Taraweeh from the Prophet’s Masjid to Times Square: Progression or Regression
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The legislated of acts of worship in their periods of time, place and description have been delivered to us by the Prophet (ﷺ). His lifetime was the period of legislation. Allah (تعالى ( said : And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it). And fear Allâh; verily, Allâh is Severe in punishment. Along with this verse is the era of the four rightly guided Caliphs; Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (رضي الله عنهم). Muhammad (ﷺ) said: So hold fast to my Sunnah and the examples of the Rightly- Guided Caliphs who will come after me. Adhere to them and hold to it fast. Beware of new things (in Deen) because every Bid’ah is a misguidance”. This verse and hadith direct us to how we must practice our acts of worship by following the examples of the Prophet (ﷺ) and His companions.
The Tarawih prayer is a specific act of worship legislated in Ramadan by the Prophet(ﷺ). In fact, another name for it is Qiyamu Ramadhan. The description of this prayer is reported by Aisha (رضي الله عنها) : Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) did not offer more than eleven (voluntary) Rak’at during Ramadan nor during other than Ramadan. He offered four Rak’at – Do not ask about their beauty and length! (It is beyond description or imitation]. Again he would pray four Rak’at – Do not ask about their beauty and length! [It is beyond description or imitation]. Then he would pray three (Rak’at of Witr). ‘Aishah (Radi Allahu anha) said: “I said, O Allah’s Messenger will you sleep before you pray Witr?” He said, “O ‘Aishah my eyes sleep, but my heart does not sleep.”
The Prophet (ﷺ) loved this prayer and mentioned that offering it with the Imam until he finishes will result in your sins being forgiven. In the beginning He (ﷺ) used to pray Tarawih in the Masjid, but later on stopped out fear that it would become an obligation on us . The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) came out in anger and said to them: By what you have been constantly doing, I was inclined to think that it (prayer) might not become obligatory for you. So you must observe prayer (optional) in your houses, for the prayer observed by a man in the house is better except an obligatory prayer. Hence, the Muslims offered The Tarawih in their houses from that era , until reign of Umar (radi Allahu anhu). Following this was the period of Uthman when Ali used to lead the Tarawih prayers for 20 nights; and during the last 10 he’d pray with his family. Sometimes Ali would perform the Qanoot in last 10 nights if he led the congregation in the Masjid. During Uthman’s period there was the practice of making Dua after completing the Quran during the Witr prayer.
When Ali (radi Allahi anhu) became the Caliph he added to this act of worship two Imams; one for the men and another for the women. ‘Arfajah was the Imam for the Women during Tarawh. Another point worth mentioning here is that they offered 23 Rakat for their Tarawih prayers up until the time of Umar ibn Abdil Aziz. During the time of Imam Malik he preferred 38 Rakat and 1 for Witr. The Tarawih was offered in this fashion until the 3rd century; either in the Masjid or in the homes. Next came the 5th and the 6th century whereas the people offered 20 Rakat. This took place in the Middle East, Egypt and Iraq.
In the 8th and the 9th century the Tarawih prayer resumed with 36 Rakat. When the Millennium of the Hijrah era entered 39 Rakats were prayed for Tarawih in the Prophet’s Masjid. However, during the 12th century things changed a bit and the Tarawih was performed with 20 Rakats in the first part of the night with 16 in the latter part of the night . This continued being the practice up until the end of the Ottoman Empire. Then we fast forward to the 14th century and we find that certain political institutes had separate Imams. For instance, an Imam for the King, one for the judges and aides, another for the military general, and one for the women. Now as for the today the way Tarawih is offered is clear. Nowhere in history have, we found the Tarawih prayer being offered in Musala.
