بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
All praise is due to Allah, we praise Him, we seek His Aid, and We ask for His Forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil of our souls and from our evil deeds. Whomsoever Allah guides, none can misguide him. And Whomsoever He sends astray, none can guide him aright. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except for Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is His Slave and Messenger.
First and foremost, this is a reminder to myself. It is unfortunate to see that every Ramadan, many people become occupied with argumentation and dispute. This is true of two issues in particular: global moonsighting vs. local, and the “correct” number of rak’ahs of the Tarawih prayer.
Sadly, many think that they are achieving some great good or defending the Sunnah by this action which sows rancor and hatred in the hearts of the Muslims for one another. All of those who have witnessed this know what I am speaking of.
Let us look to the example of the Salaf, may Allah be pleased with them, to see how to deal with this matter. ‘Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him, was the first to pray the prayers in full while at Mina whereas Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), Abu Bakr, and ‘Umar all shortened their prayers during Hajj while at Mina. This lead to some dispute and many Companions objected to the action of ‘Uthman. Amongst them was the great Qari’ and Faqih, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him.
Yet, in spite of his objections, when it came time to pray, he was praying the full prayer behind ‘Uthman. Someone who was shocked to see this asked him, “You were criticizing ‘Uthman and now you are praying four rak’ahs?” He responded:
“Khilaf (Disagreement) is Evil.”
If one must discuss issues such as these with others, it should be for the purpose of learning or teaching. It should be to seek the truth. Unfortunately, it is almost always to show that I am right.
In Fadl ‘Ilm as-Salaf ‘Ala al-Khalaf, al-Hafiz ibn Rajab quotes Imam Malik as saying, “Disputation and argument concerning knowledge takes away the light of knowledge.” And he also said, “Disputation concerning knowledge hardens the heart.”
This is certainly true with much of our disputation as we do not engage in it in order to seek the truth but to show that our view is correct, and so we are deprived of its blessing.
Imam Ahmad once said, “It is not befitting for the faqih to impose his madh-hab upon the people.”
Furthermore, there is no doubt that such disputation leads to hatred and rancor. There is no doubt that this is something that should be avoided as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has told us,
“Do not hate one another… but be slaves of Allah, brothers.” [Muslim]
Praying Tarawih is a highly reccomended action, being brothers is an obligation. And Allah knows best.