Everyone claims to follow the Qur’an and Hadith as understood by the Salaf-us-Saaliheen. An easy way to test this claim is the number of raka’ts of Taraweeh, since the books of the Leading Imams of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, many of which have only recently been published widely, contain direct eye-witness testimonies revealing their unanimous Taraweeh practice.

Here are just a few direct eye-witness testimonies of undisputed and undeniably trustworthy Imams of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen:

Imam Ishaq ibn Rahwayh, a senior teacher of Imam Bukhari, and known as Amirul Mu’mineen fi’l Hadith – the highest rank in the field of Hadith amongst the Salaf – states that the unanimous practice of the Salaf consisted of the minimum base of 20 raka’ts:

*“The MINIMUM of that is 5 (Tarweehahs (sets of 4 raka’ts) i.e. 20 raka’ts); considering the fact that the inhabitants of Madinah have not ceased, from the time of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) to this time of ours, to pray 40 raka’ts [i.e. 20 + 16 + 4 – without the extra one rakat’s of Witr] in the vigil of the month of Ramadan, while lightening the recitation. As for the inhabitants of Iraq, they have not ceased to be upon 5 Tarweehahs [i.e. 20 raka’ts] from the time of Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) till this time of ours.” [Masaa-il al-Imam Ahmad wa Ishaq ibn Rahwayh]* 

Imam Shafi’i (d. 204 AH) gives his direct eye-witness testimony in his “Kitaab-ul-Umm” that the unanimous practice of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen in Makkah and Madinah, the Headquarters of the Ummah – thus by extension the whole Ummah – consisted of the minimum base of 20 raka’ts:

*“I saw [the Salaf-us-Saaliheen] in Madinah standing up for prayer for 36 raka’ts [i.e. 20 + 16]. However, 20 raka’ts is more beloved to me since it was related on the authority of Umar, and in the same manner [i.e. for 20 raka’ts] they would stand up for prayer at Makkah and pray 3 raka’ts Witr.”*

In al-Mudawannah, Imam Malik (179 H) gives his eye-witness testimony regarding the age-old practice of 36 raka’ts (20 + 16 extra) of the people of Madinah:

*“This [36 raka’ts] is what I found the people to be upon, and it is the age-old practice which the people (i.e. the Salaf-us-Saliheen) have not ceased to be upon.”*

When the Amir of Madinah wished to reduce the number of raka’ts, Imam Malik forbade him!

Imam Tirmidhi (d. 279 AH), in his Sunan, also makes it clear unambiguously that the ONLY ikhtilaaf amongst the Salaf-us-Saaliheen pertained to the extra 16 raka’ts on top of the minimum 20:

*“The Ahlul Ilm (the Leading Imams of the Salaf-us-Saliheen) differed over the night prayer of Ramadan. Some were of the view that one is to pray 41 raka’ts [i.e. 20 raka’ts + 16 raka’ts + 5 witr] including Witr. This is the view of the people of Madinah, and this is what the Amal (practice) is upon according to them in Madinah. However, the majority of the Ahlul Ilm are upon what was reported from Ali, ‘Umar, and others from the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) of Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), that it is 20 Rak’ah.”*

Similarly, Imam al-Tahawi (d. 321 AH), author of the famous Aqeedat-ut-Tahawiyyah, also confirms in his “Ikhtilaaf ul-Ulama”, that the only ikhtilaaf that occurred amongst the Salaf-us-Saaliheen with regards to Taraweeh prayers, pertained to the extra 16 raka’ts:

*“Our companions (Imams of the Hanafi madh-hab) and Imam al-Shafi’i would pray 20 rakats other than witr. Malik said 39 rakats including Witr – 36 rakats plus Witr – and he said that this was the age-old practice which the people have not ceased to be upon.”*

Thus, the so-called ikhtilaaf between 8 and 20 which is being propagated vigorously today is an innovated (bid’ah) ikhtilaaf that was never present amongst the Salaf.

Furthermore, ALL the Imams quoted above were well aware of the narrations of 8 raka’ts of night prayers, since they recorded such narrations in their own collections. Thus, it is obvious that these Imams, along with ALL the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, along with virtually the whole Ummah for 1400 years understood such narrations to refer to a completely different and distinct prayer to Taraweeh, namely, the Tahajjud prayers.

To see many more quotes of direct eye-witness testimonies from the books of the Salaf, search “8 rakats bidah” on Google.

Please share this information to revive the Sunnah of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, which is nothing other than the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), and which is gradually and tragically disappearing in many parts of the world.

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