Answered by Sidi Fadi Qutub Zada
The Fiqh of Voluntary (Nafl) Prayers: An exposition of the prayers not directly related to the obligatory prayers
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
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) related from Allah Most High that He said,
“… And my servant continues to draw closer to me by voluntary actions until I love him…” [Bukhari]
There are ten main voluntary prayers not directly related to the obligatory prayers.
The Salutation of the Mosque Prayer (Tahiyyat al-Masjid)
On the authority of Abu Qatada (Allah be pleased with him) he said, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘If any of you enters the Mosque, let him not sit until he prays two rakats.’” [Bukhari & Muslim]
And on the authority of Abu Dhar (Allah be pleased with him) he said, “I entered the mosque, and there was the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) sitting alone, so he said: ‘Oh Abu Dhar, Truly the mosque has a greeting, and indeed its greeting is two rakats, so stand up and pray them.’”[Reported by Ibn Hiban in his Sahih]
Ibn Abidin explains in his commentary Radd al-Muhtar on al-Durr al-Mukhtar that, “What’s intended by it (i.e. greeting the mosque) is drawing nearer to Allah not to the mosque, because a man if he enters the house of a king greets the king not his house.” [Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 1:456]
The fiqh involved
The salutation of the mosque (tahiyyat al-masjid) is a two rakat prayer offered when first entering the masjid preferably before one sits down.
The opportunity is not missed by sitting down, but rather it is preferable to perform it before (one sits). [Imdad al-fattah 411]
One should not perform the two rakats of salutation (tahiyyat) in a time that is disliked (makruh) [i.e. not from the start of Fajr until the sun rises, during the zenith, or after having prayed ‘Asr until the sun sets]. [ Imdad al-Fatah, 411]
The obligatory prayer takes the place of the tahiyyat, and so does every other prayer one offers when entering the mosque regardless whether one includes the tahiyyat in one’s intention or not, [though one is only rewarded for the tahiyyat if one intends it]. [ Imdad al-Fattah, 411]
If one frequently enters the mosque in a day for a specific reason, than one is given the option of offering the tahiyyat either in the first of his entrances or in the last. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:456]
If the Imam is praying the obligatory prayer, or if the muezzin is giving the call to commence prayer (Iqama), than one refrains from the tahiyyat. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:457]
The Two Prayer Cycles of Ablution (Wudu’)
Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) related that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to Bilal, “Oh Bilal, tell me about a work that you are most hopeful about (being rewarded for) from the works you have done in Islam, for I heard the thumping of your sandals in front of me in Jannah.” He said, “I did not do a work more hopeful to me, except that I never performed ablution in an hour of night or day without praying with that ablution what was written for me to pray.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Muslim reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless and give him peace) said, “There is no Muslim who performs ablution properly, than gets up and offers two rakats turning to them wholeheartedly, except that Paradise becomes necessary for him.”
It is recommended to offer two prayer cycles after performing ablution, and before the complete drying of the limbs. [ Imdad al-Fattah, 412]
The two rakats are offered after performing ghusl as well. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:458]
It is recommended to read surat al-Kafiroon in the first raka, and surat al-Ikhlas in the second. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:458]
If an obligatory prayer was performed following the ablution, it acts in place of the two recommended rakats. [ Hashiyat al-Tahtawi, 217]
The Forenoon (Duha) prayer
Abu Hurayra related that the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Whoever adheres to the Duha prayer shall have his sins forgiven, even if they are like the foam of the sea.” [Tirmidhi, 438]
Abu Hurayra said, “My Dear One (Allah bless him & give him peace) enjoined me with three: to sleep having performed the witr prayer; to fast three days every month; and the two rakats of Duha.” [Nasa’i, 1659]
Mu`adha said that she asked `A’isha (Allah be pleased with her), “How many rakats did the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) pray for the Duha prayer?” She replied, “Four rakats, and he would add what he wanted.” [Muslim 1175, Ahmad 23317, Ibn Maja 1371]
It is a minimum of two rakats and a maximum of twelve. [ al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 1:459]
The optimal amount of rakats is eight, and the optimal minimal amount is four. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:459]
Its time is from sunrise to when the sun is at its zenith (Zawal).
Its preferred time is after a quarter of the day has passed. [ Durr al-Mukhtar, 1:459]
The two surahs of Duha, i.e. Surat al-Shams and surat al-Duha are recommended for recitation in the prayer. [ Radd al-Mukhtar, 459]
It is disliked to pray more than 4 rakats at a time with one taslima.
