TARĀWĪH PART 2: Reading at home
I once prayed Tarāwīh behind a person who had studied Mālikī jurisprudence and was leading members of his family in prayer. I was surprised by the fact he was reading the Qur’ān from a mushaf. I thought that was disallowed. Please clarify.
Also, was it in order for him to perform the Tarāwīh prayer at home instead of joining it at a communal mosque?
In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful.
May Allah’s prayer of blessing and mercy and the salutation of peace be on His beloved, the noblest of Prophets and the pick of Messengers, on the members of his family, and on all his companions without exception.
II - Reading Tarāwīh at home
Tarāwīh is a supererogatory prayer, and thus the question should really be rephrased as: Is it preferable to perform it at home or in a communal mosque?
The savants of our ummah have concurred on the fact that doing Tarāwīh in a congregation at a mosque is a sunnah kifā’iyyah, that is, a customary practice which a group of Muslims should discharge therein on behalf of the entire community. It follows from the foregoing that, if the whole community agreed to discard such practice, they would have fallen into evildoing.
It further ensues from it that, contrary to the way some uninformed Muslims have misunderstood the position to be, praying Tarāwīh in a mosque is not a sunnah fardiyyah, i.e. an entrenched Islamic practice recommended for every individual rather than for the community as a whole, as would for instance be the ‘Īd prayer.
Let us now turn to the analysis of what is superior in value with regard to an individual, whether doing it at home or in a mosque, once it is clear, as it is indeed the case here in South Africa, that the mosques are filled with groups of Muslims who regularly perform the Tarāwīh prayer, thereby ensuring fulfillment of such “communal practice” established by Sayyidunā ‘Umar, may Allah be thoroughly pleased with him.
The learned members of our nation have differed on the said scale of preference: Some of them have granted pride of place to the performance of Tarāwīh at home, while others have conferred such honour on its performance in a communal mosque.
The former group includes the Mālikiyyah and agrees with the stronger position in the Shāfi`ī madhhab in terms of probative value. The following luminaries among the Companions and the Followers endorsed this ruling: ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Umar, his son Sālim, his freed slave Nāfi`, al-Qāsim b. Muhammad (the grandson of Abū Bakr as-Siddīq, radiyallāhu ‘anhu, and one of the “Seven Jurists of al-Madīnah”), Ibrāhīm an-Nakha`ī, and al-Hasan al-Basrī, in addition to Imām Abū Hanīfah’s own student Abū Yūsuf, inter alia.
Mālik said: “Rabī`ah [ar-Ra’y, one of his main Madinan teachers], and more than one of our people of knowledge used to leave the mosque [after performing the 'Ishā prayer], without staying behind with the other people [so as to read Tarāwīh with them]. I do the same. The Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, did not performed night prayers in Ramadān in other than his home”.
The proof this plurality of savants have adduced in support of their juristic stance is that the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, prayed with the people in the mosque during some nights in Ramadān, and then secluded himself from their company. When they asked him about that once he has rejoined them in the mosque, he commented: “People, pray in your homes. Save for the compulsory prayer, the best prayer is the one a person performs in his own house” [Cf. Sahīh al-Bukhārī, hadīth no. 698]. They further pointed out that the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, persevered in giving effect to such attitude all the way until he met his Lord, and that he would only persistently hold onto whatever represented the best course in any matter.
Indeed, that remained the normal practice during the Caliphate of Abū Bakr, until 14 AH when ‘Umar, with the approval of the other Companions, introduced the pleasant communal sunnah of mosques hosting groups of Muslims carrying out the Tarāwīh prayer, which is a prerequisite for individual Muslims engaging in a superior form of the same act of worship in their homes, as it is the form reflecting what he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, adhered to, and what he verbally encouraged his followers to give prevalence to with the exception of the five compulsory prayers.
As for the champions of the contrary view that doing Tarāwīh in a mosque has a higher worth than reading it at home, they include Ahmad b. Hanbal, a group of later Hanafī scholars, and the followers of Imām ash-Shāfi`ī. Jābir b. ‘Abdillāh and ‘Alī b. Abī Tālib, may Allah be well pleased with both of them, were among the Companions accustomed to recite Tarāwīh in mosques.
They have relied, along with the Muslims' alleged consensus of opinions since Umar’s Caliphate, on the hadīth transmitted on the authority of Jābir b. ‘Abdillāh to the effect that the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, led them at night in Ramadān through 8 units of prayer and the Witr, which narration the first group has explained away as merely denoting the lawfulness of praying the Tarāwīh in mosques, not its superior excellence, which is only evidenced by what he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, regularly did, as opposed to what he did at times and then abstained from; and on the hadīth from Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, may Allah be pleased with him, which includes one part with the following wording: “The reward of spending the whole night in worship is written in favour of whoever prays in the nights of Ramadān behind an imām, until he departs from the mosque” [Cf. Al-Jāmi` as-Sahīh by at-Tirmidhī, no. 806, which at-Tirmidhī labeled hasan sahīh].
The distinguished hāfiz of the West, Ibn ‘Abdi’l-Barr, analyzed in a cool and detached fashion both the said positions, as per his habitual fairness and objectivity, and favoured the performance of Tarāwīh at home, provided the mosques witnessed the said prayer being established on a communal basis by Muslims, if that suited the musallī’s condition better, was founded on a pure intention, and was a greater incentive to his gathering his concentration, reflecting on what he read, and displaying greater humility and devoutness to His Speech. The root position, after all, is that supererogatory prayers are best reserved for one’s private places of residence. Ibn ‘Abdi’l-Barr concluded by stating that if, however, the musallī attained, to a greater degree, the pluses he mentioned by attending the communal Tarāwīh which ‘Umar’s practice had entrenched, that would be preferable in his regard, and Allah knows best.