The Virtue and times of Regular Sunnah Mu’akkadah
Do we have to wait for the time of the prayer before praying any Sunnah which comes before it; or whether these Sunnah are prayed before the time for the prayer enters. If so; how long before a prayer can you pray the Sunnah which comes before it? For example, could I pray the four raka’at Sunnah which comes before 'Asar, three hours before the time for Asar enters? Or do I wait for the time of Asar to enter and then pray the four Sunnahs after the time for Asar has entered and follow them immediately by the fardhu raka’at?
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
The Two Categories of regular Sunnah Mu’akkadah prayers
- The Sunnah prayers done before the fardhu prayer such as a two rak’at before Fajar and four before Zuhur.
- The Sunnah prayers done after the fardhu prayer such as two raka’at after Zuhur, two raka’at after Maghrib and two raka’at after ‘Isha’.
Many hadiths mentioned the virtues of optional Solāh
The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said:
- “Prostrate as much as you can, because whenever you prostrate, Allāh elevates your rank by a degree and wipes out a sin from your record” (Muslim)
- “Whenever a servant prostrates to Allāh, Allāh writes a reward for him, wipes out one of his sins and elevates his rank by one degree; so prostrate as much as you can” (Ibn Majāh)
- “Solāh is the best thing that one can do, so perform as many as you possibly can” (At-Tabarani)
- “Two light raka’at which you may think as insignificant to add to you deeds, it is better for you than possessing the whole world” (Ibn Al-Mubarak)
The way to perform Sunnah Solāh.
The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) described:
- “The night Solāh is done two (rak’ahs) at a time” (Al-Bukhari)
- “The optional Solāh at night and during the day is done two rak’at at a time” (Ahmad, Ibn Majāh and others).
Virtues of Sunnah Mu’akkadah Prayers
In term of its virtue, Umm Habibah (radiallāhu `anha) narrated that The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) in which he said:
"Whoever is regular with twelve Raka’at of Sunnah prayer, Allāh will build a house in Paradise: (as follows): 4 Raka'at before and 2 after the Dzuhur (Midday) Prayer, 2 after the Maghrib (Sunset Prayer), 2 after the ‘Ishā’ (Evening) Prayer and 2 before the Fajar (Dawn) Prayer."
[Hadith sahih narrated by at-Tirmidzi No. 415 (Sahih) and by others. Hadith No. 6183 in Sahih al-Jāmi’]
The time frame for a Sunnah
The time frame for a Sunnah prayer that comes before a fardhu prayer is from the beginning of the time for that prayer, until the iqāmah.
The time for a Sunnah prayer that comes after a fardhu prayer is from after the Salam at the end of the fardhu prayer until the end of the time for that prayer.
Ibn Qudāmah (rahimallāh) said: “The time for every Sunnah prayer that comes before a fardhu prayer is from the beginning of the time for that prayer, until the prayer is done, and the time for every Solāt Sunnah that comes after a fardhu solāt is from after the prayer is done until the end of the time for that prayer.”
Based on this, it is not correct to observe the Sunnah solāt before the time for the Solāt fardhu begins; rather you should wait until the time for that prayer comes, then pray it.
Sunnah before Solat ‘Asar (Late-Afternoon Prayer)
The ‘Asar (Late-Afternoon) Prayer has no regular Sunnah (basic recommended voluntary prayer). However, it is mustahab (preferable and recommended) that one performed four raka'at of Sunnah before the ‘Asar Solat. The four rak'at are of less reward and significance in importance of adhering to them compared to the "Sunnan al-Rawātib" described above. The four raka'at are those intended by the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) in saying:
"May Allāh have mercy on one who prays four raka’at before the ‘Asar Solāt."
[Narrated by at-Tirmidzi no. 430, reported by Ibn Umar and he declared it a Hassan and gharīb Hadith. Al-Albāni rated the Hadith as Hassan in Sahih al-Jami’ No. 3493]
All the foregoing four raka'at voluntary prayers are to be done in two at a time according to Imām ash-Shāfi’ie and Imām Ahmad (rahimahumullah).
Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Adapted from the Islam Q&A (Fatwa Nos: 33779; 1048)]