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Haitham Al-Haddad | Tarawih Recitation: A Message to all Imams


Link to all Ramadan 2010 posts

By Sh. Haitham Al-Haddad cross-posted with permission from

I call upon committee members and Imāms to seek the pleasure of Allah and not the pleasure of their congregation.

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Imāms should respect the Qur’ān when leading the Tarāwīḥ Prayer

All praises be to Allah and may the blessings and salutation be upon his messenger Muhammad.

The greatest favour bestowed upon humanity is the revelation of the Qur’ān as it is the only way human beings can be in continuous touch with their Creator. People can easily measure their level of attachment to their Lord by measuring their level of attachment to the Qur’ān – recitation, study and contemplation of it.

This divine writ was not revealed to be a book of hymns for aural enjoyment, but instead as a book of guidance, for Allāh says in the Qur’ān, “(This is) a Book (the Qur’ān) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its verses, and that men of understanding may remember.”[1] As the Qur’ān is the unique and inimitable speech of Allāh, reciting it is a tremendous act of worship. However, its reward and comprehensive benefit can only be achieved once we put into practice what we understand. In fact, not putting enough attention to understanding the Qur’ān is condemned as Allāh the Most High says, “Do they not then think deeply about the Qur’ān, or are there locks upon their hearts (from understanding it?)”[2] Many early scholars also condemned those who read the Qur’ān without putting enough effort into understanding it, for example, it is narrated from Ibn Masʽūd that he said, “Do not scatter it (i.e., recitation of the Qur’ān) like the scattering of cheap dates, and do not ramble with it like the rambling of poetry. Stop at its marvels and stir your heart with it. None of you should let his concern be to reach the end of the chapter.”[3]

The way many Imāms recite during the Tarāwīḥ prayer is inexcusable and should be condemned in the strongest of ways by the people of knowledge, and in fact, any individual who respects the words of God. These Imāms recite the Qur’ān as if they are competing with the allocated time in order to finish the set amount and be rid of a heavy burden placed on their shoulders. In listening to some of them it is extremely difficult to make out what they are saying, whilst simultaneously, they make constant mistakes. There are reports of some mosques completing both twenty rak‘ah (units) of the Tarāwīḥ prayer and a whole juz’ of the Qur’ān in thirty minutes. This means that each rak‘ah takes ninety seconds in which one page of the Qur’ān is recited! What justification can such Imāms (and consequently the committees of such mosques) possibly give?

I would like to pose the following question to individuals who legitimize such conduct and deem it acceptable: Imagine that you are standing before God and that He is looking at you while you are praying, do you think Allāh is happy seeing and hearing His words read in this manner without giving them their due rights in terms of recitation and contemplation? Furthermore, I wonder if any of these Imāms or committee members are bold enough to allege that the Prophet would endorse this kind of prayer.

This kind of recitation is exactly what has been condemned by many of the scholars of the early generation. In fact, of one the characteristics of the Khawārij, a deviant sect, the Prophet informed us of is that their recitation of the Qur’ān will not go beyond their throats, i.e., they only pay lip-service to it; we should be very concerned not to have this trait within us. It was reported that Abῑ Jamrah, a scholar of the second generation, informed Ibn ʽAbbās that he recited very quickly and read the Qur’ān in three days, Ibn ʽAbbās replied by saying. ‘That I recite al-Baqarah in a night and reflect on it and reciting it slowly is more beloved to me than to recite in the manner you mention.’

