Jul 25, 2013

Importance of Qiyam ul Layl in Ramadan

By Sabeen Mansoori


It is the blessed month of Ramadan. The scent of spirituality hangs in the air and the masajid are overflowing with people. There is a young woman who comes to the mosque every night to pray Taraweeh. She has a small baby with her who wails at the smallest provocation. The car seat is heavy but she dutifully lugs it to the masjid. Arms weary from cleaning, and cooking and carrying the baby all day she persists dreaming of a Tarweeh where she can stand in prayer and immerse herself in the soothing sounds of Allah’s majestic Words and earn His forgiveness. It rarely goes as planned. Usually the baby starts crying after a few rakaa’at and after some dirty looks from the aunties and scowls from the uncles, she is banished to the dreaded ‘children’s room’ where slippers fly through the air and rowdy children wrestle each other to the ground. As she wearily makes her way to the back room, she passes groups of people who she feels do not fully appreciate the value of the Qiyam ul Layl being performed in the masjid.

A group of men sit and enjoy coffee as they discuss the politics of a far away land. There is the persistent chatter of women talking and raising their voices, drowning out the recitation of the Quran. A group of young men pass a basketball back and forth commenting on the latest basketball game. She feels a deep sadness at their negligence of the prayer, but she consoles herself, “At least they are in the masjid…” She wants to walk up to them and remind them of the value of Qiyam ul layl. She wants to remind them that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said,

“Anyone who offers the night prayer in Ramadhaan with belief and seeking Allah’s reward, all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih Bukhari Vol. no. 3, Book of Taraweeh, Hadith no. 2010

She remembers reading in the books of hadith the first time people gathered behind the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam to pray Taraweeh.

Narrated 'Urwa: 
That he was informed by 'Aisha, "Allah's Apostle went out in the middle of the night and prayed in the mosque and some men prayed behind him. In the morning, the people spoke about it and then a large number of them gathered and prayed behind him (on the second night). In the next morning the people again talked about it and on the third night the mosque was full with a large number of people. 
Allah's Apostle came out and the people prayed behind him. On the fourth night the Mosque was overwhelmed with people and could not accommodate them, but the Prophet came out (only) for the morning prayer. When the morning prayer was finished he recited Tashah-hud and (addressing the people) said, "Amma ba'du, your presence was not hidden from me but I was afraid lest the night prayer (Qiyam) should be enjoined on you and you might not be able to carry it on." 
(Sahih Bukhari Vol. No. 3, in the Book of Taraweeh, Hadith no. 229) 

They came to the masjid seeking the pleasure of Allah and following the lead of their Messenger sal allahu alihi wasullum. He had not even sent a message for them to come. They did not ask, “It’s just a Sunnah isn’t it? It is not a fard? We don’t really have to do it.” The opposite was true. So many came that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam did not come out of his house for fear that it might be made fard (obligatory) upon them. They raced to follow his example but the Messenger of Allah (saws) did not wish to burden his people.

The sahabah and the sahabiyat would not have dreamed of coming to the mosque to drink coffee and share gossip while the words of Allah were being recited. Heaven and earth hold their breath and the forgiveness of Allah descends upon the people, the doors of Jannah are opened and the Shayateen are chained. Every good deed receives ten times the reward that it receives out of Ramadan. The angels however stop in their tracks when they realize the believers are discussing the fate of tyrants, local and foreign, instead of humbly lining up in prayer worried about their own fate.

The Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Whosoever stands (in prayer) with the Imam until he completes it, Allah writes for him (the reward) as if he has prayed the whole night.” It has been reported in another wording, “…the remainder of the night.” Hence, it is better for the one who can and is not sick or feeble, to perform the prayer with the Imam until he completes it, whether it consists of eleven, twenty-three, or any other number of raka’aat. (Concerning Taraweeh …Fatawaa of Sheikh Abdul-Azeez bin Baaz pg 13)

Qiyam ul layl literally means ‘standing at night.’ It refers to the voluntary prayer whose time extends from Isha prayer until dawn. It is also commonly referred to as Salat-ul-Layl (the night prayer), Tahajjud (from hajada, meaning remained one who awake at night), and Taraweeh (resting). It was the permanent practice of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in and out of Ramadan. 

Aisha narrated to Abdallah inb Abi Qays, "Never stop praying qiyaam ul-layl, for the Messenger of Allah never stopped it. If he was sick or felt tired, he would pray sitting down." (Ahmad)

The earliest believers in Mecca were praying at night for a whole year before verse 20 of Sura Muzzamil was revealed making it an optional but desirable practice. They were told:

“…So recite what is easy from it and establish prayer and give zakah and loan Allah a goodly loan…” (Sura Al-Muzzamil 73:20)

The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to review the whole Quran with angel Jibrail in the month of Ramadan. There is no specific command from the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam to recite the whole Quran in the Taraweeh, but it is important that the recitation be performed in a manner which enables the congregation to follow and if possible understand the Quran that is recited in the Taraweeh.

As she slowly makes her way to the back room, the sound of the recitation fades away slowly amid the noise:

“Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding.” (Az-Zumr 39:9)

At least it is not one of the odd nights, she tells herself. Inshallah, Allah will make a way for me to pray the entire Taraweeh with concentration during the odd nights. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to exert his utmost during the last ten nights of Ramadan.

Narrated Aisha:
With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to tighten his waist belt (i.e. work hard) and used to pray all the night, 
and used to keep his family awake for the prayers.
(Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 32, Number 24) 

The crowning glory of the month of Ramadan is the Night of Qadr in which the angels descend and which is equal to a thousand months. Narrated 'Aisha: Allah's Apostle said, "Search for the Night of Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan." (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 32, Number 234)

It becomes easier to pray in the last ten nights of Ramadan, if the habit of praying has been established from the very first day of fasting. It is easier for the regular worshipper to increase in devotion during the last ten nights. He is like an athlete who has increased his stamina gradually so that on the day of the competition he can give his best performance.

The young woman yearned for the month of Ramadan to come and she made a firm, sincere intention to fast in its days and pray in it nights. Are you waiting breathlessly for Ramadan to start? Have you decided to devote the nights of Ramadan to the Lord of the World so that you can be enveloped by His Mercy and receive forgiveness for your sins?

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


Very good article. I find what you say to be true regarding the state of the people in the masjid. I pray Taraweeh at home due to my inability to concentrate or focus because of all of the chaos.

Jazakallahu Khairun. Despite the struggle I really enjoy listening to the recitation in the Taraweeh and the feeling of community that comes into the masajid in Ramadan. May Allah accept our ibadat this Ramadan :)

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