Abu Hurayrahsaid: “The Messenger of Allaahused to encourage us to pray at night in Ramadhaan, without making it obligatory. Then hesaid:‘Whoever prays at night in Ramadhaan out of faith and the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.’When the Messenger of Allaahdied, this is how things were (i.e., Taraaweeh was not prayed in congregation), and this is how they remained during the Caliphate of Abu Bakruntil the beginning of the Caliphate of‘Umar.”
Laylat Al-Qadr and its timing
The best night ever isLaylat Al-Qadr (Night of Decree or Power), because the Prophetsaid:“Whoever prays at night during Laylat Al-Qadr out of faith and the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.”[Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
Scholars hold different opinions as to which of the nights isLaylat Al-Qadr.Some hold the opinion that it is the 21st, some say the 23rd, others say the 25thand still others say it is the 29th. Some say that it varies from year to year but it is always among the last ten nights of Ramadhaan. Most scholars, though, hold the opinion that it is the 27th.
According to Ibn‘Umarthe Prophetsaid:“He who likes to seek that night(Laylat Al-Qadr)should do so on the 27th.”[Muslim] Ubayy Ibn K’absaid: “I swear by Allaah, it is during Ramadhaan – and He swore to that – and by Allaah, I know what night it is. It is the night of the 27th. Its sign is that the sun rises the next morning white and without any rays”.
Yet, it is preferred to seek this night during the last ten nights of Ramadhaan, as the Prophet, sllallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, strove his best in seeking it during that time. The Prophet would stay up all night during the last ten nights, would wake his wives, and then would remain apart from them to worship.
It is preferred to pray Qiyaam in congregation, because this is what the Prophetdid himself and explained its virtues. Abu Tharrsaid: “We fasted Ramadhaan with the Messenger of Allaahand he did not lead us in Qiyaam at all until there were only seven days left, when he led us in prayer until a third of the night had passed. When there were six days left, hedid not lead us in Qiyaam. When there were five days left, he led us in prayer until half the night had passed. I said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, I wish that you had continued until the end of the night.’ Hesaid,“If a man prays with the Imaam until he finishes, it will be counted as if he prayed the whole night.”When there were four nights left, he did not lead us in Qiyaam. When there were three nights left, he brought together his family, his wives and the people, and led us in Qiyaam … Then he did not lead us in Qiyaam for the rest of the month.” [Abu Daawood and others]
The reason why the Prophetdid not continually leadthem inQiyaamfor the rest of the month because hefeared that it would then become obligatory, and they would not be able to do it.
Women can pray Qiyaam in congregation
Women can attend the prayers too, as is stated in theHadeethof Abu Tharrreferred to above. Indeed, it is permissible to appoint anImaamjust for them, apart from theImaamof the men. It was proven that when ‘Umargathered the people to prayQiyaam, he appointed Ubayy ibn Ka’bto lead the men and Sulaymaan ibn Abu Hathmahto lead the women. ‘Arfajah Al-Thaqafisaid: “‘Ali ibn Abu Taalibused to command the people to pray during the night in Ramadhaan, and he would appoint an Imaam for the men and an Imaam for the women. I was the Imaam for the women.”
Number ofRak’ahsof Qiyaam
The number ofRak’ahs(prayer units) is eleven, and it is preferable not to exceed this number, following the practice of the Messenger of Allaah. ‘Aa’ishahwas asked about how heprayed inRamadhaan. She said:“The Messenger of Allaahnever prayed more than eleven Rak’ahs (of Qiyaam), whether during Ramadhaan or any other time. He would pray four (Rak’ahs), and don’t ask me how beautiful or how long they were. Then he would pray four, and don’t ask me how beautiful or how long they were. Then he would pray three ….”[Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
Reciting Quran in Qiyaam
As regards reciting from the Quran duringQiyaam, whether inRamadhaanor at other times, the Prophetdid not set a limit or state what was too much or too little. His recitation used to vary; sometimes it would be long, at other times short. Sometimes in everyRak’ahhewould recite the equivalent of Chapter Al-Muzzammil (73), which is twentyverses; sometimes hewould recite the equivalent of fiftyverses. Heused to say:“Whoever prays at night and reads one hundred verses will not be recorded as one of the negligent.”
When he was sick, the Prophetrecited the seven long Chapters in his night prayers, i.e.,Al-Baqarah,Aal ‘Imraan,An-Nisaa’,Al-Maa’idah,Al-An’aam,Al-A’raafandAt-Tawbah.
According to Huthayfahibn Al-Yamaanwhoprayed behind the Prophetthe ProphetrecitedAl-Baqarah,An-Nisaa’andAal ‘Imraanin oneRak’ah, in a slow and measured tone. When ‘UmarappointedUbayy ibn Ka’bto lead the people in praying elevenRak’ahsinRamadhaan,Ubayyused to reciteversesby the hundreds, so that the people behind him would be leaning on sticks because the prayers were so long, and they did not finish until just beforeFajr.
It is also reported that ‘Umarcalled the readers duringRamadhaan, and told the fastest of them to recite thirtyverses, the moderate ones to recite twenty-fiveverses, and the slowest ones to recite twentyverses.
However, is a person is prayingQiyaamby himself, he can make it as long as he wishes; if others agree with theImaam, he may also make it as long as he wishes. The longer it is, the better, but theImaamshould not continually spend the whole night inQiyaam, following the example of the Prophetwho said:“If any of you leads the people in prayer, let him make it short, because among them are the young and the old, the weak, and those who have pressing needs. But if he is praying alone, let him make it as long as he likes.” [Al-Bukhaari]