Virtues of Tarawih and 20 Rakats

In riyadh as-Salihin, imam an-Nawawi narrates two hadith about the virtues of tarawih.

Chapter 213
باب استحباب قيام رمضان وهو التراويح
Chapter on the desireability of worshiping at night in Ramadan, and it is Tarawih

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “He who observes optional prayer (Tarawih prayers) throughout Ramadan, out of sincerity of Faith and in the hope of earning reward will have his past sins pardoned.”

عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه، أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال‏:‏ ‏ “‏من قام رمضان إيمانًا واحتسابًا غفر له ما تقدم من ذنبه‏”‏‏.‏ ‏(‏‏(‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏)‏ ‏.‏

[Al- Bukhari and Muslim].

Hadith 1187


The phrase “with faith and in expectation of reward” means that a person should acknowledge the reward for fulfilling this command of Allah ﷻ and he should perform it with sincerity and in anticipation of reward.

Forgiveness of sins refers to minor sins. As for major sins, tawbah and istighfar are required. If a person is fortunate have no minor or major sins in his account, then it will be a means of elevating his rank in Paradise.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to urge (the people) to perform (optional Tarawih) prayer at night during the month of Ramadan. He did not order them or make it obligatory on them. He (ﷺ) said, “Whosoever performs (optional Tarawih) prayers at night during the month of Ramadan, with Faith and in the hope of receiving Allah’s reward, will have his past sins forgiven.”

وعنه، رضي الله عنه قال‏:‏ كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، يرغب في قيام رمضان من غير أن يأمرهم فيه بعزيمة، فيقول‏:‏ ‏ “‏من قام رمضان إيمانًا واحتسابًا غفر له ما تقدم من ذنبه‏”‏ ‏.‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏


Hadith 1188


Based on this hadith, [Hanafi] scholars have deduced that tarawih is sunnah mu’akkadah (emphasized sunnah). It is also established from other ahadith that the messenger ﷺ performed tarawih salah in congregation for three nights. Thereafter he said, “I fear that it may become compulsory upon you,” and he did not lead the sahaba (رضي الله عنهم) in tarawih in the masjid. After the demise of the messenger of Allah ﷺ, this fear no longer remained, hence ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) instituted twenty rakats of congregational tarawih salah.

In recent times there have been claims that tarawih consists of only eight rakats instead of twenty rakats. This is an incorrect notion and is in conflict with the practice of the ummah throughout the ages. The following facts irrefutably prove that tarawih is twenty rakats:

  1. There is ijma (consensus) of the sahabah on this. Hafiz ibn Abd al-Barr, Allamah ibn Qudamah, hafiz Iraqi, Mulla Ali Qari, ibn Hajar Haythami (رحمهم الله) and many other eminent scholars have emphatically stated that there was ijma of the sahabah on this issue.
  2. None of the four madhhabs (Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki, and Hanbali) support the opinion that tarawih consists of eight rakats. The Hanafi, Shafii, and Hanbali scholars state that tarawih consists of twenty rakats while imam Malik (رحمه الله) is of the view that it consists of thirty-six, forty-one, or twenty rakats, according to various narrations attributed to him.
  3. The practice of the sahabah and tabi’in prove that it is twenty rakats. This is proven from the narrations of Yazid ibn Ruman, Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Ansari, Ubay ibn Kab, and Muhammad ibn Kab al-Quradi (رحمهم الله). It was also the practice of Umar, Ali, Abdullah ibn Masud, Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr, Ubaay ibn Ka’b, Shutayr ibn Shakl, ibn Abi Mulaykah, Harith al-Hamdani, Ali ibn Rabi’ah, Abu al-Bukhtari, Said ibn Jubayr, Ata (رحمهم الله), and others.
  4. A narration states that the messenger ﷺ performed twenty rakats of tarawih. The chain of this narration is weak. However, it is a well established principle in the science of hadith and fiqh that if a hadith has a weak chain but is supported by the general practice of the ummah in the era of the sahabah and tabi’in, then it is considered authentic.
  5. Twnety rakats of tarawih were established by Umar (رضي الله عنه). The narration of imam Malik (رحمه الله) stating that Umar (رضي الله عنه) performed eight rakats is weak because imam Malik (رحمه الله), despite quoting the narration, still chose twenty, thirty-six, or forty-one rakats as his accepted view.
  6. Twenty rakats was the sunnah of the rightly-guided khulafa’. The fact that Umar (رضي الله عنه) approved of twenty rakats and the other khulafa’ maintained this practice after him proves its authenticity. Umar (رضي الله عنه) also introduced this practice in the presence of a large number of eminent sahabah such as Uthman, Ali, ibn Masud, Abbas, Ibn Abbas, Talhah, Zubayr, Muadh, Ubay, and others (رضي الله عنهم) and none of the objected to it.
  7. In the harams of Mecca Muakrramah and Madina Munawwarah twenty rakats are performed since the time of Umar (رضي الله عنه).
  8. Tarawih has a number of fundamental differences from tahajjud salah hence it is incorrect to draw a parallel between the two.

Based on the above and other reasons which cannot be discussed here due to the technical nature of this discussion, it is blatantly clear that tarawih is twenty rakats.

Source: A translation and commentary of Riyadh as-Salihin, volume 2, Muslims at Work Publications.

Further Reading

An Overview of Aspects Pertaining to Ṣalāt al-Tarāwīḥ

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