Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim

"Tarawih vs. Tahajjud"

Salaam alaikum,

According to a hadith in Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 32, Number 227, near the end of this hadith:

"On that, 'Umar remarked, 'What an excellent Bid'a (i.e. innovation in religion) this is; but the prayer which they do not perform, but sleep at its time is better than the one they are offering.' He meant the prayer in the last part of the night(Tahajjut). (In those days) people used to pray in the early part of the night."

Now this sahih hadith states that tahajjud is better than taravih prayers. According to Hanbali madhab, taravih prayers are obligatory sunnah. Yet tahajjud prayer is not, i.e. to miss it is not sinful.

How does one reconcile these two apparently conflicting views?

Thank you.

Wa `alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

There really is nothing to reconcile because the rulings you mention are not correct. The correct rulings are that

  • Tarawih is a supererogatory prayer that is typically done as a group

  • Tahajjud is also a supererogatory prayer that is done individually

and so they are both non-obligatory sunnahs. We might as well add:

  • Witr, which is often takes place as part of tahajjud, is also supererogatory but it is considered more meritorious than tahajjud because it done as a group with tarawih. Imam Ahmad is reported to have said that anyone who intentionally misses witr is an evil person and that his testimony should not be accepted

The scholars of the madhhab typically put voluntary prayers in the following order - most meritorious first:

  1. the eclipse prayer: because the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) always performed it when the reason existed

  2. the prayer for rain: because the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not always perform it when the reason existed

  3. tarawih: because it is done as a group

  4. witr: because it is done as a group when done after tarawih

  5. the sunnahs associated to obligatory prayers

The arrived at this by taking into consideration whether or not the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) performed the prayer without exception (as is in the eclipse prayer [1]), or did not perform it sometimes when the reason was there (as in the prayer for rain [2]), whether the prayer is typically done as a group (as in tarawih [3]), whether it is sometimes done as a group (as in witr [4]), or typically performed individually (as in the sunnas associated with obligatory prayers [5]), and other factors.

As for the hadith you mention, it is the hadith no. 2010 in Al-Bukhari. The statement at the end has to do with which parts of the night are more meritorious for prayer. This is the significance of the last part of the statement, namely that at the that time they would pray it [tarawih] at the beginning of the night. What is understood is that if they instead prayed it later on, it would be better for them.

[Sources: Sahih Al-Bukhari, Al-Raudh al-murbi`, Al-`Uddah sharh al-`umdah.]

And Allah knows best.

Wa al-salamu `alaykum,

Note: I asked the brother who submitted the above question to provide references for the statement that tarawih was an "obligatory sunnah". This is something I did not see when looking through several books. And Allah knows best.