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Nawafil Prayers

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

 رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي ; وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي ; وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي ; يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي


One of my friends asked few questions, regarding Nawafil prayers. The questions are stated below:

1. Why are these called Nawafil prayers?

2. Please differentiate between Sunnah prayers and Nawafil prayers and how are these applicable in our daily prayers?

3. What are the rulings of Islam on Nawafil prayers?

The questions raised are really important, and the subject is very widely misunderstood. Insha’Allah we shall try to throw some light on the subject by references from The Holy Qur’an & Ahadith.

In order to understand this issue clearly, the first thing we have to understand is the meaning of Nafl (Nawafil). What does this actually mean? I will quote Surah Al-Anfal (Chapter No. 8) from Holy Qur’an. This Surah was revealed after Ghazwa-e-Badr, when people started asking about ‘maal-e-ghanimah‘. Anfal refers to ‘Booty of the war’ i.e. the maal-e-ghanimah. This word comes from Nafl. Anything which comes as a bonus or as an extra with the main course is called Nafl. The war, the victory and the hasanaat associated with the war in Allah’s cause was the main course for Muslims and this maal-e-ghanimah was a bonus reward. This explains clearly what this word Nafl means.

Taking this explanation to our Salaat, we know what are main obligatory (Farz) prayers: 2 raka’at in Fajr, 4 raka’at in Zuhr, 4 raka’at in Asr, 3 raka’at in Maghrib & 4 raka’at in Isha’. These are Farz prayers which we have to perform, without fail. All other prayers (other than these obligatory ones) are Nawafil prayers. Most of us call these prayers as Sunnah prayers. I will quote some ahadith to explain about these prayers.

Narrated Aisha (RA), “Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) was never more regular & strict in offering any nawafil than 2 raka’at Sunnah before Fajr prayer.”

(Hadith No. 1169, Book of Tahajjud (Prayer), Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 2).

The hadith mentioned above clarifies that all prayers other than Farz prayers are Nawafil prayers, be they Sunnah-e-Muakkada or Non-Muakkada. Sunnah is an act which was done by Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), that’s why all those acts are called Sunnah; and we all know that this term Sunnah is not limited to prayers only. Muakkada are those Sunnah which have been recommended. These are those Sunnah which Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) used to do regularly. But let me clarify one thing, we should not raise these equal to Farz prayers. Some schools of thoughts preach that unless these Sunnah prayers are performed, our Farz prayer is incomplete and not acceptable to Allah. This is a wrong concept. Farz prayers are obligatory, without any excuses. Nawafil prayers are voluntary. Please refer to a hadith below which explains this matter very well.

Hazrat Abdullah Bin Malik bin Buhaina (RA), from Azd tribe, narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) saw one man praying 02 raka’at after the Iqamah had been pronounced. When Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) completed the Salat, the people gathered around him, and Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said to that man protestingly, Are there 04 raka’at in fajr prayer? Are there 04 raka’at in fajr prayer?

(Hadith No. 663, Book of Adhan, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1).

I will quote some more ahadith to give some more insight in to the matter:

Zaid bin Thabit (RA) narrated, “Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) made an enclosure by a partition made of palm leaves & prayed in it. Some men knew that and came to pray with him. They again came following night, but Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) did not come out. They raised their voices & cast stones at the door. Then Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) came out angrily & said to them: You
kept doing what you did until I thought it would be made obligatory on you. Pray at your homes, for the best of your Salat is that which you perform at home, except for the obligatory (i.e Farz) prayers.”

(Hadith No. 731, Book of Adhan, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1 ).

The italicized words in above mentioned hadith tell us that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) maintained a clear difference between Farz and Nawafils and he asked the same from us. The hadith that follows should remove all the doubts about Nawafil prayers.

