Friday, December 2, 2022

Selected Chapters from al-Mu'tamad: Ch. 14, On Emphasised Sunnah Prayers

The Fourteenth Chapter: On Emphasised Sunnah Prayers


          Almighty Allah has blessed us with Sunnah and voluntary prayers, so that they compensate for any shortcomings in the obligatory ones. Moreover, these Sunnah prayers are enacted to constantly and consistently connect the worshiper with his Lord, glory be to Him, and to be a racetrack on which the seekers of Allah’s pleasure and protection compete, as His chosen Prophet (PBUH) narrates from His Lord:

          ‘And the most beloved thing 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 [prayer or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory] till I love him. When I love him I become his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks [something] from Me, I give him, and if he asks My protection [refuge], I protect him’.1


          Learn, O pupil (May Allah guide you to the straight path and truthful speech) that the people of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) have differed over the legal ruling concerning a number of prayers, as to whether they are compulsory prayers or emphasised/stressed Sunnah. The same argument exists within the Sunnah prayers to specify the level of Sunnah for each prayer (emphasised/stressed Sunnah or just recommended Sunnah)

          However, as established from the very beginning, this book relies mainly on the juristic opinions concluded by the two well-versed scholars of the time, al-Khalili and al-Qannubi (May Allah reward them). Thus, you should not be confused about what you might find in other compilations of different views and opinions.



On Urging People to Adhere to Sunnah and Optional Prayers

          Come to know, oh worshiper (May Allah make you of those who are called from the Gate of Salah on the Day of Resurrection) that the emphasised/stressed Sunnah prayers (as-Sunan al-Mu’akkdah) are those that the Prophet (PBUH) strongly commanded his followers to perform, including, for example, the mosque-greeting prayer and the eclipse prayer.

They include as well those prayers, such as the al-witr prayer and the dawn Sunnah prayer, which the Prophet (PBUH) always practised and never left, even for a single time, whether at home or travelling.

          Based on this definition, the stressed Sunnah prayers are the closest to obligatory of the optional prayers. Hence, they should not be abandoned except for a legitimate excuse.

          Generally speaking, all Sunnah prayers, be it stressed or non-stressed, are not to be neglected by a faithful believer, as they are authentically proven to have been practised, or verbally recommended by the one whom Allah set as a good example for us. Once, a Muslim scholar was asked regarding the status of one who habitually leaves as-Sunan ar-Ratibah.2 He replied, ‘He is religiously inferior’. Thereupon, Imam as-Salimi (May his soul rest in peace) commented ‘And Paradise is not inhabited by inferiors’. If this is the case with as-Sunan ar-Ratibah, the situation with the emphasised/stressed Sunnah should be even more strict.

          Likewise, another scholar was questioned about one who does not care to perform the optional prayers that were authentically reported from the Prophet (PBUH). Upon being asked about this situation, he answered ‘He is a man of evil’, and furthermore, he mentioned that ‘his witness is rejected’.

          There is a lot of reliably reported textual evidence urging and encouraging people to consistently perform the Sunnah prayers. For the sake of brevity, I suggest the reader examines these in their original sources.

          Attention: The worshiper recites in the Sunnah prayers, be they emphasised or non-emphasised, the Opening Chapter, as well as another part of the Qur’an. A shorter recitation after the Opening Chapter is required for some prayers, such as the dawn Sunnah prayer (sunnat al-fajr). However, it is advisable to elongate the recitation in other prayers, such as the eclipse prayer (salat al-kusuf). All this will be explained soon, Allah willing.

          Attention: Be informed, dear respected reader (May Allah save you from all evils) of the fact that the best place for one to perform his Sunnah prayers, other than the obligatory ones, is his house. In this, there is no distinction between the Sunnah prayer being stressed or non-stressed, being ratibah or absolute, being prior to the obligatory prayer or after it, being a day or night prayer. It is always better for it to be offered in ones house. The evidence for this principle is the authentic custom and saying of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). On the authority of Ibn ‘Umar (May Allah make him and his father pleased with Him), the Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘Observe some of your prayers in your houses and do not make them [the houses] graves’. However, one should not condemn the practice of those who pray the non-obligatory prayers in the mosque, especially when there is a need for it, such as attending a lecture or a gathering conducted for the remembrance of Allah.

          In this chapter, we will mention the following emphasised Sunnah: al-witr prayer, the dawn Sunnah prayer, the mosque-greeting prayer and the eclipse prayer. As for the ‘Id prayer, we will dedicate a whole chapter to it.


