Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to encourage us to pray at night in Ramadan, without making it obligatory. Then he said, ‘Whoever prays at night in Ramadan out of faith and the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.’ When the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam died, this is how things were (i.e., Taraweeh was not prayed in congregation), and this is how they remained during the khilaafah of Abu Bakr radhiAllahu ‘anhu, until the beginning of the khilaafah of ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu.”
‘Amr ibn Murrah al-Juhani said: A man from Qudaa’ah came to the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and said, “O Messenger of Allah! What do you think if I testify that there is no god except Allah, and that you, Muhammad, are His Messenger, and I pray the five daily prayers, and fast in the month (of Ramadan), and pray at night in Ramadan, and pay zakah?” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Whoever dies on that will be among the siddeeqeen (those who tell the truth) and the martyrs.”
Praying Qiyaam in Congregation
It is allowed to pray qiyaam in congregation, indeed it is better than praying individually, because this is what the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did himself and explained its virtues. Abu Dharr radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “We fasted Ramadan with the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and he did not lead us in qiyaam at all until there were only seven days left, when he led us in prayer until a third of the night had passed. When there were six days left, he did not lead us in qiyaam. When there were five days left, he led us in prayer until half the night had passed. I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, I wish that you had continued until the end of the night.’ He said, ‘If a man prays with the imam until he finishes, it will be counted as if he prayed the whole night.’ When there were four nights left, he did not lead us in qiyaam. When there were three nights left, he brought together his family, his wives and the people, and led us in qiyaam until we were afraid that we would miss al-falaah. I asked, ‘What is al-falaah?’ he said, ‘Suhoor. Then he did not lead us in qiyaam for the rest of the month.’” (Saheeh hadeeth reported by the authors of Sunan).
Why the Prophet did not continually lead the People in Praying Qiyaam in Congregation
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not lead them in qiyaam for the rest of the month because he feared that it would then become obligatory, and they would not be able to do it, as is stated in the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha reported in al-Saheehayn and elsewhere. Following the death of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that fear was no longer a factor, because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala had completed the religion. The reason for not praying qiyaam in congregation during Ramadan no longer applied, and the previous ruling, that congregational prayer is something prescribed in Islam, remained in effect. So ‘Umar radhiAllahu anhu revived the practice, as is recorded in Saheeh al-Bukhari and elsewhere.
Women can Pray Qiyaam in Congregation
Women can attend the prayers too, as is stated in the hadeeth of Abu Dharr referred to above. Indeed, it is permissible to appoint an imam just for them, apart from the imam of the men. It was proven that when ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu gathered the people to pray qiyaam, he appointed Ubayy ibn Ka’b to lead the men and Sulaymaan ibn Abi Hathmah to lead the women. ‘Arfajah al-Thaqafi said: “ ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (radhiAllahu ‘anhu) used to command the people to pray during the night in Ramadan, and he would appoint an imam for the men and an imam for the women. I was the imam for the women.”
[Read More: Ruling on Salat-ul-Taraweeh for Women]
Number of Rak’ahs of Qiyaam
The number of rak’ahs is eleven, and it is preferable in our opinion not to exceed this number, following the practice of the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, because he never did more than that in his life. ‘Aa’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha was asked about how he prayed in Ramadan, she said, “The Messenger of Allah never prayed more than eleven rak’ahs (of qiyaam), whether during Ramadan or any other time. He would pray four, and don’t ask me how beautiful or how long they were. Then he would pray four, and don’t ask me how beautiful or how long they were. Then he would pray three.” (al-Bukhari, Muslim and others).
A person may do less than that, even if it is only one rak’ah of witr, because of the evidence that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did this and spoke about it.
With regard to him doing it: ‘Aa’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha was asked how many rak’ahs the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to pray in witr? She said, “He used to pray four and three, or six and three, or ten and three. He never used to pray less than seven, or more than thirteen.” (Abu Dawood, Ahmad and others).
With regard to him speaking about it, he said, “Witr is true, so whoever wishes can pray five, and whoever wishes can pray three, and whoever wishes can pray one.”
[Read More: Witr Prayer]
Reciting Qur’an in Qiyaam
As regards reciting from the Qur’an during qiyaam, whether in Ramadan or at other times, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not set a limit or state what was too much or too little. His recitation used to vary, sometimes it would be long, at other times short. Sometimes in every rak’ah he would recite the equivalent of ‘Yaa ayyuha’l-muzammil, which is twenty ayaat; sometimes he would recite the equivalent of fifty ayaat. He used to say, “Whoever prays at night and reads one hundred ayaat will not be recorded as one of the negligent.” According to another hadeeth: “…and reads two hundred ayaat, will be recorded as one of the devout and sincere believers.”
When he was sick, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam recited the seven long surahs in his night prayers, i.e., al-Baqarah, Aal ‘Imran, an-Nisaa’, al-Maa’idah, al-An’aam, al-A’raaf and at-Tawbah.
In the account of Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan praying behind the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in one rak’ah he recited al-Baqarah, an-Nisa’ and Aal ‘Imran, and he recited them in a slow and measured tone. It is proven with the soundest (most saheeh) of isnaads that when ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu appointed Ubayy ibn Ka’b to lead the people in praying eleven rak’ahs in Ramadan, Ubayy used to recite ayaat by the hundreds, so that the people behind him would be leaning on sticks because the prayers were so long, and they did not finish until just before Fajr.
It is also reported in a saheeh account that ‘Umar called the readers during Ramadan, and told the fastest of them to recite thirty ayaat, the moderate ones to recite twenty-five ayaat, and the slowest ones to recite twenty ayaat.
However, if a person is praying qiyaam by himself, he can make it as long as he wishes; if others agree with the imam, he may also make it as long as he wishes. The longer it is, the better, but a person should not go to extremes and spend the whole night in qiyaam, except on rare occasions, following the example of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who said, “The best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad.” If a person is praying as an imam, he should make it only as long as is easy for the people behind him, because the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “If any of you leads the people in prayer, let him make it short, because among them are the young and the old, the weak, and those who have pressing needs. But if he is praying alone, let him make it as long as he likes.”
Published with slight modifications. Originally published at this link.