Al-Albani Unveiled

8 OR 20 rakats?

by Ahmed ibn Muhammad


In a handout by al-Albani's followers in England, by the title "Some common questions answered" (dated October 1990), there appeared the following question and answer (No. 22):

(a) Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reports that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) never prayed more than 8 rak'aats in taraweeh, so how come nobody disapproves of 20?

(b) Is it true that Umar (Allah be pleased with him) introduced it?

Ans. 22
(a) As regards the taraweeh prayer - people agree that the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and the best way is 11 rak'aats. As regards any addition - then this is DISAPPROVED of and DECLARED AS A BID'AH (A bad innovation) by Shaykh al-Albani and by a few earlier scholars - that being reported from Imam Malik, Ibn ul-Arabee and as-San'aanee (see Salat-ut-taraweeh of Shaykh al-Albani). 

(b) It is not true that Umar (Allah be pleased with him) either prayed or ordered 20 rak'aats. Rather he ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b to lead the people with 11 rak'aats (al-Muwatta 1/137, with a Sahih Isnad).

I do not wish to go into much detail on this issue, but Insha'Allah a separate publication is what is really required, to show which opinion is the most correct. But any way it should be said that the vast MAJORITY of the scholars of hadith, Fiqh, and even the four Mujtahid Imams are in agreement that 20 rakats are the most appropriate, followed by 3 rakats of witr, and this is also the opinion of the Imam of the "Salafiyya", Ahmad ibn Taymiyya!

First, it should be said that the hadith reported from Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) about 11 rakats is not at all to do with taraweeh, according to the majority of scholars, but in fact concerns the number of rakats of TAHAJJUD prayer! The hadith in question is as follows:-

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)

According to the author of "Fatawa Rahimiyyah", Mufti Abdur Rahim Lajpuri (vol. 1, pg. 275); in his defence of 20 rakats of taraweeh: "The commentator of al-Sahih al-Bukhari and the erudite traditionist, Shaykh Shamsud-Din al-Kermani (d. 786 AH; Rahimahullah) 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 rakats each for two nights, and in the case of such clash the tradition of twenty rakats which is affirmative (muthbit) shall have precedence because according to the principles of hadith, the affirmative takes precedence over the negative (naaf)" (vide: Al-Kawakib ud-Durari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 9, pg 155-156). I say, does this not mean that people who perform 8 rakats of taraweeh, should pray 20 rakats instead? Since according to the principles of hadith (as affirmed by al-Albani), "The affirmative takes precedence over the negative in certain cases."

A great fact that should also be noted by the reader is that the 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)!

Mufti Abdur Rahim said about Aisha's hadith: "And if this tradition may have been quoted in some book under the devotions of Ramadan along with the taraweeh. Like the taraweeh, the tahajjud, too, is a prayer of Ramadan, and because of this affinity, it can be mentioned along with the taraweeh (as Imam Bukhari did). Hence, supposing it may have been mentioned in some book, it cannot be made thereby a categorical argument. 'When uncertainty creeps in, the argument is falsified.' Moreover, Hafiz al-hadith Imam Qurtubi's (d. 671/1273; Rahimahullah) statement regarding this hadith (of Aisha) should not be overlooked that, 'many a man of knowledge considers the aforesaid hadith mudtarib (i.e. confounded).'" (vide: Imam Ayni in his Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 2, pg. 187).

In short, the aforesaid report is in no way a proof for eight rakats of taraweeh. In contradistinction to this, as regards the twenty rakats the Companions Consensus (Ijma-as-Sahaba) has taken place over the approval of Ibn Abbas' hadith (about 20 rakats being performed by the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him) and practically the majority of Ulama have accepted it." (Fatawa Rahimmiyah, vol. 1, pg 276-277).

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. 357 and also al-Albani's Sifah Salah an-Nabee, appendix 7, pg. 110). So does this not mean that the 'Salafiyya' should perform 13 Raka'ats of taraweeh in Ramadan?

Now, 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.

Recently I came across a booklet by the title, "Is taraweeh 20 rakats?" (Published by Madrasah Arabia Islamia, Azaadville, South Africa, author unknown). In this booklet the hadith quoted from the Muwatta of Imam Malik (Rahimahullah), about 11 rakats of taraweeh (including three witr) was quite eloquently analysed.

