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Tarawih (Arabic: تراويح) refers to extra prayers performed by Sunni Muslims at night in the Islamic month of Ramadan. Contrary to popular belief, they are not compulsory. However, many Muslims pray these prayers in the night during Ramadan. Some scholars[who?] maintain that Tarawih is neither fard nor a Sunnah, but is the preponed Tahajjud (night prayer) prayer shifted to post-Isha' for the ease of believers. But a majority of Sunni scholars regard the Tarawih prayers as Sunnat al-Mu'akkadah, a salaat that was performed by the Islamic prophet Muhammad very consistently.
Tarawih prayers are prayed in pairs of two and can be prayed in at least 20 raka‘āt according to two schools, Hanafis and Shafi'i, of Sunni Islam. Some believe that 8, 12 or 20 can be read. A break is taken after every 4 rak'ah - Malik ibn Anas added 4 raka'h in each break (to account for the time spent in Tawaf, although since Tawaf is something which takes place during the Hajj in Mecca, has nothing to do with the subject of this article, let alone the number of raka'at, and reference to it should be replaced with something which makes more sense) thus taking the total number to 36. Due to varying numbers, the number of prayers performed is broad in scope. This prayer is performed only during Ramadan of the Islamic calendar after salat of Isha'. Muslims believe it is customary to attempt a khatm "complete recitation" of the Quran as one of the religious observances of Ramadan by reciting at least one juz' per night in tarawih. Tarawih prayers are considered optional, not mandatory.
A majority of Sunni Muslims regard the Tarawih prayers as Sunnat Mu'akkadah, a salaat that was performed by the Islamic prophet Muhammad very consistently. Sunni Muslims believe tarawih is a Sunnah salat and may be performed at home if one is unable to attend a mosque. According to this tradition, Muhammad initially prayed the tarawih in congregation during Ramadan which is evident in ahadis. He prayed in congregation for three consecutive nights but discontinued this practice out of fear that it would be made mandatory, rather than sunnah. During the time when Umar was the caliph, he reinstated the praying of Tarawih in congregation since there was no longer any misapprehension of it being made mandatory. However, Malik ibn Anas prefers that Tarawih be prayed at home, if one has a strong intention to do so. Some scholars belonging to Ahle Hadith[who?] maintain that Tarawih is neither fard or a Sunnah, but is the preponed Tahajjud (night prayer) prayer shifted to post-Isha' for the ease of believers which according to them is not more than eight.
The Shia view differs among the three main schools of thought, Ismaili, Twelvers and Zaydis. However, some Zaydis have been known to regard tarawih as sunnah. Alevi Muslims in Turkey have no Tarawih prayer and see it as Bid'ah.
Twelvers believe in the Tahajjud prayer or Salatul layl (night prayer) which Muhammad recommended during nights of Ramadan.
Salatul layl or Tahajjud prayer is made up of eleven rak’ats.
- The first eight rak’ats are prayed as normal in pairs of two rak’ats each with the niyyah of Nawafilatul-Layl (the prayer of the night).
- The next two rak’ats are prayed with the niyyah of Salatul Shaf’a (the prayer of forgiveness).
- The remaining rak’at is prayed with the niyyah of Salatul Witr.
- Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims believe in Tahajjud prayer or Bayt-ul-Khayal prayer and recommended not only during Ramadan but throughout the year particularly on Friday (Jumma) or Chand Rat (First night of every Islamic month).
- John L. Esposito: The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press US 2004, ISBN 978-0-19-512559-7, p. 276 (restricted online version, p. 276, at Google Books)