Nasir al-Albani's slanderous declaration that the companion's unanimous practice of 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh is a reprehensible innovation (bid'ah)!
by Ahmed ibn Muhammad

It has been discussed previously in Al-Albani Unveiled, and by the admission of his own followers, that al-Albani has declared the practice of 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh prayer in the holy month of Ramadan to be a reprehensible innovation (bid'ah)! What concerns us here is not the actual number of rak'ahs, but the consideration that he has over reached himself by declaring a known practice of the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them) to be a bid'ah! To any sane, sincere and objective minded reader the implication of his claim is clear, namely, he has declared the unanimous practise of the Companions to be a bid'ah! Allah forbid.

We will discuss, insha'Allah, what he actually said and prove to him and his blind followers that they are the ones who deliberately overlook Sahih Hadiths on this issue, as well as avoiding the practice and Consensus of the venerable Companions, and our beloved Messenger, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) who initiated this practice and number. This issue is no doubt a critical test for those who claim to be on the path of the venerable Companions and their Succesors. May Allah be pleased with them all.

Evidence for 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh from authentic ahadith

In the following synopsis we will provide the most authentic evidence to support the claims of the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali and Zahiri[1] schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and most importantly that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and in the unanimous view and practice of the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them all) the rak'ahs of taraweeh are twenty.

The narration's that will be presented have the stamp of authentication by at least ten distinguished scholars. Al-Imam al-Hafiz Jamaluddin al-Zayla'i[2] has recorded in his book Nasb ur-Rayah[3] that:

"Al-Bayhaqi has related in al-Marifa[4]

(via the following chain of transmission):

Abu Tahir al-Faqih -> Abu Uthman al-Basri -> Abu Ahmad Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab -> Khalid ibn Mukhallad -> Muhammad ibn Ja'far -> Yazid ibn Khaseefah -> Sa'eeb ibn Yazid,

who said:

'In the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiallahu anhu) the people used to observe 20 rak'ahs and the witr.'
Al-Nawawi said in al-Khulasa:

'Its Isnad is Sahih.'"

Hafiz al-Zayla'i has also mentioned after reporting the authenticity of this Hadith, that Imam al-Bayhaqi has also reported another version of the above narration through a different channel of transmission, in his Sunan al-Kubra. The narration referred to has been mentioned in the footnotes by the council of Islamic scholars (Majlis al-Ulama) who edited Nasb ur-Rayah[5], in the following words:

"(Bayhaqi) has related in al-Sunan [6] (via the following isnad):

Abu Abdullah al-Hussain ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hussain finjuwayh al-Dinawari - Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Sunni - Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Abdul Aziz al-Baghawi - Ali ibn al-J'ad - Ibn Abi Dhib - Yazid ibn Khaseefah - Sa'eeb ibn Yazid,

who said:

"In the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab, radiallahu anhu, they would perform 20 rak'ats in the month of Ramadan. He said (also): And they would recite the Mi'in [7], and they would lean on their sticks in the time of Uthman ibn Affan, radiallahu anhu, from the discomfort of standing."

All the men in the (above) isnad are trustworthy, as mentioned by the Indian research scholar, Shaykh al-Nimawi[8], in Athar al-Sunan[9]."

The evidence which proves that Umar (radiallahu anhu) ordered the practise of 20 rak'ahs has been recorded by Shaykh Ali al-Muttaqi al-Hindi[10] in the largest collection of Hadith available today: Kanz al-Ummal fi Sunan al-aqwal wal Af'al[11], as follows from Ubayy ibn Ka'b (radiallahu anhu):
"Umar (radiallahu anhu) ordered him (Ubayy) to lead the people in prayer at night in Ramadan, because the people fast during the day and can not recite (the Qur'an) well, therefore it is better that you should recite (the Qur'an) during the night. I (Ubayy) asked: "O commander of the believers, this thing was not done before." He said: "I know, but it is a good practise", and so (Ubayy) led (the Companion's) for 20 rak'ahs."
There are many other narration's which prove the case for twenty rak'ahs, but some of these narrations are less authentic than others, nevertheless they are weighty enough to back each other up and raise the level of authentication to at least Hasan (good); as Shaykh Nimawi and others have verified.

