Al-jawab billahi at-taufeeq (the answer with Allah's guidance)
Is Tarawih 8 Or 20?
For the past fourteen hundred years, the Ummah has been performing twenty Rakaats of Taraweeh without a question. However “a sect” now claims that Taraweeh is ONLY eight Rakaats, which implies that for fourteen hundred years the Ummah had deviated from the Sunnah of Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) and had performed twenty Rakaats without any Shari proof.
First, it should be said that the Hadith reported from Sayyidah Aisha (RA) 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 is as follows:-
Narrated abu salama bin abdur rahman (RA):
I asked Aisha (RA) about the prayer of Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) during the month of Ramadan. She said, “ALLAH’s Messenger (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) never exceeded 11 Rakats in Ramadan nor in the other months; he used to offer 4 rakats – do not ask me about their beauty and lentgh, then 4 Rakats, do not ask me about their beauty and length, and then 3 Rakat.” Aisha further said , “I said, ‘O Allah’s messenger! Do you sleep before offering Witr salat?’ he replied, ‘O Aisha! My eyes sleep but my heart remains awake!’
(Bukhari, book of Tahajjud prayer, chapter: the Salat (prayer) of the prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) at night in Ramadan and in other months. 2:248)
The commentator of al-Sahih al-Bukhari and the erudite traditionist, Shaykh Shamsud-Din al-Kermani (d. 786 AH; RH) 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 (Naafi)" (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 is that the Imam's of Hadith have placed the Hadith from Sayyidah Aisha (RA) under the section of Tahajjud prayers, which indicates their belief that the Hadith applies to Tahajjud only. The Imam al-Muhaddithin al-Bukhari 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 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 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 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).
Ibne Hajar states that in Bukhari the chapter of Tahajjud, Witr, and Nawafil prayers are mentioned separately, so this indicates that Imam Bukhari did not place Tahajjud, Witr and optional prayer into one chapter, but into different, separate chapters. (FATHUL BARI VOL.2 PG.478)
This proves that Tahajjud and Tarawih prayers are separate prayers, if however, the Tahajjud and Tarawih prayer was the same-as some people (Salafis) say, why didn’t Imam Bukhari mention Tarawih and Tahajjud prayer into one chapter or book?
Removal of a doubt
If someone makes a claim that there is no distinction between Tahajjud and Taraweeh. For 11 months it is called Tahajjud and in Ramadhaan it is called Taraweeh. In response to this we would question: What is the proof for this claim? And when there are numerous distinctions existing, then how is it possible to regard both as one?
Differences between Tahajjud and Taraweeh
1. Tahajjud was ordained by means of express quranic verse: “Stand up at night except a little.” Taraweeh being a Sunnah was established through the hadith of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “I have made its standing Sunnat upon for you.”
2. Everyone agrees that the number of Rakaats of Tahajjud have been transmitted by Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), the maximum being 13 including Witr and the minimum being 7 including Witr. However no specific number has been transmitted from Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) regarding Taraweeh as clearly stated by Allamah ibne Taymiah. Therefore the Aimma-e-Mujtahideen differ in the number. Some say 20 and some say 36, even more.
3. Tahajjud was ordained in Makkah whilst Taraweeh was prescribed in Madina.
4. It is mentioned in the realiable books of the Hambali Mazhab, Muqna: “Taraweeh is 20 Rakaats which a person performs in Ramadhaan in Jamaat. He will read Witr after it in Jamaat. However if he reads Tahajjud then he will make Witr after it.”
5. Tahajjud is generally performed after sleeping while Taraweeh is performed after Esha.
From the above we learn that Taraweeh and Tahajjud are separate Salaahs.
The Hadith Of Aisha (RA) Dosen't proove The Tarawih Prayer:
This Hadith apparently indicates that Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) performed eight Rakaats and three Rakaats Witr, In other Ahadith it is stated that Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) prayed more than 8 and less than 8 Rakats, i.e.
The same narrator Aisha (RA) clearly states that prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) prayed 13 Rakats. (Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 21, Number 241)
Abu Salama asked Aisha about the prayer of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) 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)." (Sahih Muslim 1/1603, pg. 357).
