The Different Types of Voluntary Prayers
In addition to the five daily prayers, are nafl (optional/voluntary) prayers which can be recited. Those which are nawafil, or voluntary, include every extra prayer prayed in the times when prayer is allowed.
There is no limit to these nawafil, and the more nawafil one offers the greater will be the credit and reward for them. There have been such servants of Allah who used to offer Nafl prayers throughout the night and did not sleep. Nafl prayers were a regular and unchanging practice of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam). Some of these are:
(ix) Tahiyatul Wudu
Salat al-Ishraq (Post-Sunrise Prayer)
Ishraq Prayer is a nafl prayer which is performed about 45 minutes (three quarters) after sunrise (according to the Hanafi school of thought) or 20 minutess after sunrise (according to the Shafi school).
A person prays between 2 and 12 units of prayers in multiples of 2.
After completing Fajr salat, one does not move from one’s place and remains there reciting dhikr, tasbih, Qur’an, etc., avoiding participation in worldly affairs until the sun has fully risen (about minutes after sunrise). Then, one stands and offers two or four rakat of nafl. Hadiths are replete with the high merits of this prayer. Abu Hurairah (radiAllahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) has said that "He who says Ishraq prayers without fail shall have his lesser sins forgiven even though they may be as numerous as foam specks on the surface of the sea."
[at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]
RasulAllah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) is reported to have said that Allah Ta'ala says, 'O son of Adam, perform 4 Rakats of Salat (Ishraq) in the early part of the day. I shall help you in accomplishing all your responsibilities during the rest of the day.'
In another narration of at-Tirmidhi, RasulAllah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) is reported to have said, 'He who performs Fajr Salat with Jamaat and remains seated in the same place while engaging in Dhikr until after sunrise and thereafter performs 2 Rakats Nafil Salat, (Ishraq), he will obtain the reward of one Hajj and one Umrah.'
Salat ad-Duha (Morning Prayer)
This prayer is also known as Chaasht salah/namaz. It is performed after the sun has risen high in the morning, after about one-third of the day has passed and it lasts until zawal. One may perform 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 rakat of nafl.
A'isha (radiAllahu anha) was asked how much the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) used to pray for the Duha prayer. She said, “Four rakat or he increased it as Allah wills.”
The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was reported as saying, “Whoever prays 12 rakat for the Duha prayer, Allah will built a golden castle for him in Paradise.”
[at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah]
Salat al-Awwabin (Prayer of the Oft-Repentant)
Awwabin are the plural of Awwab and this refers to the one who is obedient, or one who turns to obedience, or 'the one who submits himself to the worship of Allah by asking for forgiveness'.
After performing the fard and sunnah of Maghrib, one may perform from 6 to a maximum of 20 rakat nafl, in sets of 2 units. This prayer has been called as Awwabin. (This name is sometimes also applied to the morning prayer.) It is said that the one who recites this prayer is one of the Awwabin.
“Whoever prays, after the Maghrib, 6 rakat without talking of anything indecent in between them, it would be equivalent to 12 years of worship for him.”
“The one who prays twenty rakat after Maghrib- Allâh will build for him a house in Paradise.”
Narrated Ibn Nasr (radiAllahu anhu), that whoever prays six units after Maghrib is written among the Awwabeen (oft-repentant) and he recited the verse of the Qur'an "innahu kaana li l-awwabeena ghafuran".
[Jalaladin al-Suyuti in Jami' al-Saghir vol. 2 pg. 159]
Salat at-Tahajjud (Late-night prayer)
Of all the nafl prayers, that prayer which is offered in the middle of the night, known as Tahajjud or Salat al-Layl, is the most rewarding and beneficial.
Salat at-Tahajjud is offered after Isha prayer but before Fajr prayer (or 12 hours from the time of the Duhr prayer). The number of rakat prayed in tahajjud should be between 4 to 12 rakats, offered in even numbers, in units of two or four rakat each.
If one divides the night into six parts, the fourth and fifth part are the best for prayer. If divided in half, the second half is best. If into thirds, the middle part is best.
It is recommended to begin one's night Tahajjud with two brief rakats, to have intended to make the Tahajjud before going to sleep, and to not make a practice of more prayer than one can regularly perform without harm to oneself.
It is best to wake up in the middle of the night to perform the tahajjud. However, if one is not sure that one will be able to do so, then one can pray 4 rakat right after the 2 sunnah mu’akkadah of Isha with the intention (niyyah) of tahajjud. Although the reward will be much less, the pious authorities of the religion have advised this method for those who find it difficult to wake up later in the night. The Witr prayer should be offered after the tahajjud.
Allah (swt) says: “And some part of the night awake for prayer, a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised position.”