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allāh have mercy on him) summarised what the Muslim has to do in order to remedy the hardness of his heart with the Qur’ān. He said, ‘There is nothing more beneficial for the heart than reading the Qur’ān with contemplation and reflection. The Qur’ān encompasses all the levels of the travelers, the conditions of the workers, and stations of those possessing knowledge. It is the Qur’ān that generates love, desire, fear, hope, repentance, reliance, pleasure, entrustment, gratitude, patience and the rest of the different states that are life to the heart and perfection of it. Likewise, it repels all the rebuked characteristics and actions that cause the corruption and ruin of the heart. If people were to possess a realization of what the recitation of the Qur’ān with contemplation contains, they would devote themselves to it at the expense of everything else. When the person reads it with reflection and he comes across an āyah (verse) that he is in need of for curing his heart, he repeats it, even if he does so a hundred times or the whole night. Hence, to recite a single āyah of the Qur’ān with contemplation and reflection is better than reciting the Qur’ān to completion without any contemplation. It is also more beneficial for the heart and more conducive to attaining īmān (faith) and tasting the sweetness of the Qur’ān.’

The Prophet used to read in a very slow style and stop at verses that mention paradise or the hell fire. Once he repeated the verse where Allāh says ‘If You punish them, they are Your slaves, and if You forgive them, verily You, only You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise’[4] for the whole night.[5] Muhammad Ibn al-Kaʽb al-Quraẓῑ (d. 120H) preferred to read Sūrah al-Zalzalah and al-Qāriʽah and repeat them a number of times over reading the whole Qur’ān in a very hasty way. Imām Abū Ḥanῑfah once kept repeating Sūrah al-Zalzalah for the whole night.

Many of our acts of worship (ʽibādāt) have lost their spirit and have been transformed into meaningless ritual images where the focus is on completing them irrespective of whether they leave an impact on our souls or not and if they were perfected or at least performed in a truly satisfactory manner. That is why our worship does not change us for the better; our commitment to the dīn (religion/way of life) of Allāh is very weak and our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of Allāh is even more so – our morals and manners are not improving. Many of us want to be rid of the Tarāwīḥ prayer, no matter how it is offered. Humility, tranquility and reflection are insignificant elements for such Muslims. This is the opposite of what Allāh wants from us; we have removed the very elements from our acts of worship that have been purposely placed there to better us and focus instead on quantity rather quality – for those of us who have any focus at all.

I believe it is time we should put a stop to this and mend our relationship with the Qur’ān as Allāh has commanded: “O mankind! There has come to you a good advice (i.e. the Qur’ān) from your Lord, and a healing for that (diseases of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences, etc.) in your breasts, – a guidance and a mercy for the believers.”

I call upon committee members and Imāms to seek the pleasure of Allah and not the pleasure of their congregation. I call upon Muslims to advice such Imāms and committee members who do not manifest enough respect to the Qur’ān and to consider appointing other Imāms who recite according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). We should also remember that completing twenty Rak’ah or even the whole Qur’an during Tarāwīḥ is not compulsory, yet listening to it attentively and reciting it with moderate speed is. If the Tarāwīḥ prayer has to be completed in a specific time, then the amount set to be recited should be reduced so that a better quality of worship is achieved.

I ask Allah to guide us all to follow His Book and the Sunnah of his Messenger and to pardon our shortcomings for He is the Oft-Forgiving Oft-Pardoning.


Notes: Source:

[1]Sūrah Ṣād, 38:29
[2]Sūrah Muḥammad, 47:24
[3]Reported in various places such as Akhlāq Ḥamalah al-Qurʽān by al-Ājurrῑ and al-Baghawῑ in his Tafsῑr.
[4]Sūrah al-Mā’idah, 5:118
[5]Reported by Ibn Abī Shaybah and Aḥmad in his Musnad.

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  1. Hassan Adnan

    August 31, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    Most truly it is the case everywhere. Matters need serious concerns as you mentioned.

  2. Muslim brother

    August 31, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    while I agree with the article, unless you lead taraweh you don’t know what your talking about so keep your mouth shut

    • Amad

      August 31, 2010 at 2:15 PM

      Do you know who are you talking about? This is Shaykh Haitham Haddad, one of the most prominent scholars in UK. I hope you were not referring to him with your rude comment.

