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Last Updated: 2009/08/16
Summary of question
When are nafilahs to be performed?
question
How and when are nafilahs to be performed (please explain the method of performing them)?
Concise answer

Performing nafilahs prepares one for performing the wajib prayers and brings a tendency and desire for performing Islamic obligatory acts and wajib prayers.

The most important outcome of praying nafilahs is what the famous hadith of Qubul-Nawafil discloses to us. The narrator of this hadith reports the imam narrating from the prophet (pbuh), who narrates Allah (swt) saying: “Indeed my servant gets closer to me through nafilahs and mustahabb acts until I love him, and when I love him, I become his ears that he hears with, his eyes that he sees with and his tongue that he speaks with.”

Nafilah prayers can both be performed while sitting and standing, although it is better to count each pair of rak’ats of nafilahs sitting as one rak’at. For instance, if one wants to pray the dhuhr nafilah which are eight rak’ats sitting, it is better for him/her to pray sixteen rak’ats. Also, if one wants to pray the watr prayer sitting, it is better for him/her to pray two prayers that are one rak’at each instead of just one.

Detailed Answer

According to hadiths, nafilah prayers are like dams that protect obligatory prayers or compensate for their deficiencies.

Imam Sajjad (as) says: “Allah (swt) makes up for the deficiencies of your prayers through nafilah prayers.”[1]

Of course, some specific mustahabb prayers have certain exclusive effects, such as the night prayer (salatul-leil) which has many different benefits that hadiths teach us; benefits like the strengthening of faith, fellowship of Allah (swt), the abundance of sustenance, beauty of the face, etc.

Another prayer that has many benefits is the prayer of Ja’far Tayyar which is especially effective in solving problems and the answering of our needs and prayers. Yet another prayer is the prayer of “thanksgiving” which causes abundance in blessing. The best way to pray these prayers is to do them exactly the way our imams have taught us without adding or lessening anything from them.

Praying nafilahs is a way of getting prepared and obtaining a tendency and desire for performing the daily obligatory prayers and other wajib acts.

The most important impact nafilahs have are what the famous hadith of qurbul-nawafil unveils:

The narrator of this hadith reports Imam Sadiq (as) narrating from his grandfather, the prophet of Islam (pbuh), who narrates from Allah (swt) that: “Indeed my servant draws closer to me through nafilahs and mustahabb acts until I love him, and when I love him, I will become his ears that he hears with, and his eyes that he sees with and his tongue that he speaks with…”[2]

What this hadith is saying is that nafilahs make a person get closer to Allah (swt) and become his apostle. The attributes and virtues of Allah (swt) will begin to manifest in him. In short, the person will become godly and this is the highest one can get; all of it being by virtue of nafilahs. Nafilahs and all mustahabb prayers in general are two rak’ats each, meaning that after every two rak’ats, one ends the prayer with a tashahhud and salam. There are only a few exceptions for this rule, like in the watr prayer (the eleventh rak’at of the night prayer) which is only one rak’at; or like the prayer performed on the night of Eid Ghadir which is twelve rak’ats with a tashahhud after every pair of rak’ats, ending with a salam at the twelfth rak’at.[3] Nafilah prayers can be performed while sitting, although it is better to count every two rak’ats sitting as one rak’at standing. For example, if one wants to pray the nafilahs for the dhuhr prayer which are eight rak’ats in the sitting position, it is better to pray sixteen rak’ats (8 pairs of rak’ats), and also if one wants to pray the watr prayer while sitting, it is better to pray two prayers, one rak’at each.[4]

The times for the daily nafilahs

The dhuhr nafilahs are prayed before the dhuhr prayer, their time frame being from the beginning of dhuhr (noon) till the time when the shadow of the “indicator” (what is meant by the indicator is any straight object like a stick that is planted into the ground vertically that one can use to see how the movement of the sun is via the movement of the indicator’s shadow and its size, thus being able to recognize when it has become prayer time) that is seen after noontime, becomes 2/7th of the indicator’s length. For instance, if the indicator is seven centimeters, the time for the dhuhr nafilahs extends until the time after noontime when the shadow of the indicator becomes two centimeters.

The asr nafilahs are also prayed before the asr prayer and their time is from dhuhr time until when the length of the indicator’s shadow reaches 4/7th of the length of the indicator itself.

Maghrib nafilahs are prayed after the maghrib prayer, and their time is from maghrib time until when the redness that is seen in the West of the sky at the time of maghrib completely disappears.

The isha nafilah is prayed after the isha prayer and its time extends until midnight, although it is better to be prayed right after the isha prayer.

The fajr nafilah is prayed before the fajr prayer, its time being how much time it takes to pray eleven rak’ats of night prayer after midnight (for example, if the night prayer takes thirty minutes, the time for the fajr nafilah will be thirty minutes after midnight). Nevertheless, the fajr nafilah shouldn’t be prayed before the “first dawn” as a precaution, unless one actually prays the night prayer and immediately prays the fajr nafilah afterwards.

The time for night prayer (Salatul-Leil) is from midnight until fajr prayer, and it is better to pray it towards the end of the night and closer to the fajr prayer.[5]

Related Subjects:

1- The significance and effects of the night prayer, Question 2859 (website: 3094).

2- Making up for missed mustahabb acts, Question 2751 (website: 2988).



[1] Muntahal-Amal, Imam Sajjad’s (as) life, using the Porseman software.

[2] Usul Kafi, vol. 2, pg. 352, hadith 7.

[3] Seyyid ibn Tawus, Iqbalul-A’mal, pg. 452.

[4] Tawdhilhul-Masa’el (Imam Khomeini’s annotations), vol. 1, pg. 426.

[5] [5] Tawdhilhul-Masa’el (Imam Khomeini’s annotations), vol. 1, pp. 427-429.

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