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Salaat ul-Tarawih Eight or Twenty Raka’ah?

Posted by al Adaab on August 19, 2009

Salaatul Tarawih: Eight or Twenty Raka’ah?

By Ahmed ibn Muhammad

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Wa Sall Allahu ta ‘ala ‘alaa Sayyidina wa Mawlanaa Muhammadin wa ‘alaa Aalihi wa Sahbihi wa Sallam

In a handout by some misguided people, there appeared the following question and answer (No. 22):

(a) Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reports that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) never prayed more than 8 rak’aats in Taraweeh, so how come nobody disapproves of 20?

(b) Is it true that Umar (Allah be pleased with him) introduced it?


(a) As regards the Taraweeh prayer – people agree that the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and the best way is 11 rak’aats. As regards any addition – then this is DISAPPROVED of and DECLARED AS A BID’AH (A bad innovation).

(b) It is not true that Umar (Allah be pleased with him) either prayed or ordered 20 rak’aats. Rather he ordered Ubayy ibn Ka’b to lead the people with 11 rak’aats (al-Muwatta 1/137, with a Sahih Isnad).

It should be said that the vast MAJORITY of the scholars of Hadith, Fiqh, and even the four Mujtahid Imams are in agreement that 20 rak’ahs are the most appropriate, followed by 3 rak’ahs of Witr.

First, it should be said that the Hadith reported from Sayyidah Aisha (Radhi Allahu Anhaa) about 11 rak’ahs is not at all to do with Taraweeh, according to the majority of scholars, but in fact concerns the number of rak’ahs of TAHAJJUD prayer! The Hadith in question is as follows:-

Narrated Abu Salama ibn Abdur Rahman that he asked Aisha (Allah be pleased with her), “How was the prayer of Allah’s Apostle (Peace be upon him) in Ramadan?” She replied, “He did not pray more than eleven raka’at in Ramadan or in any other month. He used to pray four raka’at – let alone their beauty and length – and then he would pray four – let alone their beauty and length – and then he would pray three rak’aat (witr).” She added, “I asked, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Do you sleep before praying the Witr?’ He replied, ‘O Aisha, My eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep.'” (Bukhari, 3/230, English edn)

According to the author of “Fatawa Rahimiyyah“, Mufti Abdur Rahim Lajpuri (vol. 1, pg. 275); in his defence of 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh: “The commentator of al-Sahih al-Bukhari and the erudite traditionist, Shaykh Shamsud-Din al-Kermani (d. 786 AH; Rahimahullah) said: ‘In the Hadith (above), the Tahajjud prayer is meant. Abu Salama’s question and Hadrat Aisha’s answer concerned the Tahajjud.’ He adds further: ‘If the Tahajjud prayer is not meant, then this tradition will be at variance with the tradition that states that the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) led twenty rak’ahs each for two nights, and in the case of such clash the tradition of twenty rakah’s which is affirmative (muthbit) shall have precedence because according to the principles of Hadith, the affirmative takes precedence over the negative (naaf)” (vide: Al-Kawakib ud-Durari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 9, pg 155-156). We say, does this not mean that people who perform 8 rak’ahs of Taraweeh, should pray 20 rak’ahs instead? Since according to the principles of Hadith, “The affirmative takes precedence over the negative in certain cases.”

A great fact that should also be noted by the reader is that the Imam’s of Hadith have placed the Hadith from Sayyidah Aisha (Radhi Allahu Anha) under the section of Tahajjud prayers, which indicates their belief that the Hadith applies to Tahajjud only. The Imam al-Muhaddithin al-Bukhari (Radhi Allahu ta’ala Anhu) has placed the Hadith from Sayyidah Aisha under at least two sections of his Sahih, first under the section of ’21: The Tahajjud Prayer at Night’ (see Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 2, chapter 15, no. 248, English ed’n) and then under the section of ’32: The Book of Taraweeh Prayers‘ (see Sahih al-Bukhari, 3/230, pg. 128 English ed’n). This means that al-Imam Bukhari believed that the prayer mentioned by Aisha was that of Tahajjud only, and since the Tahajjud prayer is performed also in Ramadan, then Imam Bukhari also quoted the same Hadith under ‘The book of Taraweeh prayers‘, but Allah knows best. Imam Muslim (Rahimahullah) has also placed the Hadith from Aisha under the Tahajjud prayer section (see Sahih Muslim 1/1607, pg. 356, English ed’n). Also Imam Malik (Rahimahullah) has placed Sayyidah Aisha’s Hadith under the Book of Tahajjud (see Al-Muwatta, Book 7, section 7.2, no. 9, pg. 5, English ed’n). Al-Imam Abi Dawud (Rahimahullah) has also placed the same Hadith under the chapter ‘On the number of Rak’ahs of the prayer at night (Tahajjud)’ (see Abi Dawud 1/1336, pg. 351, English version). Even Imam’s Tirmidhi and Nisai (Allah’s mercy be upon them) placed Aisha’s Hadith under the Tahajjud section (see Tirmidhi, vol. 1, pg. 58 and Nisai, vol. 1, pg.154).