[surah al-Isra’: 79]
“As for the Righteous, they will be in the Gardens and fountains [of Jannah], with joy the rewards which their Lord gives them, before this [in the world] they were virtuous. They slept but little at night, and they prayed for forgiveness in the hours of early dawn." [51:15:18]
The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, "The best (most rewarding) salah after the obligatory salah is the night prayer (salat at-tahajjud)"
[Ahmad and Muslim]
The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, “There is a certain period of time in the night during which if a Muslim prays for anything beneficial to his life in this world or the next, it will be granted to him. And this time occurs every night.”
Salman al-Farsi quoted the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) as saying: "Observe the night prayer, it was the practice of the righteous before you and it brings you closer to your Lord and it is penance for evil deeds and erases the sins and repels disease from the body."
Abdullah ibn as-Salam quoted the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) as saying: 'O people, spread the salutations, feed the people, keep the ties of kinship, and pray during the night while the others sleep and you will enter Paradise in peace."'
[al-Hakim, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmidhi]
Salat at-Tasbih (Prayer of Glorification)
According to these narratives whoever offers Salat at-Tasbih, his previous sins will be forgiven.
In the Hanafi madhhab, it is recommended, as mentioned in the major texts, such as Ibn Abidin's Hashiya.
Consisting of 4 units of prayer, the prayer format is slightly different.
The following tasbih is recited 75 times in each Rakat, totalling 300 times in all 4 Rakats:
SubhanAllahi walHamdulillahi wala ilaha illAllahu waAllahu Akbar (Glory be to Allah, all praise be to Allah, there is no god by Allah, Allah is the Greatest, and there is no might nor power except with Allah
The method of this salah is as follows:
After beginning the salah by saying Allahu Akbar recite the thana', Surah al-Fatiha and a Surah followed by the above tasbih 15 times.
Then go into Ruku and after reciting the usual tasbih for ruku recite the above tasbih 10 times.
After standing up from ruku recite the usual 'Rabbana Lakal Hamd' and thereafter recite the tasbih 10 times.
Then go into Sajdah and after reciting the usual tasbih for sajda recite the above tasbih 10 times.
Then sit up from sajdah and recite the tasbih 10 times between the two sajdas. Thereafter go into sajdah again and after reciting the usual tasbih for sajdah recite the above tasbih 10 times. Then sit after the 2nd sajdah (i.e. before standing up for the second rak'ah) and recite the tasbih 10 times.
This adds up to 75 times in one rak'ah. Do the same for the remaining 4 raka'at.
It is recorded in Sunan Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi and other books of hadith that RasulAllah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) once said to his uncle Hadrat Abbas (radiAllahu anhu):
O Abbas! O my uncle! Shall I not give you a gift? Shall I not show you something by means of which Allah Ta'ala will forgive your sins, the first and the last of them, the past and recent, the unintentional and the intentional, the small and huge, the secret and open?
Rasulullah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) then taught him the Salah al-Tasbih. Then he advised him that it be offered daily, if possible. If not then every Friday or once a month or once a year or at least once in a life time.
[abu Dawud 'Salat' 303; at-Tirmidhi 'Salat' 350]
Salat as-Safar (Journey Prayer)
It is said that one should offer 2 units of prayer before departing on a journey (salat al-khuruj ila’s-safar), and upon return from the journey (salat al-‘awda).
On the authority of Maqtam ibn al-Miqdam that he said, "The Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) 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 (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) 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."
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]
Salat al-Istikhara (Prayer for asking for Guidance/Advice)
This prayer requires 2 units with the intention to ask Allah for guidance in a matter.
According to a traditional report transmitted on the authority of Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir, it was Jabir ibn 'Abdillah (radiAllahu anhum) who said: "Allah's Messenger (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) 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 sometimes teach us a Chapter (Surah) from the Qur'an:
"'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:
Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi ilmika wa-astaqdiruka biqudratika wa-as'aluka min fadhlika al-adheem. Fa innaka taqdiru wala' aqdiru. Wa ta'lamu wala a'alamu wa anta allaamul ghuyub. Allahumma in kunta ta'lamu anna [hadhal-amr] khayrun li fi deeni wa-ma'ashi wa-aqibat amri, fa'qdruhli wa-yasirh li thumma barik li feehi. Wa in-kunta ta'lamu anna [hadhal amr] sharrun li fi deeniy wa-ma'ashi was-'aqibat amri. Fa asrifh anni wa-srif 'anhu. Wa aqdurh liyal khayr hayth kana thumma a-rdhini bihi.