Section on al-Witr Prayer

          al-Witr is a stressed Sunnah, as far as the two Shaykhs (May Allah preserve them) are concerned. His Eminence, the Grand Mufti al-Khalili (May Allah save him), says ‘We are of the opinion that al-witr is an emphasised Sunnah’.


How to Perform It

          Technically speaking, al-witr could be performed with one unit (rak’ah). Also, it could be performed with three, five, seven, nine, eleven or thirteen units; thirteen is the maximum. Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) is reported to have said: ‘Whoever wants to pray al-witr with seven rak’ahs, let him do so, and whoever wants to pray al-witr with five rak’ahs, let him do so, and whoever wants to pray al-witr with three rak’ahs, let him do so, and whoever wants to pray al-witr with one rak’ah, let him do so, and whoever wants to do so gesturing, let him do so’.

          It is allowable to perform al-witr in the al-fasl way or the al-wasl way,3 yet the former is preferred to the latter. The proof supporting this preference is the fact that al-fasl was the main practice of the Prophet (PBUH), and furthermore it is what he (PBUH) directed his people to do when he said: ‘Prayer at night is two by two; then if one of you fears that dawn will break, pray one rak’ah’.

          Instructive Story: A person’s witr prayer should not be less than three units, whenever possible. It is narrated that Abu ash-Sha’tha’ Jabir b. Zayd (May Allah have mercy on him) prayed al-witr with one unit, in order to show his companions that this practice is technically possible. Despite that, he then said: “This is the slack’s witr”.

          Important Remark: Whoever wants to offer al-witr in al-fasl way has to pray in twos, giving taslim after each two, and when he wants to finish his witr, he prays one unit, then sits for tashahhud and taslim.

          Conversely, whoever wants to pray al-witr in al-wasl way has to continue after the second sitting, without taslim. On this ground, he stands up straight away after the first tashahhud for the third/last unit, with a transitional takbir.

          It is to be noted that al-wasl way is only possible for those who want to pray al-witr with three units. Thus, if a person wants to pray al-witr with more than three units, he has to separate each two units with a taslim.


What is Recited during al-Witr

          The worshiper is required in al-witr to recite the Opening Chapter, along with another part of the Holy Qur’an in all its units, including the third/last unit. It is from the Sunnah to recite in the first unit the Chapter of ﴿ سَبِّحِ ﴾ (the Most High), in the second unit the Chapter of ﴿ الْكَافِرُونَ ﴾ (the Disbelievers), and in the third unit the Chapter of al-Ikhlas (Sincerity).

          Finally, it is advisable for the prayer to say after concluding al-witr prayer ‘Subhan al-maliki al-Quddus’ three times. This is authentically reported from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).


The Time for al-Witr Prayer

          The prayer time for al-witr begins right after the Night (‘Isha’) prayer, and lasts until the appearance of the true dawn, in accordance with the correct view. It is recommended to delay the performance of al-witr until the end of the night. This recommendation is for those who are confident that they will wake up at that late time. Otherwise, it is better to pray it before going to bed. In so doing, one concludes his day worshiping his Lord, Exalted is He. On the authority of Jabir b. ‘Abdullah, who said: ‘I heard the Prophet (PBUH) say: “He who amongst you is afraid that he may not be able to get up at the end of the night should observe al-witr [in the first part] and then sleep, and he who is confident of getting up and praying at night [i.e. the Tahajjud prayer] should observe it at the end of it, for the recitation at the end of the night is witnessed, and that is better’.

          Attention: Technically speaking, al-witr could be legally performed before the start of the time for the Night prayer, as far as the reliable viewpoint is concerned. This could be possible in the case of combining the Sunset and Night prayers at the time of the earlier one, advanced combination right after the sun has set.

          Attention: Whoever forgets or misses al-witr until its time has entirely elapsed should substitute it whenever he remembers or gets up, whether during the day or at night. Making up al-witr whenever one remembers or wakes up is the adopted opinion of the two Shaykhs (May Allah prolong their lives).



Question\ Can one who combines the Sunset and Night prayers delay al-witr?

Answer\ Yes, he may postpone it or pray it right after the Night prayer. Allah knows bests.


Section on the Dawn Sunnah Prayer

          Be informed, dear brother (May Allah grant you guidance) that included in the strongly emphasised prayers are the two Sunnah units of dawn (sunnat al-fajr). They are short units offered after the emergence of the true dawn and before its obligatory prayer.4 The Prophet (PBUH) would constantly adhere to this practice in all situations, and he would urge his Companions not to miss it, as he said: ‘The two rak’ahs [before] fajr are better than this world and everything in it’.

