Answered by Shaykh Sohail Hanif, SunniPath Academy Teacher
In the Footsteps of the Beloved of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him)
The Sunna Prayers Related to the Obligatory Prayers:
A Detailed Exposition
In the name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate.
All praise is to Allah, Lord of the worlds.
And all blessings and peace to our Master Muhammad, his family, and companions.
There are a number of sunna prayers associated with each of the obligatory prayers.
Some of these are confirmed sunnas and some are non-confirmed sunnas.
As for the wisdom in legislating these sunna prayers, Imam al-Haskafi mentions in al-Durr al-Mukhtar,
“The sunna prayers after the obligatory prayers were legislated to make up for the deficiency in the obligatory prayer, and the sunna prayers before the obligatory prayers are to cut the Devil from his greed.”
Ibn ‘Abidin explains, quoting the great Shafi`i faqih, Ibn Hajr al-Haytami, that the sunnas make up for the deficiency by standing the steed, in the next life, of obligatory prayers missed for excuses such as forgetfulness [s: though these prayers must still be made up].
Others mention that they make up for deficiencies within the obligatory prayers themselves, caused by missing some of the sunnas that make up the prayer, for example. This is aided by the rigorously authenticated hadith that ‘A prayer that is not complete is added to from the supererogatory prayer associated with it until it is complete’. As for how the sunnas before the obligatory prayer cut the Devil from his greed, it is by their causing him to say ‘He didn’t leave what is not obligatory on him so how can he leave what is obligatory?’ [ Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 1:452, Bulaq]
The great Indian mujaddid, faqih, sufi, and hadith master, Shah Wali Allah al-Dahlawi (Allah have mercy on him) mentions the wisdom behind the legislation of supererogatory (nafl) prayers in his Hujjat Allah al-Baligha, arguably the greatest work written on the wisdom of the rulings of the Shariah,
“Worldly concerns lead to forgetting the remembrance of Allah Most High and …attaining the fruits of devotion perpetuating the animal aspect of human nature and confounding his angelic aspect.
It was therefore necessary to legislate something to polish [his heart] before the obligatory prayers so that they could be entered into with a purity of heart and concentration of spiritual ambition.
How often it is that a person does not pray such that he attains unto the benefits of the prayer. This is what was indicated by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) when he said, ‘How many a worshipper has no share from his prayer except a half of it, or a third of it, or a quarter of it.’.
It was therefore necessary to legislate prayers after it as well to complete the purpose. [Dahlawi, Hujjat Allah al-Baligha, 2:28, Dar al-Ma’rifa]
What follows is an explanation of the confirmed and non-confirmed sunna prayers along with relevant hadiths and fiqh details:
The confirmed sunna prayers
There are twelve confirmed sunna prayers that are associated with the fard prayers.
On the authority of the mother of the believers, Umm Habiba Ramla bint Abi Sufyan, she said, ‘I heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) say “ There is no Muslim servant of Allah who prays twelve supererogatory rakats from other than the obligatory prayer for the sake of Allah most high except that Allah makes for him a house in paradise”’[Muslim]. Tirmidhi adds to this in a well and rigorously authenticated narration, ‘ Four before Zuhr, two rakats after it, two after maghrib, two after Isha and two before Fajr’.
These twelve rakats are:
Two before Fajr:
On the authority of ‘A’isha’, the mother of the believers (Allah be pleased with her), the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘The two [sunna] rakats of the Morning Prayer are better than the world and what it contains’[Muslim].
Shah Wali Allah explains:
“It is better than the world because the world is perishing and its blessings
are not free from the staleness of exertion and fatigue whilst the reward of
these two sunnas remains and does not become stale.” [ Hujjat Allah
‘A’isha’ (Allah be pleased with her) also said ‘ The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was not more diligent about performing any supererogatory prayer more than the two [sunna] rakats of the Morning Prayer’ [Bukhari & Muslim].