The scholars from the past and present are all in agreement that the Tarawih prayer is a Sunnah, yet they differ if its better to be done in the Masjid in congregation, or should it be done at home; as the best optional prayer you can offer is in your home. Abu Hanifah, some the Maliki Jurists, and Shafa’I Jurists ,along with the Hanabala Fuqaha held praying Taraweeh in the masjid is better. This is according to the guidance and practice of Umar ibn Khattab. The other side of the table is the position of Imam Malik, Imam Ash-Shafa’I, Abu Yusef, that Tarawih is better offered alone ,or with the family in the house. Nevertheless, it’s allowed to pray the Tarawih prayer in the house if the person isn’t lazy, and has memorized the Quran, but if not , then it’s better for him to pray with the congregation in the Masjid.
Ironically, with all of this history, the texts and the statements of the scholars none ever mentioned the allowance of it being done in the Musala, similar to what we witnessed in Times Square in NY; in front of TVs, music, bright billboards, and flashing lights; all which diminish the humility and concentration your prayer. For the argument that its from the slogans of Islam, similar to the Eid, and the rain prayer which are offered in a Musala , then Sadiq Hasan Kahn detailed the issue and sided with Imam Ash-Shafa’I’s view that this prayer isn’t from that category prayers.i.e Eid, Eclipse, and rain(allowed to be offered in Musala). 
The Political activists, Human-Rights activists, and Social activists now argue from two angles after being unable to defend their stance that praying Tarawih in Times Square is fine.
Their first argument is its allowed to pray anywhere on the earth as long as it’s clean. This is a truthful statement mixed with deception and falsehood; perhaps to misguide others into pleasing the Liberal party. The answer is yes, it is allowed to pray anywhere except in few places. Allah’s Messenger said: “All of the earth is a Masjid except for the graveyard and the washroom.” This is the allowance, yet it is restricted to the daily prayers, which allow a person to offer them outside the masjid if he misses the congregation. He (ﷺ) said: The earth is a masjid for you, so wherever you are at the time of prayer, pray there. This a favor from Allah to allow us to pray wherever we are when the prayer time comes in; and then we are unable to make it to the masjid. Unlike the previous nations that had to pray in congregation in the masjids.
Consequently, if you are going to use the generality of the text without the specifics, then answer this! It’s allowed to pray anywhere so long as the earth is clean, right?! Well, what about Jumu’ah prayer is it completely unrestricted, or should it be done in the masjid? Moreover, the allowances for it to be done in the Musala are those based on certain circumstances? The crux of the matter regarding this prayer is that it is a specific prayer, in a specific time of the year (Ramadhan), performed by those better than us in their masjids ,or their homes to draw closer to Allah. Therefore, how are we going to come now in 1443H/2022 and say offering Tarawih in a Musala is a good thing? If doing such an act for Dawah to carry the propagation of Islam is a great thing then the Companions would have beaten us to it.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected.”  The Muslims around the world are plagued with Bid’ah. Reason being, plenty of people believe they know better, or have an approach that hasn’t been done before; thus, will be successful. In reality, the innovation of adding to the religion is what’s taking people astray. The ignorant one sees himself as one truly awoke to the conspiracies and realities; thus the means justifies the end. Therefore, you find them taking legislated acts of worship and adding to them; hence being completed as a bid’ah. For example, its legislated to say: “Astaghfirullah” right after the prayer, but is it legislated to do it in unison with an Iman? Fasting is a legislated act of worship, so can I fast every year on my birthday to draw closer to Allah, or on the 15th of Sha’ban? The key here to understand is that acts of worship have their specific description, specific times and some have a specific place.
The 2nd angle the Political activists, Human activists, and Social activists argue in their cobweb defense is this was a Dawah event. Are they more guided than the Prophet and His companions?! Dawah has been defined by Allah and demonstrated by the Messenger (ﷺ) Allah said: Say (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم): “This is my way; I invite unto Allâh (i.e. to the Oneness of Allâh – Islâmic Monotheism) with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me (also must invite others to Allâh i.e. to the Oneness of Allâh – Islâmic Monotheism with sure knowledge). And Glorified and Exalted be Allâh (above all that they associate as partners with Him). And I am not of the Mushrikûn (polytheists, pagans, idolaters and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh; those who worship others along with Allâh or set up rivals or partners to Allâh).”. 
