For Muslims, Ramadan is characterized with a heightened sense of devotion throughout the day and night. During Ramadan special evening prayers are conducted during which long portions of the holy Qur’an are recited. These special prayers in the month of Ramadan are known as Taraweeh.
Taraweeh is an Arabic word which comes from what means to rest and relax. It is indicated by the Hadith that our Noble Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) led his followers in evening prayers on the 25th, 27th, and 29th nights of the month of Ramadan, in the time after Ishaa prayer.
This has since become a tradition during the evenings of the Ramadan, to pray the Taraweeh prayers. It is however not regarded as a compulsory prayer. The Hadith also documented that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) discontinued this prayer because he specifically didn’t want it to become a compulsory prayer. Among Muslims nowadays, it is still a solid tradition during the month of Ramadan to perform the Taraweeh prayer. For many Muslims, the Taraweeh prayer amplifies the sense of individual spirituality and unity.
The Taraweeh prayers can be very long, it sometimes last for more than an hour. During this period, one stands in prayer listening to the readings from the Noble Qur’an during many cycles of salat. After each of the four cycles, one sits for a brief period to rest, and then continues. This is where the name comes from, ‘Taraweeh’ (rest prayer).
Long sections of the Noble Qur’an are being read during the standing portions of the prayer. The holy Qur’an is divided into equal parts called Just, for the purpose of reading sections of equal length during each of the nights of the blessed month of Ramadan.
Muslims are recommended to attend the Taraweeh prayers in the mosque to pray in congregation. This is required for both men and women. One may however perform the prayers individually at home.
These are voluntary prayers and not obligatory, they are however strongly recommended and widely practiced.
There have been disagreements about how long the prayer should last; 8 or 20 Rakat. However, when praying the Taraweeh prayer in congregation, you should start and end according to the preference of the Imam, performing the same amount of Rakat he performs. Late night prayers in the month of Ramadan are a blessing.