A Guide To Tarawih Prayers

A Guide To Tarawih Prayers - When, Why & How To Do It


Ustaz Md Khalid Md Rafi •  Mar 04, 2024

Alhamdulillah, the month of Ramadhan is upon us again. So we get to enjoy all kinds of traditional goodies! But that’s not the only reason we rejoice. Ramadhan is the perfect way of gaining Allah’s pleasure and mercy.

So what else can we do apart from fasting? Nope, not solat Aidilfitri. Tarawih of course! And to help you out, here is a handy breakdown of all you need to know about this prayer and how to do it.

What is Tarawih?

A Guide To Tarawih Prayers

Credit: Masjid Sultan Singapore on Facebook

  • During Ramadan, special prayers called Tarawih are carried out after every Isyak prayers. Tarawih is derived from the Arabic word meaning “to rest and relax”, as righteous people before our time used to rest after every two or four lengthy rakaat.
  • Tarawih prayers are not obligatory, (phew!) but it is highly encouraged (sunnah) for us to perform it.
  • There are different opinions on how many rakaat to perform for Tarawih prayer, some scholars saying 8, 20 or even 36. What we commonly use locally is either 8 or 20 rakaat. Just because we have different arguments it doesn’t mean we avoid them completely. Strive for 8 rakaat at the very least. Any amount of units observed for Tarawih is still better than none. Go for it!

Why do we do Tarawih?

Origins of Tarawih

A Guide To Tarawih Prayers

Credit: Masjid Negara Malaysia on Facebook

Historically, one night Rasulullah (ﷺ) offered the prayer in the mosque and the people followed him. By the second night, word had spread and more people joined in to perform Tarawih. Even more people attended on the third night. By the fourth night, the mosque was packed and people awaited the Prophet’s arrival.

The Prophet, however, prayed at home by himself. After Fajr, he said: “Nothing prevented me from coming out to you except the fact that I feared that it would be made obligatory for you.” (HR Muslim). After that, during the time of the Sahabah (companions to the Prophet) Abu Bakr r.a. to the beginning of 'Umar’s time, people prayed either individually or in small groups. Later, ‘Umar r.a. gathered everyone behind one Imam and they prayed 8 rakaat. Eventually, it was increased to 20 rakaat to make it easy for the people.

Rewards of Tarawih

A Guide To Tarawih Prayers

Credit: portable soul on Flickr

Motivation comes with knowing the rewards we reap from our good deeds. So how do we profit from tarawih prayers? There are so many benefits to performing the prayer (so much win!), but let’s keep it to 3 main ones:

1. All your sins are forgiven! (Expunged!? You are reborn!)

The Prophet ﷺ explicitly informed us of the virtues of standing in prayer, particularly in Ramadhan, when he said: “Whosoever stands in the nights of Ramadan, with faith and in hope of receiving Allah’s reward, his past sins will be forgiven” (HR Bukhari).

2. You are rewarded equivalent to an entire night of prayer.

Secondly, by praying Tarawih you gain the reward of standing the whole night in prayer. The Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said: “Whoever stands praying with the Imam until he is finished, it is recorded for him that he prayed the whole night.” (HR Tirmidhi; Shahih).

3. Voluntary prayers make up for defects in obligatory prayers (Sunnah cleanses the Wajib!)

Your extra voluntary prayers will make up for all the shortcomings in your obligatory solat. The Prophet informed us that when a man stands before Allah on the Day of Resurrection, and his obligatory prayers are found to be defective, Allah will say: “See if my servant has any voluntary prayers that can complete what is lacking in his obligatory prayers.” (HR Tirmidhi; Shahih)

When do we do Tarawih?

A Guide To Tarawih Prayers

Credit: @pipikufishball on Instagram

The time for Tarawih prayer is between Ishak and Fajr, though most of us would perform it right after Isyak. A handy tip: try not to stuff our faces at iftar (and in conjunction with this, it might be a good idea to only go bazaar-tripping after Tarawih!).

If you're stuffed to the brim and the mosque is too cosy, you might get sleepy during prayers. And if you go all out for 20 rakaat, you might not make it to the end. Would you eat a heavy meal an hour before swimming? The same logic applies here.

It also helps to get ready to leave for the mosque straight away after Maghrib, to maintain the super-on spirit of continuity in prayer. Generally during Ramadan, the Tarawih prayer is prayed after the Ishak prayer in mosques and is done in the congregation (though you can also perform it on your own - more on that down below!).

How to do Tarawih prayers?

A Guide To Tarawih Prayers

Credit: Masjid Putra Putrajaya on Facebook

And here we come to the most crucial point! We now know of the virtues of Tarawih, but how do we perform it? It's actually pretty easy and straightforward:

  1. After the Isyak prayers, we can (and are highly encouraged!) to perform another Sunnah prayer known as “ba'diyah Isyak” or “after Isyak” of 2 rakaat (done individually).
  2. Now, you are ready to start Tarawih. Tarawih can be prayed in a congregation or it can also be done alone. But we surely gain more rewards praying it in a congregation (teamwork makes the dreamwork guys!)
  3. If you’re doing it individually, start by making the intention for Tarawih prayers, as follows: “I intend to pray Sunnah Tarawih prayers, 2 rakaat due to Allah ta’ala.” If you’re doing it in a congregation, then make the intention, “I intend to pray Sunnah Tarawih prayers, 2 rakaat as a makmum due to Allah ta’ala.” It is not required to pronounce it verbally - the important thing is to have this intention in your heart and mind that you are now praying Tarawih.
  4. Continue praying similarly to any other 2 rakaat Sunnah prayers until you’ve completed either a set of 8 or 20 rakaat, depending on which length you’re comfortable with.
  5. Finally, conclude your Tarawih with the Witr prayer. Witr prayers are usually done after Tarawih prayers as means of closing off our prayers for the night. They are odd-numbered (such as 1, 3,5 rakaat and so on), though for after Tawarih, it is most common locally to perform three rakaat with either two, or one salam. Witr prayers can be done in a congregation or individually. If you performed Tarawih prayers in a congregation at the mosque and you are doing only 8 rakaat while the rest of the congregation is doing 20 rakaat, just make sure to perform the Witr prayer on your own.

And that's it! You have completed tarawih prayers and experienced one of the blessings of this holy month of Ramadan. Now, you can head back home to the Ayam Percik that you’ve saved for after prayers :)

This post was written by Ustaz Md Khalid Md Rafi, who is part of theAsatizah Youth Network. Find more articles on Islamic religious knowledge atmuslim.sg. Ustaz Khalid can also be found onFacebook and Instagram.