Tarawih - 20 or 8 Rak'ahs?

During Ramadan, some Masjids pray Tarawih 20 while others pray 8, which one is correct and who should we follow?

The controversial issue of every single year in all of the Muslim world, where we get telephone calls, e-mails: “This year, Tarawih, 8 Rak’ahs or 20 Rak’ahs? Shall we pray 11 Rak’ahs with Witr or 23 like they do in Mecca and Medina? Which is a Sunnah? Which is Bid’ah?”.

And the answer is still the same: The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) did not limit the number of Rak’ahs in the Tarawih.

“Huh?! How dare you?!”

Well, give me evidence.

“A’ishah said (May Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet never prayed in Ramadan or in months other than Ramadan more than 11.”

Okay, did he limit? said do not exceed 11?

“No! This is what he did!”

Yes, he only performed Hajj once, how many Hajj do you want to perform?

“No! There are other Hadiths…”

Alhamdulillah! There are also other Hadiths, when a nomad, a Bedouins, came to him and said: “O prophet of Allah! Tell me about night prayer”, he did not tell him it’s only 11 Rak’ahs, he should’ve, the man is in a position of learning, he wants to learn, the Prophet did not give him a limitation, he said: “Salatul-Layli Mathna Mathna”, you perform night prayer in two Rak’ahs, and if you fear Fajr, pray Witr one Rak’ah, that’s all.

Which means that pray as many Rak’ahs as you wish.. so, this is the most authentic opinion, that you are to pray as many Rak’ahs as you wish! Now, if you limit it to 11, Mumtaz! Excellent! If the people in the Masjid are okay with that, then, this is okay, but in some Masajid there are people who are unable to stand for 8 Rak’ahs to recite one Juz’, one out of thirty parts of the Quran, so, it is much convenient for them, much better for them, to pray it over 20 Rak’ahs, because then reciting of the Quran would be in short portions, it’s good for the knees, for the back.

It’s Alhamdulillah an open subject, it can accompany, it can take, it can accept all opinions, so there is no reason! Why we pray here 11 Rak’ahs?! The Masjid next door prays 23 Rak’ahs, and when we see them, you know, they are like the invaders or some aliens! We don’t like them! Alhamdulillah, it’s an issue that scholars accepted the other opinion, we have to widen our scope; we have to accept the brothers as long as they don’t cross the line! Yes, if a brother, so claims to be our brother and he worships a grave! Or says to a dead parson: “O! Forgive my sins”, or “Pay off my mortgage!” , or goes to things that nullify Islam, no, this is a red line that we can not tolerate! But if it’s something that’s acceptable, even the angels disputed among themselves, when the man who killed 100 people and he died, the angels of wrath, of punishment and the angels of mercy, each one says: “No, he’s mine! he’s mine!”, Allah sent them an angle in a format of a man to judge between them. So, even the angels have dispute! Wallahu A’lam.

Sheikh Assim Al-Hakim