How many rakats are there in a Tarawih prayer according to Sunnah?

Details of the Question
According to a Hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari, Tarawih prayer is eight rakats. Is this true? Could please inform us about the actual rakat of tarawih in the light of Hadith and Sunnah?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

That hadith is true. The Prophet (pbuh) led the Taraweeh Prayer for eight rakats. The Taraweeh Prayer is a sunnah al-muakkada. The shortest is two rakats and the longest is twenty rakats. However, during the time of Umar b. Abdulaziz, the people of Medina observed the Taraweeh Prayer for thirty-six rakats. (Fathu’l Bari, v.4, p.220)

The number of rakats of the Taraweeh Prayer is based on the practice of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him). Umar led the Taraweeh Prayer in Masjid an-Nabawi for twenty rakats in the final times of his caliphate. After the period of Four Caliphs, no one objected to observing the Taraweeh prayer for twenty rakats. Scholars depend acted upon this hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding this issue: “ After me, follow my sunnah and the sunnah of the caliphs in the right path” (Tirmidhi, Ilm, 16; Ibn Hanbal, IV, 126). Furthermore, it is reported that Abdullah b. Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) observed the Taraweeh Prayer for twenty rakats and afterwards he observed three rakats of Witr prayer in the month of Ramadan. When Imam Abu Hanifa was asked about Umar’s application as regards to this issue, he answered: Taraweeh Prayer is a sunnah al-muakkada with no doubt. Umar’s observing this prayer in community and for twenty rakats is not a personal preference and not an innovation, either. He did so depending on a juridical principle that he knew and on a will of Muhammad (pbuh). (at-Tahtawi, Hashiya, 334).

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