Taraweeh – 20 Rakah or 8 Rakah?
With the commencement of Ramadan, the time to argue over matters established by the pious predecessors has arrived once again. The topic of argument is whether taraweeh consists of 20 or 8 rak’ah. Scholars have written myriad of books on this topic with overwhelming evidence, yet our ghair muqallideen brothers and sisters try to insist that it is 8 rak’ah.
It is important to first understand what taraweeh is. This is the prayer which comprises of 20 rak’ah and is offered in sets of 2 rak’ah in Ramadan, after ‘isha salah and before witr. This salah is offered in congregation.
Maulana Jameel Ahmed Sakrodhwi, in “Ashraful Hidayah sharh Al-Hidayah” v.2 p.202, explains:
“Taraweeh is Sunnah Mu’akkadah for both men and women and this is the correct opinion. Imam Abu Hanifa رحمۃ اللہ علیہ is also of the opinion that taraweeh is Sunnah Mu’akkadah.”
Evidence for 20 Rak’ah
Many have recorded a hadith by ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas رضی اللہ عنہ where he is reported to have said:
“During Ramadan, the Messenger ﷺ performed 20 rak’ah salah as well as the witr salah without the congregation.”
This hadith has been recorded by the following:
Ibn Abi Shaybah (rh) in his Musannaf
Imam Bayhaqi (rh) in his Sunan
Tabraani (rh) in his Kabeer
Ibn Adi (rh) in his Musnad
Baghawi (rh) in his Majma Sahabah
Critical Study of the Hadith
The ghair muqallideen try to argue that this particular hadith is not sound. They criticize one person in the chain of narrator called “Ibrahim bin 'Uthman”.
Maulana Allama Muhammad ‘Ali, in “Sharh Muwatta Imam Muhammad” v.1 p.303 explains:
“Bayhaqi has declared this da’eef but not mawdu. Also, weakness of Ibrahim bin Uthman is not a unanimous opinion. In Tahzeeb al-Tahzeeb, v.1 p.145, it is stated ‘Abbas Duri narrates Yahya ibn Mu’een said that Yazid ibn Haroon told him there was not a person more ‘Adil (Just) than Ibrahim bin Uthman in the time.”
Further on, Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali compares him to Ibrahim ibn Hayya and quotes “Lisan al-Mizan”, v.1 p.53:
“Uthman ibn Sa’eed Darmi relates from Yahya ibn Mu’een that Ibrahim ibn Hayya was a sheikh of great magnitude who was trustworthy.”
Moreover, he writes:
“From this it is seen that Yahya ibn Mu’een called Ibrahim ibn Uthman a great just person and has called Ibrahim bin Hayya as a sheikh who was trustworthy and reliable. Ibn ‘Adi has stated Ibrahim bin Uthman is more Afdhal (greater/superior) than Ibrahim bin Hayya. This has been noted in Kamil fi Dh’aeefa al-Rijal, v.1 p.241.”
Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali then concludes:
“This hadith cannot be declared da’eef because of Ibrahim bin Uthman. On the other hand, this narration is strong and trustworthy as seen by evidence above.”
Omitting this Hadith does not affect anything
For argument’s sake, even if we accept this hadith to be not reliable at all, it will not affect the position that taraweeh consists of 20 rak’ah.
Maulana Aziz al-Rahman, in “Aziz al-Fatawa” v.1 p.262, states:
“The hadith being weak will not make a difference because the text of the hadith gets established by the athar of Sahabah (raa) which is present in abundance. Hence, even if we leave out this hadith, the actions and sayings of the Sahabah (raa) can be the evidence of the actions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (saw).”
Mufti Abdul Raheem Lajpuri, in “Fatawa Rahimiyyah” v.2 p.253, writes:
“They fail to realize that there is need for a strong chain of narrators only when there exists a difference of opinion on an issue (such as in the case of saying ‘Ameen’ loudly or softly). However the Fuqaha, Muhadditheen and the entire Ummah throughout the centuries have always accepted and practiced the twenty rakaahs of Taraweeh and this unanimity is in itself a strong enough proof.”
In “Fatawa Rahimiyyah”, v.2 p.253 to 258, Mufti Abdul Raheem Lajpuri gives overwhelming evidence making it clear without a doubt that twenty rak’ah taraweeh salah was accepted by everyone. This is reproduced below:
“Here we will cite a few excerpts making it clear that twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salah has been accepted by the Ummah throughout the ages:
1. Imam Tirmidhi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ [passed away 279 AH] states that ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, ‘Ali رضی اللہ عنہ, Sufyan Thawri رحمۃ اللہ علیہ and Imam Shafi’i رحمۃ اللہ علیہ all accept the taraweeh salah as being twenty Rakaahs. He quoted Imam Shafi’i رحمۃ اللہ علیہ as saying that he saw the people of Makkah performing twenty Rakaahs. (Tirmidhi, v.1 p.99)
2. The famous compilation of Ahadith Kanzul Ummaal (v.2 p.284) reports that after ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ instructed Ubay bin Ka’b رضی اللہ عنہ to lead the people in twenty rak’ah of taraweeh salah, Ubay رضی اللہ عنہ then led the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم and Tabi’een in twenty rak’ah.
3. Bayhaqi (v.1 p.492; Nasbur Ra’yah, v.1 p.294) reports a narration in which Sa’ib bin Yazid رضی اللہ عنہ states that they performed twenty rak’ah taraweeh during the periods of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, ‘Uthman رضی اللہ عنہ and ‘Ali رضی اللہ عنہ.
4. The other narration of Yazid bin Rooman رحمۃ اللہ علیہ in the Muwatta of Imam Malik رحمۃ اللہ علیہ (p.40) states that during the Khilafah of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, people performed 23 rak’ah of taraweeh together with the Witr salah.
5. Ma’rifatus Sitta quotes an authentic narration from Imam Bayhaqi (v.1 p.477; his Sunan Kubra, v.2 p.496) stating that ‘Ali رضی اللہ عنہ summoned the Qurra in Ramadan and appointed someone to lead the people in the twenty rak’ah of taraweeh salah. ‘Ali رضی اللہ عنہ then himself led the witr salah.
6. The Muhaddith ibn Qudaamah رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes in his al-Mughni (v.1 p.803) that the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم were unanimous about performing twenty rak’ah taraweeh.
7. The research of the Muhaddith Ibn Hajar Haythami رحمۃ اللہ علیہ also reveals that the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم were unanimous about performing twenty rak’ah taraweeh. (Tuhfatul Akhyaar, p.197)
8.The famous Hafidh of Hadith Allama Abdul Birr رحمۃ اللہ علیہ says that it is a fact that the Sahabah performed twenty rak’ah taraweeh during Khilafah of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ. (Mirqaat, v.2 p.174)
9. Allama ibn Taymiyyah رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes that Ubay bin Ka’b رضی اللہ عنہ led the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم in twenty rak’ah taraweeh during the Khilafah of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ. (Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah, v.1 p.148). He further writes (v.1 p.191) that because Ubay رضی اللہ عنہ led the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم in twenty rak’ah taraweeh and three rak’ah witr during Ramadan, most ‘Ulema regard this to be a Sunnah because all of the Muhajireen and Ansaar performed the salah without an objection from any of them.
10. Imam Sharaani رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes, “’Umar رضی اللہ عنہ then gave the instruction for 23 rak’ah to be performed, three being the witr salah. This was then practiced in all the cities.” (Kashful Ghumma, v.1 p.167)
11. The famous scholar of Ahl al-Hadith Nawab Siddique Hasan believes that “’Ulema regard as ijma the twenty rak’ah taraweeh salah that was performed during the Khilafah of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ. (Awnul Bari, v.4 p.307)
12. Allama Bahrul Uloom رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes that twenty rak’ah taraweeh became a matter of consensus. (Rasaa’il al-Arkaan, p.138)
13. Allama Ibn al-Humam رحمۃ اللہ علیہ says that consensus was eventually reached that the taraweeh salah comprises of twenty rak’ah and this is what has been passed on from generation to generation. (Fathul Qadeer, v.1 p.407)
14. Allama Ayni رحمۃ اللہ علیہ says, “During the Khilafah of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم performed twenty rak’ah taraweeh and this continued during the Khilafah of ‘Uthman رضی اللہ عنہ and ‘Ali رضی اللہ عنہ. (Ayni’s commentary of Bukhari, v.7 p.178)
15. When Imam Abu Yusuf رحمۃ اللہ علیہ asked Imam Abu Hanifa رحمۃ اللہ علیہ whether ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ had any proof from Rasulallah ﷺ to perform twenty rak’ah taraweeh, Imam Abu Hanifa رحمۃ اللہ علیہ replied, “’Umar رضی اللہ عنہ was never one who perpetrated acts of bid’ah.” (Faydhul Bari, v.2 p.420; Maraaqil Falaah, p.81; Bahrur Raa’iq, v.2 p.66)
16. The Muwatta of Imam Muhammad رحمۃ اللہ علیہ (p.11-12) reads, “We go by this (twenty rak’ah taraweeh)….because the Muslims (the Sahabah) were unanimous about it and saw it to be a good act. It has been reported that Rasulallah ﷺ said, “Whatever the Muslim (the Sahabah) regard as good act, is indeed a good act in the sight of Allah as well.”
17. The following appears in the book Al-Mutaqaa min Akhbaaril Mustafa (p.78), “During the Khilafah of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم and others performed 23 rak’ah, which included the witr salah.”
18. Yahya bin Sa’eed Ansari رحمۃ اللہ علیہ who was the Qadhi of Madinah says that ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ instructed someone to lead the people in twenty rak’ah taraweeh salah. The narration is authentic albeit mursal. (Ibn Abi Saybah, p.406; Aathaarus Sunan, v.2 p.55)
19. Abdul Aziz bin Rafi’ رحمۃ اللہ علیہ says that’s Ubay bin Ka’b رضی اللہ عنہ led the people of Madinah in twenty rak’ah taraweeh and three rak’ah witr. This narration is also authentic albeit mursal. (Ibn Abi Saybah, p.406; Aathaarus Sunan, v.2 p.55)
20. Abul Khaseeb رحمۃ اللہ علیہ says, “Suwayd bin Ghafala رضی اللہ عنہ used to lead us in Ramadan with five resting periods and twenty rak’ah.” The narration is authentic. (Bayhaqi, v.2 p.496; Aathaarus Sunan, v.2 p.55)
21. Shutayr bin Shakal رحمۃ اللہ علیہ who was the student of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud رضی اللہ عنہ used to lead the people in twenty rak’ah taraweeh salah and three rak’ah witr. This narration is also authentic. (Bayhaqi, v.2 p.496; Qiyaamil Layl, p.91; Mirqaat, v.2 p.174)
22. The eminent Tabi’ee and Mufti of Makkah Ataa bin Abi Rabaah رحمۃ اللہ علیہ says that he found the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم and others performing 23 rak’ah (taraweeh salah) together with the witr. (Ibn Ani Shaybah, v.1 p.406; Qiyaamul Layl, p.91, Fath al-Bari, v.4 p.219; Aathaarus Sunan, v.2 p.55)
23. Naafi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ who was the student of ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ says that ibn Mulaykah رحمۃ اللہ علیہ used to lead them in twenty rak’ah taraweeh salah during Ramadan. The narration is authentic. (Aathaarus Sunan, v.2 p.56)
24. A’mash رحمۃ اللہ علیہ reports that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud رضی اللہ عنہ used to perform twenty rak’ah taraweeh salah and three rak’ah witr. (Umdatul Qari, v.11 p.127; Qiyaamul Layl, p.91)
25. Abul Bakhtari رحمۃ اللہ علیہ also took five resting periods and performed three rak’ah witr. (Ibn Abi Shaybah, p.406)
26. Abul Hasana رحمۃ اللہ علیہ says, “’Ali رضی اللہ عنہ instructed someone to lead us in twenty rak’ah taraweeh with five resting periods. (Sunan Kubra of Bayhaqi, v.2 p.496). This narration is authentic. (See Jawaahirun Naqi, v.1 p.208 and Umdatul Qari, v.11 p.127 for details on authenticity)
27. Muhammad bin Ka’b Qurazi رضی اللہ عنہ also says that the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم performed twenty rak’ah taraweeh during the time of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ. (Qiyaamul Layl, p.91)
28. Sa’eed bin Ubayd رحمۃ اللہ علیہ reports that ‘Ali bin Rabee’ah رحمۃ اللہ علیہ took five resting periods and performed three rak’ah witr during Ramadan. This narration is authentic. (Aathaarus Sunan, v.2 p.56)
29. Allama Subki Shafi’i رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes, “We believe that the taraweeh salah is twenty rak’ah, as proven by authentic narrations.” (Sharhul Minhaaj)
30. Abdul Qadir Jaylani رحمۃ اللہ علیہ says, “It comprises of twenty rak’ah with every two rak’ah ending with sitting and salam…a person should make the intention of performing the taraweeh salah before every two rak’ah.” (Ghunyatut Talibeen, v.2 p.10-11)
31. Imam Ghazali رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes, “The taraweeh salah comprises of twenty rak’ah and is Sunnah Mu’akkadah. The method of performing it is well known.” (Ihyaa’ul Uloom, v.1 p.208). He also writes, “Twenty rak’ah is the opinion of the consensus of ‘Ulema because of the narration of Yazid bin Rooman رحمۃ اللہ علیہ in the Muwatta of Imam Malik رحمۃ اللہ علیہ, stating that during the Khilafah of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, people performed 23 rak’ah of taraweeh together with witr salah. (Ihyaa’ul Uloom, v.2 p.66)
32. Ahmad Roomi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ says, “There were a great number of Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم present at the time (when ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ instructed Ubay رضی اللہ عنہ to lead them in twenty rak’ah taraweeh). Amongs them were ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, ‘Abbas and his son, Talha, Zubayr, Mu’aadh and many other Muhajireen and Ansar رضی اللہ عنھم. None of them objected to ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, but rather supported him and practiced accordingly with steadfastness. In fact, ‘Ali made du’a for ‘Umar saying, “May Allah illuminate his grave just as he illuminated our Masaajid.” Rasulallah ﷺ also said, “Hold fast to my practices and the practices of the rightly guided Khalifahs after me.” The taraweeh salah comprises twenty rak’ah”. (Majaalisul Abrar, p.187)
33. Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ also writes that the taraweeh salah during the times of the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم and tabi’een comprised of twenty rak’ah. (Hujjatullahi Baaligha, v.2 p.67)
34. Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ also mentions that consensus was reached amongst the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم to perform twenty rak’ah taraweeh and three rak’ah witr. (Majmoo’ah Fatawa Azizi, v.1 p.162)
35. Maulana Qutbud Deen Khan Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ also mentions that consensus was reached amongst the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم to perform twenty rak’ah taraweeh. (Mazaahirul Haqq, v.1 p.433)
36. Allama Shabbir Ahmed Uthmani رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes that since none of the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم ever differed about the twenty rak’ah, all scholars are unanimous about it. (Fathul Mulhim, v.2 p.320)
Allama Nawawi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes in his commentary of Muslim that the twenty rak’ah taraweeh is a hallmark of Islam just like the Eid salahs (v.1 p.259). Therefore, the Ta’leeqaat of Hidayah (v.1 p.131) states that anyone performing only eight rak’ah of taraweeh will be guilty of forsaking the Sunnah.”
There is an ocean of evidence proving the legitimacy of 20 rak’ah taraweeh salah. As seen from the quotes above, the Sahabah used to offer taraweeh in this manner. Not a single person from among the Sahabah ever stepped forward to say that the number of rak’ah are not 20 but are 8. Throughout the ages everyone agreed to the number being twenty, and now the ghair muqallideen all of a sudden claim that it is 8 rak’ah. They are going against practically all the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم and the generations after them.
Response to Arguments by Ghair Muqalideen
The evidences and arguments presented by the ghair muqalideen will now be addressed. While they present a couple of ahadith to prove their stance, it will be seen that all such so-called evidences that they present are nothing but misinterpretations and misrepresentations. Below one by one all their claims will be addressed categorically.
The Hadith of ‘Ayesha (ra) stating 11 Rak’ah
A ghair muqallid Imam, Muhammad bin Salih al-‘Uthaimeen, in “Fatawa Arkanul Islam”, v.2 p.509, states:
“The Taraweeh prayer is a Sunnah which was prescribed by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ….As for the number of rak’ah, it is eleven according to what has been reported in the Two Sahihs on the authority of ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا. She was asked how the prayer of the Prophet ﷺ was in Ramadan, and she said: ‘He did not pray more than eleven rak’ah, neither in Ramadan, nor in any other month.’ (Reported by al-Bukhari in the Book of Tahajjud, in the Chapter: The Night Prayer of the Prophet (1147); and by Muslim in the Book of the Travelers’ Prayers, in the Chapter: The Night Prayers (125).”
While ‘Uthaimeen claims this hadith refers to Taraweeh, it is apparent from the text of the complete hadith, that ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا, is referring to Tahajjud salah. The complete hadith, as recorded in Sahih Bukhari, is reproduced below:
Narrated Abu Salma bin ‘Abdur Rahman:
I asked ‘Ayesha, “How is the prayer of Allah’s Apostle ﷺ during the month of Ramadan.” She said, “Allah’s Apostle ﷺ never exceeded eleven Rakat in Ramadan or in other months; he used to offer four Rakat – do not ask me about their beauty and length, then four Rakat, do not ask me about their beauty and length, and then three Rakat.” Aisha further said, “I said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle ﷺ! Do you sleep before offering the Witr prayer?’ He replied, ‘O ‘Ayesha! My eyes sleep but my heart remains awake!’”
Explaining this hadith, Mufti Taqi Uthmani in “Inamul Bari”, v.4 p.283, writes:
“I say this hadith is not about taraweeh, rather it is about tahajjud. The evidence rests here that taraweeh is offered in the first part of the night and tahajjud is offered in the last part of the night. In this hadith it is seen, ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا asks the Prophet ﷺ, “Do you sleep before offering the Witr prayer?” This shows that ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا saw the Messenger ﷺ offer these in the last part of the night.
The Messenger’s ﷺ directives to offer taraweeh was for the first part of the night. The evidence is that all the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم would offer taraweeh in the first part of the night.
When the Messenger led the congregation for three days, this was also done in the first part of the night. Thus, it is proven that taraweeh was offered in the first part of the night and the discussion in the hadith is regarding the last part of the night. This means, what is being discussed in the hadith is regarding tahajjud and not taraweeh.”
In “Kowkabud Daraaree”, v.9 p.155-156, Shams ud-Deen Kirmani states that the question and the reply, both concern the tahajjud salah. Moreover, even if one says that this hadith seems to contradict the hadith where the prophet (saw) led the congregation of Sahabah with 20 rak’ah, Allama Kirmani states that there is no contradiction as this hadith of 20 rak’ah affirms the actions of the prophet (saw) and thus will be given preference over any narration that seems to negate it. He states that this is the principle which is adopted in the case of an apparent contradiction.
Both Shah Abdul Haqq Muhaddith Dehlawi (Ashi’atul Lam’aat, v.2 p.544) and Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi (Fatawa Azizi, v.1 p.125) have stated that the 11 rak’ah performed by the Messenger of Allah (saw) were the tahajjud salah.
Maulana Zafar Ahmad Uthamani, in “Imdad al-Ahkam”, v.1 p.639-640 analyses this hadith and states:
“Ghair muqallideen should take into consideration all the narrations of ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا regarding the Night Prayer which are present in Bukhari, Muslim and the four Sunan. If all the narrations would have been considered then they would never have dared to use this hadith as evidence because although this narration of ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا states that it is 11 rak’ah, others in Bukhari state it was 13, some others in Muslim state that after witr 2 rak’ah were prayed while seated making the total 15 rak’ah. Yet, other narrations state it was 17. Thus, Imam Qurtubi in Sharh Muslim states that many people of knowledge doubt the narrations of ‘Ayesha (ra) and some ‘ulema have said her hadith is ‘muztarab’. For reference see Fath al-Bari, v.3 p.17.
Whoever has studied ‘usool al-hadith would know that it is incorrect to use ‘muztarab’ hadith as evidence or proof unless the confusion and disturbance in the hadith is not removed….It should also be taken into consideration that ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا, in other narrations have stated that Prophet Muhammad (saw) would do a lot more ‘ibadah in Ramadan as compared to other days. Then why is it that both in Ramadan and otherwise he would offer only 11 rak’ah?”
Mufti Abdul Raheem Lajpuri, in “Fatawa Rahimiyyah” v.2 p.278-279 writes:
“The essence of it all is that the narration in question cannot be used to prove eight rak’ah taraweeh. On the contrary, the narration of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas رضی اللہ عنہ proves twenty rak’ah and it is this that the Ummah has been practicing. Consider the following statements:
1. Imam Malik رحمۃ اللہ علیہ said that when there are two conflicting narrations about what Rasulallah (saw) did and it is known that Abu Bakr رضی اللہ عنہ and ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ practiced on one of them and not the other, what they do will be sufficient to prove that this is the right way. (Ta’leequl Mumajjad, p.44)
2. Imam Abu Dawood Sajistaani رحمۃ اللہ علیہ said, “When there are two conflicting narrations about what Rasulallah ﷺ did, it must be seen what the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم did. (Abu Dawood, v.1 p.263)
3. Imam Abu Bakr Jassaas رحمۃ اللہ علیہ also said that when there are two conflicting narrations about what Rasulallah ﷺ did and it is known that our pious predecessors practiced on one of them, the one they practiced on will be best to practice on. (Ahkaamul Qur’an, v.1 p.17)
4. Imam Bayhaqi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ reports that ‘Uthman Daarmi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ said, “When ahadith of one subject conflict with each other and the most acceptable cannot be determined, it will be seen what the Khulafaa Raashideen did after Rasulallah ﷺ. In this manner, we will be able to choose a viewpoint. (Fathul Bari, v.2 p.269)
5. Khateeb Baghdadi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ reports that Imam Malik رحمۃ اللہ علیہ said, “if we were to practice the hadith stating that the followers should sit and perform salah when the Imam does, then the leaders Abu Bakr رضی اللہ عنہ, ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ and ‘Uthman رضی اللہ عنہ would have practiced accordingly.” (Tareekh Baghdadi, v.6 p.247)
6. Muhaqqiq ibn Humam رحمۃ اللہ علیہ wrote that the fact that ‘Ulema practice on a hadith lends to its authenticity. (Fathul Qadeer, v.3 p.349)
7. Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes, “The consensus of the pious predecessors and what they had passed on from generation to generation is a great source of proof in Islamic Jurisprudence. (Izaalatul Khifaa, v.2 p.85)
8. Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ writes, “The understanding of the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم and the Tabi’een is a criterion for right and wrong. It is wajib to accept what they understood from the teachings of Rasulallah ﷺ as they kept the conditions and words of Rasulallah ﷺ in mind.” (Fatawa Azizi, v.1 p.157)”
Misconception that Taraweeh and Tahajjud is same
Muhammad bin Salih al-‘Uthaimeen in “Fatawa Arkanul Islam”, v.2 p.509 continues to state in his fatwa:
“If one prayed thirteen rak’ah, then there is no objection, according to the words of ibn ‘Abbas رضی اللہ عنہ: ‘The prayer of the prophet ﷺ was thirteen rak’ah. That is, the night prayer.’” [Reported by Al-Bukhari in the Book of Tahajjud, in the Chapter: The Manner of the Prophet’s Prayer, Hadith (1138); and it was reported by Muslim in the Book of the Travelers’ Prayers, in the Chapter: The Supplication in the Night Prayer, Hadith 194 (764)]
Here ‘Uthaimeen uses the hadith regarding the number of tahajjud rak’ah the prophet ﷺ would pray to prove that taraweeh consists of eight rak’ah.
Another ghair muqallid Imam, Maulana Mahmood Ahmed Mirpuri, in “Fatawa Sirat-e-Mustaqeem”, p.180 writes:
“It is confirmed by authentic Ahadith that Tahajjud itself is Taraweeh. As in Tirmidhi, narrated by Abu Dhar, it says:
'One Ramadan we fasted with the Prophet ﷺ and he did not pray with us at night. In the last 7 days, the Prophet ﷺ prayed with us in one third of the night. On the 25th night we prayed with him for half of the night. We said it would be a pleasure if the Prophet ﷺ prayed all night with us, but he replied, ‘If someone prays with the Imam and returns home, it is considered that he has prayed the whole night.’ Then on the 27th night, we joined family members in prayer and prayed till we were doubtful of missing Sahoor.'
This Hadith shows that the Prophet (saw) prayed with his companions, almost throughout the night. So, when did he pray Tahajjud prayer separately?”
Two points need to be addressed here. First one is whether taraweeh and tahajjud are the same prayer. The second is whether tahajjud was fardh on the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ or not. Once both these points are addressed, the so called evidence used by the ghair muqallid Imams will not be able to prove the number of rak’ah of taraweeh.
Taraweeh and Tahajjud are not the same
Taraweeh and tahajjud are two different prayers. As seen earlier, the taraweeh salah is performed in the first part of the night while the tahajjud is performed in the last part of the night. Further, the tahajjud has to be performed after one has wakes up from sleep. Taraweeh is performed before one sleeps.
Mufti Muhammad Shariful Haq Amjadi, in “Nuzhatul Qari”, v.2 p.687-688, writes:
“Ghair Muqallideen claim that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ only prayed tahajjud in Ramadan. For us, both tahajjud and taraweeh are Sunnah in Ramadan. The evidence for this is the saying of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ: ‘the prayer which they do not perform, but sleep at its time is better than the one they are offering.’”
The hadith in which this saying of ‘Umar is found is in Sahih Bukhari in the Book of Taraweeh.
He further writes:
“To state one salah is better than the other, is evidence that these are two different salahs and not the same. Further evidence is that for tahajjud it is necessary for one to sleep after ‘isha and then wake up to perform it. Tabraani, in Kabir and Ausat, has narrated from Hajaj bin ‘Umro (ra) that he said ‘you think that if you pray all night till morning, you have offered tahajjud. This is incorrect. Tahajjud can only be offered after sleep.’ This is also apparent from the meaning of the word ‘tahajjud’.”
Allah (swt) says in the Quran in Surah al-Isra’ (17):
وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَّكَ عَسَى أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَّحْمُودًا
Wamina allayli fatahajjad bihi nafilatan laka AAasa an yabAAathaka rabbuka maqaman mahmoodan
And during the night, wake up for Salah of tahajjud, an additional prayer for you. It is very likely that your Lord will place you at Praised Station. [17:79]
Ibn Kathir, in his tafsir of the above verse, writes:
“(The Night prayer) Allah commanded His Messenger to pray the Night prayer after offering the prescribed prayers, and the term Tahajjud refers to prayer that is offered after sleeping. This was the view of ‘Alqamah, Al-Aswad, Ibrahim An-Nakha’i and others. It is also well-known from the Arabic language itself. A number of Ahadith report that the Messenger of Allah used to pray Tahajjud after he had slept. These include reports from Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Ayesha and other Companions, may Allah be pleased with them.”
Mufti Muhammad Shariful Haq Amjadi, further writes on p.689:
“No one sleeps before taraweeh. Hence, it is extremely wrong to say that taraweeh is the same as tahajjud.”
Was Tahajjud Fardh on the Messenger ﷺ
To address the argument of Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Mirpuri, it is important to first assess whether tahajjud was fardh on the prophet Muhammad ﷺ or not.
The ghair muqallid Imam Maulana Mirpuri writes in his “Fatawa Sirat-e-Mustaqeem”, p.180:
“Tahajjud was obligatory for the Prophet ﷺ as mentioned in Surah al-Muzzammil:
قُمِ اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا
نِصْفَهُ أَوِ انقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا
أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا
Qumi allayla illa qaleelan Nisfahu awi onqus minhu qaleelan Aw zid AAalayhi warattili alqurana tarteelan
Stand (to prayer) by night, but not all night, Half of it, or a little less, Or a little more; and recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones. [73:2-4]
Tahajjud is also recommended for us all.”
A lengthy hadith reported in Sahih Muslim addresses this issue. It mentions Sa’d bin Hisham bin ‘Amir who asked ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا about the tahajjud salah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Below is the reply by ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا:
She said: Did you not recite: “O thou wrapped up?” He said: Yes. She said: Allah, the Exalted and the Glorious, made the observance of the night prayer at the beginning of this Surah obligatory.
So the Apostle of Allah ﷺ and his Companions around him observed this (night prayer) for one year. Allah held back the concluding portion of this Surah for twelve months in the Heaven till (at the end of this period) Allah revealed the concluding verses of this Surah which lightened (the burden of this prayer), and the night prayer became a supererogatory prayer after being an obligatory one.
This hadith clearly mentions that the tahajjud was not always fardh on the prophet Muhammad (saw) throughout his life. Tahajjud was only fardh on him for a specific period of time. After this the fardh was abrogated and it became Nafl.
Imam Nawawi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ in Sharh Sahih Muslim, v.3 p.2240 writes:
“This is correct that tahajjud was later made nafl on the prophet ﷺ and the Ummah. There is some difference of opinion regarding the abrogation of fardh of tahajjud for the prophet Muhammad ﷺ. For us, the opinion is correct which is seen in the hadith that it was abrogated and was not fardh anymore.”
Allama Ghulam Rasul Sa’eedi, in Tibyan al Quran, v.12 p.337, quotes Imam Abu al-’Abbas Ahmed bin ‘Umar bin Ibrahim Maliki Qurtubi to have said:
“The clear text of what ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا said is evidence that at first the tahajjud salah was fardh on the prophet Muhammad ﷺ and other Muslims but later it was abrogated. In the initial verses of Surah Muzzammil, it is stated, ‘Stand (to prayer) by night, but not all night, Half of it, or a little less, Or a little more.’ Such wordings are not the sign of the obligation of something. This only signifies it being mustahab.”
Further evidence for abrogation is found in Surah Bani Israel (17) where the following verse is seen:
وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَّكَ عَسَى أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَّحْمُودًا
Wamina allayli fatahajjad bihi nafilatan laka AAasa an yabAAathaka rabbuka maqaman mahmoodan
And during the night, wake up for Salah of tahajjud, an additional prayer for you. It is very likely that your Lord will place you at Praised Station. [17:79]
Mufti Shafi’ Uthmani رحمۃ اللہ علیہ, in Ma’ariful Qur’an, v.5 p.535 states:
“However, difference did exist about its obligatory nature. Was it abrogated in the case of the Holy Prophet (saw)? Or, did it remain an obligation on him as a matter of special consideration – and in the verse, the expression ‘nafilatan laka’ means exactly that ‘the prayer of tahajjud is an additional obligation on you.’
But according to Tafsir al-Qurtubi, this is not correct for many reasons. Firstly, there is no justification for taking nafl as fardh. If it is supposed to be figurative speech, then, there will be no reality against it. Secondly, in authentic ahadith only five fixed prayers have been mentioned as obligatory. At the end of another hadith, it has been said that the fifty prayers made obligatory initially in the nocturnal journey of the Mi’raj were later reduced in number and set at five. Thus, the number was, though, reduced but the reward promised against these was that of no less than fifty. Then it was said ‘The world (given to My servants) will not be changed with Me’ [50:29]. It means: When the command was given for fifty, the reward shall be given for no less than fifty, though the number to be actually performed was reduced.”
Further, he explains:
“Had the word ‘nafilah’ been used here in the sense of an additional duty, then, rather than using the word ‘lak’ (for you) after it, the word used should have been ‘alaik’ (on you) since the latter signifies obligation while the word ‘lak’ is used only for approval and permission.”
Imam Raazi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ in Tafsir Kabeer, v.10 p.682 writes:
“Just like the fast of ‘Ashura was abrogated with the fasts of Ramadan, similarly, with the obligation of five prayers, the obligation of tahajjud was abrogated.”
Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani رحمۃ اللہ علیہ, in Fath al-Bari, v.3 p.24 writes:
“The obligation of tahajjud was abrogated by the obligation of five prayers.”
Coming to the original argument
The ghair muqallid imam, Maulana Mahmood Ahmed Mirpuri, after quoting a hadith from Tirmidhi asks the question:
“This Hadith shows that the Prophet ﷺ prayed with his companions, almost throughout the night. So, when did he pray Tahajjud prayer separately?”
This part has been reiterated here and the entire quote is present above.
It has been established that tahajjud was not fardh on the prophet Muhammad ﷺ and hence even if one says that he missed it, it is not as if he was missing out a fardh salah.
Secondly, from the text of the hadith it is apparent that the companions joined their family members in prayers and prayed. It does not mention the inclusion of the prophet Muhammad ﷺ in this all night long prayer.
The hadith is reproduced again:
“One Ramadan we fasted with the Prophet ﷺ and he did not pray with us at night. In the last 7 days, the Prophet ﷺ prayed with us in one third of the night. On the 25th night we prayed with him for half of the night. We said it would be a pleasure if the Prophet ﷺ prayed all night with us, but he replied, ‘If someone prays with the Imam and returns home, it is considered that he has prayed the whole night.’ Then on the 27th night, we joined family members in prayer and prayed till we were doubtful of missing Sahoor.”
Even if we take the hadith as it is, Maulana Mahmood Ahmed has made an assumption that the prophet Muhammad ﷺ did not ever miss out tahajjud.
“Ma’ariful Hadith”, v.2 p.253 quotes a hadith from ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا recorded in Sahih Muslim:
“It is related on the authority of ‘Ayesha (ra) that when due to illness or some other reason the Prophet (saw) missed the Tahajjud prayer, he offered 12 rak’ah during the day in the place of that.”
Secondly, the hadith shows doubt of missing Sahoor. This is not a definite statement that they did miss Sahoor. Hence it is ridiculous to assume that just because they doubted missing Sahoor, they really did miss Sahoor. This was just a doubt and there is still the possibility that the Prophet ﷺ left the companions and offered Tahajjud.
In another, tradition we also see the following words are used, "ثُمَّ دَخَلَ رَحْلَهُ فَصَلَّى صَلَاةً لَا يُصَلِّيهَا عِنْدَنَا", which means, "he entered his house and offered a salah which he did not offer with us." This hadith is reported in Sahih Muslim as well as Musnad Imam Ahmad. The one is Sahih Muslim, found in Kitab al-Saum, Baab al-Nahi 'an al-Wisal fi al-Saum, is reproduced below:
Anas رضی اللہ عنہ reported The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was observing prayer during Ramadan. I came and stood by his side. Then another man came and he stood likewise till we became a group. When the Apostle of Allah ﷺ perceived that we were behind him, he lightened the prayer. He then went to his abode and observed such a prayer he never observed with us. When it was morning we said to him: Did you perceive us during the night? Upon this he said: Yes, it was this that induced me to do that which I did. He (the narrator) said: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ began to observe Saum Wisal at the end of the month, and some persons among his Companions began to observe this uninterrupted fast, whereupon the Apostle of Allah ﷺ said: What about such persons who observe uninterrupted fasts? You are not like me. By Allah. if the month were lengthened for me, I would have observed Saum Wisal, so that those who act with an exaggeration would (have been obliged) to abandon their exaggeration.
This makes it clear that the salah which Rasulullah ﷺ offered without the companions was a different salah and it was Tahajjud. Such a differentiation was also made by 'Umar رضی اللہ عنہ as we have noted above.
Hadith where ‘Umar (ra) ordered for 11 rak’ah Taraweeh
In “Fatawa Arkanul Islam”, v.2 p.511, the ghair muqallid Imam Muhammad bin Salih al-‘Uthaimeen writes:
“What is confirmed from ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, is that he prayed eleven rak’ah, since he ordered Ubay bin Ka’b and Tamim Ad-Dari رضی اللہ عنھما to stand for the people and pray eleven rak’ah. [Reported by Malik in the Book of Prayer, in the Chapter on the Night Prayer in Ramadan (280)].”
This hadith has been recorded by Imam Malik through Sa’ib bin Yazid رضی اللہ عنہ. This Sa’ib bin Yazid رضی اللہ عنہ is the same person who has also reported the following hadith as recorded in Baihaqi, v.2 p.496:
“Sa’ib bin Yazid رضی اللہ عنہ said that in the time of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, people would offer 20 rak’ah in the month of Ramadan. The person leading the prayer would recite Surahs which had about hundred verses. People at the time of ‘Uthman رضی اللہ عنہ would lean on their sticks as they had to stand up for very long.”
Moreover, Hafidh Abdul Birr writes in al-Tamheed, v.8 p.114-115:
“Imam Malik رحمۃ اللہ علیہ has written this hadith from Muhammad ibn Yusuf who heard it from Sa’ib ibn Yazid. This hadith talks about taraweeh being 11 rak’ah. Other Muhadditheen have recorded ahadith with the same isnad, which mentions 21 rak’ah (20 for taraweeh and 1 for witr). Harith bin Abdul Rahman bin Abi al-Zabab has narrated from Sa’ib bin Yazid that in the times of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ we used to end taraweeh when it was almost dawn. In his Khilafah, taraweeh was 23 rak’ah (including 3 witr).”
This makes it clear that from the same isnad that Imam Malik has reported 11 rak’ah, 21 rak’ah is also reported by other Muhadditheen. Moreover, from the same Sa’ib bin Yazid, 23 rak’ah is also reported.
Imam Malik رحمۃ اللہ علیہ, after quoting the hadith of 11 rak’ah, quotes the following hadith in his Muwatta, v.1 p.98:
“Yazid bin Rooman said that during the Khilafah of ‘Umar ibn al Khattab رضی اللہ عنہ, people would offer 23 rak’ah taraweeh in Ramadan (including 3 witr).”
Allama Ghulam Rasul Sa’eedi in Sharh Muslim v.2 p.498 writes:
“Imam Malik from Muhammad bin Yusuf from Sa’ib bin Yazid has narrated 11 rak’ah. However, Hafidh Abdul Razzak and others, from Muhammad bin Yusuf from Sa’ib bin Yazid have narrated 20 rak’ah and Ibn Nasr has also narrated 20 rak’ah from Sa’ib bin Yazid. This makes it clear that the narration recorded by Imam Malik is not correct.”
However, even if we accept that the hadith recorded by Imam Malik of 11 rak’ah is correct, the only explanation which can be given to reconcile all the ahadith from Sa’ib bin Yazid is that at first the Sahabah offered 11 rak’ah but then they offered 20 rak’ah.
Imam Baihaqi in “al-Sunan al Kubra”, v.2 p.496 writes:
“Reconciliation among these narrations can be brought in the way that the Sahabah رضی اللہ عنھم offered 11 rak’ah but later offered 20 rak’ah taraweeh and 3 rak’ah witr.”
The evidence for this explanation is seen from the practice of ‘Uthman and ‘Ali رضی اللہ عنھما. Refer to the evidences given above to prove 20 rak’ah taraweeh.
Mullah Ali Qari in “Mirqat Sharh al-Mishkat”, v.3 p.123, after quoting this hadith writes:
“And this order for 11 rak’ah was in the beginning because Abdul Birr says the narration of 11 rak’ah was due to doubt and the sahih narration is that it was 20 rak’ah during the time of ‘Umar رضی اللہ عنہ.”
Thus, the narration of 11 rak’ah from Sa’ib bin Yazid cannot be taken as evidence because of the discrepancies in the number of rak’ah which comes through the same person. At best, it can be said that due to some doubt created in his mind he mentioned 11, otherwise he has also mentioned the numbers 21 and 23 (including 1 witr and 3 witr respectively).
Hadith of Jabir bin ‘Abdullah mentioning 8 Rak’ah
In Fath al-Bari, v.1 p.597, the hadith of Jabir bin ‘Abdullah رضی اللہ عنہ is mentioned where he says the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ prayed only 8 rak’ah taraweeh in Ramadan. The ghair muqallideen use this hadith as evidence to prove their stand.
Mufti Kifayatullah, in “Kifayatul Mufti”, v.3 p.399, while commenting on this hadith says:
“The hadith of Jabir رضی اللہ عنہ, which has been recorded by Tabraani, Marozi, Ibn Khuzaima and Ibn Hibban, has ‘Isa bin Jariya in the chain of narrators. This narrator has been declared Munkar of hadith by Imam Abu Dawood and Imam Nasa’i has declared him to be Matrook and Munkar of hadith.”
Mufti Abdul Raheem Lajpuri, in “Fatawa Rahimiyyah”, v.2 p.280, has given a detailed analysis of the chain of narrators of this hadith. He writes:
“The strange thing about it is that the chain of narrators has no credence whatsoever. One of the narrators of hadith is a person named ibn Humayd Himyari. This is what the critics of narrators have to say about him [Mizaanul I’tidaal, v.3 p.49-50]:
1. ‘He is weak’ – Hafidh Dhahabi رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
2. ‘He narrates many unacceptable (Munkar) narrations’ – Ya’qoob bin Shaybah رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
3. ‘There are objections raised against him’ – Imam Bukhari رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
4. ‘He lies’ – Abu Zur’ah رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
5. ‘I can testify that he is a liar’ – Ishaaq Kowsaj رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
‘He narrated Ahadith about everything. I have never seen anyone as daring as he is against Allah (swt) because he takes Ahadith from others and completely distorts them’ – Saalih Jazrah (rh)
1. ‘I swear by Allah that he is a liar’ – Ibn Kharaash رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
2. ‘He is unreliable’ – Imam Nasa’i رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
The chain of narrators also contains a narrator called Ya’qoob bin ‘Abdullah Ash’ari Alqami, about whom the critics have the following to say:
‘He is not at all reliable’ – Imam Daar Qutni رحمۃ اللہ علیہ [Mizaanul I’tidaal, v.3 p.324]
About a third narrator, the critics have the following to say:
1. ‘He is responsible for many unacceptable (Munkar) narrations’ – Ibn Ma’een رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
2. ‘His narrations are unacceptable (Munkar) – Imam Nasa’i رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
3. ‘His narrations are ignored (Matrook)’ – Imam Nisa’i رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
4. ‘His narrations are unacceptable (Munkar)’ – Imam Abu Dawood رحمۃ اللہ علیہ
5. ‘He is amongst the weak narrators’ [Mizaanul I’tidaal, v.2 p.311]”
Indeed it is quite strange that the ghair muqallideen would use such a hadith as evidence.
The matter is quite clear that the number of rak’ah of taraweeh during the time of the companions رضی اللہ عنھم was 20. This has been established through many narrations. While the four Imams (Abu Hanifa, Shafi’, Malik, Hanbal) disagree in the total number of raka’ah of taraweeh, none of them has given a figure below 20. Taraweeh being 8 rak’ah is not supported by any of them. The ‘ijma of the companions رضی اللہ عنھم holds to be the last word on this subject for the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said that after him we should hold fast to the practices of the rightly guided khalifahs.
By Ebrahim Saifuddin