Salat as-Sunnah and Salat an-Nafl ~ Customary and Voluntary Prayer
In observing Salah and all practices of worship and cleaning the heart, we follow the sunnah or habit of the beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. In addition to theobligatory or fard salah the beloveds of the Prophet perform five times in each day, the Prophet’s sunnah was to regularly perform prayers alone before or after the congregational prayers, and the pious have always followed the sunnah closely. This regular custom or “confirmed sunnah”, which tradition tells us continued even during travel and in time of war, consists of the following:
- Salat al-Fajr –2 rak’at before, none after until after sunrise.
- Salat al-Dhuhr – 2 rak’at before and after
- Salat al-‘Asr – none before or after
- Salat al-Maghrib – 2 after
- Salat al-‘Isha – 2 after
The form of sunnah prayers is identical to the fard; the differences are only that these are personal prayers, performed alone and not by following an Imam as he leads the worship. If you are new to salah, we have a page explaining the pillars or essential elements of prayer. Voluntary personal prayer before and after the congregational worship is valuable for preparing your heart and body for the deep washing in the river of salah, and then to continue to wash and clean your heart and body in the beauty of the prayer.
The cycle of worship throughout the day is concluded with a confirmed sunnah prayer called Salat al-Witr, the Odd-numbered prayer.
It was sometimes the Prophet’s custom to make additional personal prayers before or after the fard prayers. These expanded sunnah prayers include:
- Salat al-Dhuhr – 4 rak’at before and after
- Salat al-‘Asr – 4 rak’at before, none after
Our master, the Mercy to the Worlds, loved worship and encouraged all humanity to worship in their hearts, on their tongues, by the works of their hands and the complete worship of the Salah. Voluntary prayer to as great an extent as you are capable of is valuable and particularly at night. Wholly voluntary prayer not attached to any of the fard prayers is called nafl, supererogatory.
Valuable times to make nafl prayers (and their names, if any) include:
- After the sun is well up in the morning (Salat ash-Shuruq, daybreak prayer).
- In the mid-morning (Salat ad-Duha, Bright Morning prayer).
- Any time one enters the prayer area of a mosque.
- Upon leaving or arriving in one’s home.
Immediately after performing wudu’.
- Between Maghrib and ‘Isha.
- Upon beginning or completing a journey.
- When one is grateful.
- When one seeks guidance (Al-Istikharah).
- Any time you desire to perfect a state of closeness with the Lord of All Worlds.
- In the second half or last third of the night after waking from sleep (Salat at-tahajjud).