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How to Pray Tarawih

Safa Faruqui
How to Pray Tarawih

This Ramadan, many of us will need to refresh our knowledge for praying Tarawih! We’ve put together this brief guide as an easy way for beginners to learn how its performed, or for anyone who wants to refresh their knowledge.

We'll begin by answering some frequently asked questions about Tarawih. For the step-by-step process of how to perform this prayer from start to end, please scroll down to Question 10.

1. What is Tarawih?

Tarawih is a voluntary (nafl) night prayer performed only in Ramadan. Because it is a highly recommended Sunnah, masjids across the world hold congregational Tarawih prayers on every night of this blessed month.

2. How many rak'at are in Tarawih?

A rak'ah is a unit of prayer, consisting of standing and reciting Qur'an, bowing, standing again and prostrating. Tarawih is prayed in sets of two rak'at, just like a normal voluntary prayer.

Some narrations state that a complete Tarawih is 8 rak'at, while some state that it is 20 rak'at. If you are praying in a masjid, the imam will usually pray the full 20 rak'at of prayer, as all four schools of thought support these narrations.

It is worth mentioning that the word 'Tarawih' is connected to the Arabic word for rest. This is because you can rest during Tarawih after every four rak'at. So you won't have to stand non-stop for 20 raka'at!

3. When do I pray Tarawih?

Tarawih is prayed at night any time after the obligatory 'Isha prayer. Please note that you should not pray Tarawih after the Witr prayer, as the Witr prayer is the last prayer of the night.

As Tarawih is a night prayer, you must perform it before Fajr begins. It is fine to sleep after 'Isha and then wake up later in the night to pray Tarawih - in fact, it is highly rewardable to worship Allah (swt) in the last third of the night:

The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, 'Our Lord Almighty descends to the lowest heaven in the last third of every night, saying, "Who is calling upon Me that I may answer him? Who is asking from Me that I may give him? Who is seeking My forgiveness that I may forgive him?"' [Bukhari]

4. Can I pray Tarawih at home?

Absolutely! Even without lockdown restrictions, it would be fine to pray Tarawih at home, either in congregation with your family or alone. As mentioned earlier, in the narration of Aishah (ra) the Prophet (saw) performed some Tarawih prayers at home.

5. Can I hold a Qur'an while praying?

According to the Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi'i schools of thoughts, you can hold a copy of the Qur'an during any voluntary prayer. This includes digital copies. This is permissible even if you are the one leading the Tarawih prayer. 

The Shafi'i school of thought adds that, while holding a copy of the Qur'an, you must ensure that you don't move so much that the prayer is invalidated.

There is a difference of opinion within the Hanafi school of thought. Some Hanafi scholars state that it is impermissible to hold the Qur'an while praying, while some Hanafi scholars say that it is permissible but disliked.

6. Do I have to recite the whole Qur'an during Tarawih?

Most masjids traditionally recite the whole Qur'an over the course of Ramadan, completing one Juz per night of Tarawih. This is because the Prophet (saw) used to revise the Qur'an with Jibril (as) every Ramadan, and twice in his final Ramadan. With Ramadan being the month of the Qur'an, we should make an effort to do the same!

However, it is definitely not compulsory to recite the whole Qur'an during Tarawih. You can recite whichever parts of the Qur'an you want during Tarawih. The sincerity of your prayer is the most important thing, so don't worry if you don't have that many surahs memorised.

7. Can women lead the Tarawih prayer at home?

Women can lead other women in congregational prayer. They will recite 'Allahu Akbar' and all the Surahs out loud, as well as the final 'Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah'.

The woman who is leading the prayer will stand in the same row as the other women.

8. Is there a special du'a to recite for Tarawih?

No, there is no special du'a to recite during or after Tarawih.

You can make any du'a you choose after every four raka'at, or after the whole Tarawih has been completed. This includes du'as from the Qur'an and Sunnah as well as personal du'as.

In many masjids, some worshippers often recite some words of remembrance during the ‘break’ periods between every four rak‘at (two two-unit prayers). You may find the words displayed around the masjid. The Arabic words and English translation are as follows:

سُبْحانَ ذِي الْمُلْكِ وَالْمَلَكُوتِ سُبْحانَ ذِي الْعِزَّةِ وَالْعَظْمَةِ وَالْهَيْبَةِ وَالْقُدْرَةِ وَالْكِبْرِياءِ وَالْجَبَرُوْتِ
سُبْحانَ الْمَلِكِ الْحَيِّ الَّذِيْ لا يَنامُ وَلا يَمُوتُ. سُبُّوْحٌ قُدُّوْسٌ رَبُّنا وَرَبُّ المْلائِكَةِ وَالرُّوْحِ
اللَّهُمَّ أَجِرْنا مِنَ النّارِ يا مُجيرُ يا مُجيرُ يا مُجيرُ

Exalted is the Possessor of the hidden and the manifest dominion. Exalted is the Possessor of Might, Greatness, Reverence, Power, Pride, and Majesty. Exalted is the Master, the Living, the one who neither sleeps nor dies. All perfect, All holy, Our Lord and the Lord of the angels and the soul. O Allah, grant us refuge from the Hellfire, O Granter of refuge, O Granter of refuge, O Granter of refuge.

9. What is the reward of praying Tarawih?

The main reward is: The Prophet (saw) said, 'Whoever stands for prayer (the night prayer) during Ramadan with iman (faith), hoping for rewards, then all their previous sins will be forgiven'. [Bukhari]

Additionally, praying Tarawih carries the reward of following the Sunnah, as well as the 'Ramadan special' of your rewards being incredibly multiplied!