Talha bin Ubaidullah (RA) narrated that a man from Najd with shaggy hair came to the Prophet (PBUH) and we heard the sound of his voice but could not understand what he was saying, until when he came near to the Prophet (PBUH) & then we found that he was asking about Islam. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “You have to perform Salat in day & night.” The man asked, “Is there any more prayer for me?” The Prophet (PBUH) replied, “No, unless you want to perform optional (Nawafil) prayers.” The Prophet (PBUH) further said to him, “You have to observe Saum (i.e fasts) of the month of Ramadan.” The man asked, “Is there any more fasting upon me?” The Prophet (PBUH) replied, “No, unless you want to observe the optional fasting.” Then the Prophet (PBUH) further said to him, “You have to give Zakat.” The man asked, “Is there any thing other than Zakat for me to give?” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “No, unless you want to give alms of your own (i.e. voluntary charity / sadaqa).” Then the man went away saying, “By Allah! I will neither do less nor do more than this.” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “If what he said is true, then he will be successful (i.e. he will be granted Jannah).” In another version it is narrated: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “By his father, he will be successful if he is truthful.” Or “By his father, he will enter Jannah, if he is truthful.”

(Hadith No. 46, Book of Belief, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1).

Any doubts remaining still? If yes, then those doubts can’t be helped, because the narrations mentioned above are so clear and self-explanatory that no trace of doubt should remain with us after going through them.

Now let us shift our attention to the question that how many raka’at are to be performed at different times for Muakkada Sunnah (Nawafil) prayers? Let us go through some ahadith to get the answer.

Abdullah bin Shaqiq (RA) said, “I asked Aisha (RA) about nawafil (voluntary) prayers of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) & she replied : before Zuhr, he used to pray 4 raka’at in his house, then go out to lead people in prayer, then come in & pray 2 raka’at. He would lead people in Maghrib prayer, then come in & pray 2 raka’at. Then he would lead people in Isha’ prayer and enter my house & pray 2 raka’at. He would pray 9 raka’at during night, including Witr. At night he would pray for a long time standing and for a long time sitting; and when he recited the Qur’an while standing, he would bow & prostrate himself from standing position. And when he recited while sitting, he would bow & prostrate himself from sitting position. And when it was dawn (Fajr), he would pray 2 raka’at.”

(Hadith No. 1699 (730), Book of the Traveller’s prayer, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2).


It was narrated that Ibn Umar (RA) said: I prayed two raka’at with Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) before Zuhr and two afterwards, two raka’at after Maghrib, two raka’at after Isha’ and two raka’at after Juma’ (Friday prayer). As for Maghrib, Isha’ & Juma’, I prayed with the Prophet (PBUH) in his house.

(Hadith No. 1698 (729), Book of the Traveller’s prayers, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2).


After having read all the ahadith, we can sum up as following:

  1. All the prayers other than Farz prayers are Nawafil prayers, be they Sunnah-e-Muakkada or Non-Muakkada. It is a wrong concept that unless these Sunnah prayers are performed, our Farz prayer is incomplete.
  2. The Muakkada Sunnah prayers are 2 raka’at before Fajr, 2 or 4 raka’at before and 2 raka’at after Zuhr, 2 raka’at after Maghrib, 2 raka’at after Isha’ and 2 or 4 raka’at after Juma’ prayers. Other than these, there are 8 raka’at for Tahajjud and 1 (or 3 or 5) raka’at for Witr (for details about Witr, refer to a separate article named ‘Witr’ available at www.quranandhadith.com).
  3. It is recommended to pray Nawafil prayers at homes.

Other than the Nawafil prayers stated above, there is one more very important Nawafil prayer called Tahayyat-al-Masjid. What is Tahayyat-al-Masjid prayer & what is its importance, is explained in following two ahadith:

Narrated Abu Qatada Al-Salami (RA): Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “If anyone of you enters a mosque, he should offer 2 raka’at (Tahayyat-al-Masjid) prayer before sitting.”

(Hadith No. 444, Book of As-Salat, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1).

