Is it permissible not to perform the sunnah prayers? We are sometimes very tired. They say the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes abandoned the sunnahs of the afternoon and night prayers. Is it true? How often did he abandon them?

Details of the Question

Is it permissible not to perform the sunnah prayers? We are sometimes very tired. They say the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes abandoned the sunnahs of the afternoon and night prayers. Is it true? How often did he abandon them? What about abandoning the sunnahs of other prayers?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

1. Some people say the Prophet (pbuh) abandoned some sunnah prayers from time to time and that it will be sunnah for us to abandon them sometimes.

The life of the Prophet (pbuh) is a model for us. The Companions followed him and tried to do everything that he did. However, the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes abandoned some things so that they would not be regarded as fard.

As a matter of fact, once, he said to the people who waited for him in the mosque until the morning in order to perform tarawih prayer with him,

"I did not lead tarawih prayer lest it should be regarded as fard." (Bukhari, Salatut-Tarawih 2; Muslim, Salatul-Musafirin 178) 

He sometimes abandoned some deeds of worship that were not fard since all of his deeds were regarded as examples to be taken. Thus, the Companions understood that it was not fard and that they would get a lot of thawabs if they did it but that it would not be haram not to do it.

Since we are not taken as examples, why should we abandon prayers? However, those who do not perform them are deprived of its thawabs only.

If we are to take an aspect of the Prophet (pbuh) as an example, we should take his crying in prostration until the morning so much as to wet the prayer mat and performing prayers so much as to make his feet swell.

We can say that if we take all of his aspects as an example, we can sometimes abandon the sunnah of the afternoon prayers. In this age, when hundreds of sunnahs are abandoned, we think we should perform all sunnah prayers regularly with the understanding and intention that the sunnah prayers can be atonement for the abandoned sunnahs.  

2. Some of the nafilah prayers performed before and after the five daily prayers are sunnah muakkadah and others are sunnah ghayr muakkadah. The latter are also called mustahab and mandub.

The strongest sunnah among those nafilah prayers is the two-rak’ah prayer performed before the fard of the morning prayer.

In terms of virtue, the sunnah of the morning prayer is followed by the first and last sunnahs of the noon prayer, the sunnah of the evening prayer and the last sunnah of the night prayer.

The Prophet (pbuh) encouraged us to perform those sunnahs and warned us against abandoning some of them. For instance, he warns us as follows about the sunnah of the morning prayer:

"Do not abandon this sunnah even if you are kicked by a horse."

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following about the first sunnah of the noon prayer:

"A person who skips the four-rak'ah sunnah before the fard of the noon prayer cannot attain my intercession." (see at-Targhib wat-Tarhib, (Beirut: Ihyaut-Turathil-Arabi, 1388-1968), 1/396-406)

The sunnahs about which there are warnings are sunnahs that are muakkadah. The Prophet (pbuh) always performed those prayers. However, the same warnings are not in question for the sunnah of the afternoon prayer and the first sunnah of the night prayer.

There are blessed statements of the Prophet (pbuh) that encourage us to perform the sunnah of the afternoon prayer. However, there is no warning against abandoning the sunnah of the afternoon prayer, unlike other sunnahs. There is only encouragement.

Besides, the sunnah of the afternoon prayer and the first sunnah of the night prayer are mandub. Mandub, which is also known as sunnah ghayr muakkadah and mustahab, is used for the deeds that the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes did with the intention of worshipping and sometimes abandoned. They have a lot of thawabs and they are encouraged; therefore, they are called mandub.

As for the way the Prophet (pbuh) performed the sunnah of the afternoon prayer and the night prayer, according to a hadith reported by Abu Dawud, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) performed the sunnah of the afternoon prayer as four rak’ahs and saluted after the second rak’ah. The following is stated is stated in another hadith narration:

“If a person performs four rak’ahs before and four rak’ahs after the fard of the noon prayer regularly, Allah will make him haram for Hell.” (Abu Dawud, Tatawwu 7; Tirmidhi, Salah 200)

There are also narrations showing that the Prophet (pbuh) performed the sunnah of the afternoon prayer as two rak’ahs. According to a narration of Nasai from Hz. Ali,

"The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) performed two rak’ahs before the fard of the afternoon prayer."

According to the hadiths above, it is mandub to perform four rak’ahs before the afternoon and night prayers. It is a deed of worship that has great thawabs and virtues. Imam Muhammad regards it equal for the sunnah prayers to be performed before the fard of the afternoon prayer and after the night prayer as two rak’ahs or four rak’ahs. That is, the sunnah of the night prayer can be performed as two rak’ahs too. However, the other imams of Hanafi madhhab regard it more virtuous to perform it as four rak'ahs.

According to what is mentioned in the fiqh book called Muhit, the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes skipped the sunnah of the afternoon prayer and the first four-rak'ah sunnah of the night prayer. He sometimes performed them as four rak'ahs and sometimes as two rak'ahs; he sometimes did not perform them. Accordingly, it is possible to perform them all the time for their rewards. Since the Prophet (pbuh) did not always perform it, "not to perform it can be regarded as sunnah taqriri". However, not performing the sunnah of the afternoon prayer and the first sunnah of the night prayer does not make a person responsible whether he has enough time or not. He who does not perform them is not regarded to have committed a sin; he is not held responsible, either.  However, we can always have four or five minutes to perform such a sunnah prayer that makes us gain great rewards.

For more information, please click on the link given below;

Is it permissible to perform only the fards of the daily prayers and to abandon the sunnahs?

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