Is Tarawih Prayer 20 Rakat?
It is an accepted fact among the true scholars of Islam that for centuries, tarâwîh prayer was and is an additional prayer (prayer) in the month of Ramadân. Only the Shî’as reject tarâwîh. The Ahl al-Hadith sect (or Salafis) also reject the fact that there is an additional prayer in Ramadân. Their belief is that tahajjud prayer which is performed during the latter portion of the night was brought forward in Ramadân. Thus there is no addition in Ramadân.
(The Ahl al-Hadith (Literalists) are a sect that do not ascribe to any mazhab nor do they follow any particular Imam. They claim to derive their rules directly from the hadith. Another name used for this sect is Ghair Muqallideen. The Salafis also hold similar beliefs. The term Ahl al-Hadith (Literalists) used in this book refers in general to all those who hold such beliefs)
The Ahl al-Hadith (Literalists) hold the same belief as the Shî’a regarding tarâwîh. (It is interesting to note that Mia Nazir Husain Delhwi, the first notable scholar of the Ahl al-Hadith (Literalists) sect remarked to Moulana Thanaullah Amritsari that the Ahl al-Hadith (Literalists) are small Shias due to the disrespect created by not adopting the taqlid of the Imaams. See Tarikh Ahl al-Hadith (Literalists) by Moulana Muhammad Ibrahim) According to them, the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) began performing his tahajjud earlier in Ramadân. This was then termed tarâwîh. According to this belief, there was no increase in the prayer of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) during Ramadân.
Prayer is the highest form of physical worship in Islam. When the month of Ramadân arrives, the common masses begin increasing their prayer by performing extra nawâfil (optional prayers). Can it then be possible for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that he encouraged excess worship in this month while he himself did not increase his nightly worship? If he merely transferred his tahajjud prayer to an earlier time, then it implies that there was no increase in his prayer. So why did he ask his followers to perform an additional prayer in Ramadân?
There is a narration that indicates an increase in his prayer during the holy month. Hadrat Abu Hurairah (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said:
“Whoever stood in Ramadân (in worship) with Imân and to seek reward, all his past sins are forgiven.”(Sahih Muslim vol.1 pg.259)
This hadith indicates that the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) encouraged the people to stand and worship Allâh during the month of Ramadân i.e. by performing prayer, but did he himself add anything to his prayer?
Is it suitable for the lofty status of this messenger that he encourages people to perform prayer in such a holy month while he himself does not do so? Any person that studies the life history of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), knows that there was no contradiction between his speech and his action. He practically demonstrated all that he spoke of. Even people that are generally far from Dîn, perform some extra worship during Ramadân. Thus it is impossible for him to have omitted extra prayer in Ramadân. He most certainly performed an additional prayer but was not strict in enforcing it.
Accordingly, the beliefs of the Ahl al-Hadith (Literalists) and Shias are similar on this issue; the only difference being that the Shia have not claimed the eight rakaât of tahajjud being brought forward while the Ahl al-Hadith (Literalists) have done so. The Shî’as openly and directly claim that there is no extra prayer in Ramadân and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) did not add any prayer in the blessed nights of Ramadân.
With regards to the number of raka´ât of tarâwîh, for the past twelve centuries, the entire ummah without any exception has been performing twenty raka´ât of tarâwîh. This has been the practice of Muslims from the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), the Sahâbah (Allah be pleased with them), the Tabi’een and the Ulama (Allah have mercy on him) until two centuries ago, when a newly-born sect called the Ahl al-Hadith introduced the theory that tarâwîh is only eight raka´ât. Till today, tarâwîh in both the Haramain (Makkah and Madînah) is twenty raka´ât and thousands of Muslims observe it there in the month of Ramadân….(continued)