Knowing the structure of how to offer your salah can be confusing for some Muslims.
In this article we will go over what the fardh salah are and the difference between the sunnah prayers which is offered either before or after them.
To really develop an understanding we must first clarify the following terms:
Fardh (Farz) – These are mandatory or obligatory prayers. Missing is a sin on the believer.
Sunnah Muakkadah – These are Mustahabb (highly encouraged) and the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) never missed them.
Wajib – Is compulsory but not the same extent as fardh. Missing is a sin but not as severe as missing a fardh prayer.
Nafl – optional, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) prayed these occasionally.
Sunan Al Rawatib are referring to twelve rakats that are Sunnah Muakkadah for the five daily prayers (in the chart those whose cells which are green).
These prayers were never missed by The Prophet (ﷺ) and according to hadith there is a great reward to the one who offers them daily.
Hadith on Sunan Al Rawatib (twelve Rakats)
The hadith it mentions that the one who observes the twelve sunnah rakats Allah will build them a house in Paradise.
Aishah narrated that Allah’s Messenger (S) said: “Whoever is regular with twelve Rak’ah of Sunnah (prayer), Allah will build a house for him in Paradise: Four Rak’ah before Zuhr, two Rak’ah after it, two Rak’ah after Maghrib, two Rak’ah after Isha, and two Rak’ah before Fajr.”
Classified as Sahih (Darussalam) in Jami At-Tirmidhi 414, also mentioned in Sunan an-Nasa’i 1807 and Sahih Muslim 728 b.
Sunnah Prayers Hadith Abu Dawud
In the Sahih hadith of Abu Dawud number 1251 it also breaks down how the Prophet (ﷺ) used to pray the Sunnah rakats.
Narrated Abd Allah b. Shaqiq:
I asked A’ishah about the voluntary prayers offered by the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). She replied: Before the noon prayer he would pray four rak’ahs in my house, then go out and lead the people in prayer, then return to my house and pray two rak’ahs. He would lead the people in the sunset prayer, then return to my house and pray two rak’ahs. Then he would lead the people in the night prayer, and enter my house and pray two rak’ahs. He would pray nine rak’ahs during the night, including witr (prayer). At night he would pray for a long time standing and for a long time sitting. When he recited the Qur’an while standing, he would bow and prostrate himself from the standing position, and when he recited while sitting, he would bow and prostrate himself from the sitting position, and when dawn came he prayed two rak’ahs, then he would come out and lead the people in the dawn prayer. Sahih (Al-Albani)
The fardh are most compulsory and are enjoined for all believers. The easiest way to remember this is to think of it as a phone number which can be dialed, 2-4-4-3-4 and to reach Isha there is an extension +3 (wajib witr salah). That’s all which is mandatory for you to pray.
If you find it difficult and miss salah first offer the 2-4-4-3-4 + 3. There is a sin for missing prayers, and as a rule of thumb we want to avoid that.
Now, once you have perfected the obligatory prayers you can add on the Sunnan al rawatib which are additional twelve rakats daily. There’s great reward for the person who could do this as Allah says a house will be built in paradise for this act of worship.
To take it on step further you could begin to offer the nafl salah which are supererogatory like the tahhajud prayer.
In Sahih Bukhari it says 6502 Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Allah said “…And the most beloved things with which My slave comes nearer to Me, is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (praying or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him, so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks My protection (Refuge), I will protect him; (i.e. give him My Refuge) and I do not hesitate to do anything as I hesitate to take the soul of the believer, for he hates death, and I hate to disappoint him.”