Twenty raka'at of Tarawih is sunnah

22nd June 2008

Sheikh Atiyyah Muhammed Salim who is a judge of the supreme court of Madina Munawwarah and an orator and teacher in Masjidun-Nabawi (SAW) has written a book entitled “At-Tarawihu akthara min alfi amin fi masjid-in-Naibi (SAW) in which he has recorded the history of Taraweh for more than a thousand years in Masjidun Nabawi (SAW). He has recorded the historical events dating from the era of Nabi (SAW) right up to 1390 Hijrah. From his writings it is ascertained that during this lengthy period, Taraweh salah was never less than twenty rakaat in Musjidun-Nabawi (SAW). The practice and norm was either twenty rakaat or more (never less than that). After recording the historical facts till page 151 of his book. Sheikh Atiyyah poses a question to the readers. During this lengthy period, were eight rakaat the maximum limit or were less than twenty rakaat ever performed?! For fourteen hundred years, the tarawih salah was between twenty and forty rakaat. It was never heard from am person possessing Iman that to perform more than eight rakaat is not permissible.
Before that in 1376 Hijrah, a renowned scholar of hadith of India. Shaykh Habibur Rahman Azmi wrote a book entitled "Raikat-e-Tarawih” in which he writes:

"The pandemonium that the Ghair Muqallidecn (a sect that does not follow any Imam or school of thought) of India had started for the past hundred years or so was never heard of before. Throughout the Islamic world, twenty rakaat or more were being performed. Similarly, from the time of Umar (RA) till the time of this uproar, there was no masjid in the world where eight rakaat of Taraweh used to be performed, which implies that for approximately twelve hundred and fifty years, all the Muslims (Ahlus Sunnah) used to regard twenty rakaat or more than twenty rakaat as sunnah and worthy of being practiced upon. After such a long period, this sect has made a new manifestation that up to now what the Muslims were doing was incorrect. The correct version is only eight rakaat."

Thereafter Shaykh Habibur Rahman Azmi discusses from the books of hadith with references regarding what transpired during these twelve hundred and fifty years. He states that the practice of the Muslims (of twenty rakaat Taraweh) is not contrary to hadith, but rather is in conformity to the sunnah of Rasulullah (SAW) and the rightly guided Khulafa (RA).

Sheikh Atiyyah. in a similar manner, has proven the performance of twenty raka'at from history and the hadith. He has also quoted from the books of the four Imams (Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi and Ahmad (RA) and has subsequently quoted the following authentic hadith:
"Hold steadfast unto my sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly guided Khulafa (i.e. Abu Bakr, Umar. Uthman and Ali (RA)” (Mistikat) p. 30)
The fact of the matter is that during the lime of Umar (RA), When the performance of Taraweh salah was systemized, then it is possible that initially eleven or thirteen rakaat were sometimes performed in which the qiraah (recitation) of the Quran used to be very long.

Thereafter, twenty one or twenty three rakaat was performed. This practice of (23) then continued right up to the eras of both Uthman and Ali (RA) and also remained after them.

This was the practise of the entire world until the innovation of the "Ghair Muqallideen."

The people of Makkah Mukarramah used to perform tawaf after every four rakaat of Taraweh and they used to perform the two rakaat of tawaf as well. Hence the people of Madinah also began performing an additional four rakaat after every four rakaat of Taraweh. In this manner, an additional sixteen rakaat were added to the twenty rakaat making it a total of thirty six rakaat. This practise also remained for a while. Nevertheless, less than twenty seven rakaat were never performed.

Sheikh Atiyyah states: "The practise of Rasulullah (SAW) of performing thirteen raka'at as narrated by Ibn Abbas (RA), the six rakaat after the Esha salah and the two rakaat with which Rasulullah (SAW) used to commence the salatul-layl as narrated by Hazrat Aisha (RA),makes a total of twenty one rakaat. This is why Umar (RA) instructed Ubay bin Kab (RA) to perform twenty one rakaat for the people. Thus its (twenty one rakaat) proof exists in this hadith. It is not merely the opinion of Umar (RA) (p. 22)

This humble servant (Shaykh Fazlur Rahman) states that even if the proof of twenty one or twenty three rakaat is not from any marfu hadith (i.e. narration containing the actual speech of Nabi (SAW) and is only based on the view of Umar (RA), then also, to adhere to it will be regarded as sunnah because Rasulullah (SAW) has ordered us to adhere to the ways of the rightly guided Khulafa. Thus to adhere to it in actual fact is to practice on a marfu hadith.

It is reported on the authority of Ihn Abbas (RA) that during the month of Ramadhan, Rasulullah (SAW) used to perform twenty rakaat and thereafter perform the witr salah. (Baihaqi's- As-Sunanul Kubra, vol. 2, p. 496 etc.)

Saib bin Yazid (RA) states that during the time of Umar (RA), the people used to perform twenty raka'at of tarawih. The same is also reported from Yazid bin Ruman. (Ibid}

Abdul Aziz bin Rafai (RA ) mentions that Ubay bin Ka'ab (RA )used to perform twenty rakaat for the people and thereafter three raka'at of witr. (Atharus Sunan. p. 253)

Ubay bin Ka'ab (RA) reports that Umar (RA) instructed him saying that if he lead the salah it would be better. Thereafter he said. "Perform twenty raka'at for the people." (Atharus Sunam, page 255)

There are many more narrations proving this. Abdullah bin Masood (RA) also used to perform twenty raka'at. (Tuhfatul Ahwazi. vol. 2. p. 75)

Ali (RA) performed twenty raka'at during the era of Uthman (RA) (Sunam Baihaqi). Ali (RA) called the Qura (experts in the recital of the Quran) and instructed one of them to perform twenty rakaat for the people and Ali (RA) himself used to perform the witr. (Ibid)

In Makkah Mukarramah. the general practice was twenty raka'at during the time of Ata(RA) His demise was in 114 HIjrah. (Musannuf Ibn Abi Shaibah vol. 2. p. 393)

Similarly, Ibn Abi Mulaikah used to perform twenty rakaat of Tarawih in Ramadhan. The performance of twenty rakaat is proven from many of the Sahaba (RA) and Tabieen and it is the consensus of the majority of the Ummah. For more details on this subject and discussion regarding the chain of narrators, refer to Rakaat-e-Taraweh of Muhaddith-e-.Jaleel Allamah Habihur Rahman Azmi.

A few people prove eight rakaat of tarawih by presenting the hadith of Aisha (RA) in which she says: "The night salah of Rasulullah (SAW)) in Ramadhan and out of Ramadhan should not exceed eleven rakaat. The answer to the above is that this Hadith refers to Tahajjud salah and not taraweh salat, as in this narration, mention is made of such a salat which is performed in Ramadhan and out of the month of Ramadhan, whereas Taraweh is only performed in Ramdhan. Thus this hadith refers to Tahajjud and not Taraweh. Hafiz Ibn Hajar (RA) commentator of Sahih Bukhari. has also linked this hadith to Tahajjud salah.

Similarly, in Sahih Bukhari (p. 156) a hadith of Aisha (RA) is recorded wherein it is reported that besides the two raka'at sunnat of Fajr, Rasulullah (SAW) used to perform thirteen rakaat (at night). Thus this Implies that Rasuiullah (SAW) should not only confine it to eleven rakaat (as mentioned in the previous hadith). Hence, in the light of this hadith also, it will not be correct to confine the Taraweh salah to eight rakaat only. Imam Bukhari (RA) has also not confined the Taraweh salah to eight rakaat in any of his writings.

Note: Tarawih is sunnah muakkadah (an emphasized sunnah) on both men and women. (Ad-Durrul Mukhtar. VOL 1 p.520)

Sheikhul Hadith Hazrat Shaykh Fazlur Rahman Saheb

Mufti Yusuf Danka