O Allah! I seek Your counsel by Your knowledge and by Your power I seek strength and I ask You from Your immense favour, for verily You are able while I am not and verily You know while I do not and You are the Knower of the unseen. O Allah! If You know this affair [this matter] to be good for me in relation to my religion, my life, and end, then decree and facilitate it for me, and bless me with it. But if in Your Knowledge, You know [this matter] to be ill for me towards my religion, my life, and end, then drive it away from me and drive me away from it, and decree for me what is good wherever it be and make me satisfied with such.
Salat al-Hajat (Prayer for the fulfilment of a need)
Salat al-Hajah is a prayer offered if one wants Allah Almighty to fulfill his particular purpose or need or want. It consists of a fresh ablution done carefully, followed by a calm prayer in the order of between 4 to 12 units of prayer, then a sincere supplication that states what one wishes to be accomplished and requesting Allah Ta'ala's help in its accomplishment.
Abu Darda (radiAllahu anha) relates that the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, "Whoever performs ablutions well and offers two voluntary rakahs and completes them to perfection will be granted by God whatever he prays for, either immediately or in God’s good time."
[Ahmad - Sahih]
Abullah ibn Abi Al-Awfa Al-Aslami (radiAllahu anhuhim) relates that the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, Whoever has a need with Allah, or with any human being, then let them perform ritual ablutions well and then pray two rakats. After that, let them praise Allah and send blessings on the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam). Then recite the following dua: [at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa'i and ibn Majah]
The hadith has some weakness, but it is slight: such hadiths are acted upon for virtuous deeds (fada'il al-a'mal) by general agreement of Sunni scholarship
Salat at-Tauba (Prayer for Repentance)
Make the appropriate minor or major ablution, offer a prayer of two rak‘ats, and ask for His forgiveness.
Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu) related from the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) that he said, “There is no one who commits a sin, goes and performs ritual ablutions, and then prays two rakats after which they seek Allah’s forgiveness except that He forgives them.” After this, he (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) recited Allah Most High’s words,
“And those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah and implore forgiveness for their sins - Who forgives sins save Allah only? - and will not knowingly repeat (the wrong) they did.”
This has been related by Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi in their respective Sunan, and the scholars declared it to be a recommended prayer.
[Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni 1.348, Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar 2.28, quoting Sharh Shir`at al-Islam via Shaykh Isma`il al-Nabulsi]
Salat at-Tahiyatul Wudu (Prayer of the Oft-Repentant)
After performing wudu, one should pray 2 rak’at of nafl, known as Tahiyyat al-Wudu. Several hadith have mentioned the blessings and benefit of doing so. For example:
“There is no Muslim who performs wudu and performs it well and then stands and offers 2 units of prayer with devotion of heart and mind in the two of them, except that Paradise becomes guaranteed for him”
Salat al-Khawf (Prayer of Fear/Danger)
The word "Khawf" means fear. Khawf is a type of prayer that is prayed during time of fear. This prayer was performed by the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) in the battle of Uhud.
Salat al Khawf is usually performed in place of normal prayer in the battlefield. When fear is severe, the Imam divides the people into two groups: one group [who remain] facing the enemy, and one group [who stand] behind him.
Then, he prays with this [latter] group one rak'ah with 2 sajdah. Then, when he raises his head from the second sajdah, this group goes back to face the enemy, and the [other] group comes [to take their place].
The imam leads them in one rak'ah with two sajdah, and then performs tashahud and taslim. [The followers] do not perform taslim, but [rather] go to face the enemy.
The first group [now] comes [back], and pray one rak'ah on their own, with two sajdah, without recitation, and then perform tashahhud and taslim, and then go back to face the enemy.
The other group [now] comes [back] and pray one rak'ah with two sajdah, with recitation, and [then] perform tashahhud and taslim.
[the explanation, taken from the "Mukhtasar al-Quduri" by Abu’l-Hasan Ahmad al-Quduri, a major classical book on Hanafi fiqh]
All scholars agree about the legality of such prayers:
(O Messenger!) When you are among the believers (who are on an expedition and fear that the unbelievers might harm them) and rise to lead the prayer for them, let a party of them stand in prayer with you and retain their arms (while letting the other party take their positions against the enemy). When the first party has prostrated (and finished the rak‘at), let them go behind you (to take their positions against the enemy), and let the other party, which has not prayed, come forward and pray with you, being fully prepared against danger and retaining their arms. Those who disbelieve wish that you should be heedless of your weapons and your equipment, so that they might swoop upon you in a surprise attack. But there shall be no blame on you if you lay aside your arms (during prayer) if you are troubled by rain (and the ground impedes your movement), or if you are ill. However, (always) be fully prepared against danger. Surely God has prepared for the unbelievers a shameful, humiliating chastisement. [4: 102]
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