The Two Prayer Cycles of Travel
On the authority of Maqtam ibn al-Miqdam? That he said, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless and give him peace) said, ‘No one has left behind with their family anything better than two rakats offered at home when wanting travel.’” [Reported by al-Tabarani]
Kaab ibn Malik relates, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) would not arrive from a journey except daytime in the forenoon, so if he arrived he started with the mosque and prayed two rakats in it then sat.” [Muslim]
Whoever desires to travel should offer two rakats of prayer in his home prior to traveling, and when he returns from his journey he should seek the mosque and offer two rakats therein. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:459]
It’s reported about the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he said: “Adhere to night prayer, for it is the habit of the righteous before you, and a means of drawing nearer to your Lord; it is an expiation for sins, and a deterrent from wrongdoing.” [Tirmidhi & al-Hakim]
Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-’As (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah be pleased with him) said to him, “Oh Abdullah, do not be like so-and-so, he used to pray in the night then he abandoned night prayer.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
And it is reported by Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) that, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to perform eleven rakats of prayer (at night), prostrating in it a prostration the length it takes any of you to read fifty verses (ayats) before raising his head.” [Bukhari]
It is preferred over daytime prayer. [ Radd al-Muhtar,1:459]
It begins from after isha and continues until fajr time. [ Imdad al-Fattah, 412]
It is a minimum of two rakats and a maximum of eight, with three additional rakats for witr. [ Hashiyat al-Tahtawi, 217]
If one desires to pray one-third of the night and sleep two-thirds of it, than it is best for him to pray in the middle third of the night because worship in this time is most arduous. [ Radd al-Mukhtar, 1:460]
If one desires to pray half the night and sleep half of it, than it is best to pray the last half because of the hadiths that relate to this time of night. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:460]
It is best to perform night prayer two rakats at a time with one taslima. [ Imdad al-Fattah, 408]
The Guidance Prayer (Istikhara)
On the authority of Jabir ibn ‘Abdi’llah (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father) who said, “Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to teach us how to seek guidance in choosing the best option available in a practical enterprise [al-istikhara fi ‘l-amr], just as he would teach us a Chapter [Sura] from the Qur’an. He would say:
“‘If one of you is concerned about some practical undertaking, or about making plans for a journey, he should perform two cycles of ritual prayer [rak’atain], not as an obligatory observance [farida], but voluntarily. Then he should say:
‘”O Allah, I ask You to show me what is best, through Your knowledge, and I ask You to empower me, through Your power, and I beg You to grant me Your tremendous favor, for You have power, while I am without power, and You have knowledge, while I am without knowledge, and You are the One who knows all things invisible.
Allahumma inni astakhiru-ka bi-’ilmi-ka wa astaqdiru-ka bi-qudrati-ka wa as’alu-ka min fadli-ka ‘l-’azim fa-inna-ka taqdiru wa la aqdiru wa ta’lamu wa la a’lamu wa Anta ‘Allamu ‘l-ghuyub :
O Allah, if You know that this undertaking is in the best interests of my religion, my life in this world, and my life in the Hereafter, and can yield successful results in both the short term and the long term, then make it possible for me and make it easy for me, and then bless me in it.
Allahumma in kunta ta’lamu anna hadha ‘l-amra khairun li fi dini wa dunyaya wa akhirati wa ‘aqibati amri wa ‘ajili -hi wa ajili-h :fa-’qdir-hu li wa yassir-hu li thumma barik li fi-h :
If not, then turn it away from me, and make it easy for me to do well, wherever I may happen to be, and make me content with Your verdict, O Most Merciful of the merciful.’”
wa illa fa-’srif-hu ‘an-ni wa yassir liya ‘l-khaira haithu kana ma kuntu wa raddi-ni bi-qada’i-ka ya Arhama ‘r-rahimin :
The guidance prayer (Istikhara) is recommended for those matters in which it is unclear to one what course of action one should take. [ Hashiyat al-Tahtawi, 217]
One begins by offering two rakats to Allah (Mighty and Majestic). One should then sit, (Preferably facing the qibla with hands raised) and recite the dua of Istikhara.
It is recommended to open the dua of istikhara with praise of Allah and sending blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), and to close it in this manner, too. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:461]
The invoker chooses either to declare his or her matter of concern in place of, “this undertaking” (hadha ‘l-amra) in the dua, or to declare it at the end upon its completion. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:461]
It is desirable to repeat the Istikhara seven times. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:461]
The Prayer of Glorifications (Tasabih)
The method of offering the prayer of glorifications (tasabih) listed below is reported by al-Tirmidhi on the authority of Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak:
1- Begin by making takbirat al-Ihram
2- Read the opening invocation (thana)
3- Say the following tasbihs: “Exalted is Allah, and all praise is for Allah, and there is no god save Allah, and Allah is the greatest [subhanallah wa al-hamdulillah wa la ilah illa Allah wa Allahuakbar]” fifteen times.