The actual hadith in question was related by Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi, who related from his teacher Imam Malik, who related from Muhammad ibn Yusuf, who said that as-Saaib ibn Yazid said, "Umar ibn Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tamim ad-Dari (Allah be pleased with them) to watch the night in prayer with the people for eleven rakats. The reciter of the Qur'an would recite the Mi'in (a group of medium sized surah's) until we would be leaning on our staffs from having stood so long in prayer. And we would not leave until the approach of dawn." (see above reference in al-Muwatta).

It was stated in the aforementioned booklet (chapter 7, pg. 20), after quoting the above narration, "If we analyse the chain (Isnad) of this hadith, we notice that Muhammad ibn Yusuf narrates from Saaib ibn Yazid. Muhammad (ibn Yusuf) has 5 students and the narration of each student differs from the next (i.e. the text of the hadith is different from each student). The five students are:

(1) Imam Malik
(2) Yahya ibn Qattan
(3) Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad
(4) Ibn Ishaq and
(5) Abdur Razzaq

Their narrations are as follows :

(1) Imam Malik says that Umar ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tamim Dari to perform 11 rakats. (What practise occurred thereafter is not mentioned, nor is Ramadan mentioned).

(2) Yahya ibn Qattan says that Umar made the people gather with Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tamim Dari and both of them began performing 11 rakats. (Hadrat Umar's command is not mentioned, nor is any mention of Ramadaan made).

(3) Abdul Aziz (ibn Muhammad) says that we used to perform 11 rakats in the era of Umar. (Neither is the command mentioned, nor is Ubayy ibn Ka'b or Ramadan mentioned).

(4) Ibn Ishaq says that we used to perform 13 rakats in Ramadaan during the era of Umar. (Neither is the command of Umar mentioned. Instead of 11 rakats, 13 are mentioned).

(5) Abdur Razzaq says that Umar gave the command of 21 rakats. (In this narration 21 rakats are mentioned instead of 11).

Besides the narration of Imam Malik (Rahimahullah), 11 rakats can not be established from the other narrations. Due to this difference, the narrator Ibn Ishaq gave preference to 13 while Ibn Abdal Barr al-Maliki preferred 21 (from the narration of Abdur Razzaq). Therefore this narration is Mudtarib (A hadith that 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) with regards to the number (of rakats) and hence unacceptable.

The above was an analysis of Muhammad ibn Yusuf's narration via Saaib ibn Yazid. Now let us examine the narration of Yazid ibn Khaseefah via Saaib (ibn Yazid), which is mentioned in the Sunan al- Kubra of al-Bayhaqi (vol. 2, pg. 496): Abu Zi'b narrates from Yazid ibn Khaseefah, who reports from Saaib ibn Yazid that the people used to perform 20 rakats in the month of Ramadan during the era of Umar.

Imam Nawawi, Iraqi and Suyuti (all three were great scholars of hadith) amongst others have accepted the authenticity of this hadith (see Tuhfatul Akhyaar, pg. 192 and Irshaadus Saari, pg. 74, (by Imam al-Qastallani]).

Muhammad ibn Jafar (another narrator in the chain) has quoted the statement from Yazid (ibn Khaseefah) as Abu Zi'b (had). This narration is mentioned in Marifatus Sunan of al-Bayhaqi. Allamah Subki and Mullah Ali al-Qari have stated in Sharh Minhaj and Sharh Muwatta respectively that the chain of narrators of this hadith are correct. (Tuhfatul Ahwazee, vol.2, pg 75).

From the above narration we can clearly see that both the students of Yazid (ibn Khaseefah), unanimously narrate the fact that during Umar's (Allah be pleased with him) era 20 rakats was the standard practise. On the contrary, the 5 students of Muhammad ibn Yusuf quote Saaib (ibn Yazid) differently.

In such a situation the correct approach would be to rely on the narration of Yazid ibn Khaseefah. However the Ahl al-hadith (another name for the "Salafiyya") have unjustly discarded this narration and adopted the doubtful one of Muhammad ibn Yusuf, which has differing versions. This goes against the principles of hadith." Here ends the quote .

Another hadith that is used by the protagonists of eight rakats of taraweeh has been related by Jabir ibn Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him): "The Prophet (Peace be upon him) led the people in prayer during Ramadan with 8 rakats and the witr. We gathered in the Mosque the following night hoping that he would come again. We remained waiting till the next morning (until he came out). The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, 'I feared that the witr may become incumbent on you.'" (related by Ibn Nasr al-Marwazi in Qiyamul-Layl, pg. 90, al-Tabarani and Ibn Hibban - see below for the actual hadith)

The above hadith has been analysed by Shaykh Abdur Rahim in his "Fatawa" (vol. 1, pg. 278-9) with the conclusion that the hadith is daeef. The shaykh said: "The strange thing about this hadith is that its chain of authorities (Isnad) is not trustworthy. Please examine the statements of the Imams of this science concerning the narrators of this chain. In this chain one narrator is Ibn Hameed Razi, about whom the opinions of the great and august critics of hadith are as under:

(1) 'He is weak.' - Hafiz al-Dhahabi (see his Mizanul I'tidal, vol.3, pp. 49-50)
(2) 'He narrates many disowned (munkar ) hadiths.' - Ya'qub ibn Shaybah
(3) 'He is objectionable.' - Imam Bukhari
(4) 'He is a liar.' - Abu Zur'ah
(5) 'I testify that he is a liar.' - Ishaq Kausaj
(6) 'He narrates hadiths about everything; I have not seen a man bolder than him vis-a-vis God.' - Sauleh Jazrah
(7) 'By God! He is a liar.' - Ibn Kharash
(8) 'He is not reliable.' - Imam Nisai

Now, about the second narrator, Ya'qub ibn Abdullah Ash'ari al-Qummi:-

(1) 'He is not strong.' - Daraqutni (see Mizanul I'tidal, vol. 3, pg. 324).

About the third narrator, Isa ibn Jariyah:-

(1) 'He has had disowned (munkar) hadiths.' - Ibn Ma'een
(2) 'His hadiths are disavowed.' - Nisai
(3) 'His hadiths are rejected (matruk ).' - Nisai
(4) 'His hadiths are disavowed.' - Abu Dawood - synopsis
(5) 'He is counted among the weak.' - (see Mizanul-I'tidal, vol. 2, pg. 311, by Hafiz al-Dhahabi)." Here ends the quote.

Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Rahimahullah) has reported a similar narration to the above hadith in his Bulugh al-Maram min Adillat al-Ahkam (no. 396, pg. 159), on the authority of Hafiz Ibn Hibban (Rahimahullah): "Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah (Allah be pleaed with him): Allah's Apostle (Peace be upon him) prayed during the night in Ramadan; the people waited for him on the next day, but he did not come out; and he said, 'I feared that the witr might be enjoined on you.'" Note the above narration does not even state how many rakats were performed by the Prophet (Peace be upon him)!! The above two hadiths can not be used as justifiable proof in favour of 8 rakats of taraweeh on their own.

Al-Imam Malik (Rahimahullah) has in fact quoted a hadith which proves the performance of 20 rakats of taraweeh in Ramadan; and that is as follows:-

Yahya related to me from Malik that Yazid ibn Ruman said,"The people used to watch the night in prayer during Ramadan for 23 rakats (i.e 20 rakats of taraweeh, followed by 3 rakats of witr) in the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab." (vide: al-Muwatta, 6.2, No. 5, pg. 48, English ed'n)

Although the above hadith is Munqati (a link is missing in the chain) and has thus been declared to be Daeef by some scholars (including al-Albani), it never the less has been used as proof. Besides, the hadith has been given a full Isnad (chain) by either Imam Ibn Abdal Barr al-Maliki (d. 463/1071; Rahimahullah) or Shaykh Muhammad Habibullah ibn Mayabi ash-Shanqiti (Rahimahullah), in their thorough research to complete all the chains of transmission (Isnad) which have an incomplete chain; as found in the Muwatta of Imam Malik!

In fact the latest edition of the English version of al-Muwatta (translated by A. A. at-Tarjumana and Yaqub Johnson) says (pg. xxxiv): "Ibn Hajar (al-Asqalani) said, 'The book of Malik is sound by all the criteria that are demanded as proofs in the mursal, munqati (two types of hadith which have a missing link) and other types of transmission.' Then as-Suyuti followed what Ibn Hajar said here; and said, 'The mursal hadith in it are a proof with him (i.e. ash-Shafi'i) as well because the mursal is a proof with us when it is properly supported. Every mursal in the Muwatta has one or more supports as will be made clear in this commentary (i.e. Suyuti's commentary on al-Muwatta called Tanwir al-Hawalik). It is absolutely correct to say that the Muwatta is sound without exception.'

Ibn Abdal-Barr collected together all the mursal, munqati and mu'addil hadiths in the Muwatta and said that the total number of hadiths in the Muwatta which do not have an Isnad are sixty one. He stated that he found the isnads of all of them in other sources with the exception of four hadiths. The erudite scholar of hadith, Shaykh Muhammad Habibullah ibn Mayabi ash-Shanqiti says in Ida'a al-Halik that he had found witnesses for these four hadith and he then mentioned these witnesses. He said, 'Some of the people of knowledge made these Isnads complete.' He mentioned from Ibn Abdal-Barr that there was no munkar (rejected) hadith in the Muwatta, nor anything fundamentally refuted."

In the light of what the erudite scholars of hadith have said above, we may emphatically state that the apparently 'munqati' hadith from Yazid ibn Ruman has a complete Isnad; hence it may be used as a proof, since Imam Ibn Abdal-Barr has said that there is, "No munkar hadith in the Muwatta nor anything fundamentally rejected." Hence, many scholars of hadith and Fiqh have used the above hadith as a proof in favour of 20 rakats of taraweeh.

The quote from "Some common questions answered," also claimed that, "Rather he (Umar) ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b to lead the people with 11 rakats." I say, this is half of the truth, since it is clearly stated in al-Muwatta :"Umar ibn Khattab ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b AND Tamim ad-Dari ....(see Muwatta, 6.2, no. 4, pg. 48)!!

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?"

I ask you, are the so called "Salafiyya" in the true path of the original and true Salaf-as-Salihin (the pious predecessors of the first three generations of Islam), when they have declared the practise of 20 rakats to be a bid'ah, even though the Salaf have been reported to have practised 20 rakats?

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, but I content myself by quoting a select few from some of the foremost scholars of the Ahl-as-Sunnah, as well as the Imam of the "Salafiyya" (when it suits their whims and desires), 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).

So please ask yourselves: "Who are the 'Salafiyya'; are they the people who conform to the way of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him), his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all), and their successors (this includes the four Mujtahid Imams, Allah's mercy be upon them) consensus on 20 rakats, or is it the likes of al-Albani and his followers?"

May Allah guide them.

Many of us who are practising Muslims or otherwise, are familiar with the epithet 'Wahhabi'. The founder of this sect was Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab (d. 1206 AH), from Najd. He is also known as Shaykh an-Najdi by his opponents and his followers have been labelled as either 'Najdi's' or 'Wahhabi's' by the Ahl al-Sunnah. He claimed to be a Hanbali in Fiqh. It is well known that he fully digested the `aqida and ideas of Ibn Taymiyya. The scholars of his time warned the Muslims to be on their guard from accepting his 'reformatory' ideas; and this work is still existent among the scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah even today. The neo- 'Salafi's' of today respect Ibn Abdal Wahhab quite highly by bestowing upon him such great titles like 'Shaykh al-Islam'. I do not want to say much about his movement and activities, but a few quotes from three well known scholars should suffice for now.

 (1) The foremost Hanafi scholar of his time, Imam Muhammad Amin ibn Abidin (d. 1252/1836 Rahimahullah) said in his celebrated work Hashiyya radd al-Mukhtar (vol. 3, pg. 309): "In our time Ibn Abdal Wahhab (Najdi) appeared, and attacked the two noble sanctuaries (Makkah and Madinah). He claimed to be a Hanbali, but his thinking was such that only he alone was a Muslim, and everyone else was a polytheist! Under this guise, he said that killing the Ahl as-Sunnah was permissible, until Allah destroyed them (Wahhabi's) in the year 1233 AH by way of the Muslim army."

 (2) Shaykh Zayni Dahlan (Rahimahullah) said in his book Futuhat al-Islamiyya (vol. 2, pg. 268): "The sign of the Khawarij (the first deviant sect that appeared in the time of the Companions) concerning the shaving of the head, was not found in the Khawarij of the past, but only in the Najdi's of our time!"

 (3) Shaykh al-Islam Hussain Ahmad al-Madani (Rahimahullah) said in his book ash-Shihab as-saqib (pg. 42): "Ibn Abdal Wahhab arose in the beginning of the thirteenth Islamic century in the Najd. His thinking was false, and his beliefs were corruptional; on these grounds he opened the way for killing the Ahl as-Sunnah."

 (4) A more contemporary view on the Wahhabite sect has been expressed by Abdal-Hakim Murad in the journal Islamica (pg. 9): "Ibn Abdal Wahhab, however, went far beyond this (i.e; of Ibn Taymiyya). Raised in the wastelands of Najd in Central Arabia, he had little access to mainstream Muslim scholarship (I say: This may be disputed by his supporters). In fact, when his da'wah appeared and became notorious, the scholars and muftis of the day applied to it the famous hadith of Najd: Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as saying: "Oh God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said: "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!" But he said, "O God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said, "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!" Ibn Umar said that he thought that he said on the third occasion: "Earthquakes and dissensions (fitnah) are there, and there shall arise the horn of the devil." (Sahih al-Bukhari). And it is significant that almost uniquely among the lands of Islam, Najd has never produced scholars of any repute.

 The Najd-based da'wah of the Wahhabi's, however, began to be heard more loudly following the explosion of Saudi oil wealth. Many, even most, Islamic publishing houses in Cairo and Beirut are now subsidised by Wahhabi organisations, which prevent them from publishing traditional works on Sufism, and remove passages in other works considered unnacceptable to Wahhabist doctrine.

 The neo-Kharijite nature of Wahhabism makes it intolerant of all other forms of Islamic expression. However, because it has no coherent fiqh of its own - it rejects the orthodox madhhabs - and has only the most basic and primitively anthropomorphic 'aqidah, it has a fluid, amoebalike tendency to produce divisions and subdivisions among those who profess it. No longer are the Islamic groups essentially united by a consistent madhhab and the Ash'ari 'aqidah (see later). Instead, they are all trying to derive the Shari'ah and the 'aqidah from the Qur'an and the Sunnah by themselves. The result is the appalling state of division and conflict which disfigures the modern salafi condition."

Another person who is a reference for today's neo-"Salafi's", is Muhammad ibn Ali al-Shawkani (d. 1250/1834). He was a leading scholar of the Zaydi (Shi'ah) sect found mainly in the Yemen. He claimed to have departed from his old Shi'ite ways and joined the Ahl al-Sunnah. He was attacked by the scholars of his day for saying Taqleed was completely haram, as well as other important issues. Some scholars had accused him of still holding on to his deviant Zaydiyyah-Mu'tazilite (rationalistic thinking that was propounded by one of the first deviant sects of Islam) thinking, while pretending to be within the fold of orthodox Sunni Islam; but Allah knows best! It is a well known fact that he denied the consensus of the Companions (Ijma as-Sahaba), as well as rejecting the validity of the Fatwa of a Companion! One may refer to Anwar Ahmad Qadri's book Islamic Jurisprudence in the Modern World (pg. 142) for a lengthier discussion.

 Many scholars have noticed the extreme tendencies within the "Salafiyya" sect around the world, for its lack of respect for the scholars of the four Madhhabs, its `aqida and some untenable juristic positions it has produced over a short period of Islam's history. The scholars have not been afraid of declaring the neo- "Salafi's" to be neo-Kharijites in their behaviour and attitude to other Muslims. Note, the scholars are not saying that the neo-"Salafi's" are Kharijites, but rather they seem to have certain traits which were only found amongst the Kharijites of the past. One of the most striking things I have noticed amongst these 'neo-Kharijites', is their direction of Qur'anic verses that were revealed specifically for the unbelievers, as referring to the believers who do not seem to have their way of thinking! This was a well known practise of the Kharijites of old; as we shall see below.

