I am going for Taraweeh; it is one of the ten nights in Ramadan. I who had never prayed Taraweeh as I grew up in a Muslim country where women never went to the Masjid, and thus never knew what they were missing!
I now am going for Taraweeh Alhamdulillah in a country that is not Muslim and am thankful to Him to give me this opportunity.
How did this happen?
One Ramadan I got a call from a friend who needed a roommate to go to Mecca for the last ten days of Ramadan and enter the ten days of Itikaaf in the Haraam.
I know now that my Lord knew of my deprivation even though I knew of it not. You cannot miss something you have never seen or experienced, and thus it was for me. Till the day I boarded that plane to Jeddah, I thought taraweeh was for men.
As a child I read about Bilal (RA) calling out “Ahad, Ahad” when hot rocks were placed on his back, and the Sabr and Istiqamah of Ammar when he saw his mother and father slain. I often wondered what gave them strength? Why did they not collapse or develop posttraumatic stress syndrome?
People say it is emaan, but then it is also said that emaan waxes and wanes and mostly wanes if not strengthened. I wondered how do you strengthen your emaan? I know now it does not strengthen by watching TV for sure.
That summer in Mecca, I learned what was emaan, and how it was strengthened. ‘There is no power on earth that can strengthen your heart in its inner sanctums without the word and will of Allah Subhanawataala.
On the night of the 25th of Ramadan I was “stranded’ in Tawaaf. As the time for Iftaar came the Mutawattas tried to shoo the two women in white and me to the inner sanctums of the Haram and out of Tawaaf, but even they looked helplessly at the wall of men that stood shoulder to shoulder ready to pray Maghrib, not even a sliver could pass between them as far as the eye could reach.
Thus the three of us slid into Iqamah behind the men, three rows from the Kaaba, few more women behind us. My heart lifted with joy as the recitation began for Maghrib Salah.
As the Salah began and the words of Allah Subhanawataala resounded in the compound of his House they entered my heart, drop by drop, sinew by sinew strengthening it and pouring the sweetness of emaan in it. My heart soared and I could see the top of the Kaaba as my soul circled it on the wings of His Subhanawataala’s words.
After Salah, mesmerized the three of us completed our tawaaf, but the wall of men was now a crowd and entry into the haram was labored and slow, someone offered me zam zam, and I remembered the sticky ball in my hand that someone had offered me just before Salah. I placed it in my mouth and sweetness exploded within me and refreshed me like nothing else. It was a date ball with a center filling of marzipan and crushed nuts. It was a gift from Allah, as he knew I would not make it out of the Haram to eat dinner tonight.
By the time I went past the stairs and started to wind my way toward my place of Itikaaf, they called the Taraweeh and I stopped and fell in line near the stairs of the Haram near the Safa.
If you have never tasted the sweetness of the night Salah, you have never tasted the proximity to Allah, which may touch you in it.
From the lips of the Qari came the words of Surah Al Insaan and I wanted him to go on and on………..I prayed with the 4.5 million believers each in private audience with our Lord and yet standing together, same as in the Day of Judgment perhaps……..but not grim. I suddenly realized the woman sobbing next to me was echoing my emotions.
Taraweeh ended with Dua for the Muslims at large and I found my way out of the Haram in search of food and drink. A quick snack and back into the Haram before the red light came on denoting that the Haram was full to capacity.
I found myself standing on the cool marble of the Haram, praying Qiyam ul Layl, long rukus and sajdahs just as are described and prescribed in the Quran, with duas for all our near and dear ones and for the Ummah.
I speak no Arabic, but the language of Allah needed no translation that night, what He said went straight to my heart and needed no interpreter and no translator.
I am a strong advocate of learning the Quranic Arabic, but suddenly that night in taraweeh I understood, where Bilal got his istiqamah when he was tortured, why Abu Bakr (RA) stood all night in the Hateem and recited the Quran till his feet swelled and why people streamed into the Masjid Nabvi to join Rasullah pbuh in taraweeh …………who in his kindness after a few nights made a personal sacrifice to forgo the rest of the nights in the mosque to prevent taraweeh in Ramadan becoming an obligation on all Muslim generations to come.
He never forbade his companions to pray taraweeh or Qiyam al Layl or Tahajjud in his Masjid, in fact he recommended night prayer to the extent that one can withstand without it becoming a burden. Thus Taraweeh en bloc wal jamaat became a nawafil and not a fard. Thanks to our dear considerate Rasullallah pbuh.
Well I can tell you …….. I am the standing example of what you can bear when you are with other Muslims focused on the words of Allah. You can bear almost non-stop Salah from Iftaar until three hours before Sahoor with short intervals of rest. You find the strength in you, the more the Quran is recited the stronger you become even without food and drink in 104-degree weather.
You forget all else when you listen to his words streaming from the lips of the live Qari, you feel Him Subhanawataala in all His splendor as speaking to you and you alone.
It is in taraweeh that sometimes you feel elation at the prospect of what is being offered, you feel pain when you are reminded of Naar and you feel acute embarrassed when a disobedience is mentioned that you may have done in the day and you feel the burst of HOPE when He offers you mercy…………What else can take you through these emotions night after night in His Subanawataala’s presence in company with Muslims and yet alone with Him.
That is Taraweeh!
Sadly enough the sweetness of the night Salah with your fellow Muslims is in danger of being soured. There is an evolution of strong vocal forces within the Ummah to destroy the fabric of the practice of Islam in collective gatherings. Whether it is reciting Quran in a meeting called Quran Khwani or Taraweeh in Ramadan, the forces are out to isolate the Muslims.
Some misguided though vocal souls do not understand that there is a Sahih /sound Hadith and I paraphrase that “when Muslims are in Jamaat for the remembrance of Allah, angels circling this dunya alight upon such a gathering and report back to Allah Subhanawataala that your servants are in Dhikr of you and He sends them His mercy and is pleased with them”.
There is also a concerted effort among some muslims to isolate some from others. and we know that Prophet Muhammad was not one of those.
He pbuh wanted and made his Masjed the social center, the heartbeat of the Ummah. All social networking took place in the masjed not on facebookJ
What do people do who don’t go for taraweeh?
I know it well as I was one of them once upon a time:
They eat and then they eat some more and then they watch TV, catch up with the news and email on the internet, Facebook some and maybe even watch a sitcom till they get tired and pray a five minute Isha Salah and go to sleep.
Would I let anyone talk me out of Taraweeh Qiyam al Layl or tahajjud and lose that opportunity?
No! Yet it is my own Nafs that makes me weak, makes me want to eat more, sleep more, socialize more, be a voyeur to world events as transmitted by the non Muslim media which the more I watch the more I believe despite Allah Subhanawataalas instructions in Surah Hujaraat. 49:6
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ ﴿٦
O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one (troublemaker) with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.
I fool myself that instead of reciting the word of Allah, I am working for the good of the world by enjoining what is good and forbidding what is bad. I forget where my strength comes from and soon I forget to fill the urn of emaan with the drink of the recitation of the words of Allah from my mouth. It is then that surreptitiously my Nafs takes over and starts to ride me like a wild horse, instead of vice versa. I then find excuses why I don’t go for taraweeh and finally find a way to ditch the whole concept by scouring for reports to support my habit.
The bottom line is I have to be honest with myself. Am I making excuses for not going to Taraweeh because my Nafs has convinced me that what I am doing (whatever that maybe) in the hour and half of taraweeh is more important than reciting the word of Allah at a time that he has commanded us to do so?
It is a moment of reckoning and each one of us must face it honestly and openly with humility and submission and ask Allah to clear our hearts.
Allah knows best!