          Being a short prayer necessitates that the worshiper does not prolong its recitation in emulation of the Prophetic guidance. Also, it is recommended to follow in the steps of the Prophet (PBUH), to recite in the first unit the Chapter of ﴿ الْكَافِرُونَ ﴾ (Disbelievers), and in the second unit the Chapter of al-Ikhlas (Sincerity). All this should only be after reciting al-Fatihah (the Opening Chapter).

          Attention: He who misses the dawn Sunnah prayer before its obligatory prayer makes it up right after this obligatory prayer, according to the opinion held by Qutb al-A’immah5 (May the Exalted have mercy on him). Also, this is what has been concluded by Shaykhs al-Khalili and al-Qannubi (May Allah save them).

          Moreover, the original order is to be maintained when performing the two dawn prayers (the Sunnah and the obligatory) after the time of dawn has elapsed. In other words, the dawn Sunnah is made up before the Dawn obligatory prayer, even if they are performed after sunrise, keeping the original order. This is demonstrated by the practice of the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions, when they got up after the sun rose fully. Thereupon, Bilal raised adhan, then the whole group prayed the dawn Sunnah followed by the Dawn prayer.

          Attention: You previously knew that it is generally commendable to perform the absolute and ar-ratibah (regular (Sunnah payers at one’s house, so that Muslim houses do not resemble cemeteries, in which praying is not allowed. However, if one enters a mosque after he has prayed the dawn Sunnah at his house, he should not sit down except after offering the mosque-greeting prayer; otherwise, he should remain standing until iqamah. This will be elaborated in the following section.



Section on the Mosque-Greeting Prayer

          Know, oh pursuer of knowledge (May the all-Powerful admit you to Paradise), that he who comes to a mosque is asked to pray two units before sitting. These two units are the mosque- greeting Sunnah prayer (tahiyyat al-masjid). This prayer is of the emphasised Sunnah prayers, according to the adopted position of the two Shaykhs (May Allah save them).

          The various Messenger’s (PBUH) hadiths, commanding Muslims to observe the mosque-greeting prayer or prohibiting them from abandoning it, confirm this prayer is greatly emphasised. Among these traditions is his (PBUH) commandment that ‘If any one of you enters a mosque, he should pray two units before sitting’, and his (PBUH) prohibition: ‘He should not sit till he has observed two units’. Hence, our Shaykh al-Khalili (May Allah preserve him) says: ‘I maintain that the least ruling that could be given to it is to be a highly stressed Sunnah’.

          Attention: The mosque-greeting prayer is of as-Salawat as Sababiyyah (the circumstantial /occasional prayers), just like the funeral prayer, the solar/lunar eclipse prayer, the istikharah (seeking Allah’s guidance) prayer and the tawaf (circumambulation around al-Ka‘bah) prayer.

          Formerly it was mentioned that the legality of praying the occasional prayers during the disliked/reprehensible times is authentically established. This allowance is limited to the disliked times, apart from the three prohibited times (sunrise, sunset and midday).

          An application of this rule is if one comes to the mosque after he has prayed the Afternoon prayer (’Asr); he should not sit down without praying the mosque-greeting prayer, unless the sun becomes yellowish and it is about to set. Allah knows best.

          Attention: Whoever enters the mosque while the Imam is delivering the Friday’s sermon should pray the mosque-greeting prayer and is commanded to shorten it (i.e. recite short chapters). Therefore, do not give much weight to the view that calls for abandoning this established Sunnah during the Friday’s sermon. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reliably reported to have paused his sermon to order a companion of his to offer the mosque-greeting prayer, after the latecomer had sat down without performing it.

          Imam Abu Sa‘id al-Kudami (May his soul rest in peace) said: ‘If the Prophet (PBUH) actually ordered the man, then this viewpoint should take priority’. This opinion has also been advocated by the two scholars of the time, al-Khalili and al-Qannubi (May Allah protect them both).

          Benefit: The mosque-greeting prayer is not of the maqsud lidhatih prayers (prayers meant/enacted dependently for their virtues, such as the voluntary night prayer). The purpose for which this mosque-greeting prayer is enacted is so that you do not sit down in the mosque until you have prayed two units at least. This meaning is extracted from the Prophet’s (PBUH) teaching ‘If any one of you enters a mosque, he should pray two units before sitting’.

          With this in mind, you realise that any two-unit prayer could replace the mosque-greeting prayer, such as al-witr prayer if it is performed with more than one unit, the dawn Sunnah prayer, the duha prayer, the Sunnah prayer of ablution, or any due obligatory prayer. The Prophet (PBUH) says: ‘When the iqamah for prayer is said, there is no prayer except the prescribed prayer’.

          Once, our Shaykh al-Qannubi (May Allah protect him) was asked about one who enters a mosque during duha time and wants to offer two units before sitting down; what is the preferred intention for this two-unit prayer, duha or mosque-greeting? Upon being asked this question, he replied: ‘He prays two units and this suffices for both’.



Section on the Eclipse Prayer

          Be acquainted (May Allah protect you from the temptations of life, and save you from the tragedies of day and night) with the fact that Almighty Allah

     ﴿ جَعَلَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ خِلْفَةً لِّمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يَذَّكَّرَ أَوْ أَرَادَ شُكُورًا ﴾ الفرقان: 62

          ‘Has made the night and the day in succession for whoever desires to remember or desires gratitude’ (Q, the Criterion. 25:62).

          Furthermore, He has made the sun and moon among the great signs of His existence, and among the major proofs of His absolute power in this universe.

          The solar eclipse (kusuf) and, likewise, the lunar eclipse (khusuf), is meant to cause people to resort to their Creator, glory be to Him, remembering and asking forgiveness from Him. To that end, a unique prayer has been legislated for the solar eclipse by explicit textual evidence, and for the lunar eclipse by means of analogy.


          Kusuf and khusuf are interchangeable terms. Based on this, it is possible to say khusuf of the sun, and kusuf of the moon, although the most common practice is to use kusuf for the sun and khusuf for the moon.


The Legal Ruling of the Eclipse Prayer

          The eclipse prayer is a stressed Sunnah for every Muslim, due to the fact that the Prophet (PBUH) rushed to offer it when sun was eclipsed in his lifetime. Besides this practical Sunnah, Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) commanded his noble Companions to gather for it. Hence, its legality is textually proven by more than twenty Companions of the Prophet (May Allah be pleased with them all). Therefore, it could be said that it is fard kifayah (a collective/communal obligation) with regard to the whole Ummah.

          The eclipse of the moon is given analogically the same ruling as the eclipse of the sun in terms of prayer, so praying for the lunar eclipse is legally enacted.6 Likewise, by means of analogy, such an exceptional prayer is legalised when a natural disaster inflicts its dire consequences on people, such as earthquakes and volcanoes, as far as Shaykh al-Qannubi is concerned. May Allah save us all from such disasters.


How to Perform the Eclipse Prayer

          Learn, brother (May Allah make you of those who listen to the speech and follow the best of it), that upon the occurrence of the solar or lunar eclipse, it is legislated to call people to prayer, proclaiming as-Salah Jami‘ah, which literally means ‘The prayer is gathering’.

          When people gather in the mosque, the Imam stands and leads them for the eclipse prayer. This prayer consists of two audible units, whether it is performed during the day or night. Unlike the other prayers, each unit in this unique prayer has two ruku’s (bowings) and two qiyams (standings). This format for the eclipse prayer is adopted by the two Shaykhs, al-Khalili and al-Qannubi (May Allah save them), and it is also the one chosen by Imam as-Salimi (May Allah have mercy on him).         


          The description of this prayer, in brief, is as follows:

          After the consecrating takbir, the Imam recites the Opening Chapter and another part of the Qur’an, and he greatly elongates his recitation. Then, he bows down, prolonging his bowing and the glorification of his Lord. Next, he stands up and recites the Opening Chapter again with another part of the Our’an, elongating the recitation, but this second recitation is shorter than the first one. Afterwards, he bows down for a long time, but this one is also shorter than the former one. Then, he stands up straight from his bowing and falls into prostration twice, prolonging his glorification of his Creator.

          Upon the completion of his prostration, he stands upright for the second unit and performs it in just the same manner as he performed the first one, except that the recitation and glorification in this second unit are shorter than those of the first unit.

          Attention: It has been widely spread in some communities that they raise adhans upon the occurrence of the solar or lunar eclipse. This custom is in contrast to the authentic Sunnah and what has been established by Consensus. The legal religious practice is to announce as-Salah Jami’ah. There is no objection to the repeating of this announcement in order to call people and draw their attention to the prayer.

Much worse is what we have heard that when some witness an eclipse, they start beating drums and provoking beasts. This misbehaviour is due to the misconception that the sun has eclipsed because it has committed a sin, or that a giant dragon has eaten part of it!


