Tarawih troubles


INsights 012, 8th April 2022

Tarawih troubles


- INsights 012 -
8th April 2022

Assalamu-alaikum, Peace be upon you.                   

I hope your Ramadan is going very well.

Is your Tarawih in trouble?    

I’ve received many questions recently asking about how to concentrate in Tarawih prayers. Here are three reflections on this topic:

1. If you do not have a basic literal understanding of Qur’anic Arabic, you are very unlikely to be able to prevent your mind wandering in Tarawih prayers. Although you will find advice online about reading the translation earlier that day and not eating too much fried food for Iftar (!), these won’t solve the actual problem for most people. 

2. We seem to have a culture in which congregational Tarawih prayers, with an unnecessary insistence on the completion of the whole Qur’an, are upheld more vigorously than congregational obligatory prayers either inside or outside Ramadan. This is a good example of where things are upside down.

Tarawih is NOT supposed to be a test of stamina. It’s supposed to be a meaningful manifestation of devotion to God. 

3. Please do not be deluded into thinking that mindless prayers carry weight with your Lord. They could in fact be closer to punishment than to reward. Throughout the Qur'an, God emphasises the importance of excellence (ihsan). He doesn’t want quantity at the expense of quality.

I am not discouraging anyone from attending Tarawih prayers at the mosque. But if you are struggling to maintain a minimum level of conscious awareness, it may be better for you to pray Isha in congregation and then to offer as many units of Tarawih at home as you can comfortably manage with a reasonable level of quality.

Many jurists allow for holding a physical or digital copy of the Qur’an during Tarawih. At home you can take your time in between each set of two units to read the translation and reflect on what you’ve recited. Interestingly, the word Tarawih derives from a root word in Arabic that indicates rest and relaxation.

God willing, this will help you have a more fulfilling experience and one that brings more reward from your Lord.

What messages have stuck so far?    

In my last INsights, I shared a simple framework for how we can naturally and meaningfully engage with the Qur’an this Ramadan. Now that we’re a week into this blessed month, the question for you is: what divine messages have really affected you so far? 

1. You know that revelation is having its guiding effect when you first feel an internal and possibly physical impact – like a shudder or goosebumps – as a result of what you’re reciting or hearing.

2. Then comes an actual tangible insight and a greater inclination towards God.

3. Then comes a resolution to change something for the better to reflect the guidance in your attitude and behaviour going forward. Things seem clearer. You feel illuminated. You feel inspired.

If you can think of messages that have really stood out for you so far, excellent! If not, then do take the matter seriously and think about setting aside some time to read and ponder a little more.

In case you missed it and if you think it might help, I’ve been hosting Club Revelation: Ramadan Edition on a daily basis on my YouTube channel. Please do take advantage of the opportunity to participate in this programme where we recite the Arabic, read the English translation and reflect on the Qur’an together.

Click here to find out more and register for updates.

Having Abrahamic confidence     

One of the key things that’s stood out for me in reciting and reflecting on the Qur’an so far this Ramadan is the example of Abraham and the importance of following his way. In Chapter 2, Verse 124, God tells him, “I am appointing you as a leader for people.” That passage then goes on to describe Abraham’s unwavering commitment to God and concern for future generations.

Today I recited Verses 80-82 from Chapter 6 that further illustrate why Abraham has such a high rank. After thinking carefully and concluding that only God Himself is worthy of complete devotion, Abraham is challenged by his people. He replies to their arguments with words of confidence that today’s community of believers would do well to remember given the various threats and challenges we face:

“His people argued with him, and he said, ‘How can you argue with me about God when He has guided me? I do not fear anything you associate with Him: unless my Lord wills [nothing can happen]. My Lord encompasses everything in His knowledge. How can you not take heed?

‘Why should I fear what you associate with Him? Why do you not fear to associate with Him things for which He has sent you no authority? Tell me, if you know the answer, which side has more right to feel secure? It is those who have faith, and do not mix their faith with idolatry, who will be secure and it is they who are guided.’” 

That’s standing up for the truth. That’s being a real example. 

Peace be upon him and upon all the righteous servants of God! May He make us from amongst them.

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Have a blessed fortnight. I'll see you in two Fridays, God willing

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