Taraweeh: Eight or Twenty Rakats?

By Moulana Muhammad Karolia

There is a growing misconception among present-day Muslims (especially the younger generation) that the Tarāwih Salāh which is performed during the month of Ramadhān constitutes eight rakāts only. This is however incorrect because:

1. It is in conflict with the Sunnah

2. It is in conflict with the Ijmāh [consensus] of the Sahābah (R.A.)

3. It is in conflict with the Ijmāh (consensus) of the four madhāhib.


Although many, Ulema (eg. Hafiz Ibn Taymiyyah, Allāmah Subki and Qādi Shawkāni) are of the opinion that Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam never fixed the exact number of rakāts for the Tarawih salāh, we are convinced that the Sunnah is twenty rakāts because the twenty rakāt Tarāwih was introduced by Hadrat Umar R.A. and Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallarn had commanded us to follow the Khulafa-e-Rāshdīn (especially Hadrat Abu Bakr and Hadrat Umar R.A.). Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam said: "Hold firmly on to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Khulafa-e-Rāshidīn." "Follow the two after me (i.e. Hadrat Abū Bakr and Hadrat Umar.

Allāmah Badrud-Dīn Aini, writes that we understand from the above Hadīth that those who follow Hadrat Abū Bakr and Hadrat Umar R.A. will be rewarded and those who do not follow them will be punished.


The twenty rakāt Tarāwih that was introduced by Hadrat Umar R.A. was unanimously accepted by all the Sahābah R.A. without any objection. In other words, they had ijma [consensus] in this regard. Many āyāt of the Qur'ān and ahādith of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam denote the Shari authority (hujjiyyah) of Ijmā'. Among those are:

"And whoever opposes the Rasul after the guidance (of Allah) has been manifested unto him, and follows other than the believers way. We appoint for him that unto which he himself has turned, and we expose him unto Jahannam - a hopeless journey's end." "My Ummah will never unite upon bātil (falsehood., deception).

In addition to the above, it should also be borne in mind that consensus of the Sahabah R.A. represents the highest and most authoritative form of ijmā’.


While Imam Hanifah, Imam Shāfi'i and Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal R.A. agree that the Tarāwih Salāh comprises of twenty rakāts, there are two narrations from Imam Mālik According to one narration he too agrees that the Tarāwih Salāh comprises of twenty rakāts. Ibn Qāsim has however narrated from Imam Mālik, that he preferred thirty-six rakāts and three rakāts witr thereafter. (Most Māliki textbooks however mention the twenty rakāt narration only).

This however does not mean that Imam Mālik rejected the ijmā’ of the Sahābah R.A. The standard practice n Madinah at that time was thirty-six rakāts and the reason for performing thirty-six rakāts was that the people of Makkah would perform tawāf after every four rakāts of Tarāwih. Because tawāf can only be performed in Makkah, the people of Madinah would perform an additional four rakāts nafl salāh after every four rakāts of Tarāwih.

Considering the above and the fact that these additional sixteen rakāts (4x4) were regarded as nafl (and not Sunnah mu'akkadah as in Tarāwih) and were performed individually. we may conclude that Imarn Mālik and the other Fuqahā of Madinah also agreed that the actual Tarāwih comprises of twenty rakāts only.


According to Sheikh Atiyyah Muhammad Sālim, from the fourth Hijri century, only twenty rakāts Tarāwih were performed in Madinah. Thereafter in the 8th century when Imam Zain-ud-Dīn AI-Irāqi was appointed the Imam of Masjid-un-Nabawi the people would return to the Masjid later during the night to perform the additional sixteen rakāts. The famous historian As-Sa'ūd writes that this practice continued until the late ninth and early tenth Hijri century.


It is not permissible to oppose the consensus of the four madhāhib. This is understood from the fact that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam had commended us to follow the Sawād-al-A'zam (vast majority). Since all the other true madhāhib do not any longer exist, these four madhāhib represent the Sawād-al-A'zam.


Many Ulema (eg. Abu Ja'far Tahāwl, Abu Eesa Tirmidhi, Ibn Rushd Qurtabi, Ibn Qudāmah Maqdisi, etc.) have discussed the divergent opinions of the Fuqahā [jurists] in various topics. None of them have ever mentioned a single Faqīh [jurist] who held the opinion that the Tarāwih salāh had eight rakāts only.


Imam Bukhari R.A., has recorded a narration from Hadrat Ā’isha R.A.. in which she says:

"Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam would never read more than eleven rakāts - neither in Ramadhān nor in any other month. He would perform four rakāts and do not ask of their beauty and length. He would thereafter perform another four rakāts and do not ask of their beauty and length. He would thereafter perform three rakāts." Hadrat Ā’isha R.A. says that she (once) asked Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam whether he slept before performing the witr salāh. Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam replied: "O Ā’isha! My eyes sleep but not my heart."

This Hadīth is often cited in substantiation of the claim that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam performed only eight rakāts in the Tarāwih Salāh. It is however incorrect to make such a deduction from this Hadīth because this Hadīth is discussing the Tahajjud Salāh and 'h Salāh and not the Tarāwih The words "nor in any other month" are a clear indication that this Hadīth is not regarding the Tarāwīh Salāh. (Tarāwih is not Performed in any other month besides Ramadhān.)

