I have always performed Fard prayers with the related Sunnah prayers but after I came to United States, I saw that many Muslims here (esp Arabic) perform Fard only leaving Sunnah prayer altogether. I know there are two types of Sunnah prayer. One that is stressed Sunnah, the other is not stressed sunnah.

My question is what is the importance of Sunnah Prayer. My concern it, they make the prayer longer, somewhat difficult if they are made compulsory. What are its sources that make it compulsory? Should they be observed or not? Sunni view is welcomed (and any there if there is)?

3 Answers 3


The minimum obligatory prayers are called "farz" (or fard). They are 2 rakats for fajr, 4 for zuhr, 4 for asr, 3 for maghrib and 4 for isha prayer. If you say these prayers, then you have completed your duty w.r.t to salat. All the other prayers are different categories of "nafl". The extra prayers that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) regularly performed re called "Sunnah Mu-akada". These are 2 for fajr, 4 for zuhr, 4 for asr, 2 for maghrib and 4 for isha. Those the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did not performed but told someone to do so are termed is "Sunnah ghair Mu-akada". Those that he neither performed nor told someone to do so are called "Nafl".

All these nafl prayers, can be a mean to take you to a higher level of Iman. The obligatory prayers are only those that are known as "farz". That is why they are called "farz". Its is recommended that these nafl prayers are performed in solitude.

  • I am looking for valid reference though. Thanks for the answer.
    – muslim1
    Jan 20, 2014 at 5:42

To use a metaphor, fard is kind of like homework in school whereas sunnah and nafl are more like extra credit. Not performing sunnah won't prevent you from "graduating" (i.e. jannat) per se, but performing it can only help; it's your choice whether you actually want to do it or not. The importance of a sunnah is that it is the tradition of the prophet, and if you follow both the sunnah and the fard then jannat will be yours (inshallah).

  • This question is not about Shia Sunni. Or is it? I gave some background to my question. Should I remove this background? You do not have to beg me. Just ask, I will remove that context.
    – muslim1
    Nov 20, 2012 at 22:20
  • 1
    @basit Salam and Welcome to Islam.SE, we suggest that you read the FAQ. Answers here are expected to have citations, please provide citations from Quran Sunnah, fatwas from reliable scholars, or any other reliable Islamic resource.
    – مجاهد
    Nov 20, 2012 at 22:48

Surah al-baqarah 2/238

“Maintain with care the (obligatory) Prayers and (in particular) the middle prayer and stand before Allaah, devoutly obedient.”

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith Narrated by Talha bin Ubaidullah

A man from Najd with unkempt hair came to Allah's Messenger (saws) and we heard his loud voice but could not understand what he was saying, till he came near and then we came to know that he was asking about Islam. Allah's Messenger (saws) said, "You have to offer prayers perfectly five times in a day and night (24 hours)." The man asked, "Is there any more (praying)?" Allah's Messenger (saws) replied, "No, but if you want to offer the Nawafil prayers (you can)." Allah's Messenger (saws) further said to him: "You have to observe fasts during the month of Ramadan." The man asked, "Is there any more fasting?" Allah's Messenger (saws) replied, "No, but if you want to observe the Nawafil fasts (you can.)" Then Allah's Messenger (saws) further said to him, "You have to pay the Zakat (obligatory charity)." The man asked, "Is there any thing other than the Zakat for me to pay?" Allah's Messenger (saws) replied, "No, unless you want to give alms of your own." And then that man retreated saying, "By Allah! I will neither do less nor more than this (the obligatory duties)!." Allah's Messenger (saws) said, "If what he said is true, then he will be successful (i.e. he will be granted Paradise)."

Narrated in Muslim

Umm Habibah (May Allah be pleased with her) the Mother of the Believers reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying, "A house will be built in Jannah for every Muslim who offers twelve Rak`ah of optional Salat other than the obligatory Salat in a day and a night (to seek the Pleasure of Allah).''

Narrated in Abo-dawood

The prophet (Salla-llaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) is reported to have said: “The first thing about which the people will be called to account out of their actions on the Day of Judgment is Prayer. Our Lord, the Exalted, will say to the angels - though He knows better: “Look into the prayer of My servant and see whether he has offered it perfectly or imperfectly.” If it is perfect, that will be recorded perfect. If it is defective, He will say: “See if there are some optional prayers offered by My servant.” If there are voluntary prayers to his credit, He will say: “Compensate the obligatory prayers with the voluntary prayers for My servant.” Then all the actions will be considered similarly.”

So pondering upon the above, there is no sin on the person who does not perform the non-obligatory prayers (sunnah or nawafil) the only thing that can be said about this person is that they would be missing out on a great reward.

And Allah SWT knows best.

  • If possible links to the hadiths (an references) will be greatly appreciated.
    – muslim1
    Mar 6, 2014 at 4:34

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