Chapter 17 Verse 79). Even Aisha (whom the Shia's do not accept Ahadith from) stated that Muhammad never prayed more than 11 rak'aat during the month of Ramadhan. (Volume 3, Book 32, Number 230.) According to the most authentic Sunni and Shia hadith sources, Muhammad has strongly recommended praying Mustahab prayers alone, and preferrably at home, and therefore, the Shi'a disregard the claim that Muhammad allowed the Muslims to pray Mustahab prayers in congregation, as it contradicts the widely accepted view. The Shi'as dislike the fact that the Sunni Muslims prefer the Tarawih prayers over the proper Tahajjud prayer (that can be located in the Qur'an), for this is a far more advantageous prayer. The Shia's also disbelieve in the practice of Tarawih as they believe it contradicts what is in the Qur'an. During the Tarawih prayers, Shia Muslims claim that the Qur'an is recited at an extremely fast pace, contradictory to Chapter 7 Verse 204, "And when the Quran is recited, then listen to it and remain silent, that mercy may be shown to you." And Chapter 75 Verse 16, "Do not move your tongue with it to make haste with it." Therefore, the Shi'a Muslims consider that if the Tawarih prayer is supposed to replace the Tahajjud prayer that Muhammad ordained, is a wrong innovation that will deviate Muslims from original practice.
- misconceptions of praying only eight rakaa'ahs
- Detailed Account of Taraweeh Prayers
- The 1400 Year History of Taraweeh Salaah
- E-book: The Night Prayer in Ramadan, by Shaykh al-Albani (pdf)
- Article: Concerning the Number of Rak'aat of the Taraaweeh Prayer (Q&A), by imam ibn Uthaymeen
- Videos: Ramadan Taraweeh Telecast From Makkah, Haram - 2008