Mufti Abdur Rahim said about Sayyidah Aisha’s (radhi Allahu anha) Hadith: “And if this tradition may have been quoted in some book under the devotions of Ramadan along with the Taraweeh. Like the taraweeh, the Tahajjud, too, is a prayer of Ramadan, and because of this affinity, it can be mentioned along with the Taraweeh (as Imam Bukhari did). Hence, supposing it may have been mentioned in some book, it cannot be made thereby a categorical argument. ‘When uncertainty creeps in, the argument is falsified.’ Moreover, Hafiz al-Hadith Imam Qurtubi’s (d. 671/1273; Rahimahullah) statement regarding this Hadith (of Aisha) should not be overlooked that, ‘many a man of knowledge considers the aforesaid Hadith mudtarib (i.e. confounded).'” (vide: Imam Ayni in his Sharh Sahih al Bukhari, vol. 2, pg. 187).

In short, the aforesaid report is in no way a proof for eight rak’ahs of Taraweeh. In contradistinction to this, as regards the twenty rak’ahs the Companions Consensus (Ijma-as-Sahaba) has taken place over the approval of Hadhrat Ibn Abbas’ (Radhi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu) Hadith (about 20 Rak’ahs being performed by the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him) and practically the majority of Ulama have accepted it.” (Fatawa Rahimmiyah, vol. 1, pg 276-277).

Although Sayyidah Aisha (Radhi Allahu Anha) had said: “He did not pray more than 11 Raka’at,” we also have reports from her that the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) also prayed more than 11 Raka’ats! The proof for this was given by her in another narration involving Abu Salama ibn Abdur-Rahman (Rahimahullah). Abu Salama asked Aisha about the prayer of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), she said, “He observed 13 Raka’ahs (in the night prayer). He observed 8 raka’ahs and would then observe (three rak’ahs of) witr and then observe two raka’ahs sitting (nafl prayer), and when he wanted to bow he stood up and then bowed down, and then he observed two raka’ahs in between the Azan and Iqama of the dawn prayer (i.e. fajr).” (See Sahih Muslim 1/1603, pg. 357).

Now, the statement ‘the best way is 11 rak’aats is only the opinion of a small group of the ulama, in fact there are more than 50 opinions to say that the best way is 20 rak’ahs according to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) practise! What is more interesting to note is that the four great Mujtahids, Abu Hanifah, Malik ibn Anas, Muhammad bin Idris Shafi’i al-Hashimi, and Ahmad ibn Hambal (Radhi Allahu Anhu) are in agreement that the Taraweeh consists of twenty Rak’ahs. The statement that al-Imam Malik approved of eight Rak’ahs needs to be proved, most likely this ascription was made to him because he quoted the Hadith which is used to prove eight Rak’ahs of Taraweeh in his al-Muwatta (see Muwatta, 6.2, no. 4, pg. 48) by a small group of scholars. Although al-Imam Malik (Rahimahullah) quoted this Hadith in his book, it has no bearing on what his actual opinion and practise was, on the contrary al-Imam Malik believes in thirty-six rak’ahs of Taraweeh (i.e. 20 Rak’ahs and 16 rak’ahs of extra nafl prayers, see later for the official verdict of the Maliki Madhhab)! Also the Hadith which seems to prove 11 Rak’ahs of Taraweeh (including three rak’ahs of Witr) in Imam Malik’s al-Muwatta has been explained away by many other convincing arguments.

Recently we came across a booklet by the title, “Is Taraweeh 20 Rakaats?” (Published by Madrasah Arabia Islamia, Azaadville, South Africa, author unknown). In this booklet the Hadith quoted from the Muwatta of al-Imam Malik (Radhi Allahu anhu), about 11 rak’ahs of Taraweeh (including three Witr) was quite eloquently analysed.

The actual Hadith in question was related by Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi, who related from his teacher, Hazrat al-Imam Malik (Radhi Allahu Anhu), who related from Muhammad ibn Yusuf, who said that as-Saaib ibn Yazid said, “Hazrat Umar ibn Khattab (Radhi Allahu Anhu) ordered Ubayy ibn Ka’b and Tamim ad-Dari (Radhi Allahu Anhuma) to watch the night in prayer with the people for eleven rak’ahs. The reciter of the Qur’an would recite the Mi’in (a group of medium sized surah’s) until we would be leaning on our staffs from having stood so long in prayer. And we would not leave until the approach of dawn.” (see above reference in al-Muwatta).

It was stated in the aforementioned booklet (chapter 7, pg. 20), after quoting the above narration, “If we analyse the chain (Isnad) of this Hadith, we notice that Muhammad ibn Yusuf narrates from Saaib ibn Yazid. Muhammad (ibn Yusuf) has 5 students and the narration of each student differs from the next (i.e. the text of the Hadith is different from each student). The five students are:

  1. Al-Imam Malik ibn Anas
  2. Yahya ibn Qattan
  3. Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad
  4. Ibn Ishaq and
  5. Abdur Razzaq

Their narrations are as follows :

  1. Imam Malik says that Umar ordered Ubayy ibn Ka’b and Tamim Dari to perform 11 rakaats. (What practise occurred thereafter is not mentioned, nor is Ramadaan mentioned).
  2. Yahya ibn Qattan says that Umar made the people gather with Ubayy ibn Ka’b and Tamim Dari and both of them began performing 11 rakaats. (Hadrat Umar’s command is not mentioned, nor is any mention of Ramadaan made).
  3. Abdul Aziz (ibn Muhammad) says that we used to perform 11 rakaats in the era of Umar. (Neither is the command mentioned, nor is Ubayy ibn Ka’b or Ramadaan mentioned).
  4. Ibn Is-haq says that we used to perform 13 rakaats in Ramadaan during the era of Umar. (Neither is the command of Umar mentioned. Instead of 11 rakaats, 13 are mentioned).
  5. Abdur Razzaq says that Umar gave the command of 21 rakaats. (In this narration 21 rakaats are mentioned instead of 11).

Besides the narration of Imam Malik (Rahmatullah alayh), 11 rakaats cannot be established from the other narrations. Due to this difference, the narrator Ibn Ishaq gave preference to 13 while Ibn Abdal Barr al-Maliki preferred 21 (from the narration of Abdur Razzaq). Therefore this narration is Mudtarib (A Hadith that is transmitted in different manners, so that the contents of each transmission differ, and it is not possible to give preference to any particular transmission) with regards to the number (of rak’ahs) and hence unacceptable.

The above was an analysis of Muhammad ibn Yusuf’s narration via Saaib ibn Yazid. Now let us examine the narration of Yazid ibn Khaseefah via Saaib (ibn Yazid), which is mentioned in the Sunan al-Kubra of al-Bayhaqi (vol. 2, pg. 496): Abu Zi’b narrates from Yazid ibn Khaseefah, who reports from Saaib ibn Yazid that the people used to perform 20 rakaats in the month of Ramadaan during the era of Umar.

Al-Imams al-Nawawi, al-Iraqi and al-Suyuti (all three were great Ulema of Hadith. May Allah be pleased with them all) amongst others have accepted the authenticity of this Hadith (see Tuhfatul Akhyaar, pg. 192 and Irshaadus Saari, pg. 74, (by Imam al-Qastallani]).

Muhammad ibn Ja’far (another narrator in the chain) has quoted the statement from Yazid (ibn Khaseefah) as Abu Zi’b (had). This narration is mentioned in Marifatus Sunan of al-Bayhaqi. Allamah Subki and Mullah Ali al-Qari have stated in Sharh Minhaaj and Sharh Muwatta respectively that the chain of narrators of this Hadith are correct. (Tuhfatul Ahwazee, vol.2, pg 75).

From the above narration we can clearly see that both the students of Yazid (ibn Khaseefah), unanimously narrate the fact that during Umar’s (Allah be pleased with him) era 20 rakaats was the standard practise. On the contrary, the 5 students of Muhammad ibn Yusuf quote Saaib (ibn Yazid) differently.

In such a situation the correct approach would be to rely on the narration of Yazid ibn Khaseefah. However the Ahl al-Hadith have unjustly discarded this narration and adopted the doubtful one of Muhammad ibn Yusuf, which has differing versions. This goes against the principles of Hadith.” Here ends the quote.

Another Hadith that is used by the protagonists of eight rak’ahs of Taraweeh has been related by Jabir ibn Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him): “The Prophet (Peace be upon him) led the people in prayer during Ramadan with 8 rak’ahs and the Witr. We gathered in the Mosque the following night hoping that he would come again. We remained waiting till the next morning (until he came out). The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, ‘I feared that the Witr may become incumbent on you.’” (related by Ibn Nasr al-Marwazi in Qiyamul-Layl, pg. 90, al-Tabarani and Ibn Hibban – see below for the actual Hadith)

The above Hadith has been analysed by Shaykh Abdur Rahim in his “Fatawa” (vol. 1, pg. 278-9) with the conclusion that the Hadith is Daeef. The Shaykh said: “The strange thing about this Hadith is that its chain of authorities (Isnad) is not trustworthy. Please examine the statements of the Imams of this science concerning the narrators of this chain. In this chain one narrator is Ibn Hameed Razi, about whom the opinions of the great and august critics of Hadith are as under:

  1. He is weak.” – Hafiz al-Dhahabi (see his Mizanul I’tidal, vol.3, pp. 49-50)
  2. He narrates many disowned (munkar ) Hadiths.” – Ya’qub ibn Shaybah
  3. He is objectionable.” – al-Imam al-Bukhari
  4. He is a liar.” – Abu Zur’ah
  5. I testify that he is a liar.” – Ishaq Kausaj
  6. He narrates Hadiths about everything; I have not seen a man bolder than him vis-a-vis Allah.” – Sauleh Jazrah
  7. By Allah! He is a liar.” – Ibn-e Kharash
  8. “He is not reliable”‘ – al-Imam al-Nisai

Now, about the second narrator, Ya’qub ibn Abdullah Ash’ari al-Qummi:-

(1) “He is not strong.” – Daraqutni (see Mizanul I’tidal, vol. 3, pg. 324).

About the third narrator, Isa ibn Jariyah:-

  1. He has had disowned (munkar) Hadiths.” – Ibn Ma’een
  2. His Hadiths are disavowed.” – Nisai
  3. His Hadiths are rejected (matruk ).” – Nisai
  4. His Hadiths are disavowed.” – Abu Dawood – synopsis
  5. He is counted among the weak.” – (see Mizanul-I’tidal, vol. 2, pg. 311, by Hafiz al-Dhahabi).” Here ends the quote.

Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Rahmatullah alayh) has reported a similar narration to the above Hadith in his Bulugh al-Maram min Adillat al-Ahkam (no. 396, pg. 159), on the authority of Hafiz Ibn Hibban (Rahmatullah alayh): “Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah (Allah be pleaed with him): Allah’s Holy Messenger (Sall Allahu alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim) prayed during the night in Ramadan; the people waited for him on the next day, but he did not come out; and he said, ‘I feared that the Witr might be enjoined on you.’” Note the above narration does not even state how many rak’ahs were performed by the Prophet (Sall Allahu alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim)!! The above two Hadiths cannot be used as justifiable proof in favour of 8 rak’ahs of Taraweeh on their own.

Al-Imam Malik ibn Anas (Rahmatullah alayh) has in fact quoted a Hadith which proves the performance of 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh in Ramadan; and that is as follows:-

Yahya related to me from Malik that Yazid ibn Ruman said,”The people used to watch the night in prayer during Ramadaan for 23 rak’ahs (i.e 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh, followed by 3 rak’ahs of witr) in the time of Hazrat Umar ibn al-Khattab.” (vide: al-Muwatta, 6.2, No. 5, pg. 48, English ed’n)

Although the above Hadith is Munqati (a link is missing in the chain) and has thus been declared to be Daeef by some scholars, it never the less has been used as proof. Besides, the Hadith has been given a full Isnad (chain) by either Imam Ibn Abdal Barr al-Maliki (d. 463/1071; Rahimahullah) or Shaykh Muhammad Habibullah ibn Mayabi ash-Shanqiti (Rahimahullah), in their thorough research to complete all the chains of transmission (Isnad) which have an incomplete chain; as found in the Muwatta of Imam Malik!

In fact the latest edition of the English version of al-Muwatta (translated by A. A. at-Tarjumana and Yaqub Johnson) says (pg. xxxiv): “Ibn Hajar (al-Asqalani) said, ‘The book of Malik is sound by all the criteria that are demanded as proofs in the mursal, munqati (two types of Hadith which have a missing link) and other types of transmission.’ Then as-Suyuti followed what Ibn Hajar said here; and said, ‘The mursal Hadith in it are a proof with him (i.e. ash-Shafi’i) as well because the mursal is a proof with us when it is properly supported. Every mursal in the Muwatta has one or more supports as will be made clear in this commentary (i.e. Suyuti’s commentary on al-Muwatta called Tanwir al-Hawalik). It is absolutely correct to say that the Muwatta is sound without exception.’

Ibn Abdal-Barr collected together all the mursal, munqati and mu’addil Hadiths in the Muwatta and said that the total number of Hadiths in the Muwatta which do not have an Isnad are sixty one. He stated that he found the isnads of all of them in other sources with the exception of four Hadiths. The erudite scholar of Hadith, Shaykh Muhammad Habibullah ibn Mayabi ash-Shanqiti says in Ida’a al-Halik that he had found witnesses for these four Hadith and he then mentioned these witnesses. He said, ‘Some of the people of knowledge made these Isnads complete.’ He mentioned from Ibn Abdal-Barr that there was no munkar(rejected) Hadith in the Muwatta, nor anything fundamentally refuted.”

In the light of what the erudite scholars of Hadith have said above, we may emphatically state that the apparently ‘munqati’ Hadith from Yazid ibn Ruman has a complete Isnad; hence it may be used as a proof, since Imam Ibn Abdal-Barr has said that there is, “No munkar Hadith in the Muwatta nor anything fundamentally rejected.” Hence, many scholars of Hadith and Fiqh have used the above Hadith as a proof in favour of 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh.

The quote from “Some common questions answered,” also claimed that, “Rather he (Sayyidina Umar) ordered Ubayy ibn Ka’b to lead the people with 11 rakaats.” I say, this is half of the truth, since it is clearly stated in al-Muwatta :”Hazrat Umar ibn Khattab ordered Ubayy ibn Ka’b AND Tamim ad-Dari ….(see Muwatta, 6.2, no. 4, pg. 48)!!

There are some who say that if anyone performs more than 11 rak’ahs of Taraweeh, then he or she is basically committing a Bid’ah (a very bad innovation)! We seek refuge in Allah from such a disgusting statement! Since this tantamountally means that the foremost Imams of the saved sect (al-Firqat an-Najiyyah) of Ahl-al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah have been committing a gross innovation (Allah forbid). Such a person seems to be implying that the venerable Sahaba Ikram (Radhi Allahu Anhum), the four great Mujtahid Imams (Radhi Allahu Anhum), as well as the foremost scholars of Hadith and Fiqh of the last 1400 years have ‘innovated‘ the practise of 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh, if considered in the light of penetrative elaboration, implicitly and covertly! Laa Hawla wa Laa Quwwata Illaa Billaah il-Aliyy il-Azeem!

The actual Hadith which states that the Holy Nabi (Sall Allahu alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim) performed 20 rak’ahs of taraweeh has been reported by Sayyidina Ibne Abbas (Radhi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu). He said, “Verily, the Holy Nabi (Sall Allahu alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim) in the month of Ramadaan, used to perform 20 rak’ahs and the witr prayer (afterwards) without congregation.” (Reported in al-Sunan al-Bayhaqi, vol.2, pg. 496, Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, Kabiri of Imam al-Tabarani, Ibn Aadi in his Musnad, and by Imam Baghawi in his Majmua-as-Sahabah )

Although some scholars have declared this Hadith to be Daeef on its own, it does not mean that it should be whole heartedly rejected; since Daeef does not mean Maudu (fabricated). Please refer to the next section on Daeef Hadiths, and when they are acceptable to scholars for further elaboration. The Hadith related from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) is supported by many other narrations coming from great Companions like Uthman, Ali, Ibn Mas’ood…(Allah be pleased with them all), as well as their successors (Tabi’in). Besides, some of the scholars of Hadith have even declared some weak Ahadith to be Sahih, if it has a firm basis. It was stated in the zindiq book “Criticism of Hadith among Muslims with reference to Sunan Ibn Majah,”: “Shafi’i also recognises a weak Hadith as authentic (sahih) if it is found to be accepted by the whole Ummah (see al-Sakhawi: Fath al-Mugith). But he does not accept Malik’s view of restricting the practise to the people of Madinah. According to the later scholars of the Hanafi school like Ibn al-Humam, a Hadith will be declared Sahih, if it is supported by the practise of the Ummah (see Abdal Rashid Nu’mani: Ma tamusu ilaihe al-Haja, pg. 18). Among traditionalists, Tirmidhi often remarks, after quoting a less authentic Hadith: ‘It is being practised by the people of learning (Ahl al-Ilm).’ Suyuti deduces: ‘It indicates that the Hadith is supported by the sayings of the people of learning. More than one scholar has said that a Hadith is declared Sahih if supported by the sayings of the people of learning, even if it lacks a proper Isnad (see Suyuti: al-Ta’aqubat, folio 20).”

As stated above, the great research scholar (Muhaqqiq) Hafiz Kamal ibn al-Humam (d. 861/1457; Rahimahullah) had actually said: “One of the factors from which the authenticity of a Hadith is known is that the learned (Ulama) may conform to it, which is a proof of its being sound (vide: Fath al-Qadir, vol. 3, pg. 349).

There are many quotes from scholars which prove a near universal juridical acceptance of 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh, but we content myself by quoting a select few from some of the foremost scholars of the Ahl-as-Sunnah.

(1) Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852/1449; R.A.)

The Hafiz of Hadith, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has reproduced from Imam Rafi’i (Allah’s mercy be on him):

“For two nights the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) led twenty rak’ahs of prayer each night; on the third night the people gathered but the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not come out. Then the next morning, he told the people, ‘It so occurred to me that it would be made obligatory for you, and you would not be able to discharge this obligation.’

After reproducing this tradition, Hafiz Ibn Hajar said:

“All the traditionalists (Muhaddithin) are unanimous about the soundness of this report.” (see Talkhis al-habir fi takhrij ahadith al-Rafi’i al-Kabir, vol. 1, pg. 119, by Hafiz ibn Hajar).

(2) Al-Imam al-Azam Abu Hanifah (d. 150 AH; Radhi Allahu Anhu)

It was stated in Fayd ul-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari (by Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri):

“Al-Imam Abu Yusuf (Rahimahullah) asked Al-Imam Abu Hanifah (Rahimahullah), ‘Did Hadrat Umar (Radhi Allahu Anhu) have any compact from the Holy Nabi (Sall Allahu alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim) for 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh?’ The Imam replied, ‘Hadrat Umar was not one to invent on his own; certainly he had some proof with him for this!'” (also found in Maraqi ul-Falah, pg. 81, by Imam al-Shurunbulali and Bahr ur Ra’iq, vol.2, pg. 66, by Imam ibn Nujaim al-Misri).

(3) Al-Imam al-Tirmidhi (d. 279/892; Radhi Allahu Anhu)

al-Imam Tirmidhi said:

“Hazrat Umar, Hazrat Ali as well as other Companions (Radhi Allahu anhum) and Sufyan al-Thauri, Ibn al-Mubarak and Imam al-Shafi’i (Allah’s mercy be upon them), all believed in 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh, and Imam Shafi’i has stated that he had seen the people of Makkah saying 20 rak’ahs (see Sunan al-Tirmidhi, vol.1, pg. 99).

