A closer analysis of Qur’an, 5:51
Are Muslims allowed have non-Muslim friends? If not, then what should be our stance towards others?! Anyone who thinks that Muslims must take all non-Muslims as enemies is ignorant of the Qur’an and the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, and ignorant of the centuries of friendly co-existence between Muslims and others across history, not mention that such a person is blind to the decency and goodness to be found and appreciated in many other human beings. The Prophet’s own example clearly illustrates that the attitude of the Muslim toward the non-Muslim is not one of bigotry or unconditional animosity. For example, “when Makkah was in the grip of famine, [the Prophet Muhammad] personally went out to help his enemies. When non-Muslim prisoners of war were presented before him, he treated them with such tenderness [as] many cannot even claim to have done in respect to their children. A delegation from Banu Thaqif who had not yet embraced Islam upto that time came to visit him. They were given the honor of staying in the Mosque of the Prophet. Umar [the second Caliph] gave allowances to needy dhimmis (non-Muslim subjects) [rather than obliging them to pay the jizyah tax.” [see: Muhammad Shafi`'s (erstwhile Grand-Mufti of Pakistan) Ma`ariful-Qur'an, 2/57-58.]
Nor can it be that Muslims are supposed to just pretend to be nice to others while hating and cursing them among themselves in private, for the Prophet has denounced duplicity:
“You will find the worst person to be the two-faced one, who comes to [one people] with one face, and to [another people] with another face.” [Bukhari]
In the Qur’an, the common origin (and hence essential oneness) of the human race is stressed:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [Qur'an, 49:13]
And basic values and decency are not to be reserved only for fellow Muslims:
“God does not prohibit you from being kind and just to those who have not fought you on account of religion, nor expelled you from your homes. Allah loves those who are just.” Q[60:8]
We may note that the word used in the verse for ‘kindness’ (al-birr) is the same word used in some hadiths for loving, kind treatment of one’s parents.
But what about the verse (notorious in English translation) that seems to prohibit Muslims from taking non-Muslim friends? The short answer is: lost in translation. But for a more detailed answer, let’s take a closer look at it.
“O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians as your awliya’; they are awliya’ to one another. And whoever takes them as awliya’ is of them. Indeed, Allah guides not wrongdoing people.” Q[5:51]
The word “awliya’” in the above verse is often translated as ‘friends’, but such a translation can be misleading. Let us look at the word, its root and meanings, and attempt to apply this, in the context of other relevant texts, to understand the verse above.
`Awliya‘ is plural of waliyy, the lexical root being W-L-Y, and among the associated nouns are wala‘, waly, tawali and walayah. If someone is my waliyy, I have wala or walayah toward him/her.
Al-Raghib al-Isfahani says, in his Qur’anic lexicon Mufradat al-Qur’an,
“Wala‘ and tawali is that two things become such that there is not between them anything which is not of them. This is then used figuratively to indicate closeness of place, attribution, religion, friendship, support/seeking victory, or belief. Walayah is giving support or victory.”
Al-Fayruzabadi says, in his renowned classical dictionary Al-Qamus al-Muhit,
“Waly is closeness and drawing near…A waliyy is a lover, friend or supporter.”
Ibn al-Manzur says, in his encyclopedic dictionary Lisan al-`Arab,
“Ibn al-A`rabi said: The waliyy is the loving follower.”
We can distill from the above that taking another person as a waliyy could potentially be in the sense of any of the following:
- Taking on his name
- Following his religion or beliefs
- Lovingly following his conduct
- Giving support to him to achieve victory
- Loving him
- Taking him as a friend
Now, which of the above meanings is the verse [5:51] prohibiting, and to what extent? Let us look at each meaning in turn.
1) Adopting Names
Taking on the name of a Jew or Christian could be permissible for a Muslim whose father was Jewish or Christian, for people are customarily known by their father’s or family’s name. If that name was offensive to Islam (e.g. `Abdul-Masih which means ’slave of the Messiah’ and is therefore contrary to pure monotheism), then some further thought may be needed, although in passing we may note that the Prophet did use such names to refer to people who had them (e.g. `Abdul-`Uzza, `Uzza having been an idol), on a de facto basis. As for taking on the names of Prophets of Israel, this is clearly permissible if not recommended, for Muslims accept these prophets as amongst their own, and indeed names such as Joseph, Jacob, and the like are widespread amongst Muslims.
2) Following in Religion
Clearly, a Muslim is prohibited from following any religion other than that contained in God’s final revelation to mankind, i.e. Islam. Suddi has narrated that the circumstances in which the verse [5:51] was revealed, was that two men were conversing after the Battle of Uhud (a major attack by the Makkan pagans on the Muslims, in which the Muslims suffered considerable losses). One said, “As for me, I will go to such-and-such Jew, take refuge with him, and embrace Judaism with him; perhaps it will benefit me if something happens.” The other said, “As for me, I will go to such-and-such Christian in Syria, take refuge with him, and embrace Christianity with him. [al-Sabuni's abridgement of Ibn Kathir's exegesis, 1/526]
Islam expects people to realize the truth and submit to it rationally and intelligently. It does not behoove the human being to merely follow the prevailing religion of society. There is a marked difference between culture and religion, most notably that religion is a matter of choice and conviction affecting one’s eternal fate.
“Let not any of you be a characterless opportunist, saying “If people do good, we will do good, and if they are unjust, we will be unjust. Rather, prepare yourself mentally, that you will do good if people do good, but that if they do evil then you will not commit injustice.” [Tirmidhi (hasan)]
A Muslim is expected to lovingly follow the conduct of the Prophets of God.
“They are those whom God has guided, so emulate their guidance.” Q[6:90]
and especially that of the Final Prophet, whose life is perhaps better documented and more accurately verifiable than that of his predecessors.
“Surely, there is for you in the Messenger of God an excellent role-model for anyone who believes in Allah and in the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” Q[33:21]
The Prophetic way in belief, conduct and behavior is the gauge for measuring all others: whether Muslim or non-Muslim. In all cases, emulation of any non-Prophet should only be by virtue of that emulated person exemplifying some attribute or trait known to be praiseworthy from the sacred texts. A Muslim may follow a good example set by someone else – Muslim or not – but the reason for doing so needs to be clear; it should not be blind imitation or following.
4) Giving support and victory
Similarly, giving support to someone to achieve victory depends on the cause and the circumstances. If a Muslim is able to cooperate with a non-Muslim (Jew, Christian or even pagan) to achieve a common, desirable goal, without violating any Islamic precept in the process, then this is permissible. In Makkah, the Prophet had participated with pagans in the Fudul Pact to restore justice to a Yemeni trader who had been wronged in Makkah.
Even military alliances with non-Muslims can be permissible, for we see that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) included the Jews of Madinah in the city’s Constitution which included military cooperation against common enemies. In fact, this constitution proclaimed that the Jews of Madinah are “an ummah with the believers,” (ummah is the same word that is commonly used nowadays to refer to the worldwide community of Muslims). The same constitution declared that there should be between the Muslims and Jews, “sincerity, advice and righteousness”; a phrase that epitomizes good friendship (in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere.”). The Muslim state also undertakes to protect the non-Muslim subjects of the state (dhimmis), such as Jews and Christians, in the event the country is attacked. Dhimmi means “a covenanted person”, and the Prophet declared that,
“Anyone who unjustly kills a person of the covenent of dhimmah, Allah has prohibited Heaven for him.” [Abu Dawud, Nasa'i; Bukhari, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Tirmidhi(hs), Darimi]
If, however, a goal is antithetical to Islam (such as establishing a bar), or – even worse – detrimental to Islam and the general Muslim welfare, then granting support to or working for the victory of such a cause is clearly prohibited. Amongst the overt implications of 5:51 is that a Muslim is prohibited from granting military or strategic help to non-Muslims who are fighting against Islam as a religion, or against Muslims simply because they are Muslim.
The renowned early exegete, Abu Ja`far al-Tabari, comments on 5:51,
“Anyone who takes the Jews and Christians as awliya’ to the exclusion of the Muslims he is of them, which is to say: Anyone who takes them as awliya’ and seeks victory for them over the Muslims is a member of their religion and creed, for no ally allies himself [to this extent] with anyone without approving him, his religion and his conduct.” [Tabari, Jami` al-Bayan fi Ta'wil al-Qur'an]
Another later famous exegete, al-Qurtubi, explains the phrase “Anyone among you takes them as awliya’ is of them,” saying,
“i.e. Anyone who supports them against the Muslims.” [Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur'an]
In Muslim Andalusia, a governor named Ibn `Abbad wrote to the Christians seeking their help against a Muslim rival. Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Tashafin al-Lamtuni, Caliph at the time, sought edicts from numerous prominent scholars of his time, and most of them asserted that Ibn `Abbad had committed apostasy, because he sought to defeat Islam (i.e. to defeat God) by allying with non-Muslims. [Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa'] Whether this was the actually case, or whether Ibn `Abbad was just blinded by rivalry and pursuit of personal power and prestige, is not our concern. What is clear, however, is that for an ostensible Muslim to seek to destroy Islam, or to shun his co-religionists and prefer to seek help outside the faith, especially against the Muslims at large, betrays at least a deficiency in faith and religious loyalty.
The implication that a Muslim may not take the side of those who are at war with Islam (as a religion) is brought out more clearly by another verse:
“Allah prohibits you from being awliya’ only to those who have fought you on account of the religion, and expelled you from your homes, and assisted others in your expulsion. Whoever takes them as awliya’ is a wrongdoer.” [Surah al-Mumtahanah (60), 8-9]
Love can be of many different levels, and for a variety of reasons. A Muslim whose parents or other family members happen to be Jewish or Christian is clearly still going feel familial affection to them. Prophet Abraham clearly loved his father, who persisted upon idolatry, as we see from the Qur’anic accounts in which Abraham (peace and blessings be upon him) repeatedly entreats and pleads with his father to embrace monotheism. A Muslim man can love a Jewish or Christian woman for various reasons, as is indicated by the Qur’anic permission to marry women of the People of the Book (Q[5:5]).
The Muslim is certainly not blameworthy for such love, unless he allows it to interfere with the requirements of his faith, or places it above his love for God. To the contrary, numerous sacred texts enjoin kindness to one’s parents and maintenance of ties of kinship without restricting this to Muslims. Asma bint Abi Bakr narrates that her mother, still a pagan, came to visit her. She enquired from the Prophet whether she should maintain her relationship with her, and he told her to do so. [Bukhari and Muslim] Another narration [in Musnad Ahmad] states that Asma’ at first refused to accept her mother’s gifts, or to allow her to enter the house, and that this was the cause for revelation of a verse of the Qur’an.
“Allah does not prohibit you from being kind and just to those who have not fought you on account of religion, nor expelled you from your homes. Allah loves those who are just.” Q[60:8]
[vide: Sabuni, op. cit., 3/484]
At the same time, we should note that the deepest loving relationships come from the affinity of shared faith, and the resulting doctrinal and ideological consonance between Muslims. Just as the Muslim loves Islam, and loves God and all the Prophets, he will naturally feel a special affinity for other Muslims. Similarly, he will feel a revulsion or aversion for beliefs which are contradictory to the truths embodied in human nature and God’s revelation. From 60:8, we see that a Muslim is clearly permitted to be on friendly terms with non-Muslims. However, the differences in fundamental beliefs and values will inevitably leave some inconsonance which preclude a totally intimate bond. Personal interests and expediencies cannot be given priority over the values of faith and over affinity directly deriving from faith. We should stress that the Muslim loves all people in the sense of being concerned for their welfare, and hence while he hates sins, blasphemy and unbelief, he still desires the welfare of sinners, blasphemers and unbelievers, and therefore desires for them – and strives to help them if he can – to find the straight path.
Another potentially problematic verse (Quran, [5:82]) might seem to paint all Jews as enemies of Muslims, but a deeper look reveals that it has never been taken as a blanket prejudice against all Jews; it does not mean every single Jew is an enemy. Islam affirms individual free-will, and also the fact that there are both honest and dishonest people amongst the People of the Book (Q[3:75]). Ibn Salam was a Jewish rabbi of Madinah who embraced Islam. There have been Jews living peacefully with Muslims since the time of the Prophet. When the Prophet died, some of his property was being held by a Jew as collateral for a loan the Prophet had taken from him [Bukhari], showing that Muslims and Jews continued to have neighborly relations even to the very end of the Prophet’s life. When a prominent companion of the Prophet, `Abdullah ibn `Amr, found out his family had slaughtered and cooked a sheep, he instructed them to send some of the meat as a gift to their Jewish neighbor, for the Prophet had continued to emphasize the rights of the neighbor, to the extent that people thought the neighbor might even inherit. [Mundhiri, al-Targhib wal-Tarhib, where he mentioned that this is narrated through many chains of narration.] This attitude of peaceful coexistence, and even cooperation, continued through Muslim history. Bigoted extremism is a recent phenomenon, and cannot stand up to the sacred texts and the dominant Muslim understanding over history.
The famous Sultan Saladin was one of many Muslim rulers whose personal physicians were Jewish (Saladin’s physician was none other than the famous Maimonides). Muslims in North Africa accepted and provided refuge to Jews who were fleeing the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition. Jews are perhaps the closest people to the Muslims in beliefs and lifestyle, and the two peoples have a closely intertwined history. It is sad, then, that one of the greatest conflicts in the world today (the Palestine-Israel conflict) is between these two groups of people. Such macro-scale facts are clearly the primary import of the verse (5:82). As far as individual Jews, (and individual Christians or members of any other religion, for that matter), the Muslim should base his interaction (friendship or otherwise) on the specific individual and circumstances, and not on blanket generalizations or stereotypes. There are many Jews who are decent, kind members of society, who stand up and speak for justice, and even defend the rights of Muslims. As Muslims, we cannot justify not being friendly to such Jews; to the contrary we find a religious obligation to be friendly to them:
“God does not prohibit you from being kind and just to those who have not fought you on account of religion, nor expelled you from your homes. Allah loves those who are just.” Q[60:8]
Friendship can be understood in various senses, and hence in order to answer the question of whether a Muslim can have non-Muslim friends, it is important to distinguish which sense of friendship is meant. Anyone to whom religion and worldview are important will naturally feel closer to those have the same core values and beliefs. Hence, the most intimate bond of friendship is towards those who are similarly religiously aware and observant, and one will feel most comfortable discussing religious matters and concerns with such people. (Less confident Muslims also need to take consideration of the danger of being too shy to practice some aspects of Islam in the presence of non-Muslim friends, or non-observant Muslim friends.) A true friend will respect you, and not try to pressure you to contravene your beliefs. But it is up to the Muslim to make sure he/she is secure and confident enough in his/her faith to maintain his/her identity, and not be influenced to compromize them. If the Muslim is weak in character, and feels he will lose his faith or compromize his religious practice because of a particular friendship, then he should not pursue that friendship, but the limitation here is due to his own character, and not due to a blanket religious prohibition. There are many personal and situational factors, as well as issues of compatibility, that must be taken into consideration to judge the viability and desirability of any friendship, and the purpose of this article is neither to deny these, nor to exhaustively discuss them.
So, it is natural that an observant Muslim’s deepest, most intimate friendships will typically be with other observant Muslims, with whom he/she can pursue both worldly and religious activities. As the Prophet has said,
“A person is on the religion of his intimate friend (khalil), so let each of you look [well] as to who he is making his/her intimate friend.” [Tirmidhi (hasan), Abu Dawud]
It is worth noting an observant Muslim will not have this deepest sort of bond with a sinful Muslim either. For example, [Qur'an, 8:72] prohibits Muslims from having ‘walayah‘ toward Muslims who have not emigrated (to save their own faith) from a land of religious persecution. In general, one has wala’ (affinity) for a person to the extent of his goodness, and bara’ (disaffection/disavowal) for him to the extent of his misguidance, misconduct or evil, and for most people one will therefore have some combination of both wala’ and bara’. The Muslim is expected to hate a sin, regardless of whether it is being committed by another Muslim or by another non-Muslim, and similarly to appreciate good values and actions regardless of what the religious affiliation of the doer is.
There are of course types of meaningful friendships that can be shared across religious boundaries. A Muslim can have a strong relationship, based on sympathy, kindness and concern, with Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims (excluding enemies in war, as alluded to earlier). And a Muslim is expected to maintain cordiality, pleasant behavior and politeness even with people who are outside his/her circle of friends (both Muslims and non-Muslims). A Muslim is also permitted to have business and professional dealings with non-Muslims (including employing and being employed by them), as is clear from Islamic law manuals, and he/she is expected to conduct such dealings with honesty and integrity.
To wrap up, then, kindness, concern, fairness and productive cooperation are part of the Muslim attitude towards people in general. When the people are not just fellow human beings, but one’s neighbors, it becomes even more important for the Muslim to treat them well, as we find from the Qur’an (4:36) and from numerous authentic hadiths about the rights of the neighbor. Yes, a Muslim should not let any relationship (even with other Muslims) interfere with his religious belief and practice. Nor should a Muslim allow his friends (Muslim or non-Muslim) to influence him to do what he believes is wrong. Faith in Islam is not blind, andthe Muslim should have the confidence and strength of character to be open about and stand by his/her principles. But the notion that a Muslim can never have non-Muslim friends is clearly a case of a whole lot being lost in translation.
“If you don’t convert to (my sect) you might as well not convert to Islam!” exclaimed the ‘uncle’ to the young Christian lady. The lady’s husband, a Muslim, had requested his elder friend (despite his different school of thought in Islam) to come and help explain to her why Islam is so important to her husband, and why he’d like her, too, to share in its joy. The husband was startled by this narrow-minded bombshell. The shocking words of the ‘uncle’ highlight a lack of priorities plaguing some of those who profess themselves to be Muslim.
More specifically, some Muslims are sometimes (and any frequency is too often for something this important) too quick to declare someone to be outside the fold of Islam due to (i) imperfect practice, or (ii) disagreement on a non-core belief (e.g. whether and when capital punishment is mandated for apostasy, or stoning for adultery)
These are nights for increasing one’s worship to Allah, and seeking closeness to Him.
The specific deeds listed (below) can be observed. But make a plan for yourself, whereby you:
- Establish a baseline: do at least something extra on all the last ten nights
- Do still more on the odd-numbered nights
- And maximum effort on the one (or two, or three) nights that you feel are most likely to be Laylatul-Qadr (based on the conditions observed on the night, as well as the ahadith narrated about its occurrence).
1. Supplicate using these words:
اللَهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ العَفوَ فاعفُ عَنّي
“O Allah You are pardoning, and love to pardon, so pardon me.” [Narrated by Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa'I, Ibn Majah]
2. Pray `Isha’, as well as Maghrib and Fajr, in congregation.
Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib said: “Whoever caught `isha’ [in jama`ah] on Laylatul-Qadr has taken his share of [the night].” [Malik]
“One who performs `Isha’ prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salat for half of the night. And one who performs the Fajr prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salat the whole night.” [Muslim]
3. Pray Tarawih
“Whoever stands [in prayer] on Laylatul-Qadr, with faith and expectation [of reward], his previous sins are forgiven him.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
4. Pray Tahajjud
The last part of the night is especially valuable for supplicating for forgiveness, and for your needs (of this world and the Hereafter), as is indicated by numerous sayings of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace).
5. Do I`tikaf - for the entire 10 days, or for one or more nights
Spending the night in the mosque, is a way to earn credit even during the time you sleep.
6. Wash yourself, and wear good clothes.
The early Muslims (salaf ) used to consider it recommended to perform ghusl for this night and to wear good clothes for it. [Ibn Jareer].
Thabit al-Bunani and Humayd al-Taweel used to dress up, apply perfume, and perfume the mosques. Tameem al-Dari had a costly (1,000 dirham) garment only worn on this night, and similar was the case with Anas ibn Malik. [Ghumari, Ghayat al-Ihsan]
And Allah knows best.
Completing recitation of the Qur’an at least once in Tarawih can be shown to be recommended (mustahabb). This article discusses the basis for this ruling, and concludes with some practical notes and advice.
[Note: this article does not discuss the preferred number of rak`ah of tarawih, nor the ruling on offering tarawih in jama`ah.]
Ramadan is the month of revelation of the Qur’an [Qur'an, 2:185], and a month for more intensive recitation and study of the Qur’an. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) used to meet Angel Gabriel (peace be upon him) every night, and they would study the Qur’an [Bukhari]. Another narration tells us that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) would go over the entire Qur’an with him once every Ramadan, and that in the last Ramadan of the Prophet’s life, they reviewed the entire Qur’an twice [Bukhari, Muslim]. Hence, it is sunnah to recite or listen to the recitation of the entire Qur’an at least once during the month. Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq is reported to have allowed finishing the Qur’an only once a month outside of Ramadan, but once every three days in Ramadan. [Wasa'il].
Recitation does not necessarily have to be in tarawih, although recitation in salah is generally held to be more meritorious than recitation outside of salah.
[This can be supported by the logical reasoning that recitation in salah is necessarily accompanied by additional good deeds: wudu', ruku`, sujud, etc. A hadith in Mishkat al-Masabih states explicitly that, "Recitation of Qur'an in salah is more virtuous that recitation of Qur'an not in salah", but its chain of transmision is weak.]
Nevertheless, tarawih itself could be performed even with recitation of short surahs, even every day, if need be. It is reported that Caliph `Ali ibn Abi Talib led the tarawih reciting 5 verses in each rak`ah. [Yahya ibn Hamzah in al-Intisar], which would mean approximately half a juz’ was recited per night.
[Twenty rak`ah were performed each night during Caliph `Ali's time, as we find in the Musnad of Imam Zayd ibn `Ali and elsewhere].
Rabi`ah, the famous teacher of Imam Malik, observed that in the past, not all the imams of tarawih had memorized the entire Qur’an [Mudawwanah]. Certainly, if there are time constraints, whether on the community (such as during summer tarawih in extremely northern latitudes, where the night is extremely short) or on the individual (who has work commitments, for example, or who is praying alone and has not memorized long surahs), then it is valid to shorten the tarawih recitation in this manner, and the sunnah of finishing the Qur’an could be accomplished outside of salah. In the absence of such constraints, the preference is for prolonged recitation in the optional night prayer.
“Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little – Half of it – or subtract from it a little. Or add to it, and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation. Indeed, We will cast upon you a heavy word. Indeed, the hours of the night are more effective for concurrence [of heart and tongue] and more suitable for words.” [Qur'an, 73:2-6]
There are further textual indications that make a case for completion of the Qur’an in tarawih being a sunnah. We know that in general, throughout the year, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) used to stand in prolonged prayer by night, to the extent that his feet would become swollen [Bukhari], or torn [Tirmidhi]. The Mother of the Believers, Aishah, was asked about his prayer by night, and she replied that he would offer 8 rak`ah every night – but do not ask about how long and beautiful they were [Bukhari]. There are also narrations that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) would exert himself even harder in the last ten nights of Ramadan [Muslim], when he might stay awake all night [Bukhari]. Given these descriptions of the Prophet’s (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) night prayer, we can easily conclude that he must have completed recitation of the Qur’an at least once during the month in his night prayer. In addition to this enacted sunnah of the Prophet, we also find an authentic hadith of verbal encouragement for long recitation in salah.
“Whoever stands [in prayer] with 10 verses will not be written among the negligent. Whoever stands [in prayer] with 100 verses will be written among the devoted. Whoever stands [in prayer] with 1000 verses will be written among those amassing a treasure.” [Narrated by Abu Dawud.]
