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)
Imam's of hadith have placed the hadith from Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) under the section of tahajjud prayers, which indicates their belief that the hadith applies to tahajjud only. The Imam al-Muhaddithin al-Bukhari (Rahimahullah) has placed the hadith from 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 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 Aisha's hadith under the Book of tahajjud (see Al-Muwatta, Book 7, section 7.2, no. 9, pg. 5, English ed'n). The Imam Abu Dawood (Rahimahullah) has also placed the same hadith under the chapter 'On the number of rakats of the prayer at night (tahajjud)' (see Abu Dawood 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). Even one of the most prominent Imams of the 'Salafiyya', Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya placed the aforementioned hadith in the section of tahajjud prayers in his book Zaad al Ma'ad (vol. 1, pg. 86)
Although Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) 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 Abdal 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 rakats 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 Adhan and Iqama of the dawn prayer (i.e. fajr)." (See Sahih Muslim 1/1603, pg.)
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 rakats 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, Shafi'i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Allah's mercy be upon them) are in agreement that the taraweeh consists of twenty rakats.
The statement that Imam Malik approved of eight rakats needs to be proved, most likely this ascription was made to him because he quoted the hadith which is used to prove eight rakats of taraweeh in his al-Muwatta (see Muwatta, 6.2, no. 4, pg. 48) by a small group of scholars. Although Imam Malik (Rahimahullah) quoted this hadith in his book, it has no bearing on what his actual opinion and practise was, on the contrary Imam Malik believes in thirty-six rakats of taraweeh (i.e. 20 rakats and 16 rakats of extra nafl prayers, see later for the official verdict of the Maliki Madhhab)! Also the hadith which seems to prove 11 rakats of taraweeh (including three rakats of witr) in Imam Malik's Muwatta has been explained away by many other convincing arguments.
Al-Albani has said that if anyone performs more than 11 rakats 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). Al-Albani seems to be implying that the venerable Companions (may Allah be pleased with them and increase their rank), the four great Mujtahid Imams (Allah's mercy be upon them), as well as the foremost scholars of hadith and Fiqh of the last 1400 years have 'innovated' the practise of 20 rakats of taraweeh, if considered in the light of penetrative elaboration, implicitly and covertly! What alternative conclusion can one derive, if the "Albani Madhhab" says, "As regards any addition (to 11 rakats) - then this is disapproved of and declared as a bid'ah by 'Shaykh' al-Albani?"
The actual hadith which states that the Holy Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) performed 20 rakats of taraweeh has been reported by Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him). He said, "Verily, the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) in the month of Ramadan, used to perform 20 rakats and the witr prayer (afterwards) without congregation." (Reported in al-Sunan al-Bayhaqi, vol.2, pg. 496, Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, Kabiri of Imam al-Tabarani, Ibn Aadi in his Musnad, and by Imam Baghawi in his Majmua-as-Sahabah )
Although some scholars have declared this hadith to be Daeef on its own, it does not mean that it should be whole heartedly rejected; since Daeef does not mean Maudu (fabricated). Please refer to the next section on Daeef hadiths, and when they are acceptable to scholars for further elaboration. The hadith related from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) is supported by many other narrations coming from great Companions like Uthman, Ali, Ibn Masood...(Allah be pleased with them all), as well as their successors (Tabi'in). Besides, some of the scholars of hadith have even declared some weak Ahadith to be Sahih, if it has a firm basis. It was stated in the book "Criticism of hadith among Muslims with reference to Sunan Ibn Maja," (pg. 131, by one of the leading "Salafi" Shaykhs in Britain, Suhaib Hasan): "Shafi'i also recognises a weak hadith as authentic (sahih) if it is found to be accepted by the whole Ummah (see al-Sakhawi: Fath al-Mugith). But he does not accept Malik's view of restricting the practise to the people of Madinah. According to the later scholars of the Hanafi school like Ibn al-Humam, a hadith will be declared Sahih, if it is supported by the practise of the Ummah (see Abdal Rashid Nu'mani: Ma tamusu ilaihe al-Haja, pg. 18). Among traditionalists, Tirmidhi often remarks, after quoting a less authentic hadith: 'It is being practised by the people of learning (Ahl al-Ilm).' Suyuti deduces: 'It indicates that the hadith is supported by the sayings of the people of learning. More than one scholar has said that a hadith is declared Sahih if supported by the sayings of the people of learning, even if it lacks a proper Isnad (see Suyuti: al-Ta'aqubat, folio 20)."