      • Random Brother

        August 31, 2010 at 2:21 PM

        no I was rot referring to the Shaykh but rather the general populous, people have a bad habit of passing judgment on matters they don’t understand

        • Amad

          August 31, 2010 at 2:48 PM

          oh ok, just making sure… because the comment took me by surprise.

          • Random Brother

            August 31, 2010 at 3:04 PM

            That’s my fault, a poor choice of words. I myself lead Taraweh and completely agree with the Shaykh, I have had Taraweh partners in the past who read horribly and I try very hard to recite slow and with proper tajweed, but on the flip side I am tired of every masjid uncle giving his opinion on how Taraweh should be lead.

  3. Ify Okoye

    August 31, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    I much prefer a moderate paced recitation where one can truly reflect on what is being said and appreciate the beauty of the tajwid even if we don’t finish a juz a day or the entire Quran in the month.

  4. Mansoor Ansari

    August 31, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    There r places back home whr they finish the whole Quran in 1 night, out of which 29 juzz in the 1st rakah & the last juzz in 19 rakahs. Most ppl join in the ruku of the 1st rakah & once they r done with 20 rakah.. most ppl think they r done with praying for rest of ramadan. And if u wondering how does he do it, u can’t understand a single word that is being recited.

    • sister

      August 31, 2010 at 6:12 PM

      that was my experience here in a mosque in central PA. That was my first day there and the last day. Unfortunately some Imams really do chase many people away from Mosque. It is a horror to be in such situation.

  5. Sadia

    August 31, 2010 at 7:06 PM

    I was just talking about this with my family. People rush to the masjid during Ramadan just to pray Tarawih, a Sunnah prayer, nevermind that Isha, a Fardh prayer, has ended. I was turned off this Ramadan because of the way the Imam would recite the Quran. It was far from peaceful and reflective, rather I was lucky if I caught a phrase and pondered over it. I wondered what the real benefit is in this kind of congregation.

  6. AbdulNasir Jangda

    August 31, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    Alhamdulillah this is my 17th year leading Tarawih. I was taught by my teachers to recite properly and take my time when reciting the Quran, even in Tarawih. I have often fielded complaints from congregants about, “how slow I read”!

    The past few years I have been taking on young Huffadh to lead Tarawih with me and mentoring them. The first thing I advise them is to recite slowly and appropriately. Tajwid and reflection need to be taken into consideration. In the US as Ramadan moves further into summer, people need to realize that we can NOT sacrifice the quality of recitation for the sake of completing the Quran in prayer.

    Having said all of this, I feel the people that need to be called out on this are the Masjid board and committee members and not necessarily the Imams. I have many friends and acquaintances who serve as Imams and they are constantly being forced and even threatened with termination. I don’t doubt that there might be some Imams who insist on reading fast but that is not the case with the majority.

    Allah knows best.

    • Asmaa

      August 31, 2010 at 8:56 PM

      Masha Allaah, may Allaah bless you, increase you in ranks and may Allaah enable you with to lead in Taraweeh all throughout your life. Ameen

    • Amad

      September 1, 2010 at 12:45 AM

      Shaykh, my opportunity here to thank you for all your hard work, in giving us all the gems of those videos.

      We sit here, thousands of miles away, with the family, put up the video and the family watches it together, with Q&A afterwards!


    • Shiraz at IlmSummit

      September 1, 2010 at 8:55 AM

      JazakAllah khair for the clarification.

  7. ironie101

    August 31, 2010 at 9:01 PM

    Absolutely agree! Back home in india, I used to attend taraweeh at a particular mosque where the recitation was amazing. He was a brilliant qari who had won a huge slew of awards for his recitation. The imam was a friend of our family and he used to visit my parents a lot. Suddenly, without warning, the imam started to recite very fast. The taraweeh that used to take close to 2 hours suddenly finished in less than 45 minutes. He explained the very situation that the shaikh described – the mosque committee were a bunch of people who were far away from praying even their fard salah; they took on the complaints of the people attending the mosque and threatened the imam. It’s really sad when such people are allowed to manage and run mosques.

    The women praying there got screamed at as well by a male congregant. The ‘scholar’ decided to issue a roadside fatwa to us that women were not allowed to pray in mosques (even though we were properly covered and there were no issues, per se). He screamed at us when we were leaving the mosque, almost physically assaulted an elderly male worshipper who tried to refute him, and screamed threateningly at the imam too. He got his way with the committee because of some crap family connections with them.

    I know i’m going off topic, but I just wanted to highlight the kind of people who form mosque committees in the subcontinent.

  8. Rafa

    August 31, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    Couldn’t agree more. Its so much more enjoyable to listen to recitation that is slow, understandable, and calm. Everyone I know always puts such incredible emphasis on finishing a whole Quran during the month of Ramadan; many even compete to see who can finish first! And if you’re unable to finish a whole Quran, you’re looked down upon.
    The one thing that bothers me most during tarawih is that, not only do the some of the imams rush through Qiraat, but they also do the same with ruku’s and sajdah’s. Prostration is my favourite part of salah, and its hard to enjoy when you can barely recite the dhikr 3 times.

  9. Muslim Girl

    August 31, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    Couldn’t agree more with this article, jazak’Allah for sharing.

    I also have to agree with the fact that it’s not necessarily Imam’s / huffaz at fault for leading too fast, but the masjid committees who sometimes put pressure on them. I know a hafiz who had the same problem where he led; the committee kept pressuring them to finish at a certain time and they were all forced to recite very fast, unfortunately.

  10. MR

    August 31, 2010 at 11:56 PM

    The shortest Tarawih I’ve ever attended was 1 hour and 15 minutes. 1 juz.

    I’ve never seen 30 minute 20-rakah 1 juz tarawih. I’d love to see how this is possible though.

    • Amad

      September 1, 2010 at 12:46 AM

      You wouldn’t love it or make out a word of it :)

  11. Abdul Qadir

    September 1, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    I believe i read a very similar article on Shaykh Abu Eesa Niamatullah’s blog, very enlightening…JazakAllah Khair.

    I didnt believe half an hour taraweeh’s were possible until my dad and uncle persuaded me to go to the little musallah near our neighbourhood. Never again! lol, I’m not sure, but does your salaat even count if you recite the Quran with a heavy urdu accent? (i.e. prounouncing the letter dhal as zal, or tha as sa). Allahu ‘Alam.

  12. Abdullah

    September 1, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    As someone leading taraweeh, how do you advise the people of the masjid, the musalleen, when they pressure you to read faster? I am leading with a shaykh from egypt this year and the shaykh himself told me to read faster saying that this is mercy for the people standing behind…subhanahallah next couple of days I led so fast, I skipped the ghunnah’s and maads at the xpense of speed…what do I do? how do you deal with this situation? I really dislike reading fast because, I don’t feel the beauty of the quran as much when I read like this..but at times the social pressure just gets to you…

    • Shiraz at IlmSummit

      September 1, 2010 at 9:08 AM

      Where I pray we pray slow, short rakat. You can understand the words and its not 2 hours.

  13. momo

    September 1, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    Salaam. I think this is something relevant to all Muslims who pray Tarawih, not just imams. A lot of times it its the rest of the people who pressure the imam to read fast and who want to complete their tarawih prayers as quick as possible…etc. The message must be passed on to all reminding them to be steadfast in their prayer and to contemplate on the Quran, not just during Tarawih or Ramadan, but every day. I ask forgiveness if anything I have said is wrong, Allah(swt) knows best. I pray Allah(swt) guides and helps us in performing our prayers in the best manner, and help us in understanding the Quran and putting into practice. Ameen

  14. Idrees

    September 1, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Assalaamu alaikum … at the Toronto mosque where I lead the taraweeh we’ve come up w/ an interesting workaround … we recite at a slower pace with tajweed and beauty … and because of this we can’t finish an entire juz’ every night. We finish about 3/4 juz’ every night and then finish the rest in the qiyam in the last 10 nights … so the qiyam kinda acts as an extension of the taraweeh in some sense. People get to hear a good recitation, they don’t have to go home way too late, and overall the jama’ah as a whole finishes the Qur’an.

    I like this workaround b/c while I agree proper recitation takes precedence over finishing the Quran, there’s still an amazing and overwhelming feeling that comes w/ completing the Quran and starting back w/ alif-lam-meem, whether reciting by oneself or in taraweeh.

    • Mohamed Khan

      September 2, 2010 at 11:19 PM

      Without wanting to get into a Fiqh debate, but the workaround has to be based on Islam. There is no evidence of performing such Salat in congregation in Ramadhan in prayers other than in Taraweeh. Such prayers were never done by the Prophet and his companions. Hence, it most likely is an innovation. Our worship has to be in accordance to the Sunnah of the Prophet and his companions. If we increase our Ibadah and it is not in accordance to the Sunnah, then that extra worship will not bring us closer to Allah. Such Nafl prayers were never performed in congregation. Yes, there is a difference of opinion but many people are not aware of this issue. The only way to legitimize such congregational prayers is if a person did not perform the full 20 Rakats Taraweeh, then in that case, whatever is performed late night/early morning can count towards the 20. But if the 20 are already performed, then praying in congregation in the early hours of the morning will not be considered in accordance to the Sunnah of the Prophet and his companions. They never performed such prayers in congregation.

  15. bro

    September 1, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    This is my sixth year leading and I’ve enjoyed and gained from every bit of it. I’ve lead with many different fellow huffaz and none of them want to read quickly or without proper makharij and tajweed. There are many attendees who make a big deal out of everything, from things like minor fiqh differences, clothing, pace, timing, amount of Qur’an read etc.

    In the beginning, when I was leading with an older, more experienced Imam, he told me to simply ignore the comments and “concerns” you receive. And to just remember that we’re doing this for the sake of Allah and not them.

    Lastly, reading more Qur’an in taraweeh doesn’t take that much more time. Most of the time in taraweeh is spent on the rukus, sajdahs, etc. For example, the difference between reading a juz and 1.5 juz would only be like 15 minutes (which most people won’t even notice).

  16. Mohamed Khan

    September 1, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    I find it hard to believe that a person could finish a whole Juz in Taraweeh prayer in 30 minutes.

    Other than that, 20 Rakah Taraweeh is a 1400 year tradition even though some Masjids in the US go out of their way to prevent people from doing more than 8 in the Masjid. (Reminds me of the Surah Baqarah verse…who can be a greater oppressor than the one who prevents the worship of Allah in the Masjids)

    Completing the Quran in the Taraweeh every Ramadhan is not as important as 20 Rakats. Hence, the Quran completion can be done over 3 years instead of one year. Especially in the upcoming years when Isha will be very late. So recite 10 Juz every year in Taraweeh instead of the full Quran. But the 20 Rakats should not be decreased.

    Usually, most of the congregation leaves after 8 so the first 8 can be slow paced and the remaining 12 can be faster. But whatever the pace, it is not permitted at all to go against established Tajweed rules. Also, in Muslim countries, they have it easy in Ramadhan and they can afford to take 2 hours. But you can’t do a 2 hour Taraweeh in western countries because people have to go to work the next day. In Muslim countries, they chill all night and they go to work for a few hours in the daytime so they have all the luxury in the world to have long Taraweehs. The new trend since the last couple of hundred years in some Muslim countries is to do only 8 Rakats and finish Taraweehs in like 30 minutes. They do 8 Rakats and recite like a few Ayats and they are done Taraweeh in 30 minutes. The Arab brother said that he finds Ramadhan to be more spiritual in the US as apposed to his native country. That’s interesting…….

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