(4) Al-Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 AH; Radhi Allahu Anhu)

It was written in the most authentic book on Maliki Fiqh, al-Mudawwanah (vol.1, pg. 193-94), by Qadi Sahnoon (Rahmatullah alayh):

“Ibn al-Qasim said, ‘The rak’ahs (of Taraweeh) with witr are 39.’ Imam Malik said, ‘This is what the people have agreed upon from amongst the predecessors, and the people have not stopped doing it.'” (For an explanation of why it was 36 rak’ahs see the quote below from Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri).

(5) Hafiz Ibn Humam (d. 861/1457; Rahmatullah alayh)

Allamah Ibn Humam asserts that it has been established from genuine authority that the Companions and their Successors (tabi’in) used to say twenty rak’ahs of Taraweeh during the auspicious time of Umar (Allah be pleased with him); this authority of Yazid ibn Ruman has been reported from Sa’ib ibn Yazid that, ‘during Umar’s auspicious time we used to say twenty rak’ahs.’ The genuineness of this authority has been verified by Imam Nawawi in the synopsis (see Fath al-Qadir, vol.1, pg. 407 and Nasb-ur-Rayah, vol.1, pg. 294, by Hafiz al-Zaylai). Hafiz Ibn Humam also said in Fath al-Qadir (vol.1, pg. 470):

“At last unanimity was formed on 20 rak’ahs of prayer and this alone is in succession.” This last statement has also been said in similar words by Ibn Taymiyya in his Minhaj us-Sunnah (vol.2, pg. 224).

(6) Al-Imam Ata ibn Abi Rabah (Rahimahullah)

The august successor (Tabi’in) and Mufti of Makkah in his time said:

“I have seen the Companions, and other people in Makkah saying 23 rak’ahs, including the witr.”

This report is Hasan (good). (see Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, pg. 406, Fath al-Bari, vol.4, pg. 219, of Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Qiyam ul-Layl, pg. 91, by Imam Ibn Nasr al-Marwazi).

(7) Al-Imam Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi (d. 620/1223; R.A)

The Imam of the Hambaliyya in his time, Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi, said in his book al-Mughni (vol.1, pg 803):

“There has been the Companion’s consensus (Ijma-as-Sahaba) on 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh.”

(8) Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri (d. 1352 AH; Rahimahullah)

It was stated in his published lecture, Tirmidhi al-ma’ruf ba-Arfa’sh-Shazzi (vol.1 pg. 329) :

“Not even one of the the four Imams believes in less than 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh; the practise and belief of the majority of the Companions was also this. Imam Malik (Allah’s mercy be upon him) believes in more than 20 rak’ahs; he is positive that they are 36. According to Imam Malik’s practise only 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh will be said in congregation, but the general practise and method of the citizens of Madinah was that during the brief rest interval (after every 4 rak’ahs), when the Imam sat down after 4 rak’ahs, they used to perform 4 more rak’ahs. The men who said the Taraweeh in the sacred mosque at Makkah, used to circumambulate (Tawaf) the Ka’ba during this brief recess. The people of Madinah, naturally, could not circumambulate the Ka’ba and hence, instead, they used to perform 16 rak’ahs more (in total) during these brief recesses.”

(9) Imam al-Ayni (d. 855/1451; Rahimahullah)

Allamah Ayni wrote in his Sharh al-Bukhari:

“The number of rak’ahs in the Taraweeh is twenty. Imam Shafi’i and Imam Ahmed (Allah’s mercy be upon them) assert the same thing. Their proof is the report which Bayhaqi has, with genuine authority, narrated from Sa’ib ibn Yazid. The great Companions, including Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them), as also the revered Successors (Tabi’in), used to perform twenty rak’ahs.”

Then he said:

“The most excellent and the most advisable course to conform to is that of the Holy Prophet’s and his (Sall Allahu alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim) Companions (practise).” (Umdat ul-Qari Sharh-al-Bukhari, vol. 7, pg. 178).

This article was originally composed by Ahmed ibn Muhammad


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