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Taraweeh,“Eight or Twenty?”

 

The Truth In The Light of Ahadeeth

 

The following article, Taraweeh 8 or 20 is written by Moulana Zakariyya Memon as thesis for his Iftaa course. This article makes useful read to understand the issue clearly. The format is well laid out and well substantiated.

May Allah accept this article for His pleasure. Ameen.

Mufti Ebrahim Desai.                                                             

 

 

Before we trace the source of twenty raka’at taraweeh, first consider the following Ahadith, sayings and practices of great illustrious personalities in Islam.

 

عن السائب بن يزيد قال كانوا يقومون على عهد عمر بن الخطاب في شهر رمضان بعشرين ركعة وفي عهد عثمان )سنن البيهقي ص496/2(

 

Translation: Al-Saaib bin Yazeed (Radiyallahu Anh) narrated that we used to offer twenty raka’at followed by Witr in the reign of ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh) and ‘Uthman (Radiyallahu Anh).(Sunan Al-aihaqi, 2/496)

 

وعن أبي عبد الرحمن السُّلَمي: أن عليّاً دعا القُرّاء في رمضان، فأمر رجلاً بأن يصلّي بالناس عشرين ركعة، وكان عليٌّ يوتر بهم. )التعليق الممجد على موطأ محمد (1/ 629(

 

Translation: Abi ‘Abdul Rahman Al-Salami (Radiyallahu Anh) narrated that ‘Ali (Radiyallahu Anh) called for the Huffaz Al-Qur’an in the month of Ramadan and asked one of them to lead people in offering twenty raka’at Salat (Al-Taraweeh) while he himself used to lead the Witr prayer.(Al-Taleeq Al-Mujaddad ala Muwatta’ Imam Muhammad, 1/629)

 

وقَالَ الشَّافِعِيُّ: وَهَكَذَا أَدْرَكْتُ بِبَلَدِنَا بِمَكَّةَ يُصَلُّونَ عِشْرِينَ رَكْعَةً. سنن الترمذي ت بشار (2/ 162(

 

Translation: Imam Shaf‘i (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih) said that I have always found people in Makkah offering twenty raka’at.(Sunan Al-Tirmizi, 2/162)

 

 

عَنِ ابْنِ أَبِي الْحَسْنَاءِ، «أَنَّ عَلِيًّا أَمَرَ رَجُلًا يُصَلِّي بِهِمْ فِي رَمَضَانَ عِشْرِينَ رَكْعَةً» مصنف ابن أبي شيبة (2/ 163(

 

Translation: Abi Al-Hasana’ (Rahimahullah) narrated that ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh) ordered a person to lead twenty raka’at Salat (Al-Taraweeh) in the month of Ramadan.(Musannaf ibn abi shaibah, 2/163)

 

عَن الْأَعْمَش عَن زيد بن وهب، قَالَ: (كَانَ عبد الله بن مَسْعُود يُصَلِّي لنا فِي شهر رَمَضَان) فَيَنْصَرِف وَعَلِيهِ ليل، قَالَ الْأَعْمَش: كَانَ يُصَلِّي عشْرين رَكْعَة ويوتر بِثَلَاث) . عمدة القاري شرح صحيح البخاري (11/ 127(

 

Translation: A‘amash (Rahimahullah) narrated from Zaid Bin Wahab (Rahimahullah) that Abdullah Bin Mas’ud (Radiyallahu Anh) used to offer….. twenty raka’at Salat (Al-Taraweeh) followed by three raka’at of Witr.(Umdatul Qari, 11/127)

 

عَنْ نَافِعِ بْنِ عُمَرَ، قَالَ: ” كَانَ ابْنُ أَبِي مُلَيْكَةَ يُصَلِّي بِنَا فِي رَمَضَانَ عِشْرِينَ رَكْعَةً، )مصنف ابن أبي شيبة (2/ 163(

 

Translation: Nafi’ (Rahimahullah) narrated that Ibn Abi Mulaikah (Rahimahullah) used to lead people in offering twenty raka’at Salat (Al-Taraweeh) in the month of Ramadan.(Musaanf ibn abi shaibah, 2/163)

 

عن ابي الخصيب قال كان سويد بن غفلة يؤمنا في رمضان عشرين ركعة (الكنى للبخاري ص28 ح234)  

 

Translation: Abu Al-Khusaib (Rahimahullah) narrated that Suwaid bin Ghafalah (Radiyallahu Anh) always led us in offering twenty raka’at Salat (Al Taraweeh) in the month of Ramadan.(Al-kuna lil Bukhari, p28)

 

 

عَنْ عَطَاءٍ، قَالَ: «أَدْرَكْتُ النَّاسَ وَهُمْ يُصَلُّونَ ثَلَاثًا وَعِشْرِينَ رَكْعَةً بِالْوِتْرِ» مصنف ابن أبي شيبة (2/ 163) 

 

Translation: ‘Ata (Rahimahullah) (who was a great Tabi’ee living in Makkah Mukkaramah) said: I always found people offering twenty-three raka’at including Witr.(Musaanf ibn abi Shaibah, 2/163)

 

How Did Salat Al-Taraweeh Begin?

Once, in the holy month of Ramadan, the Prophet (Sallallahu Aliahi Wa Sallam) came out of his home and led Salat Al-Taraweeh.  The Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) who were present at the time, prayed behind him in congregation.  The second and the third night, a larger number of Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) came and performed Salat Al-Taraweeh behind the Prophet (Sallallahu Aliahi Wa Sallam).  On the fourth night, an even larger number of Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) showed up in the Masjid expecting to pray this new salat behind the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam). But, he did not come out to lead SalatAl-Taraweeh that night.  The Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) waited all night. When the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) finally came for the Fajr prayer, he told them:

“I knew you were waiting for me, but I did not come out to lead Salat Al-Taraweeh last night because I was afraid it might become an obligation (Fard) on the Ummah which they might find difficult to fulfill.”  (Bukhari, h872; Muslim, h1271; Abu Dawood, h1166)

In other words, if it was obligatory like the rest of the five daily prayers, we would have to perform it even if we were traveling or ill etc. Since then, Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) started to perform Salat Al-Taraweeh in small congregations in the Masjid and in their homes.

 

How Many Raka’at Did The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) Perform In Those Three Nights?

The great muhaddith, Hafiz Ibn Hajar (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih), who is well-known for his interpretation of Sahih Al-Bukhari has reported in his book Al-Talkhees Al-Habeer on the authority of ‘Aisha (Radhiallahu anhaa) that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) performed twenty raka’at Taraweeh in those three nights (Al-Talkhees Al-Habeer, h540).

Imam Ibn Habban (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih) on the other hand, has reported a hadith in which it is stated that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) performed eight raka’at of Taraweeh in those three nights. However, this hadith is extremely weak because one of the narrators in the chain is Isa Ibn Jaariyah. Imam Nasa`i (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih) and Imam Abu Dawood (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih) have strongly questioned the authenticity of this narrator. Therefore, both of these Imams of hadith rejected his hadith.

However, even if the hadith narrated by Isa Ibn Jaariyah was not weak, it would still not be adopted because it goes against a clearly established practice and unanimity of Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum). As a rule of Islamic jurisprudence, any hadith that goes against the clearly established practices and unanimity of Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum), will not be accepted for practice.

 

قَالَ أَبُو دَاوُدَ: «إِذَا تَنَازَعَ الْخَبَرَانِ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ نُظِرَ إِلَى مَا عَمِلَ بِهِ أَصْحَابُهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ» سنن أبي داود (1/ 191) 

 

Translation: Imam Abu Dawood (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih) states that if there were two apparently contradictory ahadith, we would adopt the one that is confirmed by the established practices of Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum. (Abu Dawood, 1/263)

 

عن مالك، أنه سمعه يقول: إذا جَاءَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حديثان مختلفان وبَلَغَنا أنَّ أبا بكر وعمر عَمِلا بأحد الحديثين وتركا الآخر، كان ذلك دليلاً على أن الحق في ما عملا به، كذا في “الاستذكار”. التعليق الممجد على موطأ محمد (1/ 229) 

 

Translation: Imam Malik (Rahmatullah ‘Alaih) says that if we come across two seemingly contradictory Ahadith and if we know that AbuBakr (Radiyallahu Anh) and ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh) practiced one of them and left the other, then this would be proof enough for us for its authenticity. (Al-Ta’leeq Al-Mumajjad, 1/43)

In any event, the above two ahadith narrated by ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa) and Ibn Jaariyah (Rahmatullahi Alaih) are related only to three nights.

 

How Many Raka’at Did The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) Perform for Salat Al-Taraweeh in the Remainder of the Nights?

عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، «أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ يُصَلِّي فِي رَمَضَانَ عِشْرِينَ رَكْعَةً وَالْوِتْرَ» مصنف ابن أبي شيبة (2/ 164( 

 

Translation: Ibn Abbas (Radiyallahu Anh) narrated that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa SAllam) used to pray twenty raka’at followed by Witr in the month of Ramadan.(Musannaf ibn abee shaibah, 2/164) 

 

عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ قَالَ: ” كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يُصَلِّي فِي شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ فِي غَيْرِ جَمَاعَةٍ بِعِشْرِينَ رَكْعَةٍ، وَالْوِتْرِ ” السنن الكبرى للبيهقي (2/ 698(

 

Translation: Ibn Abbas (Radiyallahu Anh) narrated that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) used to pray twenty raka’at by himself followed by Witr (every night) in the month of Ramadan.(Al-Sunan Al-Kubra, 2/698)

 

These Ahadith very clearly prove that even though the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) did not continue to perform Salat Al-Taraweeh with the congregation because of the fear that it might become Fard on the Ummah, he regularly performed twenty raka’at of Salat Al-Taraweeh every night during the month of Ramadan. Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) also followed this practice in small congregations until the reign of ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh). 

The Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) were unanimous on twenty Raka’at.

 

عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ عَبْدٍ القَارِيِّ، أَنَّهُ قَالَ: خَرَجْتُ مَعَ عُمَرَ بْنِ الخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ، لَيْلَةً فِي رَمَضَانَ إِلَى المَسْجِدِ، فَإِذَا النَّاسُ أَوْزَاعٌ مُتَفَرِّقُونَ، يُصَلِّي الرَّجُلُ لِنَفْسِهِ، وَيُصَلِّي الرَّجُلُ فَيُصَلِّي بِصَلاَتِهِ الرَّهْطُ، فَقَالَ عُمَرُ: «إِنِّي أَرَى لَوْ جَمَعْتُ هَؤُلاَءِ عَلَى قَارِئٍ وَاحِدٍ، لَكَانَ أَمْثَلَ» ثُمَّ عَزَمَ، فَجَمَعَهُمْ عَلَى أُبَيِّ بْنِ كَعْبٍ،) صحيح البخاري (3/ 45) 

 

During the reign of hadhrat ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh), he (‘Umar Radiyallahu Anh) once went to the masjid in the month of Ramadan and noticed that people were performing Salat (Al-Taraweeh) in small congregations. He said to the Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum), “Now that we do not have the fear that Salat Al-Taraweeh will become Fard on us, we can start performing it in congregation.”

He then asked Ubai Ibn Ka’ab (Radiyallahu Anh) to lead Salat Al-Taraweeh – twenty raka’at followed by three raka’at Witr (Sahih Bukhari).

Sahabah (Radiyallahu anhum) welcomed ‘Umar’s (Radiyallahu Anh) suggetion.  From then on they used to perform twenty-three raka’at Salat Al-Taraweeh; including the Witr every night in congregation during the month of Ramadan.  All of the Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) including ‘Uthman (Radiyallahu Anh), ‘Ali (Radiyallahu anh), and even Ummahatul Mu’mineen ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa), Umm Salmah (Raadhiallahu anhaa), and Safiyyah(Radhiallahu anhaa) agreed with ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh). All of them used to perform these twenty three raka’at every night during the month of Ramadan in the masjid of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam). This clearly proves that indeed this is the Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam). Otherwise, Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) would have never agreed to it.

It is narrated in Kanz Al-‘Ummal, a well-known book of Hadith:

عن أبي بن كعب أن عمر بن الخطاب أمره أن يصلي بالليل في رمضان…… فصلى بهم عشرين ركعة. كنز العمال (8/ 409(

 

Translation: Ubai bin Ka’ab (Radiyallahu Anh) narrated that ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh) ordered him to lead Salat (Al-Taraweeh) during the nights of Ramadan. So, I led people (Sahabah and Tabi’een) in praying twenty raka’at.(Kanz Al-Ummal, 8/409)

 

عن السائب بن يزيد قال كنا نقوم في زمن عمر بن الخطاب بعشرين ركعة والوتر (سنن البيهقي ص296/1) قال النووي إسناده صحيح )شرح المهذب ص32/4 وصححه السبكي و السيوطي وعلي القاري(

 

Translation: Al-Saaib bin Yazeed (Radiyallahu Anh) narrated that we used to offer twenty raka’at followed by Witr in the reign of ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh). (Sunan Al-Baihaqi, v1, p296)  Imam Nawawi (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih) has confirmed the authenticity of this hadith in his book “Sharh Al-Muhazzab, v4, p32”, as well as Imam Subki in his Sahih).(Sharhul Mhazzab, 4/32)

 

عن السائب بن يزيد قال كانوا يقومون على عهد عمر بن الخطاب في شهر رمضان بعشرين ركعة وفي عهد عثمان (سنن البيهقي ص496/2(

 

Translation: Al-Saaib bin Yazeed (Radiyallahu Anh) narrated that we used to offer twenty raka’at followed by Witr in the reign of ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh) and ‘Uthman (Radiyallahu Anh).(Sunan Al-Baihaqi, 2/496)

 

Is it even remotely imaginable that all of the Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) including ‘Uthman (Radiyallahu Anh), ‘Ali (Radiyallahu Anh), and even Ummahatul Mu’mineen ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa), Umm Salmah (Radiallahu anhaa), and Safiyyah(Radiallahu anhaa) could have all together agreed to perform a bid‘ah?  Na‘uzu Billah!  If they did not object to ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh), how are we to object now? 1400 years later and on what grounds?

A great number of Islamic scholars have confirmed the Sahabah’s (Radiyallahu anhum) unanimity of Salat Al-Taraweeh being twenty raka’at.  The following are a few examples of their writings:

 

قال ابن تيمية: فانه قد ثبت ان ابي بن كعب كان يقوم بالناس بعشرين ركعة في رمضان و يوتر بثلاث (فتاوى ابن تيميه ص191/1(

 

Translation: Imam Ibn Taimiyah (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih) reported that it has been confirmed that Ubai bin Ka’ab (Radiyallahu Anh) used to lead people twenty raka’at of Salat (Al-Taraweeh) followed by three raka’at Witr in the month of Ramadan.(Fatawa ibn taymiyyah, 1/191)

 

والتراويح سنة مؤكدة عشرون ركعة بما روى ابوبكر عبد العزيز الشافعي عن ابن عباس أن النبي  صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يصلي في شهر رمضان عشرين ركعة(روض الرياض(

 

Translation: Salat Al-Taraweeh is Sunnah Muakkadah and consists of twenty raka’at based on the hadith narrated by Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Radiyallahu Anh) that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) used to offer twenty raka’at during the month of Ramadan.(Rawdul Riyad)

 

قال الغزالي: التراويح و هي عشرون ركعة و كيفيتها مشهورة وهي سنة مؤكدة (احياء العلوم ص208/1(

 

Translation: Imam Ghazzali (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih) has also confirmed that Salat Al-Taraweeh is Sunnah Muakkadah and consists of twenty raka’at and the method of offering (this Salat) is well known.(Ahyaa’ Uloom Al-Deen, 1/208)

 

The Importance of Following Khulafa Al-Rashideen (rightly guided successors of of Rasoolullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam)

 

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) on many occasions has reminded us to follow the Khulafa Al-Rashideen (Radiyallahu Anhum). He stated with great advice and warning to the Ummah that:

 

وَإِنَّهُ مَنْ يَعِشْ مِنْكُمْ فَسَيَرَى اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا , فَعَلَيْكُمْ بِسُنَّتِي وَسُنَّةِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِينَ الْمَهْدِيِّينَ عَضُّوا عَلَيْهَا بِالنَّوَاجِذِ). السنن الكبرى للبيهقي (10/ 195) (سنن الترمذي 4-341(

 

Translation: “Whoever will live after me will see a lot of differences of opinions, so people should hold strongly to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of Khulafa Al-Rashideen who are on the straight path.”  Then, he emphasized it again by repeating himself, “Hold strongly to it. Don’t let it go.”(Sunan Al-Tirmizi, 10/195)

 

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: .…. وَإِنَّ بني إسرائيل تَفَرَّقَتْ عَلَى ثِنْتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ مِلَّةً، وَتَفْتَرِقُ أُمَّتِي عَلَى ثَلاَثٍ وَسَبْعِينَ مِلَّةً، كُلُّهُمْ فِي النَّارِ إِلاَّ مِلَّةً وَاحِدَةً، قَالُوا: وَمَنْ هِيَ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ؟ قَالَ: مَا أَنَا عَلَيْهِ وَأَصْحَابِي )سنن الترمذي ت بشار (4/ 323(