Ibn Abbas narrates: The prayer of the Prophet used to be of thirteen Rakat, i.e. of the night prayer. (Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 21, Number 239)
Masruq narrates: I asked Aisha about the night prayer of Allah's Apostle and she said, "It was seven, nine or eleven Rakat besides the two Rakat of the Fajr prayer (i.e. Sunna). " (Bukhar, Volume 2, Book 21, Number 240)
Now we can see clearly from these traditions that it contradicts with the proof and evidence (The Hadith Aisha RA)) of the Ghair Muqallids (those who do not follow a Madhab (one of the school of thought)) .
Note: In the following paragraphs we will be analyzing the Hadith of Aisha (RA), so make sure you refer to it.
1) This hadith (the hadith of A’isha) also mentions the word, ‘“ALLAH’s Messenger (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) never exceeded 11 Rakats in Ramadan nor in the other months" this clearly indicates that this was with reference to Tahajjud because the Tahajjud prayer was compulsory on Rasulullah (the messenger of Allah) everyday, Allah (Ta'ala) Say’s,“stand (to pray all) night, except a little-half of it, or a little less than that, or a little more…”(73:4)
However, the Hadith of A’isha doesn’t refer to Taraweeh Salaat but refers to Tahajjud.
2) This hadith states, that Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) prayed this Salat by himself, and the Witr prayer also. This is very clear in the text (Hadith).
-Ghair Muqallids say it is prayed with congregation and the witr prayer also.
3) This hadith states, that Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) prayed this prayer at home.
(When Aisha further said, “I said, O Allah’s messenger! Do you sleep before offering the Witr prayer?” he replied, ‘O Aisha my eyes sleep but my heart remains awake!”) This is clear that Aisha (RA) is mentioning it at home.
-Ghair Muqallids say that it is prayed in the Masjid.
4) This hadith states, that Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) after praying this prayer he went to sleep, and then got up to pray his Witr prayer. (Like the hadith mentioned above, ‘O Aisha my eyes sleep but my heart remains awake!”)
In the noble quran, Allah (Ta'ala) says, “verily, the rising by night is very hard most potent………….” (73:6) In this verse we can see clearly that Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) was ordered to rise (from sleep) for Tahajjud prayer and he also use to pray Witr prayer, as this was the practice of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam).
In another Hadith the narrator Aisha (RA) was asked about the night prayer of Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) she replied, ‘he used to sleep during the first part of the night (after praying I'sha ), and get up in its last part to offer prayer (Tahajjud prayer with Witr prayer), and then return to his bed.’ (Bukhari, book of Tahajjud, chapter: Sleeping in the first part of the night and getting up in its last part. 2:247)
-Ghair Muqallids say, that the witr prayer is immediately prayed after tarawih Salat (Prayer).
5) This hadith states, that Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) prayed this Salat with 4 Rakats. like the hadith mentioned, (“he used to offer 4 rakats……….”)
-Ghair Muqallids say, that this prayer is prayed with 2 Rakats .
(Ghair Maqallideen Imam Bukhari Ki A'dalat Main Pg. 147-149)
The belief of the Ghair Muqallids on 8 Rakat Taraweeh contradicts in every direction with the Hadith of A’isha (RA), which they hold evident and using their utmost effort to prove that the Tarawih prayer of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) was 8. However, this proof is useless and baseless. From this we also learn that according to some people themselves it is not compulsory to practice upon this Hadith nor is going against this Hadith opposing the Sunnah. In such a situation to use this Hadith as a proof against anyone else or to prove any claim is gross injustice and against the dictates of piety.
There are some who say that if anyone performs more than 11 Rak'ahs of Taraweeh, then he or she is basically committing a Bid'ah (a very bad innovation)! We seek refuge in Allah from such a disgusting statement! Since this tantamountally means that the foremost Imams of the saved sect (al-Firqat an-Najiyyah) of Ahl-al-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah have been committing a gross innovation (Allah forbid). Such a person seems to be implying that the venerable Sahaba kiram (RA), the four great Mujtahid Imams (RH), as well as the foremost scholars of Hadith and Fiqh of the last 1400 years have 'innovated' the practise of 20 Rak'ahs of Taraweeh, if considered in the light of penetrative elaboration, implicitly and covertly! Laa Hawla wa Laa Quwwata Illaa Billaah il-Aliyy il-Azeem!