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November 8, 2004

Taraweeh Secrets Revealed, Part I

I realize I might be breaking an unwritten code amongst huffaz for revealing some of these time-honored and cherished secrets and methods that are regularly employed to help us make it through leading taraweeh. I might be excommunicated from this secret society. Oh well, with the end of Ramadan only a few days away, I figure that it’s ok to let my loyal xanga readers in on a few secrets, as well as answer some of the frequently asked questions that people ask us. Some of these are pure genius, others are quite hilarious. These tactics listed below aren’t necessarily used by everyone, but certainly, most huffaz have them in their arsenal at their disposal should the situation warrant their use. Finally, keep in mind that leading taraweeh is definitely not an easy task, even for veterans. Our Ramadan lives are so markedly different from most Muslims (time-wise, food-wise, sleep-wise, etc) that if I were to really explain our ordeal, you’d realize that it’s only Allah that gets us through this month.

To proceed:

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do you know how much to read in a given rak’ah?

A: It all depends on how much someone wants to read on a given night and when the congregation wants to finish. Given that most places want to finish on the 27th night, there’s two schools of thought on how to get to the 27th. Based on which school a hafiz decides to follow, it determines how much he reads in a given rak’ah.

School A: This is a complicated school. It’s advantage is that you gut it out for the first 10 days and then relax the rest of the month. Read 1.5 juz in the first 10 days (such that 15 juz are completed) and then 1 juz a day there on, leaving a half juz for the last 2-3 days. For the first 10 days then, if one is going to do 1.5 juz in 20 rak’ah, then you usually do half a juz in the first 4 rak’ah, and then a quarter juz every 4 rak’ahs for the remaining 16 rak’ahs. For the other 15 days, if one wishes to do a juz a day, then it’s a matter of doing a quarter every 4 ra’kahs for the first 8 rak’ah (to make the Eight-ers [can also be read as a homophonic variation of “haters”… cause that’s what they are] stay longer) and then a quarter every 6 rak’ah for the next 12 rak’ah. Anyway, in most Qur’ans, the number of pages in a quarter or half are about the same. For example, in the king of mushafs–the 13-liner Qur’an, a quarter is about 7 pages. Therefore, for example, if you have to read a quarter in 4 rak’ahs, you read about two pages every rak’ah.

School B (more common). Read 1.25 juz for the first 16 days (to complete 20 juz in 16 days), then 1 juz a day thereon, leaving half a juz for the last 1-2 days. I like this school a lot better since it means having to read a quarter juz every 4 rak’ahs (to complete the 1.25 juz) which basically amounts to about 2 pages per rak’ah.

I remember that the first time I lead, I wrote down rak’ah numbers in the margins every 2 pages or so and I would take a quick peek between every 2 or 4 rak’ah to remind myself where I should stop in the upcoming rak’ahs. I don’t do this anymore, but there’s many huffaz who find this to be an invaluable tool to help remind them how much to read in a given rak’ah.

2. How do you know how much is a page or two pages?

Well, since most of us have been using the same kind of Qur’an since our hifz days, we’re pretty familiar with where one page ends and another begins. We have a “visual map” of pretty much where every ayah is located physically (top/middle/bottom of the page) so knowing how much is in a page isn’t that difficult.

3. How do you know when to announce the sajdah?

An excellent question, and many times, many of us–including myself–forget to mention to the congregation that there will be a sajdah in the upcoming rak’ahs. A strategy that I often employ is–in the brief pause after every 2 rak’ahs on the days that a surah with a sajdah is read–to quickly mentally scan the next 4 pages or so of the Qur’an to see if I can “see” a sajdah. Some huffaz don’t like to mention that a sajdah is approaching since they feel if they announce there will be a sajdah in the first or second rak’ah, and they get stuck on an ayah before the sajdah approaches, they might choose to go into ruku` (one of the secrets to be revealed later). This would confuse the congregation since they might instead go into sajdah, especially the women if there’s a partition preventing the women from “seeing” if the men are going into ruku or sajdah. I don’t like this latter approach, but to each their own.

4. What do you do if you forget to announce the sajdah and you’re approaching an ayah of sajdah?

Another excellent question, and again, there’s two schools of thought on this:

School A (not my preference, but many prefer this): To go ahead and read the given ayah with a sajdah and then go into sajdah with a LONG or EXTENDED “Allaaaaaaahu Akbar” (different in length from the standard Allahu Akbar that one may use to signal a ruku`), so as to imply the sajdah with your takbir. Again, this has the disadvantage that, unfortunately, the partition-separated women might not be aware of the sajdah and might go into ruku.

School B (my preference): If I’ve realized that I didn’t announce a sajdah and a sajdah ayah is approaching, then I’ll go ahead and adjust the portion to be read (ie, shorten it) in those two rak’ahs and complete those two rak’ahs to one ayah before the sajdah such that I could properly announce it before the next two rak’ahs. This requires some mental adjusting to the 2-page per rak’ah rule, since in the next rak’ahs, one may have to read upto 3 pages or more to make up for the lost ground. This technique requires active thinking and adjustments and might be difficult for newly graduated huffaz to implement. My first years of taraweeh I followed School A, and the last 4 years or so, I’ve been a follower of School B.

5. Is it difficult to do taraweeh and go to school at the same time?

Yes. What kind of stupid question is that? It’s because of Allah that we’re able to do this.

These were some of the FAQ that people often ask me and others. The next part of this post will deal with some of the trade secrets (such as the phantom cough) that we use during taraweeh if we forget an ayah or something.


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  1. dude, i think you were excommunicated long time ago when you decided to wear a huge-arse Nawawi Foundation badge to IIE for one of Maulana Saleem’s talks.
    and for exposing our time-honored secrets, you get 0 eProps.  

  2. Anonymous permalink

    The Imam of the CIMIC masjid at UIUC is the King of Phantom Coughs. Always forgetting some ayah. I cant help but smile when he coughs to surahs in the last Juz. Hes a frigging Imam. Know your last Juz!

  3. to sadiq: you never give me eprops anyway cause you have no goodness in you. moreover, you cant excommunicate the emperor. for your blasphemy i sentence you to 4 years of living in pakistan and having to be a personal assistant to a pakistani tv drama actor.
    you damn sell out… you sold out on bangalore. go drink your rooh afza and wave your pakistani flag and put a garland around the picture of musharraf that adorns your bedroom wall.

  4. Anonymous permalink

    Dammit i got no material for my xanga. I thought I had copyrights to that material?
    WE had a damn contract!

  5. Anonymous permalink

    Do you figure theres going to be fellow Hufaz backlash?

  6. i has begun hishashish…it has begun. word has already spread that kr wipes over his socks for wudu…

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