Is Tarawih Eight or Twenty Units of Prayer?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question 

According to the Shafi‘i School, what is the correct number of prayer units for the Tarawih prayer? Is it eight or twenty units? Some local mosques claim to follow the Shafi‘i School. Please clarify this issue and kindly provide the source. Thanks.

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to that which is pleasing to Him. Amin.

Khatib Al-Shirbini (Allah have mercy on him) states in Mughni Al-Muhtaj,

“It is twenty units with ten taslimat (saying of salams), [performed] every night of Ramadan based on the report by Imam Al-Bayhaqi with a Sahih (rigorously authentic) chain: ‘They used to stand in [Prayer] in the time of ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) in the month of Ramadan praying twenty units.’ [Bayhaqi, Sunan Al-Kubra 2/496] Imam Malik reports it in his Muwatta’ as ‘twenty-three units,’ and Imam Bayhaqi reconciled the two narrations saying that three of the units were for the Witr prayer. [Malik, Muwatta’ – chapter on Prayer in Ramadan, 257] Also, it is reported that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) ‘prayed twenty units with them’ [Bayhaqi, Sunan Al-Kubra, 2/496] as was said by Imam Al-Rafi’i. However, Bayhaqi declared the report da’if (weak).” [Shirbini, Mughni Al-Muhtaj 1:389]

Ibn Naqib Al-Misri states, “It is mandub (recommended) to make tarawih, and it is twenty units every night of Ramadan, in the congregation, making salams every two units.” [Misri, ‘Umdat al-Salik, 158]

Therefore, according to the Shafi’i School, the tarawih prayer is recommended–not obligatory–and it is twenty units (raka’) in number, and Allah knows best.

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.