Shaqiq said: “I asked ‘Aishah about the prayer of the Prophet and she said: ‘He
would pray four rak’at before Zuhr and two after it.”’ This is related by
Ahmad, Muslim, and others.
Umm Habibah bint Abu Sufyan reports that the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever prays twelve rak’at during the day and night will have a house built for him in paradise: four rak’at before zuhr and two after it, two rak’at after Maghrib, two rak’at after ‘Isha, and two rak’at before Fajr.” This is related by at-Tirmizhi who called it hasan Sahih. Muslim reports it briefly.
A: Reports concerning eight rak’at
Umm Habibah reports that the Prophet said: “Whoever prays four rak’at before Zuhr and four after it, Allah will forbid that his flesh be in the fire.” This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmizhi who calls it Sahih.
It is related that Abu Ayyub al-Ansari would pray four rak’at before zuhr. The people said to him: “You made that prayer continue too long!” He said: “I saw the Messenger of Allah doing so. I asked him about it and he said: ‘It is a time in which the doors of the heavens are opened and I wish that my good deeds be raised (to heaven) during it.’” This is related by Ahmad with a good chain.
B: The merits of four rak’at before zuhr
‘Aishah said: “The Prophet never left praying four rak’at before zuhr and two rak’at before fajr under any circumstances.” This is related by Ahmad and al-Bukhari. It is also related from her that during those four rak’at, he would prolong the qiyam [the portion in which one recites the Qur’an] and perfect the ruku’ and sujud therein.
There is no contradiction between the hadith of Ibn ‘Umar, which states that the Prophet prayed two rak’at before zuhr, and other hadith which state that the Prophet prayed four rak’at before zuhr. Ibn Hajar writes in Fath al-Bari: “It is better to take them as describing different circumstances, sometimes he prayed two rak’at and sometimes he prayed four rak’at.
Some say that it may be construed that if he prayed them in the mos que , he prayed only two rak’at, and when he prayed in his house, he prayed four rak’at. On the other hand, it could imply that he prayed two rak’at in his house and then went to the mosque and prayed two rak’at there also.
Ibn ‘Umar only saw what he prayed in the mosque and not what he prayed in his house, while ‘Aishah was aware of both of them. The first interpretation is strengthened by what Ahmad and Abu Dawud recorded from ‘Aishah, namely, that the Prophet prayed four rak’at in his house before zuhr and then he went to the mosque.”
Abu Ja’far at-Tabari says: “Most of the time he prayed four rak’at and occasionally he prayed two rak’at.”
If one prays four rak’at before or after the noon prayers, it is preferred to pray them in two sets consisting of two rak’at each, although it is permissible to make them together with only one taslim at the end of the four rak’at, as the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “The prayers of the night and day are (sets of) two [rak’at].” This was related by Abu Dawud with a sahih chain.
Making up the missed sunnah of zuhr
‘Aishah reports that if the Prophet missed the four rak’at before zuhr, he would pray them afterward. This is related by at-Tirmizhi who calls it (hasan ghareeb). Ibn Majah records that she said: “If the Prophet missed the four rak’at before Zuhr, he would pray them following the two rak’at after Zuhr.”
The preceding is concerned with making up the Sunnah prayers that one is to pray before zuhr. Concerning making up the two rak’at after zuhr, we have the following reports as recorded by Ahmad.
Umm Salamah says: “The Prophet prayed zuhr and then he received some wealth and he sat to distribute it [and continued to do so] until the mu’azhzhin made the azhan for ‘asr. He prayed ‘asr and came to me, as it was my day, and he prayed two quick rak’at. I said: ‘What are those two rak’at, O Messenger of Allah? Have you been ordered to perform them?’ He said: ‘No, they are the two rak’at that I perform after zuhr but I was busy distributing this wealth until the azhan was made for ‘asr and I hated to miss them.’” This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and by Abu Dawud in somewhat different wording.
The sunnah of maghrib
It is sunnah to pray two rak’at after maghrib. Earlier we mentioned that Ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Prophet would not miss them. As to their content, it is preferred to recite, after al-Fatihah: “Say: O Disbelievers,” and “Say: He is Allah, the One,” in the sunnah prayer after salatul maghrib.
Ibn Mas’ud says: “I cannot count how many times I heard the Messenger of Allah recite, in the two rak’at after maghrib and in the two rak’at before fajr ‘Say: O disbelievers,’ and ‘Say: He is Allah, the One.’” This is related by Ibn Majah and at-Tirmizhi. The later grades it hasan.
It is preferred to pray this sunnah prayer in one’s house. Mahmud ibn Labid reports that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam prayed maghrib with the tribe of ‘Abd al-Ashhal. After he made the Taslim, he told them: “Perform these two rak’at in your houses.” This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmizhi, and an-Nasa’i. We have already mentioned that the Prophet prayed them in his house.
The Sunnah of ‘Isha
We have already mentioned the hadith which record that the Prophet (sallallahu alehi wasallam) prayed two rak’at after ‘isha.
A: NONSTRESSED SUNNAH PRAYERS (AS-SUNAN GHAIR AL-MU’AKKADAH)
We have been discussing the Sunnah prayers which were stressed by the Prophet and which he was careful not to miss. There are some other Sunnah prayers (al-sunan ar-ratibah) which are commendable, but are not “stressed.”
B: Two or four rak’at before ‘asr
Many hadith have been related about this Sunnah prayer and they all support each other.
Such hadith include the following:
Ibn ‘Umar reports that the Prophet said: “May Allah have mercy on a person who prays four rak’at before ‘Asr prayer.” This was related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmizhi (who calls it hasan), Ibn Hibban, and Ibn Khuzaimah.
The latter two hold it as Sahih. ‘Ali reports that the (Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam) prayed four rak’at before ‘Asr while separating every two sets of rak’at with salutations to the angels close to Allah, to the prophets, and to those who followed them - the believers and Muslims. This is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmizhi who grades it hasan.
As for praying only two rak’af at this time, this would fall under the generality of the Prophet’s statement: “Between every Azhan and Iqamah there is a prayer.”
To be continued