We have many Masājid, some of them pray 8 rakaʿāt while others pray 20. Some prolong it and others shorten it. So which masjid is [acting] upon the truth as done by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ ?
Shaykh Muqbil ibn Hādi al-Wādiʿī:
If you are able to pray in a Masjid that prays at the last half or last third of the night, which pray 11 rakaʿāt or 13, as it has been reported in the ḥadīth of Āʿisha: “[The Prophet] never increased in Ramaḍān, nor outside of Ramaḍān, more than 11 rakaʿāts.” It has also been narrated 13 rakaʿāts. This is what I advise you with, that you delay the Tarāwīḥ until half of the night or the last third of the night, for certainly the Prophet said ﷺ, “Whoever fears that he will not get up at the end of the night, let him pray Witr at the beginning of it, but whoever thinks that he will be able to get up at the end of the night, let him pray Witr at the end of it, for prayer at the end of the night is witnessed.” Narrated by Muslim.
Likewise, when ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb came out and found ʿUbay bin Kaʿb praying with the people, ʿUmar said: “What a good innovation this is and sleep is better than the one they are offering.”
So I advise Ahl al-Sunnah – if they are able to go to a Masjid that prays at midnight and or at the last third of the night, a Masjid that prays upon the Sunnah, 11 rakaʿāt and they lengthen the prayer according to their ability, this is better. This is since the optional pray is not obligatory.
The Messenger ﷺ said: “Verily I enter into prayer and intend to lengthen it, but instead I shorten it because of what I hear of the crying of a child. I do this out of mercy for its mother.” The Prophet ﷺ also he said to Muʿādh, “Are you are putting the people to trial O’ Muʿādh?” The Prophet ﷺ also said, “If anyone of you leads the people in the prayer, he should shorten it for amongst them are the weak, the sick and those in need.” This is with regard to the obligatory prayer. As for the optional [i.e Tarāwīḥ] prayer, then it is not like the obligatory. A person may pray as much as he is able [of the Tarāwīḥ], he can relax and then pray the following rakaʿāts or go home. And if he is able to prayer at home, then this is better since the Messenger ﷺ said after praying with the people for two or three nights in Ramaḍān, he said, “The best prayer of a person is in the house except for the prescribed prayer.” There are some [scholars] who say [Tarāwīḥ in the Masjid] has become an established sunnah in order to oppose the Shīʿah, for indeed the Shīʿah hold the Tarāwīḥ prayer to be an innovation.
We are not Shīʿah and we don’t not desire to be in confirmation with them, but rather we desire to be in confirmation with the ḥadīth of the Prophet ﷺ. However if anyone fears that he is going to sleep or becomes occupied in his home, or that his children would occupied him, then I advise him to go to the Masjid.
I prayed in a Masjid that prays 20 rakaʿāt should I complete the 20 with the Imām in order to follow the Imām, or should I only pray 8 with them, and then pray the witr alone and leave?
Shaykh Muqbil ibn Hādi al-Wādiʿī:
I advise you to pray 8 with him and then pray witr alone, or pray it with the intention of witr. You could possibly pray two rakaʿāt with them and then pray one alone. This is what I advise you with. Following the Sunnah takes precedence, and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Pray as you see me pray”.