Tarawih Alone or In Masjid?

Islamic mosque sunset silhouetteBlack and white illustration of a hut or small house

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.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and his Household) performed tarawih in congregation on two or three nights, and then discontinued the jama`ah for it, out of fear that it might become obligatory. [Narrated by Bukhari and others] Later, in the caliphate of `Umar ibn al-Khattab, `Umar found people performing tarawih in small groups (gathered around individuals who had memorized Qur’an), and thought it a good idea to gather them under a single imam.(We may note that the earlier danger, of the prayer becoming obligatory, had now passed, since after the death of the Prophet, religious rulings could not be changed.) `Umar thus established a single, regular jama`ah for tarawih [Narrated by Bukhari, Malik and others], and this practice was continued by Caliph `Uthman [as narrated by Ibn Sa`d, Malik and others] and Caliph `Ali [as narrated in the Musnad of Imam Zayd ibn `Ali his great-grandson, and by others]. Thus, Sunni scholars in general maintain (and it is similarly one view among the Zaydis)  that it is recommended to hold congregational tarawih prayers regularly in Ramadan, as a sunnah of 3 of the 4 Rightly-Guided Caliphs with its basis in Prophetic practice. This has played an important role in the public preservation of the Qur’an, as it has been customary to complete its recitation from memory at least once per Ramadan during these congregational tarawih prayers.

After agreeing on the meritoriousness of a congregation being established for tarawih, the same scholars nevertheless differed (amongst themselves) as to how much it is stressed for every individual to participate in the congregational tarawih. According to the dominant view in the Hanafi school, the jama`ah for tarawih is sunnah `ala al-kifayah, i.e. it is enough (i.e. the sunnah is considered to be fulfilled) if a congregation for tarawih is established in the community [Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar], but if a person prays it on his own (at home or elsewhere) he is not considered to be sinful or remiss.

There has been disagreement, since the early generations, about whether it is better for an individual to join the jama`ah for tarawih, or to pray on his own. While there were a number of prominent Sahabah and Tabi`in who are reported to have prayed tarawih in jama`ah, there were others who did not. In Madinah, `Abdullah ibn `Umar, the Sahabi, would pray tarawih on his own, and would advise/give fatwa similarly. After him, Salim (his son) as well as al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr and `Urwah ibn al-Zubayr (two of the Seven Great Jurists of Madinah) similarly would pray tarawih alone. In Kufah, Ibrahim al-Nakha`i, `Alqamah and al-Aswad would each lead their congregations in `Isha’ but then leave and do Tarawih on their own. Ishaq ibn Suwayd relates that there would be a row of people (called saff al-qurra’ – the Reciters’ Row) praying tarawih individually in the mosque while the jama`ah was in progress [See: Ibn Abi Shaybah, Musannaf; Tahawi, Sharh Ma`ani al-Athar].

Two key narrations that relate to this issue are:
1. On one of the nights in which the Prophet led tarawih, someone expressed the desire for him to continue until the end of the night. The Prophet replied, “Whoever stood with the imam until he left, the standing of an [entire] night [of prayer] is written for him.” [Narrated by Tirmidhi (who judged it sahih), Abu Dawud, Nasai, Ibn Majah]

2. After the Prophet had led tarawih on some nights, and people were waiting for him the next night, he did not come out. Rather, he told them thereafter, “I was afraid that the night prayer would be made obligatory for you, and if it were made obligatory you would not [be able to] observe it. So, pray in your homes, for indeed the best prayer of a person is that [he offers] in his home, except for the obligatory prayer [which should be offered in congregation in the mosque].” [Narrated by Bukhari and others]

Scholars disagreed about how to reconcile or prioritize these narrations. The famous Hanafi scholar, Abu Ja`far al-Tahawi, reconciled them by concluding that since the second hadith explicitly says that voluntary prayer offered at home is superior, therefore, in light of the first hadith, we can expect that the one who prays tarawih at home gets more than the reward of praying the entire night.

A man, who was able to recite Qur’an for himself, asked Hasan al-Basri whether to pray tarawih alone or to join the jama`ah. Hasan told him to choose whichever option is better for him, in terms of being more conducive to awareness and a fearful heart [Narrated by Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi]. This astute reply brings out the fact that for different people, in different circumstances, one or the other option might be better.

Possible Reasons to Favor Praying Tarawih in Jama`ah
  • 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.

Possible Reasons to Favor Praying Tarawih Alone
  • 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.

It is also worthwhile to bear in mind that praying `Isha’ in jama`ah is (by consensus) more important and meritorious that praying tarawih in jama`ah.
“Whoever prays `isha in jama`ah, it is like standing half the night [in prayer], and whoever prays fajr in jama`ah it is like standing an [entire] night in [prayer].” [Narrated by Ahmad and others]
Of course, this is a general hadith, and should not be used as an excuse not to perform any tarawih/tahajjud prayer. Ramadan is a month where extra worship is strongly encouraged.
“Whoever stands [in extra prayer] in Ramadan, with faith and expectation [of reward], his previous sins are forgiven him.” [Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim]
And Allah knows best.

Order of Verses in Surahs

Islamic religion,Koran,Muslim scriptures,Photographs,prayer books,religious booksThe Qur’an has always been central to Islam and to the religious lives of Muslims, and this has provided the impetus, generation after generation, for them to devote care and attention to memorizing, reciting, preserving and transmitting the Qur’an. Wherever you go in the Muslim world, whether among Sunnis, Twelver Shi`ah, Zaydi Shi`ah or any other sect or school, you find the verses in the same order within the surahs. There is no disagreement on the sequence of verses within the surahs.
There are also numerous hadiths indicating that the order of verses within the surahs was fixed by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) himself:
  1. 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]
  2. 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

Origin of Names of Surahs

bookmarks,flames,holy books,Koran,lamps,lights,oil lamps,Quran,religion,scriptures,symbols The names of the surahs are not part of the actual text of the Qur’an, nor were they written in the early mushafs.  For some (but not all) surahs there are explicit narrations telling us that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) himself used a particular name. And the narrations suggest that all the names were well-known and widely used among the Sahabah. `Allamah al-Suyuti has stated that the names of all the surahs can be found in either hadiths or aathaar (sayings of the Companions). Among these is the narration that the polytheists used to make fun of the fact that there are surahs named after the cow, the spider, etc, whereupon Allah sent down the verse meaning, “We are sufficed for you against the mockers.” [Qur’an, 15:95]
However, the scholars disagreed as to whether the name of every surah was given by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) himself. It is quite possible that some of the names were assigned by the Sahabah. Al-Suyuti also mentions that some surahs are known by more than one name, and similarly sometimes the same name may be used to refer to more than one surah.
And Allah knows best.
[The above information is drawn mainly from Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti’s Al-Itqan fi `Ulum al-Qur’an]

Prayer Times


“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

Good and Bad Religious Scholars

view detailsThe Pitfalls of [Sacred] Knowledge, and an Explanation of
the Scholars of Evil and the Scholars of the Hereafter
[translated from Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasidin,
which is Ahmad al-Maqdisi’s summary of Ibn al-Jawzi’ abridgment of
al-Ghazzali’s Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din]
The Scholars of Evil are those whose aim in [acquiring] knowledge is to obtain comfort in the world, and to attainment worldly rank in the eyes of people.  Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) has narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said,
“Whoever learns knowledge by which the Countenance of Allah should be sought, yet learns it only to attain some worldly provision, will not find the fragrance of Heaven on the Day of Resurrection.” [Abu Dawud]
And in another hadith, [it is narrated] that he said,
“Whoever learns knowledge in order to vie thereby with the scholars, or to argue thereby with the foolish, or to turn people’s faces towards him [in admiration] thereof, shall be in the Fire.”[Tirmidhi, He clasified it as weak.]
There are many ahadith about this. Some of the salaf said, “The most regretful person at [the time of] death is a neglectful scholar.” Read more

Fiqh of Dissection



(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.)

  1. Islam considers the human being to be noble, and the human body as subject to respect and sanctity.
  2. “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

Justice : A Taxonomy

View Details

Justice involves putting everything in its appropriate place, and giving each his/her/its due right.

“God commands you that you restore deposits to their owners, and, when you judge between mankind, that you judge justly. How excellent is the teaching that God gives you! Surely, God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” [Qur’an 4:58]

“The just ones will be, before God, on pulpits of light….those who are just in their judgment, their families, and what they are in charge of.’ [Muslim]

For convenience, we can subdivide justice into the following categories:

1.      Justice to God

“I hate ingratitude more in a person; than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, or, any taint of vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood.” [Shakespeare, Twelfth Night] Read more

On Justice

Below are some brief notes on Justice in Islam. Neither the list of points, nor the scriptural texts quoted, are intended to be exhaustive. The topic is clearly more vast than to be encompassed in a brief note such as this.

·                     Justice is a central value – if not the central value – in Islam

“Verily, Allah commands justice, kindness and giving to relatives, and prohibits shamefulness, wrong and transgression. He instructs you that you might take heed.” [Qur’an, 16:90]

`Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, the Companion, held this verse to the most comprehensive verse of the Qur’an.

The themes of divine justice, particularly in the Hereafter, and of the imperative for human justice, can be found in a large number of verses.

·                     Justice is also one of the attributes of Allah

“Allah does not do injustice [even to the extent] of an atom’s weight.” [Qur’an, 4:40] Read more

Dubious Things (Shubuhat)

summarized from “Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasideen

(being al-Maqdisi’s abridgement of Ibn al-Jawzi’s summary of al-Ghazzali’s Ihya’ `Ulum al-Deen“)

“That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.”

[Bukhari and Muslim]

On Hadith Authentication

How do hadith scholars grade ahadith? Do they all share the same criteria or are there different views? Have they restricted their efforts to scrutiny of the chain of narration (isnad), or did they take the content (matn) into consideration too? What should I do if I am troubled by the content of a particular hadith?

There is general agreement amongst hadith scholars on the criteria for hadith authentication. Some criteria relate to the transmission (isnad), and others to the content (matn).

Transmission Criteria

There are five principal conditions which must be satisfied for the isnad. Lack of any of these conditions generally implies weakness in the narration. (However, weakness does not necessarily imply uselessness or total rejection of the narration. There are different grades of weak narration. As in a court of law, even a dubious witness’ testimony, though not totally credible, might still cast some light on matters.) Read more

← Previous PageNext Page →