For the readers benefit one may refer to the following books of Hadith for at least 25 further proofs:

  • Muwatta Imam Malik from Yazid ibn Ruman [12]
  • Sunan al-Kubra of Imam al-Bayhaqi [13] from: Ibn Abbas, Yazid ibn Ruman (same as Imam Malik's narration), Suwayd ibn Ghaflah, Ali ibn Abi Talib etc. Also refer to Marifatus Sunan of al-Bayhaqi.
  • Musannaf of Imam Abdur Razzaq [14] from: Sa'eeb ibn Yazid and al-Hasan.
  • Musannaf of Imam Ibn Abi Shaibah [15] from some 13 different isnads.
  • Qiyam ul-lail[16] of Imam Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi from: Sa'eeb ibn Yazid, Yazid ibn Ruman, Ibn Mas'ud, A'mash al-Kufi, Ibn Sirin, Malik, al-Shafi'i and others.

    A selection of the scholars of Hadith who authenticated and used al-Bayhaqi's narrations as a proof for 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh


    Other contemporary scholars

    Other prominent scholars who have used Imam al-Bayhaqi's narrations, besides other proofs include: Shaykh Habibur Rahman al-A'zami (see above), Shaykh Isma'il Ansari (see later), Shaykh al-Muqri in Tahqeeq al-Taraweeh, Shaykh Zafar Ahmad Uthmani in his monumental I'la as-Sunan[28], Shaykh Abdur Rahim Lajpuri in Fatawa al-Rahimiyya[29], Shaykh Ahmad Khan in Ja'al Haqq[30], Shaykh Taqi al-Uthmani in Dars-e-Tirmidhi[31] and many others.

    A writer once claimed that Imam al-Bukhari held the view that the rak'ahs of Taraweeh were eight, excluding the witr. What is surprising to note is that despite his bold ascription of this view to Imam al-Bukhari, he did not furnish one shed of proof or reference to the works of Imam al-Bukhari to verify his claim.

    On the contrary, the commentators of Sahih al-Bukhari, like Hafiz Ibn Hajar and Hafiz al-Ayni have not ascribed any view for 8 rak'ahs to Imam al-Bukhari to our knowledge. What is unsurprising to note is that the two aforementioned scholars of Hadith have mentioned the proofs in favour of 20 rak'ahs. One may raise the catechism - if Imam al-Bukhari had held the view ascribed to him, would there be no doubt that his great student, Imam Abu Isa al-Tirmidhi[32], would not have failed to mention this?

    For we know that Imam al-Tirmidhi only knew of either 20 or 41 rak'ahs [33] in his time.

    He has recorded in al-Jami us-Sahih, that Umar[34], Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) and other Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to perform 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh, as well as saying that Sufyan al-Thauri (d. 161 AH), Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181 AH) and al-Shafi'i (d. 204 AH) held the same view. He has also quoted Imam al-Shafi'i as saying that he saw the people of Makkah performing 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh.

    The only proof to suggest that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) performed 20 rak'ahs has been reported on the authority of Abdullah ibn Abbas (radiallahu anhu):

    "Verily, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) in the month of Ramadan, used to perform 20 rak'ahs and the witr (afterwards) without congregation."[35]
    This narration has been shown to have a weak (da'eef) isnad by the verifying scholars like al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani [36], Hafiz al-Zayla'i and others, due to the presence of the narrator: Abu Shaiba[37] Ibrahim ibn Uthman. He was the grandfather of the Imam of Hadith: Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaiba, as well as being a Qadi; but as for his status as a reporter of Hadith, he has been declared to be discarded (matrook) by Hafiz Ibn Hajar in Taqreeb ul-Tahdhhib[38] and al-Bayhaqi has declared him to be weak in al-Sunan al-Kubra[39].

    One may wish to note that al-Albani has gone to the added length of declaring Ibn Abbas' narration to be Maudu (fabricated) [40], whereas no previous scholars of Hadith have gone beyond declaring its isnad to be da'eef (weak). This is nothing strange, for al-Albani usually goes to the added lengths and extremities of declaring narrations which do not suit his whims and desires to be either da'eef or maudu.

