In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.
Once, in the month of Ramadhan, the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam came out of his home and led Taraweeh Salah. The Sahaba Ridhwanullahi Ajmaaeen who were present at the time, prayed behind him in congregation. The second and third nights, a larger number of Sahaba came and performed the Taraweeh Salah behind the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam.
On the fourth night, an even larger number of Sahaba turned up at the Masjid expecting to pray this new Salah behind the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam. But he did not come out to lead Salatul Taraweeh that night. The Sahaba waited all night. When the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam finally emerged for Fajr prayer he told them “I knew you were waiting for me but I did not come to lead the Taraweeh Salah last night because I was afraid it might become fardh on the Ummah which they may find difficult to fulfil.” (Sahih Bukhari p.269 v.1)
Afterwards, the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam performed the Taraweeh Salah at home for the remainder of the Month of Ramadhan. Saaiduna Ibn Abbas Radiallahu Anhu narrates that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam used to pray twenty rakaats followed by Witr in the Month of Ramadhan. (Mussanaf Ibn Abi Shaibah p.394 v.2)
During his reign, Saaiduna Umar Radiallahu Anhu once went to the Masjid in the Month of Ramadhan and noticed that people were performing Taraweeh Salah in small congregations. He said to the Sahaba, “Now that we do not have the fear that Taraweeh Salah will become fardh on us, we can start performing it in congregation.” He then asked Ubay bin Kaab Radiallahu Anhu to lead the Taraweeh Salah – twenty rakaats followed by three rakaats Witr.” (Sahih Bukhari p.269 v.1)
All of the Sahaba including Saaiduna Uthmaan Radiallahu Anhu, Saaiduna Ali Radiallahu Anhu and even Ummahatul Mu’mineen Aaisha Radiallahu Anha, Umm Salamah Radiallahu Anha and Safiyyah Radiallahu Anha agreed with Saaiduna Umar Radiallahu Anhu. All of them used to perform those twenty three rakaats every night during the Month of Ramadhan in the Masjid of the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam. This clearly proves that indeed this is the Sunnah of the Prophet of Allah Salalahu Alahi Wasalam, otherwise the Sahaba would never have agreed to it.
Furthermore, the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam on many occasions has reminded us to follow the Khulafa Rashideen. The Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam said “Whoever will live after me will see a lot of differences of opinions, so people should hold strongly to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of Khulafa Rashideen who are on the straight path. Hold strongly to it. Do not let it go.” (Sunan Ibn Majah p.5 v.1)
(See Salat Al-Taraweeh by Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim Memon Madani)
From the afore going discussion we can deduce that to read twenty rakaats taraweeh with congregation is an emphasised sunnah of the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alai Wasalam and the Khulafa Rashideen. Therefore, to suffice on eight rakaats without any excuse will be impermissible. (Fatawa Darul Uloom Deoband p.281 v.4)
Only Allah Knows Best
Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham