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Apparently there are no recordings anywhere that the prophet (pbuh) prayed 20 rakah taraweeh. That the prophet (pbuh) prayed 8 rakah taraweeh. I understand that Umar (may allah be pleased with him) introduced 20 rakah taraweeh after the prophet? Why? Was the islam taught by the prophet not perfect? Did Umar know islam better than the prophet?

I understand that the prophet thought highly of Umar:

"If there were a prophet after me, it would have been Umar" Sunan Tirmidhi, Volume 2 page 754.

But it says if he was a prophet, so he clearly was not a prophet, so are non prophet (but highly pious) people allowed to make alterations to the original islam taught to us by the prophet?

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I want you to understand that in Islam, some matters of fiqh have flexibility and open to choice within the boundaries permitted by Shari'ah.

One such matter is the tarawih prayer. From the authentic hadeeth of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wassalam) himself, it is known that he used to perform this prayer with different number of rakah. One hadeeth by Bukhari report him performing it with thirteen rakah. Another hadeeth reports him performing it with seven, nine or eleven rakah. Another hadeeth narrated by Aisha' says that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wassalam) did not extend it more than eleven rakah (i.e. including three rakah of witr). Scholars in Islam say this is more closer to Sunnah and it is better since Aisha' had the most understanding of the religious matters and Sunnah of the Messenger (salallahu alayhi wassalam). But, they do not forbid you from practicing the way 'Umar did as well i.e twenty rakah or twenty three with witr. There are also reports that Umar ordered to perform it with eleven rakah on some occasions and twenty three in others.

Hence, there is much flexibility in this matter. Scholars of Islam say you can follow any of the opinions as long as they are valid. There is no harm in it. However, what is not permissible is to pray four, six or eight rakah' uninterruptedly since the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wassalam) commanded to pray it in pairs of two, pronouncing the tasleem after every two.

  • So does this mean that in the future if another group comes along and says, lets make taraweeh easier and lets double, triple, quadruple, or more, the number of rakahs in taraweeh but stay in the boundaries permitted by shari'ah, will that be OK? – nami Sep 10 '12 at 11:38
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    How is doubling, tripling or quadrupling easier? On the other hand, why do you want to place restrictions on a matter in which Prophet (salallahu alayhi wassalam) has given freedom. – Abdullah Sep 10 '12 at 11:43
  • @ashes999 I've mentioned that at the end (linked). – Abdullah Sep 10 '12 at 16:21
  • I have to disagree with this answer as the hadith in Bukhari you mentioned are not about Taraweeh. Rather, they were about Tahajud (Salat ul lail). – user14305 Nov 4 '15 at 8:57
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As Salam mualaikum brothers and sisters. Remember this very easy saying. Islam is very easy, it is people that make it difficult. The prophet was flexible with many things that in some cultures have become strict. Remember it is the intention of the believer that is most important and the actions then that follow, and Allah knows best.

The prophet would at some nights be up all night praying, maybe praying more than 20 rakahs but this is not obligatory prayers so therefore we are not answerable for them on the day of judgement. What is important is that we complete our compulsory prayers and offer the sunnah prayers after.

With regards to Umar prescribing 20 rakahs for the night prayers during Ramadan (which we call taraweh), it was to unify the Muslim ummah and prevent fitna and disobedience. We are all one in the eyes of Allah, and Muslims argue over the minuscule of subjects while neglecting their obligatory duties.

This is a matter of fiqh, just like people praying in different manners. The prophet tried to teach us that it was the worship of one true God that was important and it can be done in different ways. The madhabs were then created because of the discords and disunity between the Muslim ummah. It is better that we have a united front instead of the segregation we see today. It is not a matter of Aqeedah, therefore should not be a matter of debate amongst the populous.

However, it is always good to question and seek the answers truthfully without prejudice. It is encouraged to increase our intellect and understanding of our deen.

May Allah guide us all along the siratun mustaqeen - the straight middle path of no extremes

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