Did the prophet observe optional prayers beyond the sunan ar-Rawwatib? Which Nawafil prayers exist and are proven to be authentic?

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بسم الله والحمد لله

  • Tahiyatul Wudu:

[...] Bilal said: "O Allah's Messenger! I have never called the Adhan except that I prayed two Rak'at, and I never committed Hadath except that I performed Wudu upon that, and I considered that I owed Allah two Rak'at."

So, [He] ﷺ said: "For those two."

At-Tirmidhi (3689) Abu I'sa graded it Hasan Sahih Gharib

At the time of the Fajr prayer, the Prophet ﷺ asked Bilal: "Tell me of the best deed you did after embracing Islam, for I heard your footsteps in front of me in Paradise."

Bilal replied: "I did not do anything worth mentioning except that whenever I performed ablution during the day or night, I prayed after that ablution as much as was written for me."

Al-Bukhari (1149)

  • Two Rak'at of Salat at-Tawbah:

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: "When a servant (of Allah) commits a sin, and he performs ablution well, and then stands and prays two Rak'at, and asks pardon of Allah, Allah pardons him." He then recited this verse [Surah I'mran 135]: "And those who, when they commit indecency or wrong their souls, remember Allah" - End Quote of the Hadith - [...] and seek forgiveness for their sins - and who can forgive sins except Allah? And [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know."

Abu Dawud (1521) classed Sahih in Sahih Abu Dawud (1361) by Shaykh Albani

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: "Whoever performs ablution like this ablution of mine and offers two Rak'at, without allowing his thoughts to stray, his previous sins will be forgiven."

Al-Bukhari (164); further, the Hadith about Wudu cleansing from sins is narrated in Muslim (832)

  • Istikhara prayer:

Jabir said: 'The Prophet ﷺ used to teach us the Istikhara for each and every matter as he used to teach us the Surat from the Qur'an.'

(He ﷺ said): "If anyone of you intends to do something, let him offer two Rak'at, then say: O Allah, I seek Your guidance through Your knowledge, and I seek ability through Your power, and I ask You from Your great bounty. For You are able while I am not, and You know while I do not, and You are the Knower of the unseen. O Allah, if You know that this matter is good for me in my religion, my livelihood, and the outcome of my affairs (or said: in my present and future) - then ordain it for me, make it easy and bless it for me. And if You know that this matter is bad for me in my religion, my livelihood, and the outcome of my affairs (or said: in my present and future) - then turn it away from me and turn me away from it, and ordain for me the good wherever it may be, and then make me pleased with it (Allahumma inni as-takhiruka bi-i'lmik(a), wa as-taq-diruka bi-qudratik(a), wa as-aluka min fadlikal-A'zim, fa-innaka taq-diru wa la a-qdir(u), wa ta'lamu wa la a'lam(u), wa anta a'llamul-ghuyub - Allahumma in kuntu ta'lamu inni hadhal amra khayrun li fi dini wa ma-a'shi wa a'qibati amri (or: a'jili amri wa ajilihi) wa in kuntu t'alamu inni hadhal amra shar-run li fi dini wa ma-a'shi wa a'qibtati amri (or: fi a'jili amri wa ajilihi) fasrifhu a'nni wasrif-ni a'n-h(u), waqdur li-yal khayri haytu kana, thumma rad-dini bih) and [then] he mentions his need."

Al-Bukhari (6382)

  • Salat ad-Duha (before Adh-Dhuhr):

Abu Hurayrah said: "My friend (the Prophet ﷺ) advised me to observe two Rak'at of Duha prayer [...]"

Al-Bukhari (1981)

Allah's Apostle ﷺ said: "In the morning, charity is due from every bone in the body of every one of you. Every utterance of Allah's glorification is an act of charity. Every utterance of praise of Him is an act of charity, every utterance of profession of His Oneness is an act of charity, every utterance of profession of His Greatness is an act of charity, enjoining good is an act of charity, forbidding what is disreputable is an act of charity, and two Rak'at which one prays in the forenoon will suffice."

Muslim (720); another version in Abu Dawud (5242) graded Sahih in Irwa al-Ghalil (461) by Shaykh Albani

He ﷺ said: "It is an hour in which the Gates of the Heavens are opened, and I love that a righteous deed should be raised up for me in it."

