What should we do to tell people about supererogatory (nafilah) deeds of worship?

The Details of the Question

- What should we do to tell people about the virtue and importance of nafilah fasting and nafilah prayers so that they will fear Allah and do not remain ignorant?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Performing supererogatory (nafilah) prayers and fasting has great rewards but a person who does not perform them does not become a sinner; he will be deprived of their thawab (reward).

Therefore, we ourselves should perform nafilah prayers and nafilah fasting first. Then, if the conditions and medium are suitable and if our advice is not likely to harm, we can encourage people to perform them by talking about their virtues and rewards with verses and hadiths. Then, we should pray for them.

What is nafilah?

Nafilah is a fiqh term meaning worship that is not fard or wajib.

The words nafilah and nafl in fiqh, in a broad sense, mean financial and bodily deeds of worship that are not religiously fard and wajib, demanded from a responsible believer. They refer to, in the strict sense, the financial and physical deeds of worship that a person performs voluntarily in order to gain more thawabs (rewards), apart from the fard, wajib and sunnah prayers (Tahanawi, Kashshaf, 2/1325).

The Importance of Nafilah Worship

a. Quran

It is seen that in the Quran and hadiths, the importance of worship that can be expressed as certain deeds that are required to be done in order to serve Allah in the strict sense as well as worship containing all kinds of deeds and efforts in accordance with Allah’s consent in a broad sense is emphasized, and that definite commands in some of them and voluntary deeds in others are encouraged.  

- Worshippers are praised in many verses (see at-Tawba 9/112; az-Zumar 39/9).

- Muslims are recommended and encouraged to compete with each other in good deeds (see al-Maida 5/48) and to help each other in good deeds (see al-Maida 5/2).

- It is stated that nafilah worship (tatawwu) is good and rewarding. (see al-Baqara 2/158, 184; at-Tawba 9/79)

Some tafsir scholars interpreted justice as fards and ihsan as nafilahs in the verse “Allah commands justice, the doing of good (ihsan)...” (see an-Nahl 16/90). (Shawkani, III, 187-188)

b. Hadiths

The Prophet (pbuh) gives the good news that those who fulfill fard and wajib deeds of worship will attain salvation. (see Bukhari, Iman, 34)

However, the Prophet (pbuh) also states

- that those who perform nafilah worship are the beloved servants of Allah. (see Musnad, VI, 256)

- He encouraged his Companions to perform nafilah worship provided that they would not neglect their duties towards themselves, their families and the society and exceed the bounds (see Bukhari Nikah, 1). (see Muslim, Musafirin, 103)

- He informed us that the deficiencies in fard deeds of worship would be completed with nafilah prayers in the hereafter. (see Ibn Majah, Iqamatus-Salah, 202)

- Although the Prophet (pbuh) was informed that he was granted Allah’s forgiveness, he never gave up his efforts to be a grateful servant and performed a lot of worship other than obligatory prayers. (see Bukhari, Tahajjud, 6; Muslim, Munafiqin, 79-81)

c. Companions

The Companions took pains to perform the deeds of worship other than fards in the way the Prophet (pbuh) practiced and taught. They gave importance to nafilah worship by maintaining this line based on the principle of following the Prophet (pbuh), and they adopted the understanding that nafilah acts had a special place for progress on the path of being a perfect believer.

D. Fiqh Scholars

Considering that nafilah deeds of worship protected and supported fard and wajib deeds of worship and that performing them together contributed positively to the improvement of relations among individuals and social structure, and to personality training, fiqh scholars regarded them as wajib in terms of society, and attracted attention to the fact that if nafilahs were abandoned constantly by individuals and wholly by the congregation, it would have significant drawbacks. (Fakhruddin ar-Razi, al-Mahsul, I, 102; Shatibi, Muwafaqat, I, 132-133; cf. Sarakhsi, al-Usul, I, 114; Abdulaziz al-Bukhari, Kashful-Asrar, II, 628)

Types of Nafilah Worship

Nafilah types of each of the four basic deeds of worship of Islam, namely prayer (salah), fasting, pilgrimage (hajj) and zakah, are dealt with in fiqh with the expressions such as “salat an-nafilah / salat at-tatawwu”.

1. Nafilah Prayers

Nafilah prayers are divided into parts such as sunnah, mandub, and tatawwu in terms of their degrees; they are also considered differently in terms of being performed in congregation or not. In addition, such prayers are also divided into two as muqayyad and absolute in terms of having a certain time to be performed or not or having a reason to be performed or not.

Muqayyad nafilah prayers performed for a reason are as follows: lunar eclipse, solar eclipse, rain, starting a journey, returning from a journey, repentance, tawaf (circumambulation), entering ihram, tasbih, tahiyyatul-masjid, istikhara, wudu and ghusl prayers.   

Sunnah prayers that are called “sunan rawatib” because they are performed in a certain order, arrangement and regularity before or after the Friday prayer and five daily fard prayers, tarawih, duha, awwabin and tahajjud prayers, which are performed based on a certain time are muqayyad nafilah prayers.

Nafilah prayers that are recommended to be performed on holy days and nights are also regarded in this group.

Witr and Eid prayers, which are considered wajib in Hanafi madhhab, are considered to be nafilah prayers depending on a certain time since they are sunnah al-muakkadah in other madhhabs.