There is a Hadith in which Hadrat Ā’isha R.A. narrates that during the last ten days of Ramadhān. Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam would stay awake throughout the night and he would exert himself in ibādah. It is possible that upon hearing this narration from Hadrat Ā’isha R.A. some people would think that compared to the rest of the Year, Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam read more rakāts of Tahajjud Salāh in Ramadhān. In order to dispel such doubts, Hadrat Ā’isha R.A. explained that Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam’s Tahajjud Salāh always comprised of eleven lengthy Rakāts irrespective of whether it was Ramadhān or any other month.

Imam Bukhāri R.A., has quoted the above mentioned Hadith of H@rat A'isha R.A. in the following chapters of his Al-Jāmi As-Sahīh:

1. The chapter regarding Nabī’s (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) salāh during the nights of Ramadhān and other months.
2. The chapter regarding the virtue of salāh during Ramadhān.
3. The chapter that Nabi’s Sallallahu alaihi wasallam eyes would sleep but not his heart.
4. The chapter on Witr salāh.

Imam Bukhari’s R.A. not including this Hadith in the chapter on Tarāwih indicates that he too understood that this Hadith discussed the Tahajjud salāh and not the Tarāwih Salāh. In fact, none of the Muhaddithīn [scholars of Hadīth] have included this Hadith in the chapter on Tarāwih. Imam Muhammad Al-Marwazi R.A. has in his book "Qiyām-ul-Layl" dedicated a separate chapter to discuss the number of rakāts of the Tarāwlh salāh. Despite quoting a number of Ahādith in this chapter, he has not in the slightest manner indicated to this Hadīth of Hadrat Ā’isha R.A.


Proponents of the eight rakāt Tarāwih reject the above explanation saying that Tahajjud and Tarāwih is the same salāh. This claim Is also incorrect because there is a vast difference between the two. Among the various differences between the Tahajjud and Tarāwih salāh is:

1. Tahajjud was introduced in Makkah and Tarzāwih in Madinah,

2. Tarāwih is performed immediately after the Esha salāh whilst Tahajjud is performed much later at night (in the last third of the night).

NOTE: Neither Imam Bukhāri and Imam Marwazi nor any other Muhaddith regarded Tahajjud and Tarāwih as the same!


There is a Hadith that is attributed to Hadrat Jābir R.A. in which he narrates that once during the month of Ramadan Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam led them in eight rakāts (of Tarāwih) and thereafter the Witr salāh. The following night they gathered in the Masjid hoping that Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam would once again lead them in salāh as he had done the previous night. They however continued waiting for Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam till the morning. In the morning Rasulullah Sallallahu wlaihi wasallam explained to them the reason for not joining them. He said that he had feared that Witr would be made compulsory, upon them.

This Hadīth is however extremely, weak and can never form the basis for any Shar'i ruling. The person claiming that he is narrating this Hadīth from Hadrat Jābir R.A.. is Eesa bin Jāriyah. He is an extremely unreliable narrator. Imam Nasa'i and Imam Abū Dawūd R.A. have both called him "Munkar-ul-Hadīth" - one whose narrations are Munkar. A munkar narration is the narration of an untrustworthy narrator that contradicts the narration of a group of trustworthy narrators. Imam Nasa'i R.A. has also called him "Matrūk". Matrūk literally means left alone but in this context it means that Eesa bin Jāriyah is an unreliable narrator. The Muhaddithīn normally use the word Matrūk (and many other words) to show the unreliability of a narrator.

Muhammad bin Humaid Ar-Rāzi, another narrator in this Hadith's chain of transmisson [sanad] is also very weak. Some Muhaddithīn (eg. Imam Abu Zur'ah) have declared him a liar.


Imam Mālik R.A. has recorded a narration from Hadrat Sā’ib bin Yazid R.A. that Hadrat Umar R.A. had commanded Hadrat Ubay bin Ka'b and Hadrat Tamim Dāri R.A. to lead the people in eleven rakāts of salāh (eight rakāts Tarāwih and three rakāts Witr).

It is often claimed on the basis of this narration that Hadrat Umar R.A. had commanded the performance of only eight rakāts Tarāwih and not twenty.

However, a thorough study of the chains of transmission (asānid) of this narration reveals that three people have narrated from Hadrat SS'lb bin Yazld R.A. They are:

i) Hārith bin Abdir Rahmān

ii) Yazld bin Khusayfah

iii) Muhammed bin Yusuf

Hārith bin Abdir Rahmān and Yazid bin Khusayfah have narrated twenty rakāts from Hadrat Sā’ib R.A. Yazid bin Khusayfah also has three students namely Ibn Abi Dhib, Muhammed bin Ja’far and Imam Mālik. All three have narrated twenty rakāts from Yazid.

Muhanimed bin Yusuf also has three students. They are:

1. Imam Mālik
2. Ibn Ishāq
3. Da'ud bin Qays

While Imam Mālik narrates eleven rakāts from Muhammed bin Yusuf, Ibn Ishāq narrates thirteen rakāts and Da'ud bin Qays narrates twenty one rakāts.