As stated above, the great research scholar (Muhaqqiq) Hafiz Kamal ibn al-Humam (d. 861/1457; Rahimahullah) had actually said: "One of the factors from which the authenticity of a hadith is known is that the learned (Ulama) may conform to it, which is a proof of its being sound (vide: Fath al-Qadir, vol. 3, pg. 349).
There are many quotes from scholars which prove a near universal juridical acceptance of 20 rakats of taraweeh, and even as well as the Imam Ahmad ibn Taymiyya.
1) Hafiz Taqi-ad-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya al-Hanbali (d. 728/1328)
He has said in his Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya (vol.1, pg. 191):
"It has been proven without doubt that Ubayy ibn Ka'b (Allah be pleased with him) used to lead the Companions, during Ramadan, for 20 rakats and 3 rakats of witr. Hence it is the principle (maslak) of most of the Ulama that this is the Sunnah, because Ubayy ibn Ka'b led 20 rakats of prayer in the presence of the Muhajirin (the emigrants) and the Ansars (the helpers) and not a single Companion repudiated it!"
2) Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852/1449; R.A.)
The Hafiz of hadith, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has reproduced from Imam Rafi'i (Allah's mercy be on him):
"For two nights the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) led twenty rakats of prayer each night; on the third night the people gathered but the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not come out. Then the next morning, he told the people, 'It so occurred to me that it would be made obligatory for you, and you would not be able to discharge this obligation.'"
After reproducing this tradition, Hafiz Ibn Hajar said:
"All the traditionalists (Muhaddithin) are unanimous about the soundness of this report." (see Talkhis al-habir fi takhrij ahadith al-Rafi'i al-Kabir, vol. 1, pg. 119, by Hafiz ibn Hajar).
3) Imam al-Azam Abu Hanifah (d. 150 AH; Rahimahullah)
It was stated in Fayd ul-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari (by Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri):
"Imam Abu Yusuf (Rahimahullah) asked Imam Abu Hanifah (Rahimahullah), 'Did Hadrat Umar (Allah be pleased with him) have any compact from the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) for 20 rakats of taraweeh?' The Imam replied, 'Hadrat Umar was not one to invent on his own; certainly he had some proof with him for this!'" (also found in Maraqi ul-Falah, pg. 81, by Imam al-Shurunbulali and Bahr ur Ra'iq, vol.2, pg. 66, by Imam ibn Nujaim al-Misri).
4) Imam al-Tirmidhi (d. 279/892; Rahimahullah)
Imam Tirmidhi said:
"Umar, Ali as well as other Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) and Sufyan al-Thauri, Ibn al-Mubarak and Imam al-Shafi'i (Allah's mercy be upon them), all believed in 20 rakats of taraweeh, and Imam Shafi'i has stated that he had seen the people of Makkah saying 20 rakats (see Sunan al-Tirmidhi, vol.1, pg. 99).
5) Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 AH; Rahimahullah)
It was written in the most authentic book on Maliki Fiqh, al-Mudawwanah (vol.1, pg. 193-94), by Qadi Sahnoon (Rahimahullah):
"Ibn al-Qasim said, 'The rakats (of taraweeh) with witr are 39.' Imam Malik said, 'This is what the people have agreed upon from amongst the predecessors, and the people have not stopped doing it.'" (For an explanation of why it was 36 rakats see the quote below from Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri).