A'bdullah bin as-Sa'ib narrated: "Allah's Messenger ﷺ used to pray 4 Rak'at after the sun had passed its zenith, before Salat adh-Dhuhr."

At-Tirmidhi (478) graded Sahih in Al-Ajwibah an-Nafi'ah (p. 53) by Shaykh Albani

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: "No one maintains the Duha prayer except for the Awab (one who constantly returns to Allah), and it is the prayer of the Awabin (those who constantly repent)."

Al-Mustadrak (1/459) Hasan Isnad in As-Sahihah (2/316-7 - #703)

A'isha said: 'The Messenger of Allah ﷺ prayed Salat ad-Duha and then said': "O Lord, forgive me and turn to me; You are the Ever-Turning back (to his slaves), the Merciful" (Allahum-maghfirli wa tub a'lay-ya, Innaka antat-tau-wabur-Rahim) 100 times.'

Adab al-Mufrad (619) graded Sahih by Shaykh Albani

"Seek forgiveness of your Lord and repent to Him, [and] He will let you enjoy a good provision for a specified term and give every doer of favor his favor. [...]" [Surah Hud 11:3]

"Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers, and give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens [...] and rivers." [Surah Nuh 10-12]

The Prophet ﷺ related that Allah A'z-Zawajal said: "Son of Adam: Perform four Rak'at for Me in the beginning of the day, it will suffice you for the latter part of it."

At-Tirmidhi (475) classed Sahih in Irwa al-Ghalil (465) as well as the narration in Abu Dawud (1289):

"Allah, the Exalted, says: Son of Adam, do not be helpless in performing four Rak'at for Me at the beginning of the day; I will supply for what you need till the end of it."

The meaning of "suffice" includes the protection of Allah from all evil and harm, against misguidance and sinfulness, alleviation of anxiety and worries, and forgiveness for one's shortcomings during that day.

  • Salat al-Hazab (when in distress, e.g.: because of a concern, matter) to pray two Rak'at:

Hudhayfah said: 'When anything distressed the Prophet ﷺ [then] he prayed.'

Abu Dawud (1319) classed Hasan in Sahih Abu Dawud (1192) as well as Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (3/172) in which he also stated that the Isnad of the subsequent Hadith in Tafsir at-Tabari (852) is Hasan - Al-Mustadrak (2/296) which Al-Hakim classed Sahih and Imam Dhahabi agreed - on the authority of Ibn Abbas:

'The news of the death of one of his relatives reached him while he was on a journey, so he prayed two Rak'at, then said: We did what Allah commanded: Seek help through patience and Salah.' [Surah al-Baqarah 153]

Lastly, in Abu Dawud (4985-6), classed Sahih in Irwa al-Ghalil (223), the Prophet ﷺ said:

"... so that I pray and get comfort." [...] "Get up, Bilal and give us comfort in Salah."

  • Before leaving and when returning back home:

The Prophet ﷺ said: "When you leave your home, pray two Rak'at to prevent you from an evil exit. When you enter your home, pray two Rak'at to prevent you from an evil entrance."

Musnad al-Bazzar (8567) Jayyid Isnad in As-Sahihah (3/315 - #1323), and Ibn Hajar said: 'This Hadith is Hasan' as Al-Manawi mentioned in Fayd al-Qadir (1/334)

Allah's Messenger ﷺ said: "When any one of you observes prayer in the mosque, he should reserve a part of his prayer for his house, for Allah would make the prayer as a means of betterment in his house."

Muslim (778)

  • 4 Rak'at before Dhuhr and 4 after it (two additional Rak'at after the Sunan):

The Prophet ﷺ said: "Whoever performs 4 Rak'at before Dhuhr and 4 Rak'at after it, Allah Almighty prohibits his flesh from the Fire."

A'nbasah said: Since [I heard this], I have not left performing them.

An-Nasa'i (1812) graded Sahih in Sahih Abu Dawud (5/10)

This Hadith was narrated through various chains: First, in At-Tirmidhi (428), but it contains weakness since in it is Al-Qasim who is Saduq, but makes frequent mistakes, as Ibn Hajar said in At-Taqrib (5470). Secondly, in Abu Dawud (1269), yet Al-Bukhari stated it is disconnected since Makhul did not hear from A'nbasah, as related in Tuhfat at-Tahsil (p. 314). Furthermore, in At-Tirmidhi (427), the narrator Shua'ythi is classed Da'if by Abu Hatim, as related in Jarh wat-Ta'dil (7/305). Lastly, in An-Nasa'i (1816), the narrator Muhammad bin Abi Sufyan is unknown, as Shaykh Albani commented in Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah (2/205).