The command in this verse is to invite other to the way of Monotheism using knowledge. Knowledge which precedes all actions. Allah said: Invite (mankind, O Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم) to the Way of your Lord (i.e. Islâm) with wisdom (i.e. with the Divine Revelation and the Qur’ân) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided.
In this verse Allah instructs the preachers to use wisdom, fair preaching, and arguments which establish proofs.
Shaykhul Islam ibn Taymiyyah was asked by an activist about his approach in Dawah. He mentioned that he would go out with a music band and poets to confront those who were thieves, alcoholics, and even some who didn’t regularly pray. After a while some of them repented. Therefore, should he have continued, since the greater good was a stake? Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned numerous verses and hadith to show the man he was in error by using a method which wasn’t found in the Quran, the Sunnah or from the actions of the companions. This is all based on the Principle that, “We ONLY worship Allah by that WHICH was legislated on the tongue of Muhammad (ﷺ).
Imam Bin Baz mentioned that the only way this nation can be set aright is by using the methodology that was used in the beginning of the call to Islam. Starting with Mecca, then Madinah. Whoever believes he has a different way is wrong and has lied.
Shaykh Hamoud At-Tuwayjuri spoke about the method of using plays, movies and actors for Dawah. He replied this is incorrect as its not found in the Quran or the Sunnah. Second, doing so is creating a lie on Allah and His Messenger. Included in the use of actors for Dawah is adding to the religion what Allah hasn’t allowed. Using these actors is disparaging the Prophet and His companions. Were they negligent in this area of Dawah ? Allah said : Or have they partners with Allâh (false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allâh has not ordained? And had it not been for a decisive Word (gone forth already), the matter would have been judged between them. And verily, for the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers) there is a painful torment.
How and why could a Muslim leave off praying Tarawih in the Masjid, or in his home where he would be able to concentrate fully in exchange for Times Square, where dogs are passing by, images are everywhere, horns honking, and many other distractions? Why has worship become one of selfies and camera shoots ? Where is the sincerity? Let’s be mindful that the prayer is an act worship and the conditions for its acceptance are; sincerity and as legislated by the Prophet(ﷺ).
Not to mention their argument it’s a clean place, yet surrounded by sin and Satan’s soldiers. It is a consensus among the scholars that praying in the abode of Satan is disliked. Places such bars, taverns, churches, the selling of lawlessness, and where obscene acts of disobedience are rampant.  Abu Hurairah said :“We stopped to camp at the end of the night with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), and we did not wake up until the sun had risen. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Let each man take hold of his camel’s head (and leave), for the Shaitan was here in this place with us.’ We did that, then he called for water and performed Wudu’, then he prayed two Rak’ahs, then the Iqamah was said and he prayed Al-Ghadah (Fajr).”
Prepare by Abu Aaliyah Abdullah ibn Dwight Battle
Doha, Qatar 1443©
 Al-Bukhair 1137 and Muslim 738
 Sahih Muslim 781
Majmu Rasa’il Al-Madinah , Attiyah Salim , vol 1 pg 171-229
 شرح النووي لصحيح مسلم ج3 ص101، نيل الأوطار للشوكاني ج3 ص59، ومشكاة المصابيح ج4 ص628
 حلية العلماء في معرفة مذاهب الفقهاء، للشاشي الفقال ج2 ص44.
 راجعه في: المغني لابن قدامة، ج3 ص391
 راجع: السراج الوهاج ج3 ص42-43
 Jami` at-Tirmidhi 317
 Sahih Muslim 520
 Sahih al-Bukhari 2697
 Yunus 129
 An-Nahl 125
 Majmou vol 11/620-631
 Majmou vol 1/pg 249
 Ash-Shura :21
 Al-Majmu by Imam An-Nawawi
 Sunan an-Nasa’i 623