    An interesting study prepared and published on this issue by a Shaykh who is said to have memorized the six most authentic collections of Hadith, is available to verify this assertion.

    Let us now see what a number of Imams of sacred law have said about the aforementioned narration from Ibn Abbas (radiallahu anhu).

  • Imam Ahmad al-Tahtawi[41] has said in Sharh Durr al-Mukhtar[42] :
  • "On the authority of Ibn Abbas' statement, 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh has been estblished from the Holy Prophet's (peace be upon him) practice."
  • Shaykh Abdal Haqq al-Dehlawi[43] has been quoted by the author of Fatawa Rahimiyya [44] as follows: "Shaykh Abdul Haqq Muhaddith of Delhi writes in his book, Fath-e-Sirr-ul-Mannan:
  • 'The obvious thing is that, according to the holy Companions, the Holy Prophet's (peace be upon him) saying 20 rak'ahs had been established, as is mentioned in Ibn Abbas' tradition, and for this reason Umar (radiallahu anhu) adopted 20 rak'ahs . . .'
    He also quoted Shaykh Abdal Haqq as saying from his book: Ma sabata minas Sunnah[45],
    'According to our belief, the taraweeh consists of 20 rak'ahs, for Bayhaqi has reported with sound authority that the holy Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) used to perform 20 rak'ahs during Umar's time; moreover, this practice continued during Uthman and Ali's (may Allah be pleased with them) periods also.'"
  • Shaykh Abdur Rahim continued to say in his Fatawa:
  • "The fact is that Hadrat Ibn Abbas and Hadrat Umar are both Companions; there is no 'weak' narrator between them, wherefore Ibn Abbas' tradition may be called weak and the Companion's action may be considered to be based on a weak tradition. Their action was based on a sound basis; how can those who follow them be called 'the deluded'? In short, according to the Companion's reckoning, the afore said hadith is not at all weak, though, due to the inclusion later of a weak narrator. Ibrahim ibn Uthman may be according to the latter-day authorities called weak 'by way of narration', but 'intelligibly' it must be authentic because the well-guided Caliphs and other Companion's conformity to and continuance of 20 rak'ahs is the proof of its being reliable.
    Allamah Bahrul-Ulum[46] says:
    'The Companions continued conformity to 20 rak'ahs is the context and sign of the soundness of this tradition.'"
    In support of what we have mentioned, let us quote to you what a leader of Salafiyyism has mentioned in his book: Criticism of Hadith among Muslims with reference to Sunan Ibn Maja[47] :
    "Shafi'i also recognizes a weak Hadith as authentic (sahih) if it is found to be accepted by the whole ummah (see al-Sakhawi: Fath al-Mugith). But he does not accept Malik's view of restricting the practise to the people of Madinah. According to the later scholars of the Hanafi school like Ibn al-Humam, a Hadith will be declared Sahih, if it is supported by the practise of the Ummah (see Abdal Rashid Nu'mani: Ma tamusu ilaihe al-Haja, p. 18). Among traditionalists, Tirmidhi often remarks, after quoting a less authentic Hadith:
    'It is being practised by the people of learning (Ahl-ul-Ilm).' Suyuti deduces: 'It indicates that the Hadith is supported by the sayings of the people of learning. More than one scholar has said that a Hadith is declared Sahih if supported by the sayings of the people of learning, even if it lacks a proper Isnad (see Suyuti: al-Ta'aqubat, folio 20).'"
    In closing this section, consider what Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) said to his student Imam Abu Yusuf (rahiamhullah). Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri stated in Fayd ul-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari:
    "Imam Abu Yusuf (rahimahullah) asked Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah), 'Did Hadrat Umar (radiallahu anhu) have any compact from the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) for 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh?' The Imam replied, 'Hadrat Umar (radiallahu anhu) was not one to invent on his own; certainly he had some proof for this!'" [48]

    Ijma us-Sahabah on the rak'ahs of Taraweeh being Twenty

    A number of Imams of sacred law have inferred from the evidences available, that there is a definite consensus of the Companions (Ijma us-Sahabah)[49] on this issue. For the readers benefit we will provide some quotes below (including one from a "Salafi" writer).
    Source: Masud Ahmed Khan's Website
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