Guest Post by I,Zak
Q. In my home country, India, Taraweeh prayer is offered in 20 rak’ahs in most mosques. The same is the case in the two sacred mosques of Makkah and Madinah. However, in most mosques in Saudi Arabia it is offered in 8 rak’ahs only. This difference has become confusing for us. Can you please explain which is the proper way of offering this prayer?
Ashraf T.K., Taif
A. To start with, Taraweeh, which is the name given to night worship in Ramadan, is a Sunnah, which means that it is voluntary, not obligatory. This means that there is much leeway and flexibility with regard to offering this prayer. The difference you speak about is found all over the Muslim world.
Yet it is a healthy difference, which should not confuse anyone. Night worship may be offered on any day, in any number of rak’ahs, because it is voluntary. Yet in Ramadan it is more emphasized because the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave it a special stress. Nevertheless, it may be offered in any number of rak’ahs, with a minimum of two and no maximum. However, the general practice is to offer it in either 8 or 20 rak’ahs.
Those who offer only 8 rak’ahs rely on the Hadith in which Aishah reports that the Prophet never prayed more than 11 or 13 rak’ahs of night worship on any day, in Ramadan or at any other time. These two figures add the three rak’ahs of witr offered after Taraweeh, and the higher figure adds two short rak’ahs of Sunnah before Taraweeh.
The other view relies on the practice of the Prophet’s companions when Umar saw different groups offer this night worship in the mosque at the same time. He did not like that there should be more than one congregation offering this prayer at the same time.
He appointed Ubayy ibn Kaab to lead the prayer and asked all those in the mosque to join him in congregation. This was immediately adopted. Ubayy was chosen because he was one of the best reciters of the Qur’an among the Prophet’s companions. Ubayy led this prayer every night, offering 20 rak’ahs in Taraweeh. Since none of the Prophet’s companions objected, this was considered a unanimous decision which is a valid evidence.
The proper attitude is to join the imam in the mosque in whichever form he decides. If you wish to add more afterward, this is open to you. This is what happens in the two sacred mosques in the last ten days of the month