No of rakats in tarawih
The hoary old chestnut of how many rakats in tarawih. I was (yet again) witness to a (mainly civilised) debate about this last night.
I'm going to approach the topic from a slightly different perspective - that of linguistics. Any understanding of shari`a (lit: fiqh ash-shari`a) has to minimally be in keeping with the basic principles of Arabic grammar. For example, if one said, 'muslims have prayers during the day,' it would be understood that this meant more than 1 prayer, as the word used was in the plural.
1. The prayer in question is called salat al-tarawih.
2. Tarawih is the (broken) plural of the singluar tarwiha.
3. tarwiha is the verbal noun (masdar) of the verb ra-ha on the scale of taf`il (the second derived verb form pattern).
4. The verb scale ta`fil gives the meaning of 'to effect or cause [the meaning of the root word].'
5. The root in this case is ra-ha, which means, 'to be at rest.'
6. Thus tarwiha means, 'to cause a rest' or 'to have a rest.'
7. The plural in Arabic is numbered as three or more - unlike English which does not have a dual case.
8. Thus tarawih means, 'three or more periods of rest.'
9. And salat al-tarawih means, 'the prayer in which three or more periods of rest are taken.'
10. A rest is taken between each set of 4 rakats by agreement.
11. Mathematically, therefore, in order for the prayer to be validly called, 'salat al-tarawih,' it is necessary to take at least 3 rest periods between sets of four rakats.
12. The minimum number of rakats in tarawih - linguistically - thus has to be sixteen [4 rakats - rest 1 - 4 rakats - rest 2 - 4 rakats - rest 3 - 4 rakats]
13. It is therefore impossible for the prayer to be called 'salat al-tarawih' and consist of 8 rakats.
Allah knows best.