A narration recorded by Bayhaqi might provide further support for this practice:
“The Messenger of Allah came out one night in Ramadan, and saw people in a corner of the mosque praying, whereupon he asked, “What are these [people] doing?” Someone replied, “O Messenger of Allah, these are people who do not have the Qur’an [memorized], so Ubayy ibn Ka`b is reciting and they are following him in salah.” He said, “They are doing good,” or “They are correct,” and he did not disapprove of that.”
[There is disagreement over the authenticity of this hadith. It was narrated by Abu Dawud, who graded it weak on account of one of its narrators (Muslim ibn Khalid). Al-`Ala'i judged it acceptable (salih) in his fatawa, and Nimawi graded it as good (jayyid) in Athar al-Sunan; vide I`la al-Sunan, 7/69]
If authentic then this indicates that they were praying with the specific aim of hearing the entire Qur’an, for Ubayy had memorized the Qur’an, whereas not all of the other Companions had.
The precedent set by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) was continued by his Companions and subequent generations after him. In every generation, there are many Muslims who have not memorized large portions of the Qur’an, and who therefore seek to benefit from hearing it being recited by others. Hence, the Companions would gather in small groups in the masjid, each group praying behind a reciter/memorizer. This was the state of affairs that motivated Caliph `Umar ibn al-Khattab to gather people in a single congregation, reviving and institutionalizing the congregational aspect of the prayer that had only been performed on a couple of nights by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) himself [Bukhari, Malik]. `Umar appointed Ubayy ibn Ka`b to lead the men and (according to one narration) Tamim al-Dari to lead the woman in salah, because they were both memorizers of the Qur’an. The more authentic narrations tell us that the Companions would perform 20 rak`ah every night. Some narrations also point out that the recitation was long, to the extent that people would even tend to support themselves with sticks towards the end, due to the length of standing. [Recorded by Bayhaqi, and authenticated by Nawawi and others] Bayhaqi has also recorded a narration [I have not found discussion of, nor looked into, its authenticity yet] which states that Caliph `Umar summoned three reciters, and had them recite before him. Then, he told the fastest one to recite 30 ayat in each rak`ah, the medium-paced to recite 25 ayat in each rak`ah, and the slowest to recite 20. Even with 20 ayat per rak`ah, and 20 rak`ah, the Qur’an would actually be finished twice over a month. In the face of all of this, it is inevitable that they would be completing recitation of the Qur’an at least once during the month.
`Umar ibn `Abdil-`Aziz told the Taraweh leaders to recite 10 ayat in each rak`ah (which would lead to completion of the Qur’an once over a month) [Mudawwanah]. Imam al-Bukhari used to lead his companions in tarawih reciting 20 ayat in each rak`ah until they completed the Qur’an [Reported by al-Hakim]. Some of the imams of fiqh (Malik and Ahmad) permitted reading from the mushaf in tarawih, even if they did not normally permit it, due to the importance they saw in completing recitation of the Qur’an in tarawih. This emphasis actually can be traced back to the Companions. The wife of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) Ummul-Mu’mineen Aishah (who would have her servant Dhakwan lead her in tarawih from the mushaf) [Cited by Bukhari as ta`liq]. Imam al-Zuhri of the Tabi`in said, “[Some of] the best of us used to recite from the mushaf [in Ramadan].” These scholars would not have conceded permissibility of reading from the mushaf had completing the recitation of the Qur’an in tarawih not been a sunnah.
In summary then: Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) would go through the entire Qur’an during Ramadan with Gabriel (peace be upon him), and we also know he would stand in prolonged salah by night. The Companions continued upon his path, and the practice of completing the Qur’an at least once in tarawih every year continued to be handed down through the generations. This practice has played an important role in the oral preservation of the Qur’an.
Practical Notes / Advice
Without detracting from the above strong desirability and importance, we may nevertheless observe that:
1) It is not necessary to complete the Qur’an inside tarawih, so if it is a personal or communal hardship to do so, then the tarawih can be made shorter.
2) Completion of the Qur’an is not the sole aim of tarawih. Some mosques hold ‘marathon’ tarawih sessions in which the Qur’an is completed within the first ten nights or less (3 juz’ per night). This is well and good, but those who attend should not be doing so with the aim of ‘getting the khatm done’ and then neglecting tarawih (or performing it with extremely short recitation) for the rest of the month. Nor should the recitation ever be so fast that the letters and words are not properly pronounced.
Those who complete the tarawih khatm a few nights before the end of Ramadan are encouraged to avoid the temptation to thereafter perform tarawih with only the last 10 surahs each night (especially if they are able to recite other verses). There is no harm in shortening the duration of the tarawih if circumstances call for it, but the sunnah is actually to increase the volume of worship in the last ten nights, in search of Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Destiny / Value). Even the 27th night of Ramadan, although considered very likely by many scholars is not guaranteed to be Laylat al-Qadr.
And Allah knows best.
Is it ok to pray tarawih alone at home? Is it better to pray it in the masjid?
The short answer is: it depends, but if you do pray it at home, make sure you are not just being lazy. Read on for more.
- Benefitting from listening to the recitation of the imam of tarawih, especially for those who have not memorized large portions of the Qur’an themselves.
- Getting encouragement and motivation from seeing others praying, particularly for someone who might get lazy (and thus not pray at all, or not pray as much) if they were to be alone at home.
- Greater sincerity, and reducing the risk of ostentation (praying to show off)
- Practicing one’s own recitation
- (Potentially) earning more spiritual reward by praying for longer, and/or in a later portion of the night
- (For some people): being able to attend to other important business which they might not be able to do if the tarawih in the masjid lasts a long time. This might include getting enough sleep to be able to function effectively at work, depending on the person’s physical stamina and type of job. It is up to you to be honest with yourself.
- Zayd said, “We used be in the presence of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), gathering the Qur’an from pieces of parchment.” [Narrated by al-Hakim with an isnad on the criteria of Bukhari and Musch surlim]
- As part of a longer hadith, narrated by `Uthman (may Allah be well-pleased with him), in response to a question from Ibn `Abbas, “…when something [of the Qur'an] came down upon [the Prophet], he summoned some of those who would write, and tell them, ‘Put these verses in the surah that mentions such-and-such.’” [Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ibn Hibban, al-Hakim] Read more
“Surely, salah is prescribed upon the believers at fixed times.” [Qur'an, 4:103 ]
The timings of the five daily, obligatory ritual prayers in Islam are determined with reference to natural phenomena easily accessible to everyone; this knowledge is not confined to an elite or exclusive group of people. This connection to the wondrous signs of nature can also help keep the Muslim in tune with the natural world and its changing cycles.
What follows is a summary of the empirical bases for the prayer times, along with some evidence from the sunnah. Hadiths are cited illustratively, not exhaustively. Some prominent scholarly disagreements are also mentioned, without categorically preferring one view over another, but rather to foster awareness and tolerance of such disagreements. I conclude with brief comments on the use of astronomical calculations to find out the prayer times.
There is agreement that fajr begins when the true dawn appears (the true dawn is that which rises laterally and broad, whereas the false one appears vertically and then disappears), and ends when the sun rises.
“The time for fajr salah is [lasts] long as the first horn of the sun has not risen.” [Muslim] Read more
(abridged from Dr. Muhammad `Ali al-Barr, al-Tabeeb: Adabuhu wa-Fiqhuhu (The Physician: his Etiquettes and Jurisprudence), co-authored with Dr Zuhayr Ahmad al-Siba`i, Dar al-Qalam / al-Dar al-Shamiyyah, Damascus / Beirut, 1413 / 1993, pp. 165-183.)
- Islam considers the human being to be noble, and the human body as subject to respect and sanctity.
“Verily, We have honored the Children of Adam…” [Qur'an, 17:70]
The Prophet has said, “Breaking the bone of a dead person is like breaking it when he is alive.” [Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Bayhaqi. Malik (who reported it as a saying of Ummul-Mu'mineen `A'ishah). Sh. Shu`ayb Arna'ut authenticated it (Sharh al-Sunnah (5/393)]
The Prophet also prohibited mutilation. [Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Nasa'I, Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Darimi] Read more