6) Hafiz Ibn Humam (d. 861/1457; Rahimahullah)
Allamah Ibn Humam asserts that it has been established from genuine authority that the Companions and their Successors (tabi'in) used to say twenty rakats of taraweeh during the auspicious time of Umar (Allah be pleased with him); this authority of Yazid ibn Ruman has been reported from Sa'ib ibn Yazid that, 'during Umar's auspicious time we used to say twenty rakats.' The genuineness of this authority has been verified by Imam Nawawi in the synopsis (see Fath al-Qadir, vol.1, pg. 407 and Nasb-ur-Rayah, vol.1, pg. 294, by Hafiz al-Zaylai). Hafiz Ibn Humam also said in Fath al-Qadir (vol.1, pg. 470):
"At last unanimity was formed on 20 rakats of prayer and this alone is in succession." This last statement has also been said in similar words by Ibn Taymiyya in his Minhaj us-Sunnah (vol.2, pg. 224).
7) Imam Ata ibn Abi Rabah (Rahimahullah)
The august successor (Tabi'in) and Mufti of Makkah in his time said:
"I have seen the Companions, and other people in Makkah saying 23 rakats, including the witr."
This report is Hasan (good). (see Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, pg. 406, Fath al-Bari, vol.4, pg. 219, of Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Qiyam ul-Layl, pg. 91, by Imam Ibn Nasr al-Marwazi).
8) Imam Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi (d. 620/1223; R.A)
The Imam of the Hanbali's in his time, Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi, said in his book al-Mughni (vol.1, pg 803):
"There has been the Companion's consensus (Ijma-as-Sahaba) on 20 rakats of taraweeh."
9) Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri (d. 1352 AH; Rahimahullah)
It was stated in his published lecture, Tirmidhi al-ma'ruf ba-Arfa'sh-Shazzi (vol.1 pg. 329) :
"Not even one of the the four Imams believes in less than 20 rakats of taraweeh; the practise and belief of the majority of the Companions was also this. Imam Malik (Allah's mercy be upon him) believes in more than 20 rakats; he is positive that they are 36. According to Imam Malik's practise only 20 rakats of taraweeh will be said in congregation, but the general practise and method of the citizens of Madinah was that during the brief rest interval (after every 4 rakats), when the Imam sat down after 4 rakats, they used to perform 4 more rakats. The men who said the taraweeh in the sacred mosque at Makkah, used to circumambulate (Tawaf) the Ka'ba during this brief recess. The people of Madinah, naturally, could not circumambulate the Ka'ba and hence, instead, they used to perform 16 rakats more (in total) during these brief recesses."
10) Imam al-Ayni (d. 855/1451; Rahimahullah)
Allamah Ayni wrote in his Sharh al-Bukhari:
"The number of rakats in the taraweeh is twenty. Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmed (Allah's mercy be upon them) assert the same thing. Their proof is the report which Bayhaqi has, with genuine authority, narrated from Sa'ib ibn Yazid. The great Companions, including Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them), as also the revered Successors (Tabi'in), used to perform twenty rakats."
Then he said:
"The most excellent and the most advisable course to conform to is that of the Holy Prophet's and his (Peace and blessings be upon him) Companions (practise)." (Umdat ul-Qari Sharh-al-Bukhari, vol. 7, pg. 178).
Dengan kedatangan bulan Ramadan yang mulia ini, semoga kita semua dapat meningkatkan amalan solehan agar semoga diampuni dan dirahmati oleh Allah Taala. Bersyukurlah kita kerana dapat beramal dan sebegitu juga sewajarnya bersyukur melihat umat dimana-mana mempertingkatkan amalan mereka. Dari itu juga, semoga kita dijauhkan dari perasaan angkuh membidaahkan pihak lain seperti kalangan mereka yang membidaahkan umat Islam yang bersolat tarawih 20 rakaat. Sekiranya mana-mana pihak yang tidak mampu atau tidak mahu melakukan 20 rakaat, lakukan 8 rakaat namun janganlah menegah pihak lain dari melakukan 20 rakaat. Selamat berpuasa disiang hari dan bertarawih dimalam hari.