The 20 Rakats Taraweeh prayer is a Sunnah Muakkadah-Those who reject it, go against the Sunnah and the consensus of the Sahabah It is related from Sayyidina Ibn Abbas : ‘The Prophet would pray 20 Rakats and then witr in the month of Ramadhan.’ (Musnad ibn Abi Shaybah vol 2, p294/ Sunan Baihaqi vol 2, p496/ Tibraani Kabir vol 11, p393/ Musnad ibn Hameed p218).
Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani االله رحمه related from Imam Rafi االله رحمه :The Prophet prayed 20 Rakats in Taraweeh on two consecutive nights with a congregation in Ramdhan. On the third night many more people gathered (for a congregation) but the Prophet did not appear before them. In the morning the Prophet stated: ‘It occurred to me that this prayer (20 Rakats in Ramadhan) could become compulsory (Fard) upon you, and you would not be able to bear it.’ This narration related by Hafiz Ibn Hajar Asqalani, after relating it, he used to state:(صحته على متفق(‘There is a consensus amongst all the Muhadditheen that this narration is sound (Sahih).’ (Talkeesul Habeer FeTakhreej Ahadith Rafi ul Kabeer vol 1, p119).
Sayyidina Abu Dhar Ghifari related: ‘We (the Companions) observed the fasts of Ramadhan with the Prophet . In the whole month the Prophet did not lead us in prayer, until there were 7 days left in the month. The Prophet then led us in prayer on the 23rd, 25th and 27th night. (Sunan Abu Dawood vol 1, p195).
Sayyidah Aisha related: ‘After these nights (23, 25 &27th) the congregation grew to a very large number on the 29th night. The Masjid of the Prophet had become filled to capacity. On this night the Prophet only came out to lead the people for the Fajr prayer. After the Fajr prayer, the Prophet stated: ‘I knew that you had gathered for the night prayer (Taraweeh) but I feared that this prayer would become compulsory (Fard) upon you and you would find it difficult to fulfil. (Sahih Bukhari vol 1, p269/ Sahih Muslim vol 1, p259).
Even in the days in which the Prophet did not pray in congregation, Sayyidina Ibn Abbas has related: Verily in the month of Ramadhan, The Prophet used to pray 20 Rakats and Witr independent from any congregation. (Sunan Baihaqi As-Sunanul Kubra vol 2, p496).
Allamah Subqi Shafi’ االله رحمه stated: ‘Our belief is that the 20 Rakats Taraweeh is a Sunnah, which is proven from a sound chain.’ (Sharahul Minhaaj).
The ‘Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamat’ are those who are satisfied and content with the actions/teachings of the Sahabah The soundness and correctness of the above narrations is supported by the very actions of the Sahabah .
It was the nature of the Sahabah that without the order and permission of the Prophet they would not perform any religious action. They would not create innovative practices in the Deen. It is this very same 20 Rakats Taraweeh that has been performed from the time of the Sahabah to the present day in congregation in the month of Ramadhan. This form of worship has been passed down from generation to generation and safeguarded to this day.
The strength of these Ahadith is established from the Khulafa Rashideen and Sahabah , Scholars of Hadith, Jurists and Mujtahideen of this Ummah, as well as the very practice of the Ummah itself.
The Hadith related in respect of the 20 Rakats Taraweeh above has been related by Sayyidina Ibn Abbas . Sayyidina Umar then acted upon this narration and ordered the Ummah to read 20 Rakats Taraweeh behind an Imam. Both of these Companions are recognised as reliable and sound narrators of Hadith and on their narrating there is no doubt. It is the proven unanimous practice of the Sahabah to act upon this narration of Sayyidina Ibn Abbas which authenticates this narration as a correct and accepted practice.
The Prophet stated: ‘After my time, people will see much differences occurring. In such a condition, it is compulsory upon you that you hold firmly to my Sunnah and the rightly guided path of the Khulafa Rashideen.’(Mishkaat Masabih p30).
The Prophet specifically gave the Ummah an advice; related from Sayyidina Huzaifa : The Prophet stated: ‘I do not know how long I will remain amongst you. After me, follow Abu Bakr and Umar . (Mishkaat Masabih p560/ Sunan Ibn Majah #97).
Sayyidina Abu Rahman bin Abdul Qari related: I left one night in Ramadhan with Sayyidina Umar bin Khattab and we headed towards the Masjid of the Prophet . In the Masjid we saw various groups of people praying alone or behind an Imam and they were scattered over the Masjid. Umar bin Khattab made a decision to congregate all the people behind Sayyidina Ubay ibn Ka’ab . (Sahih Bukhari vol 1, p269).