10. How do you pray Tarawih?

Here are the step-by-step instructions for performing Tarawih, according to the Hanafi school of thought:

  1. Ensure you have wudu and you are wearing clothing that, at a minimum, covers your awrah. The awrah for men is to cover everything from and including the navel to the knees. Women must cover everything except the hands, feet and face.
  1. Find a clean space (like on a prayer mat) and somewhere that won’t cause inconvenience for others. Stand and face the Qiblah (direction towards the Ka‘bah in Makkah), which in the UK is towards the south-east. There are many free apps which will tell you where the Qiblah is, using the compass on your phone. If you are unable to stand due to illness or infirmity, you can pray sitting down.
  1. Begin by making your intention for the Salah, verbally or silently. This is done in either Arabic or your own language. Say, 'I intend to pray two rak'at for Tarawih for Allah facing the Ka'bah'.
  1. Raise your hands up to your earlobes for men, and shoulders for women, whilst saying 'Allahu Akbar'. This means 'Allah is the Greatest'. (This step is illustrated below). You are now in a state of ihram, which means that all worldly things are forbidden for you, such as talking, laughing, eating, drinking or thinking about anything that will distract you.
  1. Place your right hand over your left, just below the naval. Women should place their hands over their chest.
  1. Say quietly,'SubhanaK-Allahumma wa bihamdiKa, wa tabaarak-asmuKa, wa ta-‘aala jadduKa, wa la ilaaha illa ghayruK'. This means 'O Allah, glory and praise are for You, and blessed is Your Name, and exalted is Your Majesty and there is no god but You'.
  1. Then recite quietly, 'Auudhu bi-Llahi min ash-Shaitaanir rajeem bismi-Llahir Rahmaani Raheem'. This means, 'I seek protection in Allah from the rejected Satan. In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful’'
  1. Then recite Surah al-Fatihah, ending by saying 'Amin', meaning 'let it be so'. If you are leading a prayer, remember to recite all Surahs in Tarawih out loud!
  1. Then recite any other Surah. The minimum recitation is three verses, or one long verse which is equal in length to three short verses. However, it is better to recite a complete Surah.
  1. Bow down and say 'Allahu Akbar' meaning 'Allah is the Greatest', placing your hands on your knees, with your back straight. Rest at this position, called Ruku (bowing), and say 'Subhaana Rabbiy-al-Adheem' three times at least. This means 'Glory be to my Lord, the Great'. (This step is illustrated above).
  1. Then as you stand up fully straight again say, 'Sami-Allahu liman hamidaH' - 'Allah heard the one who praised Him'. Then say, 'Rabbana laKal hamd' - 'O our Lord, all praise belongs to You'.
  1. Again say 'Allahu Akbar' and go down into prostration, which is called Sujood. When prostrating, your forehead, nose, palms of both hands, knees and toes pointing forward should all be touching the floor. (This step is illustrated above).
  1. Say at least three times, 'Subhaana Rabbiy-al-Aalaa' - 'Glory be to my Lord, the Highest'.
  1. Sit up whilst saying 'Allahu Akbar'. Rest the palms of your hands on your knees. Sit on the flat of your left foot, whilst keeping the toes of the right foot planted and pointing forward. Women should lean on their left hip pointing the toes of both feet to the right side. (This step is illustrated below).
  1. After a few moments, return back into prostration whilst saying 'Allahu Akbar' and repeat step 13.
  1. Stand up completely whilst saying 'Allahu Akbar'. You have now completed your first unit, or rak‘ah, of Tarawih!
  1. Follow steps 8 to 15 again.
  1. Then return to a sitting position as described in step 14.
  1. While sitting, recite the first part of the Tashaahud, 'At-tahiyyatu lillah, was-salawaatu wat-tayyibaat. As-salaamu ‘alayka ayyuhan-Nabiyyu wa rahmat-Ullahi wa barakaatu. As-salaamu alayna, wa alaa ibaadi-llahis saaliheen'. This means, 'All compliments are for Allah, and prayers and goodness. Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings. Peace be upon us and on the righteous servants of Allah'.
  1. Then, keeping your hands resting on your knees, raise your right index finger while clasping the other fingers of your right hand. Now, recite the second part of the Tashaahud, 'Ashhadu an laa ilaaha ill-Allahu wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan abduHu wa Rasooluh'.  This means, 'I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger'.
  1. Lower your right index finger, so both your palms are resting on your knees again. (This step is illustrated below).
  1. Continue sitting down and recite, 'Allahumma salli alaa Muhammadiw wa alaa aali Muhammadin, kamaa sallayta alaa Ibraheema wa alaa aali Ibraheema, innaKa Hameedum Majeed. Allahumma baarik ‘alaa Muhammadiw wa alaa aali Muhammadin, kamaa baarakta alaa Ibraheema wa alaa aali Ibraheema, innaKa Hameedum Majeed'. This means,  'O Allah, send Your mercy upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, just as You sent mercy upon Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim. Truly You are Praiseworthy and Glorious. O Allah, send blessings upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, just as You sent blessings upon Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim. Truly You are Praiseworthy and Glorious'.
  1. It is then highly recommended to recite some supplications (du’a). One very simple and comprehensive one is, 'Rabbana aatina fid-dunya hasanataw wa fil-aakhirati hasantaw wa qina adhaaban Naar'. This means, 'O our Lord give us good in this world and good in the hereafter and protect us from the punishment of the Fire'.
  1. You then complete the Salah by turning your head first over your right shoulder, saying 'Assalamu alaikum wa rahmat-Ullahi wa barakaatuH'. Then repeat these words while turning your head over your left shoulder. They mean, 'May peace, the mercy of Allah and His blessings be upon you'. (This step is illustrated below).
  1. Your first set of two rak'at are now complete! Please return to Step 3 to perform your next two rak'at.

May Allah accept your Salah, your du'as and all your efforts in Ramadan, amin!

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