Four before Zuhr
It is related from ‘A’isha’ (Allah be pleased with her) that, “The Messenger
of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not leave offering four rakats
before the noon prayer.”[Bukhari]
Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani (Allah have mercy on him), one of the top students of Imam Abu Hanifa, relates in his Muwatta’ , which is his transmission (with some additions and comments) of Imam Malik’s Muwatta’ from Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Allah be pleased with him) that, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to pray four rakats before Zuhr once the sun had passed its zenith.”Abu Ayyub asked him about it. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “ Indeed the doors of the heaven are opened up in this hour so I love that good should rise up for me in that hour.” I [Abu Ayyub] asked “Is there Qur’anic recitation in all of it?”, he replied “Yes.” I asked “Are they divided by a salam?” He (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied “No.” [Also related, with similar wording, by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and Tirmidhi in his Shama’il]
Four before and after the Friday prayer.
Four sunnas before the Friday prayer are established from the hadith of Ibn
Abbas (Allah have mercy on him), related by Ibn Majah and others that, ‘The
Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to pray four rakats
before Jumu`ah without separating between them at all.’
Abu Hurayra relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “When one of you prays Jumu`ah then let him pray four rakats after it.”[Muslim]
Two after Zuhr, Maghrib and Isha
It is related from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with both father and son) that he said, “I prayed with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) two rakats before Zuhr, and two after it…and two rakats after Maghrib and two after ‘Isha.’’[Bukhari & Muslim]
· [F: The Hanafi imams explain the two rakats before Zuhr here to refer to the 2 rakats of greeting the mosque, which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would perform after having prayed the 4 sunnas of Zuhr at home, as the hadith of the Mother of Believers, `A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) clearly indicates.]
Non-confirmed sunnas associated with the fard
Two after Zuhr(other than the two confirmed sunna rakats offered after Zuhr)
It is related from Umm Habiba (Allah be pleased with her) that she said, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘Whoever keeps to offering four rakats before Zuhr and four rakats after Zuhr, Allah will forbid him for the Fire.’”
Four before ‘Asr
Ibn ‘Umar relates from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he said, “May Allah have mercy on man who prays four rakats before ‘Asr.” [Reported by Tirmidhi who declared the hadith well-authenticated]
Six after Maghrib
Abu Hurayra relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said “Whoever prays six rakats after Maghrib and doesn’t speak in-between them with evil, they equal twelve years of worship.” [Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah]
Four before Isha and four after Isha
Ibn ‘Abbas relates that ‘I spent the night with my Aunt Maymuna [the wife of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)]. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) prayed Isha then returned to his home and prayed four rakats.’[Bukhari]
‘A’isha’ (Allah be pleased with her) relates that “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) never prayed Isha and then entered my quarters except that he prayed after it four or six rakats”[Abu Dawud]
There is nothing specifically established concerning . This is why Imam Muhammad mentioned in al-Asl that performing four rakats of supererogatory prayer before Isha is good (hasan) without specifically mentioning it as one of the sunan. They mention in support of offering supererogatory prayer before Isha that it is due to the similarity between Isha and Zuhr as one may offer supererogatory prayers before and after each and that it enters under the general indication of the hadith, “Between every two calls to prayer [i.e. the adhan and iqama] is a prayer.”[Bukhari & Muslim]. [ Bada’i` al-Sana’i`, 1:286, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya] This was also the reasoning used by Imam Nawawi in his Majmu` Sharh al-Muhadhdhab to establish the recommendation of praying before the fard of `Isha. [F: The Maghrib time is excepted from the general purport of this hadith, however, as understood from the practice of the generality of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). It is disliked to pray any supererogatory prayer between the Adhan and Iqama of Maghrib. (Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar.)]
Difference in offering non-confirmed sunna prayers
There is a difference between confirmed prayers and non-confirmed one’s in the way that one offers them.
1. Due to the emphatic nature of confirmed sunna (sunna mu’akkada) prayers, a four rakat confirmed sunna prayer is prayed just like a four rakat obligatory prayer the only difference being that:
· one is must recite a sura or at least the equivalent of 3 short verses after the Fatiha in every rakat.
2. When offering four rakats of a non-confirmed sunna prayer, each two rakats is effectively a separate prayer. This means that:
· it is sunna to send blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in the first sitting and
· to read the opening invocation ( thana or istiftah) and seek refuge from the devil ( ta`awwudh) in the beginning of the third rakat, as though one is starting a new prayer.
In all other regards the two prayers are the same.
We ask Allah to give us success in incorporating the practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) into our lives and to avail of the tremendous bounty of Allah.
Edited by Faraz Rabbani.
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