Significance, Supererogatory Prayers
At-tatawwu’, or nawafil or supererogatory prayers, have been legislated to make up for any deficiencies left in the performance of (Fard Salah (obligatory prayers). In Salah, there are virtues that are not found in any other form of worship. Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet (Sallallahu alehi wasallam) said: “The first thing that the people will be called to account for on the Day of Resurrection will be the prayers. Our Lord will say to the angels although He knows better: ‘Look into the Salah of my servant to see if he observed it perfectly or been negligent in it. So if he observed it perfectly it will be recorded to his credit, but if he had been negligent in it in any way, Allah would say: See if My servant has any supererogatory prayers. Then if he has any supererogatory prayers, Allah would say: Make up the deficiency in My servant’s obligatory prayer with his supererogatory prayers.’ Thereafter all his actions will be examined in like manner” (Abu Dawud).
Abu Umamah narrates that the Prophet (Sallallahu alehi wasallam) said: “Allah does not listen to anything from His slave as He does to the two rak’at (of prayer) that he offers. Mercy descends over the servant’s head as long as he remains in prayer” (Ahmad and at-Tirmizhi). As-Sayuti grades it sahih. In al-Muwatta’, Malik says: “It has reached me that the Prophet said: ‘(Try to) keep to the straight path although you won’t be able to do so completely; and know that the best of your deeds is the salah, and only a (true) believer preserves his wudu.’” Muslim records from Rabi’ah ibn Malik al-Aslami that the (Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam) said: “Ask (anything).” Rabi’ah said: “I ask of you to be your companion in paradise.” The Prophet said: “Or anything else?” Rabi’ah said: “That is it.” The Prophet (Sallallahu alehi wasallam) said to him: “Then help me by making many prostrations (i.e., supererogatory prayers).”
Offering Supererogatory Prayers in One’s House
Ahmad and Muslim relate from Jabir that the Messenger of Allah said: “If one of you offers his prayers in the Mosque then he should make a portion of his prayers in his house, as Allah has made his prayers in his house a means of betterment (for him).”
Ahmad records from ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah said: “The nawafil Salah of a man in his house are a light; whoever wishes should lighten up his house.”
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar reports that the Prophet (Sallallahu alehi wasallam) said: “Make some of your prayers in your houses and do not turn your houses into graves.” This statement is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud. Abu Dawud records from Zaid ibn Thabit on sound authority that the Messenger of Allah said: “A person’s Salah in his house is better than his Salah in my mosque, except for the Fard Salah.”
These hadith prove that it is preferred to say one’s nawafil prayers in one’ s house since prayers in one ‘ s house are better than those that he performs in the mosque. An-Nawawi says: “The Prophet (Sallallahu alehi wasallam) encouraged one to offer Nawafl in one’s house because then the prayers are more private and will have less of a chance of being done for show and will be free from defects that vitiate good deeds. Furthermore, this will be a blessing for the house as mercy and angels will descend on it while Satan flees from it.”
Supererogatory prayers, their Elongation
It is preferred to prolong the reciting by making many rak’at. The group, except for Abu Dawud, reports that al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah said: “The Prophet (Sallallahu alehi wasallam) would stand and pray until his feet or shanks swelled. When he was asked about it, he said: ‘Should I not be a thankful slave?”’ Abu Dawud records from ‘Abdullah ibn Hubshi al-Khath’ami that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alehi Wasallam) was asked: “What is the best deed?” He said: “Prolonging the qiyam; (standing) [in the prayer].” Then it was asked: “What is the best charity?” He replied: “The sacrifice made by one who has little to give.”
Then it was asked: “What is the best migration?” He responded: “The migration from what Allah has forbidden.” Then it was asked: “What is the best jihad?” He replied: “Whoever strives against the polytheists with his wealth and soul.” They asked: “What is the most honorable death?” He answered: “He whose blood is spilled and whose horse is wounded.”
It is allowed to make supererogatory prayers while in ‘Julus’ (sitting)
It is acceptable for one to make Nawafil while sitting even though he has the ability to stand. It is also acceptable for one to make part of such prayers sitting and part of them standing even if all of that is in one rak’ah, (i.e., one sits for part of the first rak’ah and then stands for the rest of it, or vice versa). All of that is acceptable without any dislike for it. One may sit in any manner one likes although it is preferable to sit cross-legged. Muslim records that ‘Alqamah asked ‘Aishah: “How did the Prophet perform two rak’at while sitting?” She replied: “He would recite while sitting and then when he wished to make ruku’, he would stand and bow.” Ahmad, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmizhi, an-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah record that she said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allah ever sitting while reciting during the night prayer until he became old, then he would sit until when about thirty or forty verses were left of his recital then he would stand, finish the recital and make ruku’...”
Different Types of Nawafil
Nawafil may be divided into two types: general and specific prayers. The Nawafil are said to be those prayers which are in addition to the Fard Salah, as prayed by the Prophet (Sallallahu alehi wasallam).
An-Nawawi says: “If one decides to make Nawafil prayers and he does not make any intention concerning the number [of rak’at] he shall make, then he may end the prayer after one rak’ah or make it two Rak’at or increase it to three or one hundred or one thousand, and so forth. If he prays a number of [rak’at], without knowing how many, and then ends the prayer his Salah will still be valid.” There is no difference of opinion on this. The Shaf’iyyah are in agreement with it and there is a text attributed to ash-Shaf’i on this point.
Al-Baihaqi records with a chain of narrators, that Abu Zharr prayed many rak’at and then concluded his Salah. Al-Ahnaf ibn Qais asked him: “Do you know if you finished on an odd or an even number?” He replied: “Even if I do not know, Allah knows. I heard my friend Abu al-Qasim say: ‘No slave makes a Sajdah to Allah without Allah raising him a degree and wiping out one of his sins due to it.”’ This is related by ad-Darimi in his Musnad with a Sahih chain, but it should be noted that there is a difference of opinion over the integrity of one of its narrators.
The specific nawafil prayers are referred to as al-sunan ar-ratibah, or the Sunnah prayers that have a specific order, number, and so on. These include the Sunnah prayers of Fajr, Zuhr, ‘Asr, Maghrib, and ‘Isha.
The Two rak’at of Fajr
There are a number of hadith that state the virtues of observing the Sunnah prayer at dawn time. For example: ‘Aishah relates that the Prophet (Sallallahu alehi wasallam) said about the two rak’at before the fajr “They are dearer to me than the whole world.” This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and at-Tirmizhi. Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet said: “Do not leave the two rak’at of the fajr, even if you are being attacked by a cavalry.” This is confirmed by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Baihaqi, and at-Tahawi. The message of the hadith is that one should not leave the two rak’at of the fajr no matter what the excuse, even while under enemy attack or under most trying conditions. ‘Aishah says: “The Messenger of Allah was not so particular about observing any supererogatory prayer as he was in observing the two rak’at before salatul fajr.” This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, and Abu Dawud. She also reports that the Prophet said: “The two rak’at of the fajr are better than this world and all it contains.” This is reported by Ahmad, Muslim, at-Tirmizhi, and an-Nasa’i. Ahmad and Muslim also record that she said: “I have never seen him [the Prophet] more in haste to do a good deed than he was to perform the two rak’at before the morning [prayer].”