When a Hadith is transmitted in different manners so that the contents of each transmission differ and it is not possible to give preference to any particular transmission, the Muhaddithīn call it Mudtarib. The Mudtarib Hadith is regarded as unsound and insufficient evidence for the deduction of any Shar'ī ruling. Muhammed bin Yusuf’s narration is an ideal example of a Mudtarib Hadith.

On the contrary, the narrations of Harith bin Abdir Rahmān and Yazīd bin Khusayfah are authentic and supported by many other narrations in the books of Hadīth.


Some of Ibn Taymiyya's writings imply that he was of the opinion that eight rakāts, twenty rakāts, thirty rakāts, thirty-six and forty rakāts are all sunnah. It is clear from the preceding discussion that we do not agree with him. Nevertheless, he also explains that the more virtuous (and preferred) practice differs according to the condition of the Muslims. If the Muslims are able to perform eight very lengthy rakāts as was the practice of Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam, the performance of eight rakāts would be better. However, if they are unable to perform such lengthy rakāts it would be better for them to perform twenty rakāts.

NOTE: The length of Rasulullah’s Sallallahu alaihi wasallam salāh (that he performed at night) may be estimated from the following:

* He would perform salāh until his feet would swell.

* He would continue performing salāh until half the night had passed.

* He sometimes continued performing salāh until the Sehri time had almost expired.

* Hadrat Abu Dharr R.A. narrates that one night he performed salāh with Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam. He says: "I stood in salāh with him (i.e. Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) until I began resting my head on the wall due to the length of his salāh.

Considering the worldly commitments of modern day, Muslims and their physical weakness, it is obvious that none of them can manage such lengthy rakāts. Therefore, even according to Ibn Taymiyya's opinion, twenty rakāts is best for them.


In view of the preceding discussion we conclude that:
The Sunnah Tariiwih consists of twenty rakāts and not eight.
The performance of only eight rakāts in Tarāwih cannot be established from any sound Shar’ī evidence/proof.


Ahsan-ul Fatāwa Mufti Rasheed Ahmed Ludhianwi

Āp Ke-Masā’il Aur Un Ka Hal Moulana Muhammad Yusuf Ludhranwi

Dars-e-Tinnidhi Mufti Muhammad Taqi Uthmān

Fatāwa Rahimiyya Mufti Abdur Rahim Lajpuri

At Tarāwih Shaikh Atiyva Muhamrnad Sālim

Is Tarāwih Twenty Rakāts? Published by Madrasah Arabia Islamia


Fatāwa ibn Taymiyya V.2 Pg. 46 Masābih P.44 Nayl-ul Awtār V.1 Pg. 46

Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Maj'ah, Ahmed - Mishkat.

Bināyah Sharh Hidāyah.

Dars Tirmidhi - quoting Allamah Habib-ur-Rahmān A'zmi, Suyuti, Nawawi and Nawab Sideeq Hasen Khan.

Surah Nisā Āyah 115.

Sunan Ibn Majah 283 / Tirmidhi V.2 Pg.49.

Al-Manār Ma'Nur-ul-Anwār Pg. 226.

Āp Ke Masāil Aur Un Ka Hal Pg. 54.


Rakāt-e-Tarāwih Pg. 60-61 (Moulana Habib-ur-Rahmān A'zmi) Dars Tirmidhi V.2 Pg.653.

At-Tarāwih. Sheikh Atiyya Muhammed Sālim Pg. 60, 67, 69.

Ibn Mājah - Mishkāt Pg. 30 Al-Aqd-Al-Jayyid Pg. 37.

Bukhāri V.1 Pg. 135, 152, 269, 503.

Ahsan-ul Fatāwa V.530. Fatāwa - Raheemiyya V. 1 Pg. 331 Dars Tirmidhi Pg. 663 V.2.

Ahsan-ul- Fatāwa V. 3 Pg. 530.



Ahsan-ul Fatāwa V.532.

Qiyām-ul Layl Pg. 90.

Fatāwa Rahimiyya V.1 Pg. 335: Although Abu Zur'ah and Ibn Hibbān have commented positively regarding Eesa bin Jāriyah, the Muhaddithīn still declare him unreliable because their principle is that when a narrator is declared reliable by some scholars and unreliable by others, the opinion of those who regard him unreliable will be given preference.

Fatāwa Rahimiyya V.1 Pg. 335

Mu'atta Imam Mālik Pg. 98.

Āp Ke’ Masā’il Aur Un Ka Hal V.3 Pg. 39-41.

Dars - Tirmidhi V.2 Pg. 654 Footnotes (continued from Pg. 653).


Bukhāri Ma'al Fath V.3 Pg. 12/V. 8 Pg. 449.

Tirmidhi (Chapter on the Qiyām of Ramadhān) V. 1 Pg. 99 Fāruqi Kutub Khana - Pakistan.

Ahmed - Maj'ma'uz Zawā'id V. 3 Pg. 172.

Dars Tirmidhi V.2 Pg. 655.


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