KUALA LUMPUR: With Ramadan, Muslims enter a period of discipline and worship: fasting from dawn to dusk and attending special congregational prayers at night called the terawih prayers, among other practices.
Variedly spelt as terawikh, tarawih and teraweeh, among others, it is an obligatory deed of worship that is done after the late evening isya’ prayers and before the subuh dawn prayers.
The literal meaning of the Arabic term, according to many Islamic texts, is derived from the root word rauh or raha which basically means “to take a rest”.
Because it is customary to take a small break or rest halfway through the prayers – which last longer than the usual mandatory prayers – it came to be called terawih prayers so as to distinguish it from other obligatory night prayers.
Islamic scholars say Prophet Muhammad would encourage people to perform special night prayers during Ramadan, without commanding them as obligatory.
Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) senior fellow Dr Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran said many Muslims who perform terawih are not clear what it means, stressing it was important for the faithful to have an understanding and knowledge of terawih to derive the physical, health and spiritual benefits from it as well as to gain pahala (“merit points”) from the Almighty.
“It is good to have some knowledge and information about terawih prayers so that in performing it, one can feel the divine pleasure and earn the rewards promised by Allah,” he told mStar, the Malay news portal of The Star.
Dr Mohd Farid said many scholars regard the terawih prayers as sunnat al-mu’akkad; not obligatory but strongly recommended because it was consistently performed by Prophet Muhammad in his time.
Dr Mohd Farid said those who stay away from terawih prayers tend to look only at its duration and seldom at the benefits.
“It will be a waste to treat it as just a trend in Ramadan,” he said, advising Muslims that if the many rakaats (cycle of movements) tire them, they could opt to just perform eight rakaat.
We are encouraged to do eight to 20 rakaats. Rather than not do it all, one could stop at eight,” he said.