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Sunday, 12 Ramadan 1431
(a) Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reports that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) never prayed more than 8 rak'aats in Taraweeh, so how come nobody disapproves of 20?
(b) Is it true that Umar (Allah be pleased with him) introduced it?
(a) As regards the Taraweeh prayer - people agree that the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and the best way is 11 rak'aats. As regards any addition - then this is DISAPPROVED of and DECLARED AS A BID'AH (A bad innovation).
(b) It is not true that Umar (Allah be pleased with him) either prayed or ordered 20 rak'aats. Rather he ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b to lead the people with 11 rak'aats (al-Muwatta 1/137, with a Sahih Isnad).
It should be said that the vast MAJORITY of the scholars of Hadith, Fiqh, and even the four Mujtahid Imams are in agreement that 20 rak'ahs are the most appropriate, followed by 3 rak'ahs of Witr.
First, it should be said that the Hadith reported from Sayyidah Aisha (Radhi Allahu Anhaa) about 11 rak'ahs is not at all to do with Taraweeh, according to the majority of scholars, but in fact concerns the number of rak'ahs of TAHAJJUD prayer! The Hadith in question is as follows:
Narrated Abu Salama ibn Abdur Rahman that he asked Aisha (Allah be pleased with her), "How was the prayer of Allah's Apostle (Peace be upon him) in Ramadan?" She replied, "He did not pray more than eleven raka'at in Ramadan or in any other month. He used to pray four raka'at - let alone their beauty and length - and then he would pray four - let alone their beauty and length - and then he would pray three rak'aat (witr)." She added, "I asked, 'O Allah's Apostle! Do you sleep before praying the Witr?' He replied, 'O Aisha, My eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep.'" (Bukhari, 3/230, English edn)
According to the author of "Fatawa Rahimiyyah", Mufti Abdur Rahim Lajpuri (vol. 1, pg. 275); in his defence of 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh: "The commentator of al-Sahih al-Bukhari and the erudite traditionist, Shaykh Shamsud-Din al-Kermani (d. 786 AH; Rahimahullah) said: 'In the Hadith (above), the Tahajjud prayer is meant. Abu Salama's question and Hadrat Aisha's answer concerned the Tahajjud.' He adds further: 'If the Tahajjud prayer is not meant, then this tradition will be at variance with the tradition that states that the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) led twenty rak'ahs each for two nights, and in the case of such clash the tradition of twenty rakah's which is affirmative (muthbit) shall have precedence because according to the principles of Hadith, the affirmative takes precedence over the negative (naaf)" (vide: Al-Kawakib ud-Durari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 9, pg 155-156). We say, does this not mean that people who perform 8 rak'ahs of Taraweeh, should pray 20 rak'ahs instead? Since according to the principles of Hadith, "The affirmative takes precedence over the negative in certain cases."
A great fact that should also be noted by the reader is that the Imam's of Hadith have placed the Hadith from Sayyidah Aisha (Radhi Allahu Anha) under the section of Tahajjud prayers, which indicates their belief that the Hadith applies to Tahajjud only. The Imam al-Muhaddithin al-Bukhari (Radhi Allahu ta'ala Anhu) has placed the Hadith from Sayyidah Aisha under at least two sections of his Sahih, first under the section of '21: The Tahajjud Prayer at Night' (see Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 2, chapter 15, no. 248, English ed'n) and then under the section of '32: The Book of Taraweeh Prayers' (see Sahih al-Bukhari, 3/230, pg. 128 English ed'n). This means that al-Imam Bukhari believed that the prayer mentioned by Aisha was that of Tahajjud only, and since the Tahajjud prayer is performed also in Ramadan, then Imam Bukhari also quoted the same Hadith under 'The book of Taraweeh prayers', but Allah knows best. Imam Muslim (Rahimahullah) has also placed the Hadith from Aisha under the Tahajjud prayer section (see Sahih Muslim 1/1607, pg. 356, English ed'n). Also Imam Malik (Rahimahullah) has placed Sayyidah Aisha's Hadith under the Book of Tahajjud (see Al-Muwatta, Book 7, section 7.2, no. 9, pg. 5, English ed'n). Al-Imam Abi Dawud (Rahimahullah) has also placed the same Hadith under the chapter 'On the number of Rak'ahs of the prayer at night (Tahajjud)' (see Abi Dawud 1/1336, pg. 351, English version). Even Imam's Tirmidhi and Nisai (Allah's mercy be upon them) placed Aisha's Hadith under the Tahajjud section (see Tirmidhi, vol. 1, pg. 58 and Nisai, vol. 1, pg. 154).
Mufti Abdur Rahim said about Sayyidah Aisha's (radhi Allahu anha) Hadith: "And if this tradition may have been quoted in some book under the devotions of Ramadan along with the Taraweeh. Like the taraweeh, the Tahajjud, too, is a prayer of Ramadan, and because of this affinity, it can be mentioned along with the Taraweeh (as Imam Bukhari did). Hence, supposing it may have been mentioned in some book, it cannot be made thereby a categorical argument. 'When uncertainty creeps in, the argument is falsified.' Moreover, Hafiz al-Hadith Imam Qurtubi's (d. 671/1273; Rahimahullah) statement regarding this Hadith (of Aisha) should not be overlooked that, 'many a man of knowledge considers the aforesaid Hadith mudtarib (i.e. confounded).'" (vide: Imam Ayni in his Sharh Sahih al Bukhari, vol. 2, pg. 187).
In short, the aforesaid report is in no way a proof for eight rak'ahs of Taraweeh. In contradistinction to this, as regards the twenty rak'ahs the Companions Consensus (Ijma-as-Sahaba) has taken place over the approval of Hadhrat Ibn Abbas' (Radhi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu) Hadith (about 20 Rak'ahs being performed by the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him) and practically the majority of Ulama have accepted it." (Fatawa Rahimmiyah, vol. 1, pg 276-277).
Although Sayyidah Aisha (Radhi Allahu Anha) had said: "He did not pray more than 11 Raka'at," we also have reports from her that the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) also prayed more than 11 Raka'ats! The proof for this was given by her in another narration involving Abu Salama ibn Abdur-Rahman (Rahimahullah). Abu Salama asked Aisha about the prayer of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), she said, "He observed 13 Raka'ahs (in the night prayer). He observed 8 raka'ahs and would then observe (three rak'ahs of) witr and then observe two raka'ahs sitting (nafl prayer), and when he wanted to bow he stood up and then bowed down, and then he observed two raka'ahs in between the Azan and Iqama of the dawn prayer (i.e. fajr)." (See Sahih Muslim 1/1603, pg. 357).
Now, the statement 'the best way is 11 rak'aats' is only the opinion of a small group of the ulama, in fact there are more than 50 opinions to say that the best way is 20 rak'ahs according to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) practise! What is more interesting to note is that the four great Mujtahids, Abu Hanifah, Malik ibn Anas, Muhammad bin Idris Shafi'i al-Hashimi, and Ahmad ibn Hambal (Radhi Allahu Anhu) are in agreement that the Taraweeh consists of twenty Rak'ahs. The statement that al-Imam Malik approved of eight Rak'ahs needs to be proved, most likely this ascription was made to him because he quoted the Hadith which is used to prove eight Rak'ahs of Taraweeh in his al-Muwatta (see Muwatta, 6.2, no. 4, pg. 48) by a small group of scholars. Although al-Imam Malik (Rahimahullah) quoted this Hadith in his book, it has no bearing on what his actual opinion and practise was, on the contrary al-Imam Malik believes in thirty-six rak'ahs of Taraweeh (i.e. 20 Rak'ahs and 16 rak'ahs of extra nafl prayers, see later for the official verdict of the Maliki Madhhab)! Also the Hadith which seems to prove 11 Rak'ahs of Taraweeh (including three rak'ahs of Witr) in Imam Malik's al-Muwatta has been explained away by many other convincing arguments.
Recently we came across a booklet by the title, "Is Taraweeh 20 Rakaats?" (Published by Madrasah Arabia Islamia, Azaadville, South Africa, author unknown). In this booklet the Hadith quoted from the Muwatta of al-Imam Malik (Radhi Allahu anhu), about 11 rak'ahs of Taraweeh (including three Witr) was quite eloquently analysed.
The actual Hadith in question was related by Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi, who related from his teacher, Hazrat al-Imam Malik (Radhi Allahu Anhu), who related from Muhammad ibn Yusuf, who said that as-Saaib ibn Yazid said, "Hazrat Umar ibn Khattab (Radhi Allahu Anhu) ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tamim ad-Dari (Radhi Allahu Anhuma) to watch the night in prayer with the people for eleven rak'ahs. The reciter of the Qur'an would recite the Mi'in (a group of medium sized surah's) until we would be leaning on our staffs from having stood so long in prayer. And we would not leave until the approach of dawn." (see above reference in al-Muwatta).
It was stated in the aforementioned booklet (chapter 7, pg. 20), after quoting the above narration, "If we analyse the chain (Isnad) of this Hadith, we notice that Muhammad ibn Yusuf narrates from Saaib ibn Yazid. Muhammad (ibn Yusuf) has 5 students and the narration of each student differs from the next (i.e. the text of the Hadith is different from each student). The five students are:
- Al-Imam Malik ibn Anas
- Yahya ibn Qattan
- Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad
- Ibn Ishaq and Abdur Razzaq
Their narrations are as follows:
1. Imam Malik says that Umar ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tamim Dari to perform 11 rakaats. (What practise occurred thereafter is not mentioned, nor is Ramadaan mentioned).
2. Yahya ibn Qattan says that Umar made the people gather with Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tamim Dari and both of them began performing 11 rakaats. (Hadrat Umar's command is not mentioned, nor is any mention of Ramadaan made).
3. Abdul Aziz (ibn Muhammad) says that we used to perform 11 rakaats in the era of Umar. (Neither is the command mentioned, nor is Ubayy ibn Ka'b or Ramadaan mentioned).
4. Ibn Is-haq says that we used to perform 13 rakaats in Ramadaan during the era of Umar. (Neither is the command of Umar mentioned. Instead of 11 rakaats, 13 are mentioned).
5. Abdur Razzaq says that Umar gave the command of 21 rakaats. (In this narration 21 rakaats are mentioned instead of 11).