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21 Aug 2010

How many raka’aat for the Taraweeh Prayer?

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bismillahSheikh Uthaimeen’s statement about Taraweeh


We say that it’s not good for us neither to go overboard nor to be too easy. Some people go so far as to say a specific number of units of prayer are from the Sunnah. They say “it’s not permissible to increase on the number that we find in the Sunnah”, and make a stern refutation on those who increase on this. They say that this person is a disobedient sinner. Without a doubt this is wrong! How is it possible that this person is a sinner and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was asked about the night prayer and said it’s 2 by 2 (by) 2 by 2 and he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) didn’t give a specific number. What is known is that the one who asked him about the night prayer did not know the number of units of prayer. We know this because the one who does not know how to perform it, then it’s more likely that he does not know how many units of prayer to pray. He was not one of those who served the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) so that we would be able to say what went on in the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم)’s house. If the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) explained to him how to make the prayer and did not limit the number of units of the prayer, then this shows us that the situation (leaves room for discussion). So much so that if a person so desired, they could make 100 units of prayer and make one unit for Witr. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Pray as you have seen me pray!” And this is not so general that it covers this situation. For this reason it’s not obligatory for the people to pray Witr as 5 units of prayer and another time 7 and another time 9. If we took it to be that general, then this is what we would tell the people was obligatory upon them. What was meant by “pray as you have seen me pray”, is how to perform the prayer. As far as the number of unit(s) of prayer, then this was not the intent behind the statement. We can not limit it except by way of some proof that limits it.

In any event, the people should not be real stern against the people in a situation which is not restricted. I have seen some of the brothers that are stern in this issue say that the Imams who increase or (go beyond) praying 11 units of prayer are innovators. They leave the Masjid and lose out on the reward that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) talked about in his statement when he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever stands with he Imam until he leaves, it‘s written for him as though he prayed all night.” It may be that they sit down after ten units of prayer and they break up the ranks. It may be that they talk from time to time making a distraction for those that are praying. All of these things are wrong. We don’t doubt they want the good, and that they are (mujtahidoon) but not every mujtahid is correct.

The other side of it is the opposite of these people. These are the ones that make an extreme refutation upon those who stick to 11 units of prayer. They say you are not holding up with the consensus of the scholars. They bring as proof Allah’s statement: {And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers’ way. We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell – what an evil destination.}(An-Nisa 4:115). They say: “All of those who came before you used to pray 23 units of prayer.” Then they become extreme in their refutation, and this also is wrong.

If we come to a land that they don’t pray except 23 units of prayer , then it‘s not from wisdom that we go to them and pray 11 units of prayer on the first night, but rather we pray 23 units, then we talk to them about what the Sunnah comes with, about the fact that it’s better they pray 11 units of prayer. Then it be said to them, what do you want to do? Should we stick to only 11 units of prayer and concentrate in them and make the (rukoo’) and (sujood) a little longer so that we can make more (supplication) and (remembrance)? Or should we leave it the way it is now, as 23 units of prayer? One of three things is going to happen. Either they will agree with you, or disagree with you, or they will disagree amongst themselves. If the majority of the people don’t agree with you then leave the situation the way it is. Because there is room in this issue. As long as you are bringing the people together in this situation, then it is good. But don’t give up. Ask them at another time. If they refuse and are firm on sticking to 23 then use what you see from wisdom to convince them. And if they refuse to make it 11 then pray the 23 with them. But beware of what some of the Imams do in being very quick in making (rukoo’) and (sajood), so much so, that a young person has a hard time following him, so how is an older person or the sick able to follow them? Someone that I trust told me that he entered the Masjid one night during Ramadaan and began to pray with the Imam for Taraweeh. He was a young man and was not able to keep up with the Imam. He said when he went to sleep that night he saw (in his sleep) as it was as though he entered the Masjid and the people were dancing. What was meant by this is that some of the Imams, and we ask Allah to guide us and them, play with Taraweeh. They are stern about making 23 units of prayer, and the Sunnah is 11 units of prayer. They don’t give that which is an obligation it‘s right with the speed at which they pray. The Scholars (may Allah have mercy on them) say that it’s disliked for the Imam to speed in the prayer so much so, that the follower are unable to do that which is recommended in the prayer . And it’s haram to pray with such speed that the follower can not do that which is obligatory. He is the one that has the responsibility on his shoulders, and has to take into consideration the situation of those who he is responsible for.

Sharhul Mumte’a

(Volume 4 pages 73-77)

Translated by:

Abu Abdillah Abdul Lateef

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