The Eclipse Sermon

          Learn, O caller to Allah (May He grant you truthful Speech and righteous deeds), that it is recommended for the one who leads people in this prayer to stand and deliver a sermon. This sermon should be concise and informative. At the beginning of it, the orator praises Allah and thanks Him. Then, he invites the attendees to reflect on and contemplate this exceptional phenomenon. Also, he warns them of Allah’s punishment and gives them the glad tidings of His extraordinary reward. Additionally, he urges them to mention the name of Allah repeatedly, send peace and blessings of Allah to His beloved, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), give charity, follow the Sunnah, and distance themselves from religious heresies.

          This is similar to what the Prophet (PBUH) did when the sun was eclipsed on the day his son, Ibrahim, passed away (Peace be on him and his father). Upon that coincidence, some thought that the sun was actually eclipsed because of the death of the Prophet’s (PBUH) son. To clear this misunderstanding, the Prophet (PBUH) stood and delivered a sermon.

          Amongst what the Prophet (PBUH) declared in his sermon was: ‘The sun and the moon are two of Allah’s signs. They are not eclipsed for anyone’s death, nor for anyone’s life. When you see an eclipse, call on Allah and magnify Him [i.e. say: “Allah is greater”] and give sadaqah.’ Then he said: ‘O community of Muhammad! By Allah, if you knew what I knew, you would laugh little and weep much’. ‘A’ishah said: ‘He further told them to seek protection for themselves from the punishment of the grave’.

          Precious Benefit: The solar eclipse only takes place at the end of the lunar month. On the other hand, the lunar eclipse only takes place at the middle of the lunar month when the moon is full.

          Another Benefit: If something prevents the sighting of kusuf or khusuf, such as intense clouds or dust, then the prayer is not legally required, even if astronomers state the time at which the eclipse astronomically takes place. Similarly, if it occurs in one place, people in other places are not asked to perform it. The justification for this is that the eclipse prayer is tied to the actual sighting of the eclipse itself, as enshrined explicitly in the previous Prophetic report: ‘When you see an eclipse...’.

          Reminder: You are advised, oh generous one, to give voluntary charity once you view kusuf or khusuf. This recommendation is given by the previous tradition, ‘When you see an eclipse, call on Allah, magnify Him [say: “Allah is greater”] and give sadaqah (charity)’.




1 - al-Bukhari. Hadith number 6021.

     The contemporary scholar of Hadith al-Qannubi (May Allah grant him good health) says regarding this report: ‘It has come from different chains of narrators, each one enhancing the others. Thus, it is elevated to the level of acceptance. This is what we think of this hadith’.

2 - as-Sunan ar-Ratibah are the regular Sunnah prayers observed before and/or after the mandatory prayers. Hence, they are the regular optional prayers attached to the five daily ones.

Saleh. Dictionary of Islamic Words and Expressions. p.224.

3 - al-Fasl is to do taslim after sitting for the second unit. Then, you pronounce the consecrating takbir (takbirat al-Ihram) after being upright for the third unit. As for al-wasl, it is to perform the three units continuously, without this first taslim after sitting for the second unit; rather, you stand up after sitting, with a transitional takbir to the third unit.

4 - In ‘The Third Chapter: On the Conditions of Prayer\ The Second Condition: Time’, we mentioned that dawn is of two types: the false dawn and the true dawn. The false dawn emerges vertically towards the middle of the sky, and it is then followed by darkness. The true dawn is the lightening that spreads horizontally at the eastern horizon. None of the legal rulings concern the false dawn, because it is considered an extension of the preceding night. The true dawn is the one on which many religious rituals depend, such as the start of fasting and the end of al-witr prayer.

5 - Qutb al-A’immah is a well-known title given to the renowned scholar from Algeria, Shaykh Muhammad b. Yusuf Atfayyish. Shaykh al-Qutb has many compilations on different religious and linguistic fields. He passed away in 1332 AH/1914 CE.

6 - It has been argued that the legality of prayer for the lunar eclipse is also derived from textual evidence. This is the following Prophetic tradition ‘O people, the sun and the moon are two of Allah’s signs; they are not eclipsed on account of a man’s death. So, when you see anything of that nature, offer prayer’. The ultimate result, that prayer for the lunar eclipse is legalised, is the same.




The Reliable Jurisprudence of Prayer, al-Mu’tamad fi Fiqh as-Salah, by al-Mu’tasim al’Ma’wali, pg: 397-417.