Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: I have a baby of three months old who doesn’t settle easily. So it is hard for me to pray. I sometime try to do my sunnah as well but most of the time I only perform my fard prayer. Am I sinning by missing on sunnah muaqaddah which I used to perform regularly before I had the baby?
I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits. In such a case, it would be neither blameworthy nor sinful to omit your sunna prayers when it is difficult to perform them.
The Importance of the Emphasized Sunna
The emphasized sunnas (sunna mu’akkada) are those Prophetic practices that we have been especially encouraged to uphold and cautioned against leaving. Thus, the emphasized sunna shouldn’t be left without excuse. If left without excuse, it is blameworthy and unbecoming someone serious about their religion. [Ref: Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Tahtawi/Shurunbulali, Hashiyat Maraqi al-Falah]
When Can Emphasized Sunnas Be Left?
However, when there is an excuse–such as what you describe–then one should do the best one can, and have the intention that were one able to do more, one genuinely would. With this intention and genuine resolve, Allah will write for you the full reward of having performed the sunnas. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If a servant is sick or travelling, the full reward of what they used to do when they were resident and well.” [Bukhari] The same applies to any other situations of genuine hardship, inability, or excuse.
Mercy, Ease, and Beautiful Balance in Seeking Allah
It is important to remember that Allah Most High tells us–through addressing the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk) himself–in the Qur’an, “We have sent you only as mercy to all creation.” [Qur’an, 27.107] It is understood from this that every teaching and guidance–every command and encouragement–that the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk) came with is an expression of Divine Mercy and a means to attaining Divine Mercy.
Allah Most High also tells us that, “And Allah has not placed any hardship for you in religion.” [Qur’an, 22.78] And Allah tells us in the closing two verses of Surat al-Baqara (which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) encouraged us to read nightly), “Allah does not make anyone responsible for more than they are able.” [Qur’an, 2.286]
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Truly, this religion is ease. And no one makes religion difficult for themselves except that they will be overwhelmed. So remain steadfastly committed; do your best; and be of glad tidings.” [Bukhari and others]
The key to sustained religious practice is to have clear purpose of seeking Allah’s pleasure, and then to have consistent, purpposeful, sustainable religious routines that aren’t excessive–but at the same time an expression of “doing one’s best”–with a positive, grateful, rejoicing attitude. [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari]
And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.
The following chapter from Imam Nawawi’s Gardens of the Righteous (Riyad al-Salihin), an important collection of Prophetic teachings, is important: