QIYAAM AL LAYL (night prayers) literally means ‘standing at night’, i.e. standing in prayer, another name given to night prayers is Tahajjud. In Ramadhan, the night prayers that are carried out in jama’ah (congregation) immediately after Isha are called Taraweeh. These are all included under the category of Qiyaam al Layl.
The blessed month of Ramadan is a great opportunity for Muslims to carry out these extra night prayers. Think of some of the reasons why we find it tough to do Qiyaam in other times of the year – Unable to sacrifice sleep? Can’t fight the whispers of shaytan? Lack of personal willpower? But in Ramadhan, these reasons diminish: we’re getting up before Fajr to have suhur anyway, so it’s very easy to fit in some prayers at that time; the gates of jannah are open ALL the time, rewards are multiplied, the increased incentive adds to our willpower; and as for shaytan…he is locked up for a whole month!! So Ramadhan presents us with a unique opportunity to perform this deed that is so beloved to Allah. It’s a unique opportunity to seek refuge with Allah (swt) and to turn to Him for whatever we seek, for none has the power to answer our call except Allah (swt) alone.
* Reward of Qiyaam al Layl *
Even at other times of the year, Qiyaam-ul Layl has a great status. It is reported by Ali (ra) that the holy Prophet (pbuh) said:
“In Paradise there are apartments the outside of which can be seen from the inside and the inside of which can be seen from the outside.” A Bedouin stood up and said: “Who are they for, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “They are for those who speak good words, feed others, fast regularly and pray to Allah at night when people are sleeping.” (Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)
Furthermore, Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:
“The best of prayer after those prescribed (i.e. obligatory prayer) is that in the depth of night.” (Saheeh Muslim)
From these ahadith, we can see that there is a special status granted to the night prayers. Observing night prayers increases our spiritual awareness, because it enables us to praise and worship Allah (swt) in an environment of peace, quiet and solitude.
Moreover, when you’re awake in the night to worship your Lord, especially when you know most other people are asleep, it increases your closeness to Allah – because you realise the only reason you are willing to give up your sleep in that way is out of love for Allah.
In a famous hadith, the Prophet (saw) tells us:
Every night when it is the last third of the night, our Lord, the Superior, the Blessed, descends to the nearest heaven and says: Is there anyone to invoke Me that I may respond to his invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone asking My forgiveness so that I may forgive him? (Bukhari)
From this we can see how the night prayers are a way of forming a very close connection with Allah, in which Allah seeks us out and responds to each and every one of us on a personal and individual level. Allah wants to bestow His Mercy and Forgiveness on us at that time; those standing in Qiyaam are the lucky ones!
* Extra Rewards for Qiyaam in Ramadhan *
If the Qiyaam is greatly rewarded in other times of the year, imagine what the rewards would be like in Ramadhan! The holy Prophet (pbuh) said of Ramadan and qiyaam:
”This is the month in which Allah has prescribed for you fasting and I have initiated for you the night prayer. Whoever fasts in it and prays with sincerity and faith, they are cleansed of their sins and [they become as they were] the day their mother gave birth to them”. (Ibn Majah)
Imagine having ALL your sins wiped out!!! This is an unmissable opportunity! It is inspiring to know that the formula for gaining forgiveness of ALL our sins is so simple – this reflects the limitless Mercy and Kindness of Allah! The hadith also shows that night prayers are a special feature of this blessed month. If we love Ramadhan, then we will also love its special qualities and attributes.
The Taraweeh prayers – the night prayers done in congregation at the Mosque- have some additional benefits too.
- They increase our connection with our sisters and brothers, and strengthen the unity within our communities – it is beautiful seeing the diversity of the community as people from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and levels of knowledge, come together for one purpose: to worship and remember Allah! Standing side by side with a fellow worshipper removes any bitterness, grudges, or any sense of pride someone might have felt towards another. We are all equal before Allah, and all connected by our mutual love for Allah. Unfortunately, some people get a bit competitive over space when the mosque gets packed! But in fact if we make space for others, love for others what we love for ourselves, and have patience, Allah showers His blessings upon the gathering and makes room for everyone – many people have experienced this!
- When we pray in congregation, the rewards for our prayer are increased by 27 times!!
- When we attend the Taraweeh prayers and hear the recitation of the Qur’an every evening, it increases our love for the Qur’an – we love the sound of it, the peace it brings, the meanings of the verses, and we start to miss the sound of it when it’s not around us! Especially if we are able to hear the entire Qur’an being completed (khatam) in the masjid, it feels like we are on a wonderful journey with the Qur’an as our personal companion. This is a very special feeling 🙂 .
*The Fard Prayers in Ramadhan *
“…Whoever draws nearer (to Allah) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time, and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time… “ (Ibn Khuzaymah)
During the month of Ramadan, all the above voluntary prayers increase in reward. But sometimes we forget that the reward for a single obligatory prayer is increased by 70 times or more than in any other time. The best of deeds is in fact the most basic of deeds!
Imagine when you take an exam at school or university, would you get extra bonus marks just for turning up and sitting the exam? No! You wouldn’t even get a pat on the back for that effort – it’s expected of you, no one congratulates anyone for doing what is compulsory. But with our deeds it is different – Allah reserves the greatest rewards and the greatest honour for those compulsory actions. Our humble daily prayers, which is there all throughout the year, become extra special in Ramadhan. But how often do we remember that? When we go to the mosque for Taraweeh, it’s natural to not want to miss the first rakah of Taraweeh prayers, and we’ll make sure we get there in time for it. But in fact, we should be making more effort to get to the mosque in time to catch the Fard Isha prayer, knowing that the reward for that compulsory deed will outweigh the rewards of all of the voluntary Taraweeh prayers put together!
Ramadhan, therefore, is not just an opportunity to perform lots of extra voluntary prayers, but it’s also a great chance to strengthen our basic Fard prayers. Our fard salah is the first thing Allah will ask us about on the Day of Judgment, it is the action that defines a believer. Moreover, a key quality of Salah is concentration or attentiveness (Khushu’). Without the distraction of shaytan’s whispers, Ramadhan is a unique time in which we can try to build up our Khushu’, so that we will be able to maintain it in other times of the year.
So even if a person finds they are unable to do that many extra voluntary prayers, and even if a person cannot attend the mosque regularly for Taraweeh prayers, they can still gain as much just by focusing more on their basic prayers – in fact, quality is better than quantity when it comes to our prayers. So focusing more on our Fard prayers, doing them punctually and with presence of mind, is in fact better than doing hundreds of voluntary prayers which might be rushed, with our minds wandering and without much khushu’.
Of course, we can still aim to do both in Ramadhan 🙂 – to improve our Fard prayers as well as increase our voluntary (nafl) prayers: in the home or in the mosque, at night or during the day. We might not succeed at first, and we might not have 100% concentration in all our prayers, but as long as we make the effort and never stop hoping in Allah’s Mercy, we will experience the benefit inshaAllah!
And what is that benefit? Allah tells us in this Hadith Qudsi:
“My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have made compulsory upon him (e.g. Fard), and My servant continues to draw near to Me with voluntary works (e.g. Nafl) so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.” (Bukhari)
May Allah make us of those He loves this Ramadhan. And may we be of those who love the Salah, who establish it and gain peace and taqwa from it, during and after Ramadhan.