The 1400 Year History of Taraweeh Salaah
Amongst the special Ibaadah of the month of Ramadhaan are the fasts and the Taraweeh salaah. The information below will be dedicated to the history of the number of Rakaahs of Taraweeh that have always been performed in the two holy Harams.
The Taraweeh Salaah During the Time of Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم)
Saheeh Muslim reports a hadith from Hadhrat Aaisha (رضى الله عنها) that when (during Ramadhaan) Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) once performed the Taraweeh salaah in the Masjidun Nabawi, the Sahabah رضى الله تعالى عنهم followed him in the salaah. When Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) again performed the salaah the following night, an even larger congregation followed him. It was then either on the third or fourth night that Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did not come to the Masjid for the Taraweeh salaah. Explaining his reason the following morning, Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said to the Sahabah رضى الله تعالى عنهم, “I noticed your fervour and did not come to the Masjid to perform the Salaah fearing that this Taraweeh salaah should become compulsory for you.” 1
It is therefore evident that Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) performed the Taraweeh salaah in congregation at least twice or thrice in his lifetime. Imaam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمة الله and Allaama Showkaani رحمة الله have both mentioned that a study of Ahadeeth regarding Taraweeh reveals that Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) never specified the number of rakaahs for Taraweeh.
During the Period of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضى الله تعالى عنه)
During this period, the Sahabah رضى الله تعالى عنهم meticulously performed the Taraweeh salaah individually or in small congregations.
During the Period of Hadhrat Umar (رضى الله تعالى عنه)
During his Khilaafah, the second Khalifah Hadhrat Umar Faarooq (رضى الله تعالى عنه) combined all the small congregations into one because of the possibility of the Taraweeh salaah becoming Fardh no longer existed. With the approval of all the Sahabah رضى الله تعالى عنهم, twenty rakaahs Taraweeh salaah was performed every night of Ramadhaan after the Isha salaah, followed by three Rakaahs Witr salaah. 2
There are many people nowadays who perform the Taraweeh salaah with Jamaah throughout Ramadhaan because it was carried out during the time of hadrat Umar (رضى الله تعالى عنه) with the consent of all the Sahabah رضى الله تعالى عنهم. However, these people object to the number of Rakaahs. If they keep the following Hadith in mind, their objection will Inshaa Allah be removed.
Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “I advise you fear Allah, to listen and to obey (your leaders) even though your leader be an Abyssinian slave because those of you who live after me shall see great disputes. It is therefore compulsory for you to adhere to my practices and to the practice of the righteous and rightly guided successors (Khulafaa Raashideen). Hold fast to these practices and bite on them with your molars.” 3
In this Hadith Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has emphasised to his Ummah that it is imperative for them to emulate his practices as well as the practices of the Khulafaa Raashideen. When Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has instructed the following of the practices of his Khulafaa, how can their practices be labelled as Bidah? How can one promote forsaking something that Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) empathetically wanted done? How can there be scope to oppose something that the Sahabah رضى الله تعالى عنهم unanimously agreed upon?
This practice of the righteous Khalifah Hadhrat Umar (رضى الله تعالى عنه) falls perfectly within the purport of this Hadith. Therefore one should perform twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah in congregation every night of Ramadhaan after the Isha salaah. This is then followed by three Rakaahs of Witr salaah.
During the period of Hadhrat Uthmaan (رضى الله تعالى عنه)
The third righteous khalifah Hadhrat Uthmaan (رضى الله تعالى عنه) also continued the practice of twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah in congregation, followed by the three Rakaahs of Witr salaah. 4
During the period of Hadhrat Ali (رضى الله تعالى عنه)
The fourth righteous khalifah Hadhrat Ali (رضى الله تعالى عنه) also continued the practice of twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah in congregation, followed by the three Rakaahs of Witr salaah. 5
The Taraweeh salaah in the Masjid Haraam in Makkah
The famous book of Ahadeeth Jaami Tirmidhi states that according to the majority of scholars, the number of Rakaahs in the Taraweeh salaah is twenty, as reported from Hadhrat Umar رضى الله تعالى عنه, Hadhrat Ali رضى الله تعالى عنه and other Sahabah رضى الله تعالى عنهم. This is also the opinion of Hadhrat Sufyan Thowri رحمة الله and Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Mubaarak رحمة الله. Hadhrat Imaam Shafiee رحمة الله says, “I have seen the learned scholars of Makkah perform twenty Rakaahs of Taraweeh salaah.” 6
In his famous book Kitaabul Umm (vol 1 page 142), Imaam Shaafiee رحمة الله says that twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah is reported from Hadhrat Umar رضى الله تعالى عنه and the learned scholars of Makkah also perform twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh with three Rakaahs Witr.
In the third century A.H., the famous historian of Makkah Muhammad bin Ishaaq Faakihi documented that during the month of Ramadhaan it was the practice of the people of Makkah to sit five periods of Taraweeh (rest periods between every four Rakaahs of the Taraweeh salaah. This denotes that they performed twenty Rakaahs of salaah.) 7
It is therefore evident twenty Rakaahs of Taraweeh salaah has been performed in the Masjid Haraam of Makkah for the past fourteen hundred years. Throughout, this period, there has never been a single night when only Rakaahs have been performed.
Taraweeh salaah in the Masjidun Nabawi صلى الله عليه وسلم
The renowned Saudi scholar and Mufassir Sheikh Atiyya Saalim رحمة الله who was a Sheikhul Hadeeth, judge and lecturer in the Masjidun Nabawi صلى الله عليه وسلم wrote a book in Arabic entitled “The history of the Taraweeh salaah in the Masjidun Nabawi صلى الله عليه وسلم for more than a thousand years.” In this book, he conclusively proves from historical evidence that twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah has been performed in the Masjidun Nabawi صلى الله عليه وسلم for the past fourteen centuries. He adds further that even after the establishment of the Saudi rule, both the Harams in Makkah and Madinah have twenty Rakaahs of Taraweeh salaah with three witr. 9
The heart-rending and beautiful Taraweeh salaah in both the Harams is broadcast live throughout both on radio and television.
A fourteen century old practice
Twenty Rakaahs Taraweeh salaah is being performed from the first century of Islaam up to this fifteenth century.
Source: The Historyof Makkah Mukarramah
by Dr Muhammad Ilyas Abdul Ghani
1 – Muslim – The Chapter concerning encouragement for performing the Taraweeh salaah.
2 – Mu’atta Maalik, as quoted in Nasbur Ra’yah
3 – Tirmidhi – Hadith 6272. The hadith is classified Hasan Saheeh and even Albaani has verified its authenticity [see Mishkaat annotated by him (Vol. 1 pg. 28)]
4 – Sunan Kubra of Bayhaqi – Chapter concerning the number of Rakaahs during the nights of Ramadhaan.
5 – Sunan Kubra of Bayhaqi – Chapter concerning the number of Rakaahs during the nights of Ramadhaan.
6 – Tirmidhi
7 – Akhbaar Makkah by Faakihi (Vol.2 Pg. 156,157)
8 – Pgs. 41-58
9 – Pg. 65
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