My brothers: Allah has made many different types of acts of worship obligatory upon us so that we may take a part from every type. So that we do not just fill up on only one act of worship and end up leaving that act. From these acts of worship, Allah has made some obligatory, which we are not permissible to have deficiencies in performing nor are we allowed to leave them. Allah has also made some acts nafl (supererogatory), from which we can attain getting closer to Allah, and completeness.
From this Allah has made the five daily prayers obligatory. They are five in action, and fifty in the scale. Allah has made the nafl prayers as a way to perfect the obligation, and to attain closeness to Allah. From these acts are the set nafl prayers, which are with the obligatory prayers. Two rak’ahs before Fajr, four before Dhuhr, and two after it, two after Maghrib, and two after ‘Isha. Then there is the night prayer which Allah talks about those whom perform them in the Qur’an by saying, “Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrate and standing” and by saying, “Who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of what we have bestowed on them. No soul knows what is kept hid for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do.” The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) said, “The best prayer after the obligatory ones is the prayer at night.” (Muslim) He (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam)also said, “Oh people, Spread salaam, offer food generously, uphold the ties of kinship, stand in prayer at night when people are sleeping, and enter Paradise in peace.” (graded Saheeh by Trimidhe and Al-Hakim)
From the night prayer, is the witr prayer. The least of it being just one rak’ah and the most being eleven rak’ahs, and you make it odd by having just one rak’ah by itself. As the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) said, “Whoever wants to pray one rak’ah for witr, then they may.” (Abu Dawood and Annisaae) Or you may make witr with three rak’ahs as the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) said, “Whoever wants to pray three rak’ahs for witr, then they may.” (Abu Dawood and Anisaee) If you wish, you may perform these rak’ahs with just one salaam as is narrated by Attahawee, that Umar bin Alkhataab (radiallaahu ‘anhu) used to make witr three rak’ahs without making tasleem except at the end. And if you prefer to pray three with a tasleem after the first two as is related by Bukhari that Abdullah Bin Umar used to make the after the first two rak’ahs then make tasleem again after the third even so that he would do something important between the two parts of the witr prayer. And it is possible to pray five rak’ahs without sitting or making tasleem except at the end. This is due to the statement of the Prophet(sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam), “Whoever wants to make witr five, then they may.” (Abu Dawood and Annisaae) ‘Aisha (radiallaahu ‘anha) said, “The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) used to pray 13 rak’ahs at night, from those he would make the last 5 witr without sitting in them except at the end. (Agreed upon) Or He (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) would make seven rak’ahs witr and would perform them just like the five rak’ahs as stated by Umm Salama (radiallaahu ‘anha), “The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) used to make seven rak’ahs witr as well as five, he would not have a salaam or talk in between. (Ahmad, Nisaee, Ibn Majaah)
The Prophet(sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) would also make witr with nine and would sit at the end of the eighth rak’ah and make tashahud and dua, then he would get up and pray the ninth rak’ah and make tashahud at the end of it and then make tasleem. This is known because of the hadeeth narrated by ‘Aisha (RA) who said, “The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) would pray 9 rak’ahs, not sitting except at the eight in which he would praise Allah and make dua, he wouldn’t make tasleem, then he would get up and pray the ninth in which he would praise Allah and make dua, then make tasleem.” (Ahmad and Muslim) He (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam)would also pray 11 rak’ahs, and if he wished he would make tasleem after every two rak’ahs, and make the last rak’ah witr. This is known from the hadeeth narrated by ‘Aisha (RA) in which she said, “The Prophet(sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) used to pray in the time between ‘Isha and Fajr 11 rak’ahs, making tasleem after every two, and making witr with the last one.” (Al Jama’ah except Tirmidhee) And if he wished, he (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) would pray four then four then three. As ‘Aisha (RA) said, “The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) would pray four, and don’t ask about how perfect and lengthy they were, then he would pray four more, and don’t ask about how perfect and lengthy they were, then he would pray three.” (Agreed upon) The scholars of fiqh from the Hanabil and the Shafi’ee say that it is permissible to make witr 11 with one tashahud or with two, one in the second to last and one in the last rak’ah.