Nafilah prayers that are not dependent on a certain time and whose number of rak’ahs are not determined are absolute nafilah prayers. Such prayers can be performed during the day and night in a way that will not delay fard and wajib prayers, and outside of makruh times to perform nafilah prayers.

Fiqh scholars state that it is more virtuous to have longer recitation of the Quran rather than performing more rak’ahs in absolute nafilah prayers, and that nafilah prayers performed at night are superior in degree to those performed during the day. Hanafis state that absolute nafilah prayers can be performed with a salutation in the daytime after a maximum of four rak’ahs and at night eight rak’ahs while Shafiis state that they can only be performed with a salutation after each two rak’ahs both in the daytime and at night.

2. Nafilah Fasts

Nafilah fasts are also divided into two as muqayyad and absolute.

Muqayyad nafilah fasts are fasts that are performed on the ninth and tenth or tenth and eleventh days of Muharram, in the month of Shawwal, especially on the six days following Ramadan, in the haram months (Dhul-Qada, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab), especially on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah, in Sha’ban and on the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth days of all lunar months except Ramadan, and on Mondays and Thursdays of every week.

Some of those fasts are described as sunnah and some as mustahab. Absolute nafilah fasts, on the other hand, are the fasts that a person observes in order to gain rewards on days other than those that are not makruh or haram to fast, and their decree is mustahab.

On the other hand, it is emphasized in fiqh books that it is makruh to fast if it causes a violation of the rights of others or weakens the person and prevents him from fulfilling his personal, family and social duties. It is stated by some fiqh scholars that although it is necessary to make intention for fard fasting at night, it is permissible to make intention for nafilah fasting up to the noon time and that such a fast can be broken without an excuse.

3. Nafilah Sadaqah (Charity)

Sadaqahs are also divided into two parts as fard and nafilah; the fard part is zakah.

In the chapters of zakah, fiqh scholars examined in detail the decrees of zakah, which is fard among financial deeds of worship, and sadaqah al-fitrah, which is wajib, and stated that it was a great thawab for the responsible person to voluntarily give more than the minimum amount while fulfilling the duty of zakah and fitrah. They pointed to the financial help other than them under the heading “sadaqat at-tatawwu” and they dealt with the decrees regarding the issue generally under the titles related to donation deeds such as foundation, testament (will), grant, loan without interest and gift.

In this context, although it is recommended to give nafilah financial aid a lot, especially on blessed days and nights, it is stated that they can be given any time, that it should be given in great secrecy without offending the person being helped (al-Baqara 2/264, 267, 271, 274) and it should not be so high as to make the donator poor (al-Isra 17/29). It is also stated that it is considered makruh for a person who is in debt to give nafilah sadaqah before paying his debt.

4. Nafilah Hajj

Although there is an agreement among fiqh scholars that it is rewarding to perform nafilah hajj, it is debatable, when compared to other deeds of charity, which one is considered more virtuous.

Hanafis hold the view that the construction of outposts (ribat) along the borders of the country is more virtuous than nafilah hajj; they have different opinions related to the comparisons with other nafilah financial aids. (Ibn Nujaym, Bahrur-Raiq, II, 334; Ibn Abidin, Raddul-Muhtar, II, 621)

Can a person who has missed fard or wajib deeds of worship perform nafilah worship?

Fiqh scholars have different opinions about whether a person who has missed fard or wajib deeds of worship to perform can perform the same kind of nafilah worship without performing those missed deeds of worship.

It is generally accepted that it is haram for a person who owes zakah, nafaqah and kaffarah to give nafilah financial aid without paying them.

Hanafi fiqh scholars state that it is better for a person who owes fard and wajib prayers to perform those missed prayers instead of performing absolute nafilah prayers, that it is not considered makruh for a person who owes fard fasting to perform nafilah fasting, that a person who has not performed fard hajj yet can perform a hajj with the intention of nafilah hajj, and that it is permissible for a Muslim who has not fulfilled fard hajj yet to perform Hajj on behalf of someone else.

According to a narration from Abu Yusuf, hajj performed by a person who has not performed fard hajj yet with the intention of nafilah hajj is regarded as a fard hajj.

In the Maliki madhhab, it is stated that it is haram for a person who has to perform missed fard prayers to perform nafilah prayers other than witr, eid prayers and the sunnah of the morning prayer, that it is makruh for a person who owes fasting due to vowing, qada and kaffarah to perform nafilah fasting, that it is makruh for a person who has not performed fard hajj yet to perform nafilah hajj and that in that case, his fard hajj obligation will continue.

According to an accepted view in Shafii madhhab, it is not permissible for a person who has missed fard prayers without an excuse to spare time for nafilah prayers. In this madhhab, it is makruh for a person who owes Ramadan fasting to perform nafilah fasting. Again, according to this madhhab, a nafilah hajj cannot be performed before the fard hajj is performed; even if intention is made for a nafilah hajj, it is regarded as a fard hajj.

Hanbalis hold the view that it is makruh for a person who has to perform missed fard prayers to perform nafilah prayers other than the sunnah of the morning prayer. In this madhhab, in which it is debatable whether it is permissible for a person who has had a missed Ramadan fasting, to perform nafilah fasting, it is stated if a person who has not performed fard hajj yet makes intention for a nafilah hajj, such a hajj is regarded as a fard hajj.

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