Answered by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam
Question: You are aware that Eisha time here in the UK is very late this Ramadhan. As a result, offering 20 Rak’at Tarawih in the local Mosque becomes extremely difficult for me, as we usually finish just before midnight! I have a difficult job and need to wake up early in the morning. Given this, would it be sinful, wrong or disliked if I did not follow a complete recitation of the Qur’an (khatam) and instead performed 20 short Rak’ats of Tarawih with some friends reciting short Surahs from the Qur’an?
Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Reciting the entire Qur’an (khatm) once in Tarawih prayers is an important Sunna that has been practiced by the Muslims throughout the centuries. As such, it should not be abandoned in the various Mosques where there has been a tradition of completing the Qur’an, even if the time for Eisha is late.
However, if one experiences genuine hardship in reciting or listening to the entire Qur’an, it would be permitted for him/her to recite short Surahs or verses from the Qur’an during Tarawih prayers. In fact, the late Hanafi jurists (fuqaha) have ruled that it is better, in our times, to have an amount recited that will not burden people or lead them to stay away from the congregation.
Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him), the renowned Hanafi jurist, states:
“Completing the Qur’an (khatm) once [in Tarawih prayers] is Sunna, completing it twice is virtuous, and completing it thrice is even better. As such, its completion should not be abandoned due to people’s laziness. However, it is stated in ‘Al-Ikhtiyar’ that it is better in our times to recite an amount that does not burden people…”
The commentator of Haskafi’s work, Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains further by saying that the majority of Imams including Abu Hanifa (Allah have mercy on him) consider completing the Qur’an to be an important Sunna. However, he says, certain rulings change based on the needs and interests of people, and thus in our times [Ibn Abidin’s], it is better to recite an amount that will not lead to people staying away from the congregation, because having a larger congregation is superior to lengthy recitation.
He then quotes Imam Ibn Nujaym (Allah have mercy on him) from his Al-Bahr al-Ra’iq as saying that the correct position in the Hanafi School is that completing the Qur’an is a Sunna. However, this does not mean a Khatm cannot be left out [even] if it results in alienating people; rather it is superior to choose that which is tolerable for the masses…
He then quotes from Al-Mujtaba that the late Hanafi jurists (muta’akhirun) ruled that three short verses or one long verse may be recited in each Rak’at of Salat al-Tarawih in order that people don’t become jaded and thus avoid the congregation. Al-Hasan relates from Imam Abu Hanifa (Allah have mercy on him) that reciting three verses after Surat al-Fatiha in obligatory (fard) prayers is good and not disliked, and as such, if it is allowed in Fard prayers, it will be allowed in Nafl and Tarawih prayers too. (See for the whole discussion: Radd al-Muhtar ala ‘l-Durr al-Mukhtar 2/46-47)
As such, in conclusion, it is important to have the entire Qur’an recited during Tarawih Prayers within the major Mosques in the towns and cities. However, as outlined in your question, this can become difficult for some people especially currently in the UK where Tarawih prayers are very late. In such cases, it is permissible for you to offer Tarawih prayers in congregation reciting short Surahs or verses from the Qur’an. This will not be sinful, wrong or even disliked, although you will miss out on the rewards for completing the Qur’an in Tarawih prayers.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam