Taraweeh 8 or 20 rakaahs
Mu' meneen Brothers and Sisters,
As Salaam Aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. (May Allah's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon all of you)
One of our brothers/sisters has asked this question:
Assalama Alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatu,
Jazakallah khair for your explanation of the sunnah where Tarawih is concerned. Please can you discuss further whether the sunnah of Taraweeh is to perform 8 or 20 rakaats? Was Salam
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Taraweeh 8 or 20 rakaahs
In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad(saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
The first thing we must realize is that the Taraweeh prayers are not obligatory. They are voluntary prayers; if one prays them, there is a huge reward from Allah Subhanah. And if one does not pray them, there is no sin.
There are two opinions amongst the scholars as to what is the exact Sunnah. The scholars who opine that the Tarawih salaah should be eight rakahs + three witr, use these narrations as their daleel or evidence:
Aishah reported that the Prophet (saws) would not pray more than eleven rak'at during Ramadan, or otherwise.
It is reported on the authority of Jabir (r.a.) that the Prophet (saws) prayed eight rak'at and the witr prayer with the companions (and this was during Ramadan).
Abu Ya'la and at-Tabarani record, from Jabir that Ubayy ibn Ka'b (r.a.) came to the Prophet (saws) and said: "O Messenger of Allah, I have done something last night," (i.e., during Ramadan). The Prophet said: 'And what was that, O Ubayy?' He said: The women in my house said, 'We don't recite Qur'an [well or much] so can we pray behind you?' I prayed eight rak'at and the witr prayer with them.
The Messenger of Allah (saws) was pleased with that and did not say anything."
The majority of the scholars prefer to follow the established way of the Rightly Guided Khalifas, who established the formal prayers of Taraweeh after the death of the Prophet (saws). And it is reported that all the believers during that time prayed twenty rakahs in the Taraweeh prayers led by a single imaam.
It is also true that during the time of 'Umar, 'Uthman, and 'Ali the people prayed twenty rak'at, and this is the opinion of the majority of the jurists of the Hanafi and Hanbali schools as well as that of Dawud.
At-Tirmidhi says: "Most of the people of knowledge follow what has been related from 'Umar and 'Ali and other companions of the Prophet, [i.e., that they prayed] twenty rak'at. And this is the opinion of al-Thauri, Ibn al-Mubarak, and ash-Shaf'i. And so I found the people of Makkah praying twenty rak'at."
Some of the scholars are of the opinion that the sunnah is eleven rak'at, including witr, and it is also preferred to pray the remainder [of the twenty rak'at] .
From the above narration, most of the scholars have opined that the Taraweeh prayers are of twenty rakahs; because it would be inconceivable for the Right Guided Khalifas to do something against the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws). The reason they gave for the apparent contradiction between the narration of Hadrat Aisha (quoted above) where she says that the Messenger of Allah always (saws) prayed eight rakahs + three witr, is that what Hadrat Aisha was referring to were the Tahajjud or Night Prayers, which were obligatory for the Prophet (saws).
Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 4590 Narrated by Irbad ibn Sariyah
One day the Apostle of Allah (saws) led us in prayer, then faced us and gave us a lengthy exhortation at which the eyes shed tears and the hearts were afraid. A man said: Apostle of Allah! It seems as if it were a farewell exhortation, so what injunction do you give us? He (saws) then said: I enjoin you to fear Allah, and to hear and obey, even if it be an Abyssinian slave (is appointed as your leader) , for those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. You must then follow my sunnah and that of the Rightly-Guided Khalifas (Hadrat Abu Bakr, Hadrat Umar, Hadrat Uthman, and Hadrat Ali) . Hold to it and stick fast to it. Avoid novelties, for every novelty is an innovation, and every innovation is an error.
Thus, in light of the above narrations, there is no harm if one prays either eight rakahs or twenty rakahs in their Taraweeh prayers, because both ways, one would be following the words of the Messenger of Allah (saws). The best thing for a believer to do would be to follow the number of rakahs as prayed by the imam in your local mosque.
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your Brother in Islam,