A well known scholar of the "Salafiyya", Dr. Yusuf al-Qardawi (who has himself been attacked by other members of the "Salafiyya", especially for holding some untenable positions in his book al-Halal wal Haram fil Islam) said in his book Islamic awakening between Rejection and Extremism (pg. 41-3):

"Imam al-Shatibi (Rahimahullah) wrote (in his book al-I'tisam, 2. 182-4): 'Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) was right. When a person knows the reason behind a certain verse or surah, he knows how to interpret it and what its objectives are. However, ignorance of that leads people to misinterpret it and to have different opinions, without an insight and knowledge which could lead them to the truth, and prevent them from indulging ignorantly in such matters with no support or evidence from al-Shari'ah, and therefore go astray and lead people astray. This can be demonstrated by what is reported by Ibn Wahab from Bakir who asked Nafi': What does Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) think of al-Haruriyyah (i.e; al-Khawarij who were also called al-Haruriyyah after the place - Harawra - where they gathered and were found by Ali ibn Abu Talib and the Companions of the Prophet [may Allah be pleased with them all] who supported him)? Nafi' answered: He thinks they are the most evil of people. They applied the verses which pertain to the kuffar on the believers.' (NB- Imam al-Bukhari has recorded Ibn Umar as saying in his Sahih [vol.9, pg.50; English edn]: These people (the Khawarij and heretics ) took some verses that had been revealed concerning the disbelievers and interpreted them as describing the believers ).

 Al-Qardawi also said (pg. 42):

One of the causes of such shallowness is that extremists never listen to people who hold different views (and I can personally testify to that), never accept any dialogue with them or imagine that their own views could be tested in the light of others, and may thereby be either accepted or rejected. Most of them have not been taught by reliable Muslim ulama who are specialised in the field. Rather, they have received semi-knowledge directly from books and newspapers without any opportunity for revision or discussion which could test the learner's understanding and analyze the depth of his knowledge. They simply read, 'understand', then deduce what they wish. However, their reading, understanding, and deduction may well be wrong or deficient. There might be someone somewhere who opposes their opinions on stronger and more valid bases, but they are not aware of that because nobody has drawn their attention to such a possibility. These devout young people have ignored the facts that if they want to study al Shari'ah, they must seek the help of reliable Muslim scholars. They cannot venture into this extensive and entangled discipline without the guidance of reliable Muslim scholars who can interpret and explain obscurities, define terms, and point out the relationships between the parts and the whole and also equate similarities. Those who venture into it alone will meet with the same catastrophic results which could certainly befall the unskilled swimmer who ventures into dangerous waters. Proper knowledge of al-Shari'ah cannot be perfected without practice and close contact with the experts, especially in those areas where opinions diverge, evidences seem to contradict each other, and certain matters seem to be under suspicion. This is why our venerable 'ulama' have warned us not to seek to study and understand al Qur'an al Karim through a person who has only memorized it without any knowledge of its contents, nor to seek knowledge through a person who has acquired his own "knowledge" from reading newspapers and journals only, without being properly instructed by reputable and qualified scholars."

This topic began with a brief discussion on Taqleed and I would like to finish with the following two questions for you to ponder over. (A) Would it not be classified as being Taqleed if one were to accept the classifications of Hadiths, exegesis of the Qur'an etc; by a renowned Islamic scholar, if one was not to go back to the original sources which are used to authenticate the Hadith and so on? (For example, if a scholar claimed that a Hadith found in the Sunan of Imam Abu Dawood was Sahih and you accepted it as being Sahih - since you trust him, then are you not practising Taqleed; if you, yourself do not go back to the original sources used to classify the Hadith in question, since sometimes a Hadith classified to be Sahih by one scholar can be classified as being Da'eef by another!). (B) Is it not true that those who are calling for the abandonment of Taqleed, are calling for the Taqleed of their own books and speeches; hence creating their own little 'Madhhabs'?


thanks to Mas'ud Ahmed Khan