The Prophet ﷺ said: "4 Rak'at before Dhuhr are equivalent to As-Sahar (pre-dawn) prayer."

Ibn Abi Shaybah (5940) Hasan Mursal as explained in As-Sahihah (3/416-7 - #1431)

  • 4 Rak'at (voluntary) before A'sr:

A'sim bin Damrah narrated that A'li said: "Allah's Messenger ﷺ would pray 4 Rak'ah before Al-A'sr, separating between them with At-Taslim upon the angels that are close (to Allah) and those who follow them among the Muslims and the believers."

At-Tirmidhi (429) Hasan Gharib - Everyone is trustworthy, except A'sim bin Damrah who is Saduq, but sometimes aberrated from A'li with objectionable narrations, which he did not follow up on - as extensively investigated in Kitab Fadl al-Rahim al-Wadud (14/57-64). The main issue is that we only know this particular narration with the path: From Abu Ishaq, from A'sim, from A'li; therefore, Al-Bayhaqi commented in his Sunan (4915): '[He] alone narrated it from A'li; and A'bdullah al-Mubarak used to weaken it and criticize his narration of this Hadith, and Allah knows best.'

It is proven that the Sunan ar-Rawatib are 12 Rak'at, and therefore these 4 Rak'at before A'sr are only voluntary and not a continous practice. And the phrase "separating between them with At-Taslim" refers only to the Tashahhud itself, meaning not to end the prayer after 2 Rak'at.

In regards to the Hadith in Abu Dawud (1272) about 2 Raka't before Al-A'sr, this is an anomalous addition as explained in Da'if Abu Dawud (235).

Lastly, the Hadith in At-Tirmidhi (430) is Da'if due to Muslim bin Mahran; Abu Zur'ah said as related in Jarh wat-Ta'dil (8/78): 'He, and this Hadith, [are] weak.'

  • Tahiyyat al-Masjid:

The Prophet ﷺ said: "If anyone of you enters a mosque, he should not sit until he has offered a two Rak'at prayer."

Al-Bukhari (1167)

  • After the Adhan, to pray two Rak'at:

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: "There is a prayer between the two Adhans (Adhan and Iqama), there is a prayer between the two Adhans." And then while saying it the third time he added: "For the one who wants to (pray)".

Al-Bukhari (627)

  • Nawafil after Jumu'ah:

Allah's Messenger ﷺ said: "When any one of you observes the (obligatory) Jumu'ah prayer, he should observe four (Rak'at) afterwards."

Muslim (881a)

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: "When you observe prayer after Jumu'ah, you should observe 4 Rak'at [...] "And if you are in a hurry on account of something, you should observe 2 Rak'at in the mosque and 2 when you return (home)."

Muslim (881b)

A'bdullah ibn U'mar - while describing the voluntary prayer of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ - said: "He did not observe (Nafl) prayer after Jumu'ah till he went back and observed two Rak'at in his house."

Muslim (882b)

Some scholars, by interpreting these narrations, suggest to pray in the Mosque 4 Rak'at after Salat al-Jumu'ah and 2 when arriving at home, which would be 6 in total.

  • 2 Rak'at before every of the five obligatory prayer:

The Prophet ﷺ said: "There is no prescribed Salah except that there are 2 Rak'at before it."

Mu'jam al-Kabir (2268) classed Sahih in As-Sahihah (1/464-6 - #232) and Shaykh Albani commented: 'Some later scholars have used this Hadith as evidence for the legitimacy of praying the optional Sunnah prayer before the Friday prayer, but this argument is invalid [...] since it is established in Sahih al-Bukhari and other sources that during the time of the Prophet ﷺ there was only the first call to prayer, followed by the congregation, with the Khutbah in between, as I have detailed in my treatise Al-Ajwibah an-Nafi'ah. '

The Prophet ﷺ said: "Pray before Salat al-Maghrib." [...] "For whoever wishes."

A'bdullah al-Muzani said: "[He said so due to] disliking that people might take it as a binding Sunnah."

Al-Bukhari (1183); in Abu Dawud (1281), graded Sahih in Sahih Abu Dawud (1161), specified with two Rak'at.

