- At the time of the Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam the prayers which we recognize as taraweeh today were not called taraweeh prayers, but rather they formed a part of the qiyaam-ul-layl (standing in prayer at night) prayers.
- “Taraweeh” is a sunnah al muakkada prayer specific to Ramadan that is 20 rakahs.
- “Taraweeh” is an Arabic word that is the plural of the word “Tarweeha” which is derived from the root word rauh or raha which literally means “to rest”. In the context of Salat Al-Taraweeh it is named so because a brief rest is taken after each four rakahs which constitute a “tarweeha”. Five tarweeha make up a whole “taraweeh prayer”.
- Taraweeh prayer is a sunnah of our Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam that was also performed by the four caliphs after him. It should also be noted that Salat Al-Taraweeh is not the same as Salat Al-Layl . The latter term was thereafter used for the Tahajjud prayer.
- Once, in the holy month of Ramadan, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam came out of his home and led Salat Al-Taraweeh. The Sahabah Radiallahu Anhum who were present at the time, prayed behind him in congregation. The second and the third nights, a larger number of Sahabah Radiallahu Anhum came and performed Salat Al-Taraweeh behind the Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. On the fourth night, an even larger number of Sahabah Radiallahu Anhum showed up in the Masjid expecting to pray this new salat behind Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam But, he did not come out to lead Salat Al-Taraweeh that night. The Sahabah Radiallahu Anhum waited all night. When the Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam finally emerged 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)
- The great muhaddith, Hafiz Ibn Hajar (Rahmatullah ‘Alay), 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 Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam performed twenty raka’at Taraweeh on those three nights (Al-Talkhees Al-Habeer, h540).
- Ibn Abbas Radiallahu Anhu narrated that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam used to pray twenty raka’at by himself followed by Witr (every night) in the month of Ramadan. (Sunan Al-Baihaqi, h12102)
- During his reign, ‘Umar Radiallahu Anhu 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 Radiallahu Anhum , “Now that we do not have the fear that Salat Al-Taraweeh will become Fardon us, we can start performing it in congregation.” He then asked Ubaiy Ibn Ka’ab Radiallahu Anhu to lead Salat Al taraweeh – twenty raka’at followed by three raka’at Witr (Sahih Bukhari).
- Sahabah Radiallahu Anhum welcomed ‘Umar’s Radiallahu Anhu direction and none of them objected to this move. 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 Radiallahu Anhum including ‘Uthman Radiallahu Anhu , ‘Ali Radiallahu Anhu , and even Ummahatul Mu’mineen ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa), Umm Salmah (Raadhiallahu anhaa), and Safiyyah (Radhiallahuanhaa) agreed with ‘Umar Radiallahu Anhu . All of them used to perform these twenty three raka’at every night during the month of Ramadan in the masjid of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam.
- This was then adopted as a clearly established practice and consensus of Sahabah Radiallahu Anhum . As a rule of Islamic jurisprudence, any hadith that goes against the clearly established practices and consensus of Sahabah Radiallahu Anhum will not be adopted for practice.
- All four Imams; Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shaf‘i, Imam Malik, and Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (Rahmatullah ‘Alayhim) have asserted that Salat Al-Taraweeh consists of twenty raka’at.
- Imam Ghazzali (Rahmatullah ‘Alay) 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. (IhyaAl-Uloom v1, p208)
- Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam on many occasions has reminded us to follow the Khulafa Al-Rashideen Radiallahu Anhu . He stated with great advice and warning to the Ummah that:
“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.” (Abu Dawood, h3991; Tirmidhi, h2676; Ibn Majah, h42; Musnad Ahmad, h16521; and Daarami, h95)
- Throughout history, in the Haram of Makkah and Madinah, Taraweeh has never been performed less than twenty raka’at.
- All of the great scholars used to perform twenty raka’at for Salat Al-Taraweeh.
- The confusion about the 8 rakat Taraaweeh comes from a hadith narrated by ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa) which has never been applied to Salat Al-Taraweeh by any of the great scholars in the history of Islam.
- Some people have erroneously interpreted Salat Al-Layl as Salat Al-Taraweeh and thus wrongfully concluded that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam prayed only eight raka’at in Salat Al-Taraweeh.
- Never in the history of Islam for 1400 years was there a disagreement among scholars about the number of raka’at in Salat Al-Taraweeh.
- The assertion about the eight raka’at has begun by some in the last one hundred years only.
- None of the Sahabah Radiallahu Anhu including ‘Aisha (Radiallahu anhaa) opposed ‘Umar Radiallahu Anhu in the establishment of twenty raka’at of Salat Al-Taraweeh in congregation. They themselves performed 20 raka’at taraaweeh. Who understood the Sunnah better than the Sahaaba Radiallahu Anhum themselves?
Points taken form an article written by Moulana Zakariyya Memon