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Articles


The Increase over Eleven Rak`ahs

Author : Mufti Mohammad Al-Shurman

Date Added : 22-02-2024


The Increase over Eleven Rak`ahs 

 

Discussion of the Evidence of Those Who Prohibit Increasing the Number of Taraweeh Prayers beyond Eleven Rak'ahs

 

 

All praise is due to Allah, we praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil of our souls and from the evil of our actions. Peace and blessings be upon our master Muhammad, his family and all his companions.

 

There has been much discussion about the number of rak'ahs (units of prayer) in Tarawih prayer during Ramadan. Many people accuse others of violating the Sunnah by praying more than eleven rak'ahs, including the Witr prayer. However, according to the reliable opinion of the four Imams of Islamic Jurisprudence (Imam AbuHanifa, Imam Malik, Imam As-Shafi'i, and Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal) the number of rak'ahs for Tarawih is twenty. Nevertheless, the Maliki school of thought holds that the number of rak'ahs is thirty-six, excluding the Witr prayer. (Here are some references for these opinions: Al-Mabsut by Al-Sarakhsi, Vol.2/P.145 Sharh Al-Zarqani on Muwatta Malik by Al-Zarqani, Vol.1/P.420 Al-Majmu' by Al-Nawawi, Vol.4/P.31 Al-Mughni by Ibn Qudamah, Vol.1/P.457).

 

Some Hanafi scholars, such as Ibn al-Humam, have differed on this issue. Ibn al-Humam stated that the Sunnah regarding Tarawih prayer is to pray eleven rak'ahs (Fateh Al-Qhadeer by Ibn Al-Humam, Vol.1/P.468). He based this opinion on the hadith narrated by Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) when Abu Salama ibn Abd al-Rahman asked her about the Prophet's (peace be upon him) prayer in Ramadan. She replied, "He did not pray more than eleven rak'ahs in Ramadan or in any other month. He would pray four rak'ahs, and do not ask about their beauty and length, then he would pray four rak'ahs, and do not ask about their beauty and length, then he would pray three rak'ahs." (Sahih al-Bukhari 3/45, hadith 2013).

 

Responses of Scholars to the Hadith of Aisha:

 

Scholars have responded to the hadith of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) in a number of ways:

1. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was reporting what she had seen of the Prophet's (peace be upon him) usual practice. As stated in Mar'at al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih (Vol. 4/P. 171), Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) intended to describe his usual and most frequent practice, even though he may have sometimes prayed more than that.

 

2. Some scholars have mentioned this hadith in the context of discussing the night prayer (tahajjud). For example, Imam Bukhari included it in his book "Sahih al-Bukhari" in the chapter on "Encouraging the Prophet (peace be upon him) to pray at night and perform voluntary prayers without making them obligatory.

 

3. There is another hadith, although it is weak, that can be used as a reference, narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah from Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both): "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to pray twenty rak'ahs and the Witr prayer in Ramadan." (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, Vol.2/P.164, hadith 7692, Book of Voluntary Prayer. This hadith was considered weak by Al-Zarqani in Sharh Al-Zarqani on Muwatta Malik (Vol.1/P.431), and its weakness is attributed to Abu Shaybah Ibrahim ibn Uthman, who is considered weak. See Nayl al-Awtar by Al-Shawkani (Vol.3/P.66)).

 

4. It is well-known that Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) gathered the people behind Ubayy ibn Ka'b (may Allah be pleased with him) to pray twenty rak'ahs after they had been praying in different groups. He said, "What an excellent innovation this is!" He meant the innovation of gathering behind one imam, not specifically praying twenty rak'ahs.

 

It is possible that Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) also intended to specify the number of rak'ahs. This is because the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not specify a number for the night prayer (qiyam). As narrated by al-Sa'ib ibn Yazid, "During the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab, they used to pray twenty rak'ahs in Ramadan. They would recite long surahs (one hundred verses and more), and in the time of Uthman, they would lean on their sticks from the intensity of standing." (Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.3/P.45, hadith 2013). This hadith is sahih (authentic) according to al-Nawawi in al-Majmu' (Vol.4/P.32).

 

5. Many scholars have agreed to accept the (pronouncements) of a single companion on certain conditions. (See: Ibn al-Laham, al-Mukhtaṣar fi Uṣūl al-Fiqh (Vol.1/p.161), al-Amidi, al-Iḥkām (Vol.4/P.149), and Khalaf, ʿIlm Uṣūl al-Fiqh (95)). A stronger evidence on this point is the consensus that occurred during the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) where he gathered the people behind one imam to pray twenty rak'ahs, and the nation accepted this command. It is known that Umar and all the companions were the most committed people to the Sunnah. If they were not sure of the permissibility of what was done during the time of Umar, they would have been the most opposed to it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Stick to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly-guided caliphs who will come after me. Bite onto it with your molar teeth." (Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 1/P.15, hadith 42, Book of Faith, Virtues of the Companions and Knowledge, Chapter on Following the Sunnah of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs).

 

Sheikh Khallaf said about this issue: "There is no disagreement that the pronouncements of a companion on matters that cannot be grasped by opinion or reason is a proof upon the Muslims, because it must have been said based on what he heard from the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).....There is also no disagreement that the pronouncements of a companion who is not known to have any disagreeing companions is a proof upon the Muslims. This is because their agreement on a ruling of an incident with their closeness to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), their knowledge of the secrets of legislation, and their disagreement on many other incidents, is evidence that they relied on a decisive proof." (Khallaf, Science of Ususl Al-Fiqh, 95).

 

6-A companion asked the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) about the night prayer, and he said to him: "Pray the night prayer in pairs." Narrated by Nafi', from Abdullah ibn Umar, who said: The night prayer consists of pairs and when you see the approach of dawn, make this number odd by one rak'ah. It was said to Ibn 'Umar: What does the (word) pair imply? He said: (It means) that salutation is uttered after every two rak'ahs." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.1/P.102, hadith 472, Book of Prayer, Chapter on Study Circles and Sitting in the Mosque).

 

The evidence:

 

The hadith explicitly indicates that the night prayer is prayed two rak'ahs at a time, in pairs, and that it does not have a specific number that cannot be contradicted.

 

7-Narrated by Amr ibn Absah al-Salami: I said: O Messenger of Allah, which part of the night is best for prayer? He said: "The latter part of the night. Pray as much as you wish, for the prayer is witnessed and recorded until you pray the dawn prayer." (Sunan Abi Dawud, Vol.2/P.25, hadith 1277, Book of Prayer, Chapter on Permission to Shorten the Prayer When the Sun is High).

 

The hadith explicitly indicates that the night prayer is not limited to a specific number, but rather it is up to the person's motivation and energy.

 

8. Aisha's (may Allah be pleased with her) hadith is contradicted by other narrations that say he used to pray thirteen at night. Al-Bukhari and others narrated 2/51, number 1138 from Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both), who said: "The prayer of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was thirteen rak'ahs," meaning at night. And it seems that there is no contradiction between these narrations that prove the increase of more than eleven rak'ahs. This is because each of the companions narrates what he saw himself.

 

9. The scholars said about the evidence of this hadith that this is from the actions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and the reliable opinion is that the action does not indicate obligation (see: Al-Ahkam by Al-Amidi, 1/134).

 

And all perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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