This is not an additional Hadith to pray another 2 Rak'at before Salat al-Maghrib!

  • 4 Rak'at (in one unit, without dividing it into 2+2 prayer) after the two Sunnah of I'sha:

Ibn Mas'ud said: "Whoever prays four (Rak'at) after I'sha, without separating them with Taslim, it will be counted for him as the equivalent of them on Laylat al-Qadr."

Ibn Abi Shaybah (7275; 7273/4)

All three Asanid are graded Sahih in Ad-Da'ifah (11/103) by Shaykh Albani, and this Hadith is treated as Marf'u; its authenticity and reward are extensively discussed here.

  • To pray Qiyamul-Layl (and Tahajjud when waking up during the night):

The rewards and virtues for Qiyamul-Layl are explained here

  • Salat al-Witr:

Abu Hurayra said: "My friend (the Prophet ﷺ) advised me to observe [...] Witr before sleeping."

Al-Bukhari (1981)

The Prophet ﷺ said: "Al-Witr is a duty for every Muslim, so if anyone wishes to observe it with 5 Rak'at, he may do so; if anyone wishes to observe it with 3, he may do so, and if anyone wishes to observe it with 1, he may do so."

Abu Dawud (1422) graded Sahih in Sahih Abu Dawud (1278)

The Prophet ﷺ said: "Verily, Allah Almighty has added one to your prayers, so perform it between Salat al-I'sha and Salat as-Subh; the Witr, the Witr."

Musnad Ahmad (27229) graded Sahih in As-Sahihah (1/221-1 - #108)

  • Salat az-Zahafah - 2 Rak'at (while sitting) after Witr:

A'ishah said: 'The Prophet ﷺ […] prayed 2 Rak'at after Salat al-Witr in sitting position. When he wished to bow, he stood up and bowed.' [...]

Abu Dawud (1340) graded Sahih in Sahih Abu Dawud (1211); in Muslim (746a): 'He would then pray two Rak'at sitting after uttering the Taslim' (of the Witr prayer).

The Prophet ﷺ said: "... so when each of you has prayed Witr, he should perform two Rak'at; if he then manages to awaken [for Tahajjud] so be it, otherwise, these two [as Night prayer] will suffice him."

Ibn Hibban (2577) classed Sahih in Taliqat al-Hasan by Shaykh Albani

To sum up the explanation from Imam An-Nawawi in Sharh Sahih Muslim (6/21): The Prophet ﷺ occasionally performed two Rak'at after Witr while sitting, demonstrating the permissibility of praying after Witr - and performing voluntary prayers while sitting (in general). The phrase "he used to pray" does not necessarily mean that he did it consistently, but rather at least once. This interpretation is supported by various narrations, including those from A'isha and other Sahabah, which prove that the Prophet's last prayer at night was mainly Witr. Therefore, assuming that the Prophet performed two Rak'at after Witr on a regular basis, is not the case.

Hint: Combining a two Rak'at prayer with more than one intention, then read this.

والله أعلم وبالله التوفيق

  • What about nafil prayer that appears after praying sunah prayer I.e. after 2 of zuhr some people pray extra 2/2+2 nafil prayer?
    – Mehedi
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 16:12
  • There are various ahadith about the Sunnah of Dhuhr: It is narrated to pray 2 before and 2 after Dhuhr, 4 before and 2 after Dhuhr or 4 before and 4 after Dhuhr. The last example is not considered as Sunnan Al Rawatib (Sunnah Prayers associated with Fardh Prayers), but who regulary commits to the last example, will be safeguarded from Jahannam. There is no 4+2 after Dhuhr - perhaps one of those whom you saw that prayed 2 more intended it for something else (like Istikhara or a voluntary prayer regarding a huge problem).
    – harmer
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 17:43
  • I will edit all of those listed to also provide further information on the benefits of those voluntary prayers.
    – harmer
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 17:45
  • +1. "4 Rak'at (in one unit, without dividing it into 2+2 prayer) after the two Sunnah of Isha" - should it be regular? Everyday?
    – user31217
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 12:43
  • 1
    @Afiq | Many updates will come since there are a lot of information to be investigated and processed yet, like for example the mention and explanation around the Tarawih prayer. There are still some prayers that have to be included and ofc the current state of this thread will be improved, inshallah.
    – harmer
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 15:54

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