Sunday, 6 September 2009

Tarawih Is 20 Rak'ah, Not 8 Rak'ah

Allah Ta’ala has blessed the Muslims with Ramadhan – a very sacred and blessed month in which all rewards are multiplied, the reward for Optional Ibadah is equivalent to a Wajib Ibadah and the reward for a Wajib Ibadah is multiplied 70 times. In this month the gates of Paradise are opened, the punishment of Hell is ceased and Paradise is at its best. Besides all these blessings, the month of Ramadhan has been blessed with tha Solah of Tarawih.


It is narrated by Imam Muslim RH on the authority of Abu Hurairah RA that the Prophet SAW said:

“Whomsoever stands in Ramadhan with Imaan and hope of reward, all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Muslim)

The Prophet SAW has stated here that ‘whoever stands in Ramadhan’, this refers to standing Tarawih. The commentators of Hadith and Sunnah have said this is because the the Prophet SAW has specified ‘standing' with the month of Ramadhan. So it is apparent that it is NOT referring to Tahajjud but Tarawih.

A’ishah RA narrates in a Hadith that the Prophet SAW said:

“Your act was not hidden from me but I feared that Tarawih will become compulsory on you and you will not be able to complete it, (and) then the Prophet SAW passed away.” (Bukhari, The Benefit of Standing in Ramadhan; Muslim; Abu Dawud, Inspiring to Stand in the Month of Ramadhan, Tarawih.

In short, the Prophet Muhammad SAW did not go to pray Tarawih with the people because of the fear that Tarawih will become compulsory.

It is written in the Muwatta of Imam Malik RH that:

“I (Abdur Rahman ibn Abdulnil Qari) came out with Umar ibn al-Khattab in Ramadhan towards the Masjid, people were scattered everywhere. A man was praying alone and another man was praying alone and a group of people praying in another corner. Then Umar al-Khattab said, “I swear by Allah, that I intend to gather these people under one Imam and that is better, thus I gathered them to pray behind Ubay ibn Ka’ab.” (Muwatta Imam Malik)

Verily Umar RA gathered the people to pray behind Ubay ibn Kaab RA and Tamim Dari RA in Ramadhan.


The precept of the Holy Prophet Muhammad SAW has been misunderstood by many with regards to how many Rak’ah of Tarawih should be prayed.

It is mentioned in the collections of Musanif ibn Abi Shayba RH, Tabrani RH and Baihaqi RH on the authority of Abdullah ibn Abbas RA that the Prophet SAW used to pray 20 Rak'ah in Ramadhan besides Witr.

Further evidence that the Prophet SAW did 20 Rak’ah of Tarawih is proven by a narration narrated by Imam Malik RH. In the time of Saiyidina Umar RA, the people used to pray 23 Rak’ah and this was by the order of Saiyidina Umar RA, the second Khalifah of the Prophet SAW, regarding whom the Prophet SAW said:

“If there were to be a Prophet after me, it would be Umar.”

The Prophet SAW also said that Saiyidina Umar RA was the Mulham of this Ummah (command revealed upon). There is no space for objection here saying this is not a Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, because the Prophet SAW has himself said:

“Hold on firmly to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Khulafa Ar-Rashideen.” (Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud)

Abu Nu’aim RA narrates that the Prophet Muhammad SAW said:

“After me, there will be new things and the best new thing will be what Umar (RA) creates.”

The Ulama have given explanation of interpretation that this was a prophecy by the Prophet Muhammad SAW regarding Saiyidina Umar RA’s decision about the Tarawih Solah.

It is narrated by Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA that the Prophet SAW said:

“Whatever the Muslims find good, this is good with Allah.” (Musnad Ahmad)

It is narrated by the Imam Abu Yusuf RH that he asked Imam Abu Hanifah RH about Tarawih and what Saiyidina Umar RA did. He replied that Tarawih is an emphasised Sunnah and Saiyidina Umar RA did not say it himself nor did he initiate it, nor did he order for it, but for a foundation he had from the time of the Prophet SAW. Umar RA carried out this way and gathered the people to pray behind Ubay ibn Kaab RA thus they prayed Tarawih and amongst the Jama’ah (congregation) were Saiyidina Uthman RA, Saiyidina Ali RA, Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA , Abbas RA and his son (Abdullah ibn Abbas RA), Talha RA , Zubair RA, Mu’adh RA and many more Companions RA amongst the Muhajireen and Ansar. None from amongst them objected, but they helped him and agreed to it and also ordered it.

It is narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas RA:

“The Prophet Muhammad SAW used to pray 20 Rak'ah without congregation and three Witr in Ramadhan.” (Baihaqi)

In the above Hadith, there is again further proof that the Prophet prayed 20 Rak'ats.


The Hadith narrated by A’ishah RA which states that the Prophet SAW did not pray more than 11 Rak’ah in Ramadhan and outside (i.e. in other months) was brought by Imam Bukhari RH and Imam Muslim RH under the Chapter of: Witr and Tahajjud. In a Hadith it is mentioned that the Prophet SAW used to pray four Rak'ah together and what is to be said about its beauty. Tarawih is not prayed in four Rak’ah but in two Rak’ah. This is why this Hadith is not about Tarawih but Tahajjud.

The portion of the Hadith narrated by A’ishah RA is as follows:

“The Prophet of Allah SAW used to pray four Rak’ah, and don't ask about the grace and length of his Solah (i.e. that it was long and full of tertib), then again he would pray four Rak’ah, and do not ask about the grace and length of his Solah, then he would read three (Witr) Rak’ah.”

In this Hadith, it is mentioned that the Holy Prophet SAW prayed four Rak’ah, and then again four Rak’ah and it is important to note that the Prophet SAW would not pray Tarawih four Rak'ah at a time.

So this is why theabove Hadith is referring to Tahajjud and not Tarawih.


Imam Nawawi RH says that the four Imams: Imam Abu Hanifah RH, Imam Malik RH, Imam Shafi’i RH, and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal RH have all agreed that ‘Standing in Ramadhan' refers to Tarawih.

Indeed, this particular Solah is associated specifically with Ramadhan otherwise why has it been associated with Ramadhan? Hence the clarity that it is in reference to Tarawih.

And it is interesting to note, that besides the Shi’ites, nobody has denied that Tarawih is an emphasised Sunnah.

No Imam has said that Tarawih is less than 20 Rak'ah but only more. In this regard, Imam Malik RH and the people of Madinah would pray 36 Rak’ah, and this was simply because the people of Madinah knew that the people of Makkah would perform Tawaf (circumambulation) of the Ka’bah after every four Rak'ah of Tarawih, and in the spirit of competition, Imam Malik RH and the people of Madinah would pray 36 Rak’ah. Such was their piety and eagerness to spiritually excel.

As-Shaykhul-Hadith Muhammad Zakariya Khandalwi RH said that there is the consensus of the Ulama on the fact that Tarawih is 20 Rak'ah.


As-Shaykh Muhammed ibn Ismail Al-Ansari RH says that – upon certain cases, there would sometimes be a Hadith that is weak (i.e. weak in its chain of narrators but not to say that it is false) but because of the number of people agreeing to it and common practice, then is no longer weak. In Islamic juristic practices for example: the case of repayment of debt before making a will. Although there is no authentic Hadith to confirm this practice, but because of the consensus of the Ulama and common practice, the Hadith becomes a strong reference point, and it is wrong to mandate that wills can be made / executed before repayment of debt.

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