It is said that one should not perform any Nawafil prayer during Friday prayer’s Khutba (sermon); however, Tahayyat-al-Masjid is one Nawafil prayer that one should perform even if the Friday sermon is in progress. See the following hadith:

It was narrated that Jabir bin Abdallah (RA) said: Sulaik Al Ghatfani came on a Friday when Prophet (PBUH) was preaching (i.e delivering Khutba) and he sat down. He said to him, “O Sulaik, get up and pray 2 raka’at and make them brief.” Then he said, “If one of you comes on a Friday and the Imam is preaching, let him pray 2 raka’at and make them brief.”

(Hadith No. 2024 (875), Book of Friday Prayer, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2).

Let it be clear that in no way this write-up tends to advocate that we should not perform Sunnah prayers. It is an effort to put forward the practices of our beloved Prophet (Mohhamad, PBUH). Our prayers should be based on these guidelines.

After this, we need not bother about what different schools of thoughts say about the subject. Word of Allah (SWT) & Word of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) is what matters the most. We should leave aside all the different opinions and strictly follow what Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) has told us and what he used to do.

Let us refer to the following verse from Holy Qur’an, follow it strictly and stick to it please:

وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلا تَنَازَعُوا

“Do ita’at of Allah & Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) and do not have conflicts among yourself”.

(Aayah No. 46, Surah Al-Anfal, Chapter No. 8, Holy Qur’an).

And Allah knows best.

May Allah forgive me if I am wrong and guide us to the right path…Ameen.

سُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ عَمَّا يَصِفُون َ ; وَسَلامٌ عَلَى الْمُرْسَلِينَ ; وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ.

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  1. Wa alaikum Salam Warahmatallah,

    As I said earlier, there is no prescribed rule about making dua. So, if people make congregational dua any time, it shouldn’t be criticized.

    However, the problem occurs when someone tries to state that any particular manner of making dua is compulsory and the other manner is not. So, if someone says that it is compulsory to make collective dua after prayer, then such a statement is wrong. But if some people do so sometimes, that is not a problem.

    And Allah knows best.

  2. Wa alaikum Salam Warahmatallah,

    Dear brother, there are hundreds of narrations related to nawafil prayers. However, the recommended Sunnah is collected in this narration which is agreed upon by all scholars:

    Aishah (RA) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Whoever is regular with twelve raka’at of Sunnah, Allah will build a house for him in Paradise: Four raka’at before Zuhr, two raka’at after it; two raka’at after Maghrib; two raka’at after Isha; and two raka’at before Fajr.” – (Hadith no. 414, Chapters on Salat, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 1).

    This hadith is the one which confirms the recommended Sunnah prayers after Fard prayers.

    Yes, there are several other narrations, like the one you quoted, and one can go for those nawafil prayers also. May be these four raka’at are two raka’at into two times, which people of Hanafi Fiqh do follow.

    And Allah knows best.

  3. oh ya ok got it jazakallahu khair

  4. i dint understand anything

  5. Salam alaikum,

    What you didn’t understand? Please let us know so that we can try to help you in understanding.

    Jazak Allah khair.

  6. Jazak Allah Khair brother, you have cleared almost all my confusion on this subject.
    I just have only one query since it is not the sunnah of our prophet Mohammad SAW to pray nafl prayers after asr payers so will it be a sin if we pray nafl after asr till isha or we should avoid?
    Or is there any ruling not to offer nafl prayers in certain time of the day and night?

  7. Salam alaikum,

    I would request you to go through another article titled “Time(s) of prayers” available on our website. There you will come to know about prohibited times where no prayer is allowed to be performed. Once you are finished with that article, Insha’Allah you will be having answers to all such questions. And if still something remains unanswered, please feel free to write back.

    Jazak Allah khair.

  8. Salam, is tahajjud and dhuha prayers considered as nawafil? Jzk for the answer 😊

  9. Wa alaikum Salam Warahmatallah,

    Yes, Tahajjud and Duha prayers are nawafil prayers.

    And Allah knows best.

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