Praying during the night in Ramadhan has special benefits. The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) said, “Whoever stands for prayer at night, with faith and anticipation of reward, he is forgiven for his past sins.” (Agreed upon) With faith means faith in Allah, and belief in being rewarded for his act. Anticipation means that they don’t do the act out of showing off, or out of expecting to get money. Taraweeh is the praying at night during Ramadhan with belief that you will be rewarded for the action. It is called taraweeh because the people used to make it long, and whenever they would reach four rak’ahs, then they would rest for a little.
The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) was the first to make this prayer in congregation in the masjid, then he left it for fear of people thinking it was a fardh. As is stated in the Saheehayn, on ‘Aisha (radiallaahu ‘anha) that the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) prayed in the masjid one night with some people, then more people came, then on the third or fourth night even more people came, so he didn’t come out to them. Then he later said, “I saw what you were doing, and nothing stopped me from coming to you except the fear of this becoming an obligation on you.” This was during Ramadhan. Abu Dhar (radiallaahu ‘anhu) said, “We fasted with the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) and he didn’t lead us in prayer until there were just seven days left in the month, so he lead us in prayer until the last third of the night, then he didn’t lead us the following day, then he lead us up until just until half of the night. So we said, “O messenger of Allah, why didn’t you pray the entire night?” He said, “Whoever prays with the Imam until the Imam is finished, then they get rewarded for praying the whole night.” (Narrated with a Saheeh chain)
The pious predecessors have disagreed about the number of rak’ah that should be performed for taraweeh and witr. Some said 41, some said 30, some said 29, some said 23, some said 19, some said 13, some said 11, and other than this was said as well. The strongest of them is 11 or 13 as is stated in the Saheehayn on ‘Aisha (radiallaahu ‘anha) that she was asked how the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) used to pray in Ramadhan. She said, “He never used to during Ramadhan or otherwise, pray more than 11 rak’ahs.” Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallaahu ‘anhu) said, “The prayer of the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) was 13 rak’ahs, meaning the night prayer.” (Bukhari) Saib bin Yazeed (rahimahullaah) said, “Umar bin Alkhataab (radiallaahu ‘anhu) ordered Ubay bin K’ab and Tamima Adaree to lead the people with 11 raka’ahs.” Our pious predecessors used to make the prayer very long. Saib bin Yazeed (rahimahullaah) said, “The imam used to recite with (maeen), so much so that we used to rely on using sticks from the length of standing.” And this is the opposite of what a lot of people practice today. Some people pray tarweeh with immense speed, they do not have the mandatory calmness and serenity, which is a pillar of the prayer. The prayer is not valid without the calmness. So they leave this pillar and make it hard for those behind them from the weak, sick, and old. The scholars may Allah have mercy on them say that it is makrooh for the imam to make the prayer exceedingly fast.
It is not fitting for men to leave this prayer and miss out on all of the rewards, and they should not leave until the imam finishes the prayer and the witr so that they may receive the reward of praying the entire night. It is permissible for women to attend the taraweeh prayers in the masjid if it won’t cause any fitnah. As the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) said, “Do not prevent the slave women of Allah from coming to the masjid.” This is from the actions of the pious predecessors as well. But it is obligatory that she must dress modestly observing proper hijab, and not inappropriately dressed, and not with perfume, and not speaking loudly, and not beautifying herself. As Allah (SWT) says, “that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof.” Um Atee said about when the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) ordered the women to come to the Eid prayer, “Oh Messenger of Allah, one of us does not have a jilbab” so he replied, “Let one of her sisters give her one to wear.” (Agreed upon) The sunnah for women is to arrive after the men, and to be far from them, and to start from the last line, for the last line is the opposite of the men. As the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) said, “The best of lines for the men is the first, and the worst of lines is the last. The best of lines for the women are the last lines, and the worst are the first lines.” (Muslim) And they should leave the masjid after the imam makes tasleem, and they should not stay later except if they have an excuse to do so. Um Salamah (RA) said: “When the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) used to make tasleem, the women got up and left while the prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) remained shortly in his place before he got up. She said: this is and Allah knows best, because the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam)wanted the women to leave before the men can catch up with them.” (Bukhari)
O Allah forgive us and our parents and the Muslims, with your mercy. And send peace and blessings on the Prophet Muhammad, and his family, and his companions