4- Then say, “I seek refuge with Allah from the accursed devil”
5- Then recite the opening of the book (fatihat al-kitab) with a surah after it
6- Repeat the tasbihs in the following ten times:
a) After reciting the surah while still standing
b) In ruku after (Subhana Rabbi al-Aala) thrice
c) After rising from ruku and standing up straight
d) In prostration following (Subhana Rabbi al-Adheem) thrice
e) In the sitting between the two prostrations
f) In the second prostration following (Subhana Rabbi al-Adheem) thrice
7- Repeat 1-7 in every cycle (raka) of the prayer
Above list extracted from Fatawa al-Hindiyya [1:112]
The prayer of glorifications (tasabih) is four rakats with one taslima or two. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:461]
It is offered in any time that is not prohibitively disliked (makruh) to pray in. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:461]
The tasbihs should not be counted on the fingers if one is able to count by heart. [Radd al-Muhtar, 1:461]
It is recommended to recite surat al-takathur in the first raka, surat al-asr in the second, surat al-kafiroon in the third, and surat al-Ikhlas in the fourth. [ Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 1:112]
The Prayer of Need (Salat al-Hajah)
According to a traditional report, transmitted by Abu Hashim al-Ayyili on the authority of Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be well pleased with him), the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said:
If someone has a seriously pressing need, requiring Allah’s help, he should perform the ritual ablution [wudu’] with proper care. He should then perform two cycles of ritual prayer [rak’atain]. In the first cycle he should recite the Opening Sura of the Book [Fatihat al-Kitab] and the Verse of the Throne [Ayat al-Kursi], and in the second cycle, the Opening Sura of the Book [Fatihat al-Kitab] and “Amana ‘r-Rasulu… [The Messenger believes…]” to the end of that passage. Then, having pronounced the testimony [tashahhud] and the salutation [taslima], he should make his plea by offering this prayer of supplication [du’a’], for his need will then be satisfied. The words of the prayer of supplication [du’a’] are as follows:
O Allah! O Intimate Friend of every lonely individual! O Companion of every solitary individual! O You who are Near, not distant! O You who are Present, not absent! O You who are Invisible, but not vanquished!
Allahumma : ya Mu’nisa kulli wahid : wa ya Sahiba kulli farid : wa ya Qariban ghaira ba’id: wa ya Shahidan ghaira gha’ib : wa ya Gha’iban ghaira maghlub :
I beseech you by invoking Your Name: In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate, the Ever-Living, the Eternally Self-Sustaining the One whom neither slumber nor sleep can overtake.
as’alu-ka bi’smi-ka bi’smi’llahi ‘r-Rahmani ‘r-Rahim: al-Hayyi ‘l-Qayyum: alladhi la ta’khudhu-hu sinatun wa la nawm.
Again I beseech you by invoking Your Name: In the Name of Allah the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate, the Ever-Living, the Eternally Self-Sustaining, the One before whom faces are humbled, voices subdued and hearts quake and tremble.
wa as’alu-ka bi’smi-ka bi’smi’llahi ‘r-Rahmani ‘r-Rahim: al-Hayyi ‘l-Qayyum: alladhi ‘anat la-hu ‘l-wujuh: wa khasha’at la-hu ‘l-aswat: wa wajilat min-hu ‘l-qulub :
[I beseech You] to bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, and to grant me relief from my problem, and a way out of it, and to fulfil my need.
an yusalliya ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala ali Muhammad wa an taj’ala li min amri farajan wa makhrajan wa taqdiya hajati.
Night Worship (Ihya al-Layl)
It is recommended to worship on the following nights:
1- The Night of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr
It is reported by Ibn Majah (1782) that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever stood in worship on the two nights of the two Eids (Adha and Fitr) expecting great reward from Allah, his heart will not die the day the hearts die.
2- The Night of the Middle of Shaban
It is related by Ali ibn Abi Talib (Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “On the night of the middle of Shaban, stand its night in worship, and fast its day, for verily in it Allah (Mighty and Majestic) descends with the setting of the sun unto the sky, saying: ‘Is there not a seeker of My forgiveness that I may forgive him, is there not a seeker of My providence that I may provide for him,’ until day breaks.” [Abd al-Razzaq & Ibn Majah 1388]
3- The Last Ten Nights of Ramadan
On the authority of Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) that she said, “If the last ten (nights) of Ramadan came in, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) would stand the night in worship, wake up his wives, and tighten his waist wrapper [i.e. strive strenuously and vigorously (in worship)].” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Also reported by Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) that she said, “He (Allah bless and give him peace) would exert himself in the last ten days (of Ramadan) that which he would not exert in other than it.” [Muslim]
4- The First Ten Nights of Dhul Hijja
It is reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “There are no days more beloved to Allah to be worshipped in than the ten of Dhul Hijja, the fasting of every day in it is equal to fasting a year, and the worship of every night in it (equal) to the worship of the Night of Power (Lailatul Qadr). [Tirmidhi]
Standing in worship in these previously mentioned nights includes the following:
1. Voluntary prayer without any specific prescribed number of rakats
2. Reciting Quran
3. Reading hadiths and listening to them
4. Glorifying Allah (Mighty and Majestic) and praising Him
5. Prayer and blessings upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) Imdad al-Fattah (417)
Standing these nights in worship is attained by spending the greater part in worship. It is also said spending a moment therein suffices. And it is related from ibn ‘Abbas that it is attained by praying ‘Isha’ with a group and being determined to pray Fajr with a group. [Imdad al-Fattah, 417]
It is disliked for people to get together to worship in any of these nights, regardless whether it is in the mosque or elsewhere. [ Imdad al-Fattah, 417]
The Execution Prayer (Salat al-Maut)
If a Muslim was tried with death by execution, it is recommended for him to perform two prayer cycles, pleading for Allah’s forgiveness and mercy after them; so that his final works before leaving this world are seeking forgiveness and prayer. [ Radd al-Muhtar, 1:462]
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.