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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).

and

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).

Inference:

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.

10 comments

  1. Assalam aalaykom wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh.

    Thank you for the information which is very clear and beneficial.
    I have a question. According to the hadith narrated by Ibnu Omar, he said he prayed with Rasulullah(PBUH).
    Does this mean they were praying in congregation for these nawafil prayers? Would appreciate if you could so kindly clarify for me.

    Jazakallah Khaeran Katseera.

    • Wa-alaikum As-Salam warahmatallah. The hadith of Ibn Umar (RA) you have referred to says that he prayed with the Prophet (PBUH). It may or may not mean that they prayed in congregation. Nawafil prayers are usually not performed in congregation; but there are examples where nawafil prayers are proven to be prayed in congregation. So, it is up to the reader to infer whichever manner he may from this hadith. And Allah knows best.

  2. brother i m shia in our sect they are saying nawafil wht is the difference between nawafil and sunnat

    • As Salam alaikum Warahmatallah brother.

      The article of ‘Nawafil Prayers’ throws light about what is a nawafil prayer and what is a Sunnah prayer. However, I will still try to clarify a bit more.

      Nawafil comes from the word nafil, which means an additional or a bonus to the main item. This can be applied to any thing/any ibadah, not necessarily referring to prayer alone. In context of prayer, the no. of raka’at which are farz are main prayer, and any more raka’at that are prayed before or after those are nawafil.

      On the other hand, Sunnah are actions/recommendations/prohibitions etc. shown/told/explained to us by our beloved Prophet (PBUH). These again are not limited to prayer, rather applicable to all aspects of life. In context of prayer, whatever prayers the Prophet (PBUH) prayed or recommended us to pray other than farz prayers, are called as Sunnah prayers. They are same as nawafil; absolutely no difference. Just one classification is given by us: the ones to which the Prophet (PBUH) showed or gave more emphasis are classified as Sunnah-e-muakkada, the others as ghair-muakkada. Both are nawafil; both are Sunnah. And Allah knows best.

      I hope this clarifies your doubt, Inshallah.

  3. Assalamualaikum,
    Thanks brother for such a brief explanation.I just want to know, is it a sin to not perform sunnat e muakkadah?

    • Wa alaikum Salam warahmatallah,

      All praise is for Allah. Performing Sunnah-e-Muakkada brings lots of rewards, as they are recommended. However, not performing these is not a sin.

      And Allah knows best.

  4. Thank you very much for making it crystal clear and removing all doubts. May Allah reward you.

  5. May Allah swt reward you both in this world and the Hereafter for your valued efforts brother. JazakAllah khair

  6. uthman bn lawal

    Assalamu alakum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu
    please i would like to know in detail about the chorouq (sunrise) nafl prayer, thank you.

    • Wa alaikum As Salam Warahmatallah Wabarakatuhu,

      According to majority of scholars, Salat Al-Awwabin, Duha prayer and Ishraq prayer, all are same prayers. The times of this prayer starts after the sun has risen and remains till a little before than Dhuhr prayer. Therefore, we can offer Ishraq/Awwabin/Duha prayer at any of these times. Some people also call it by the name of Chaasht prayer.

      Shaikh Ibn Baz was of the opinion that Duha prayer done at the beginning of its time is called Ishraq prayer.

      As per a hadith reported by Muslim: It was narrated that Zaid bin Arqam said: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) went out to the people of Quba when they were praying, and said, “The prayer of the penitent (Awwabin) is when the young camels feel the heat of hot sand.” – Hadith No. 1747 (748), Book of Travellers’ Prayers & Shortening Thereof, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2.

      Based on this hadith, it is recommended to offer Ishraq/Awwabin/Duha/Chaasht prayer when the sun’s heat becomes intense.

      I do not advocate differences of opinions on this prayer (as some scholars vary in their opinion of all these prayers being different, while others say that all these are same – Duha/Chaasht/Ishraq/Awwabin; I personally favour the later opinion), as this is a voluntary prayer. So one is free to chose whatever time he/she wants to offer (from after sunrise till approximately 10-15 minutes before Dhuhr).

      Also, there are no fixed number of raka’ats for this prayer, and one is free to offer as many he/she wants.

      And Allah knows best.

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