Every year once a month we offer a special prayer called Taraweeh. Each year we emphasise the importance of this blessed act, but still the subject asks for more. Though the details are the same, the theme no different but each time it refreshes a human mind and soul.
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) observed this prayer and this practice was continued by his companions or Shaba's (RA) after him also. This prayer can be observed even by those who do not observe fast on valid reasons which have been set down by the Holy Quran and the Prophet (SAW). The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said once on the last day of the month of Sha'ban,
"The one, who observes the Taraweeh prayer at night during the month of Ramdhan with complete faith and devotion only for the sake of recompense of the Hereafter, will have all his previous sins forgiven by Allah."
The Holy Prophet (SAW) led the Taraweeh prayer in congregation on the 23rd, 25th and 27th of Ramdhan and when he observed the devotion and intense keenness of his Companions for the prayer, he decided to stay back in his abode. The Companions visited his dwelling and enquired about the reason. The Prophet said,
"May Allah enhance your fervour and bless you; I have deliberately stayed back from the prayer lest it be made incumbent upon you and then you may not be able to observe it regularly as a prescribed prayer; so you should offer it privately in your houses, because offering a voluntary prayer in the house carries much more rewards than offering in the mosque" (Muslim)
This Hadith or tradition makes one to understand that Taraweeh can be offered in congregation during three nights. Since the time of the Holy Prophet (SAW) till the early days of Hazrat Umar (RA), there was no organized system of offering the Taraweeh prayer in one congregation. The people either offered the prayer privately in their houses, or in the mosques in small scattered groups. During his Caliphate, Hazrat Umar (RA) decided to remove the discrepancy and established a system of holding one congregation for the purpose. He argued that Prophet (SAW) did not offer congregational Taraweeh on the reason that it may become compulsory for his Ummah. According to Maulana Madoodi this inspiring move by Hazrat Umar (RA) was significant in the sense that it preserved the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, provided them a chance to win Allah's blessings and strengthened the fraternity of Islam. He says, "As a matter of fact, this is indeed one of the best instances of Hazrat Umar's (RA) deep insight into religion and his understanding of the Law-giver's intention, on the basis of which he enforced a good practice" This practice was endorsed and continued by the other Caliphs also and ultimately the Scholars gave a verdict for congregational prayer of Taraweeh as a compulsory Sunnah having the Kifayah status.
Before twenty years the Imams leading the Taraweeh prayers used to recite different Surahs of the Quran. Mostly, the short Surahs would be recited in the twenty Rak'ahs and the prayer would be completed within half an hour. However, after late 80's, things started undergoing a change mainly due to the courtesy of the pass outs of different Islamic seminaries in India where they are prepared to memorize and learn Quran by minds and hearts who are afterwards called as Hafiz or Huffaz. It were these Huffaz who introduced the tradition of completing the whole Quran during the month of Ramdhan in the Taraweeh prayers which had and has been practiced in Makkah and Madina and in other Gulf countries since a long time. With the establishment of different schools of the Quran or Dar –ul – Ulooms and Madaaris in Kashmir, the tendency of offering Qur'an Taraweeh has got strengthened and instituted with much dedication and devotion.