The Muslim majority has adopted the Tarawih prayers based on the whims and fancies of companions turned caliphs. The Tarawih has no basis in the Holy Quran or even the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) or even the righteous companions like Ameerul Momineen – Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).
The opponents who like to appropriate Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) as a Salaf and a follower of the sunnah of the Shaikhain cannot produce a single report that Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) offered the Tarawih.
The question the opponents must ask themselves is that if Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) was indeed in favour of the policies of the Shaikhain why didn’t he extend his patronage to the Tarawih by offering it along with the other Muslims?
On the contrary we find many reports where Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) shows disgust for the Tarawih.
1. Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) on the Tarawih
Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) laments on the rigidness of the Muslims with regards the innovation of Tarawih prayers:
By Allah they would disperse from me if I were to command the people not to gather in the Month of Ramazan except for the obligatory prayers and inform them that their congregation for the supererogatory prayers (nawafil) is an innovation.
So some of the people in my army would call out to the ones who are fighting alongside me – O People of Islam! The Sunnah of Umar has been changed. He is preventing us from the supererogatory prayers in the Month of Ramazan and I feared that there would be a revolt in a section of my army.
Al-Kafi v 8 p 63
Kitab al-Sulaim (r.a.) v 2 p 723
Wasail al-Shia v 8 p 47
Behaar al-Anwaar v 34 p 174
2. Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) refuses to entertain requests for Tarawih
It is the reported that the people of Kufa requested Ali (a.s.) to appoint an Imam for the Tarawih prayers. Ali (a.s.) prohibited them from it and informed them it was an innovation, in stark contrast to the Sunnah, then he (a.s.) left them alone.
Then the people mobilized and appointed a leader amongst themselves for the Tarawih.
Then Ali (a.s.) sent his son Hasan (a.s.) who entered the Mosque along with a whip. When the people saw him (a.s.), they rushed towards the door, screaming.
Nahj al-Haqq p 289-290
Taqreeb al-Maarif p 347 (with variation)
There are several traditions of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) prohibiting Tarawih in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). When there is not a single documented instance of either the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) or Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) praying Tarawih and in fact condemning it outright as a vile innovation (bidah), it is surprising how the Tarawih founds its way in Islam in such a big way, that too at the level of Sunnah Mu’akkadah! At least this proves that the innovation / bidah blame game cannot be restricted only to the Shias.