Tarawih in Congregation or at Home?


Should tarawih be made at home or in the mosque with others?

Country: United States


The 8th century mujaddid Zain al-Din al-’Iraqi relates the following incident in his work Taqrib al-Asanid wa Tartib al-Masanid,

“’Urwah (Allah be pleased with him) relates on the authority of A’ishah (Allah be well pleased with her) that the Prophet Muhammad went out one night during Ramadan. He offered prayers in the mosque, and some men prayed behind him. On the second night, he again went out and even more people gathered. By the third or forth night, the mosque became so full that it could not accommodate the attendees, but the Prophet Muhammad did not come out. The people began to call him for the prayer, but he did not respond. When morning came, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be well pleased with him) said to him, “The people remained waiting for you last night.” The Prophet Muhammad replied, “Your presence was not unknown to me, however, I feared that the prayer would become obligatory upon you.” In one narration, Imam Bukhari added, “And when the Prophet Muhammad passed, the situation remained like that.”

‘Iraqi’s son, Wali al-Din, mentioned various fawa’id from the above narration in his commentary of his father’s work Tarh al-Tathrib fi Sharh al-Taqrib, such as:

1) Praying the night prayers of Ramadan congregationally, in a mosque, is best because the Prophet Muhammad performed the prayer in such manner, only leaving it out of fear that it be made obligatory. Al-Shafi’i along with many of his companions held this view. Also, Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Ahmad, and some of the Malikis maintained this position.

In his Musannaf, Ibn Abi Shaybah relates that ‘Ali, Ibn Mas’ud, Suwayd bin Ghaflah, and others performed the prayer in this manner. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab ordered that the prayer be performed and the companions and the rest of the believers continually carried out its performance until it became one of the distinguishing marks of the religion, much like the Eid prayers.

2) Wali al-Din al-‘Iraqi goes on to mention that some ‘ulama considered it better to perform the prayer individually, in one’s home, since the Prophet Muhammad regularly performed it that way, both before and after the above incident and he did this until he passed away. In fact, this practice continued throughout Abu Bakr’s caliphate until the 14th hijri year during ‘Umar’s caliphate.

Ibn Abi Shaybah relates that Ibn ‘Umar, his son Salim, Qasim bin Muhammad, ‘Alqamah, and Ibrahim al-Nakha’i did not stand with the people in prayer during Ramadan. Imam Malik, Abu Yusuf and some of the Shafi’is held to this position. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr relates this position from Imam al-Shafi’i himself.

Significantly, Imam Muzani related this qawl,

“He (i.e Imam al-Shafi’i) said, “With respect to standing [in prayer] during the month of Ramadan [i.e. tarawih], the prayer of one praying alone is better according to me.” (Mukhtasar al-Muzani pg. 34)

Imam al-Mawardi presents two possible interpretations for Imam al-Shafi’i’s statement in his monumental work al-Hawi al-Kabir:

According to the first interpretation, the supererogatory prayers performed individually, like the two rak’ah before fajr, are more emphasized than standing in prayer during Ramadan i.e. for tarawih. In this interpretation, Imam al-Shafi’is statement is considered to be a comparison between the virtuousness night prayers during Ramadan and other supererogatory prayers. This is the view Imam Abu al-’Abbas bin Surayj.

In the second, it is better to perform tarawih individually so long as it does not become neglected. This is the view of many; moreover, it is supported by the hadith related by Zaid bin Thabit that the Prophet Muhammad said, “Pray in your homes. Verily the prayer of a person in his home is more virtuous than in the mosque except for the prescribed prayers.”

Mawardi concludes his discussion by stating, “ If the group prayer will be neglected due to one’s absence (by praying individually), then it is better to pray it in a group since such neglect extinguishes a mosque’s nur and causes a documented prophetic practice to be abandoned.” (al-Hawi al-Kabir 2/291)

This issue was further addressed by other commentators on Muzani’s abridgement, namely Imam ‘Abd al-Wahid bin Isma’il al-Ruwyani and Imam al-Haramayn. Ruwyani expounds on the issue in Bahr al-Madhhab. There, he attempts to reconcile the conflicting interpretations of al-Shafi’i’s words. In Nihayat al-Matlab, Imam al-Haramayn concludes, without given preponderance (ar: tarjih), that there are three opinions. They are: 1) it is better to perform it individually, 2) it is better to perform it in a group, and 3) it is better to perform it alone when one is hafiz and knows that laziness will not prevent him from praying. (See: Nihayat al-Matlab 2/355-56) Imam al-Haramayn’s student, Imam Ghazzali, transmitted the findings of his teacher in al-Wasit.

On this issue, early attempts of tarjih were made by authorities such as Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi and Ghazzali; while representative tarjih took place at the hands of Shaykhayn i.e. Imam Rafi’i and Imam al-Nawawi. In both Muharrar and Sharh Kabir, al-Rafi’i gives tarjih to it being recommended that tarawih be performed in a group; and in Majmu’, Rawdah, and Minhaj, Imam Nawawi concurred with his assessment. (See: Muharrar pg. 49; Fath al-’Aziz 2/133; Majmu’ 3/526; Rawdat al-Talibin pg. 149)

And Allah knows best.

Shafiifiqh.com Fatwa Dept.