 

Translation: Abdullah bin A’mr bin A’as (Radiyallahu Anh) narrated that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said,“Bani Isra`il were divided into 72 sects and my Ummah will be divided into 73, all of them would belong to the hell-fire except one.”  The Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) asked him, “Which one, O Prophet of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam)?”  He responded, “The one who would follow me and my Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum).(Sunan Al-Tirmizi, 4/323)

 

عَنْ حُذَيْفَةَ قَالَ: كُنَّا جُلُوسًا عِنْدَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ: إِنِّي لاَ أَدْرِي مَا بَقَائِي فِيكُمْ، فَاقْتَدُوا بِاللَّذَيْنِ مِنْ بَعْدِي. وَأَشَارَ إِلَى أَبِي بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرَ.) سنن الترمذي ت بشار (6/ 51( 

 

Translation: Huzaifa (Radiyallahu Anh) narrated that we were once sitting with the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam). He (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said, “I don’t know how long would I be with you.  After me, follow those who survive me.” And he pointed towards Abu Bakr (Radiyallahu Anh) and ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh).(Sunan Al-Tirmizi, 6/51)

 

It is clear that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) has very clearly told us to hold strongly to the ways of Khulafa Al-Rashideen (Radiyallahu anhum) when there is a difference of opinion in the matters of Deen.  Following his Sunnah and the Sunnah of Khulafa Al-Rashideen (Radiyallahu Anhum) were also made the sign of the one sect which would continue to be on the right path.

As for Salat Al-Taraweeh, we know now for sure that three of the four Khulafa Al-Rashideen – ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh), ‘Uthman (Radiyallahu Anh), and ‘Ali (Radiyallahu Anh) performed twenty raka’at with the congregation in the masjid of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) and in the presence of all of the other Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum). We, therefore, no longer need any other proof in the matter.

 

Consensus of the Four Great Imams of Fiqh

All four Imams, Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shaf‘i, Imam Malik, and Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaihim) who were great giants of knowledge and experts in Shari’ah, have insisted that Salat Al-Taraweeh consists of  twenty raka’at.  In fact, Imam Malik (Rahmatullahi ‘Alaih) insisted on thirty-six raka’at. He suggested to the people of Madinah to pray four extra raka’at individually during each Tarweeha (i.e. during the rest period between each of the four raka’at) to make up for the Tawaaf that people of Makkah used to perform during this rest periods. (Al-‘Urf Al-Shadhi, v1, p229)

It is also reported in Tirmidhi, one of the six most authentic books of Hadith, that Imam Shaf‘i (Rahimahullah) had always seen people in Makkah performing twenty raka’at in Salat Al-Taraweeh. From the time of ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh) to this day, people have always prayed twenty raka’at in Taraweeh both in the Haram of Makkah and Madinah.

 

Then where does the misunderstanding come from?

The confusion about the number of raka’at in the Salat Al-Traweeh resulted from misunderstanding a hadith reported in Bukhari.  The hadith reads as follows:

عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، أَنَّهُ أَخْبَرَهُ: أَنَّهُ سَأَلَ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا، كَيْفَ كَانَتْ صَلاَةُ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي رَمَضَانَ؟ فَقَالَتْ: «مَا كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَزِيدُ فِي رَمَضَانَ وَلاَ فِي غَيْرِهِ عَلَى إِحْدَى عَشْرَةَ رَكْعَةً يُصَلِّي أَرْبَعًا، فَلاَ تَسَلْ عَنْ حُسْنِهِنَّ وَطُولِهِنَّ، ثُمَّ يُصَلِّي أَرْبَعًا، فَلاَ تَسَلْ عَنْ حُسْنِهِنَّ وَطُولِهِنَّ، ثُمَّ يُصَلِّي ثَلاَثً( صحيح البخاري (2/ 53) 

 

Translation: Abu Salamah bin Abdul Rahman (Rahimahullah) says, “That he asked ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa) how was the prayer of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) during Ramadan?” ‘Aisha (Radiallahu Anhaa) replied, “The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) never performed more than eleven raka’at, whether in the month of Ramadan or any other time of the year. First, he used to perform four raka’at and don’t ask me how long and beautiful they used to be.  Then he performed another four raka’at and don’t ask me how very long and very beautiful they were.  Then he would perform three raka’at (Salat Al Witr).”(Sahih Al-Bukhari, 2/53)

Some people have mistakenly interpreted Salat Al-Lail as Salat Al-Taraweeh and thus wrongfully concluded that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) prayed only eight raka’at in Salat Al-Taraweeh. A correct understanding of this hadith should clear up all confusion and disagreement about this issue.

1. Both ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa) and Abu Salamah bin Abdul Rahman (Rahimahullah) were alive during the reign of ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh), ‘Uthman (Radiyallahu Anh) and ‘Ali (Radiyallahu Anh).  If ‘Aisha (Radiallahu Anhaa) and other Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) knew this hadith to be about Salat Al-Taraweeh, why did they not correct ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh) about it when he established twenty raka’at in congregation during his reign?

 

2. All of them continued to perform twenty raka’at Salat Al-Taraweeh in this way including ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh), ‘Uthman (Radiyallahu Anh), ‘Ali (Radiyallahu Anh) and even ‘Aisha (Radhiallahu anhaa).  But, there is no recorded protest by ‘Aisha (radiallahu Anha) or any other Sahabah (Radiayallahu Anhum) in the books of Ahadith or Islamic history about it. Never did she nor any of the other Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) stopped people from twenty raka’at taraweeh or warned them about this being a bid‘ah.

 

3. Certainly, no Muslim will believe that ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa) and others did not oppose Umar (Radiyallahu Anh) for the fear of punishment, nor can we believe that the narrator of the Hadith, ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa), herself and others did not properly understand the meaning of this hadith.  Most certainly ‘Aisha (Radiallahu Anhaa) knew that this Hadith did not pertain to Salat Al-Taraweeh. She knew that this hadith was related to SalatAl-Tahajjud which is also called Salat Al-Lail.  This is why she or any of the others did not oppose ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh).

4. In this Hadith, ‘Aisha (Radiallahu Anhaa) was talking about a prayer that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) performed throughout the year.  Notice her words, “The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) never performed more than eleven raka’at in the month of Rmadan or any other time of the year.”  Everyone knows that Salat Al-Taraweeh is not performed any other time of the year except in Ramadan.  What she meant was that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) performed the eight raka’at of Salat Al-Tahajjud followed by three raka’at Witr even in the month of Ramadan in addition to Salat Al-Taraweeh.

5. Here is further proof for the above conclusion.  When we look at the complete Hadith, we notice that ‘Aisha (Radiallahu Anhaa) explained how the Prophet(Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) used to perform these eleven raka’at. The Hadith says that he used to perform four raka’at, then four raka’at, then three raka’at (the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) used to perform Tahajjud prayer by four raka’at as well) and throughout the year.

 

Everyone knows that Salat Al-Taraweeh is performed in two and not four raka’at at a time.  Often, the proponents of eight raka’at for Taraweeh do not mention the full hadith which then creates confusion and misunderstanding in the minds of common Muslims.  If we were to apply this hadith to Salat Al-Taraweeh, then we would have to perform Salat Al-Taraweeh throughout the year and perform it in four, four, and three raka’at. If we did otherwise, we would be opposing this Hadith that has been used to prove that Salat Al-Taraweeh consists of only eight raka’at.

 

Note

The word Taraweeh is the plural of the word Tarweeha which literally means ‘to rest’.  In the context of Salat Al-Taraweeh, it means to rest between every four raka’at (Lisanul Arab).

The word taraweeh is plural and therefore there should be a minimum of three rest periods between every four raka’at. Accordingly, if one performs eight raka’at followed by Witr, there are only two rest periods between the four raka’at, which cannot be literally termed as taraweeh. It would be called tarweehatain.

It should also be noted that Salat Al-Taraweeh is not the same as Salat Al-Lail.  The Salat Al-Lail term is used for the Tahajjud prayer.

 

Conclusion

It is clear from the Ahadith, the practice of Sahabah, Tabi’een, and the unanimity of the four great imams that:

  1. It is Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) to pray twenty raka’at Salah Al-Taraweeh.
  2. Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) followed this practice throughout their lives in Masjid Al-Nabawi.
  3. None of the Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) including ‘Aisha (Radiyallahu Anha) opposed ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anh) in the establishment of twenty raka’at of Salat Al-Taraweeh in congregagtion.
  4. The Hadith in Bukhari narrated by ‘Aisha (Radiyallahu Anha) is about Salat Al-Tahajjud and not about Salat Al-Taraweeh.
  5. All four Imams have declared that Salat al-Taraweeh consist of twenty raka’at.

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