Meaning of Nafila
"Nawafil" is a plural form of "nāfila" (نافِلَة). The word, "nafila", literally means a supererogatory, preferred action that is not obligatory for the person. In the jargons of jurists, the word, "nafila", is mainly used to refer to mustahab prayers.
Importance and Virtues of Nafila
There are many hadiths from the Infallibles (a) about the significance of nafilas. Imam al-Sadiq (a) is quoted as saying, "You should avoid laziness and indolence! verily your Lord is Merciful and He appreciates little things. verily when a man performs two rak'as of a mustahab prayer to satisfy God, God will take him to the Heaven just because of those two rak'as".
Imam al-Sajjad (a) said, "God, the Exalted, will compensate the imperfections of your prayers with nafila prayers".
The main effect of nafila prayers is stated in a hadith known as "Hadith of Qurb al-Nawafil": the transmitter quoted Imam al-Sadiq (a) and he quoted the Prophet (s) and he in turn quoted God as saying:
- "Rightly My servant seeks proximity (to Me) with nafilas and mustahab actions until I like him, and when I like him, I will become his ears with which he hears and his eyes with which he sees and his tongue with which he speaks".
Fudayl b. Yasar quoted Imam al-Sadiq (a) as saying, "obligatory and nafila prayers are collectively 51 rak'as. The two rak'as of the 'Isha' Prayer which are performed while sitting count as one rak'a. Obligatory prayers are 17 rak'as, and nafila prayers are 34 rak'as.
Number of Rak'as and the Times of Daily Nawafil
Except on Fridays, nawafil consist of 34 rak'as:
- The noon nafila prayer: it consists of 8 rak'as. Its time is the same as that of the obligatory Noon Prayer. It is performed before the obligatory Noon Prayer.
- The afternoon nafila prayer: it consists of 8 rak'as. Its time is the same as that of the obligatory Afternoon Prayer. It is performed before the obligatory Afternoon Prayer.
- The evening nafila prayer: it consists of 4 rak'as. Its time is the same as that of the obligatory Evening Prayer and it is performed after the Evening Prayer.
- The 'Isha' nafila prayer: it consists of two rak'as and since they are performed while sitting, they count as one rak'a. Its time is the same as that of the obligatory 'Isha' Prayer and it is performed after the 'Isha' Prayer.
- The nafila prayer of night (Night Prayer): it consists of 11 rak'as. 8 rak'as of it are performed as night prayers, 2 rak'as are performed as Shaf' Prayer and 1 rak'a of it is performed as Watr Prayer. The time of the nafila prayer of night is from the midnight to the adhan of the Fajr Prayer.
- The Fajr nafila prayer: it consists of two rak'as. It is performed before Fajr Prayer.
On Fridays, 4 rak'as are added to the 16 rak'as of noon and afternoon nafila prayers.
Manner of Saying Daily Nawafil
In general, mustahab or nafila prayers should be performed in two-rak'a units, with each couple of rak'as ending with one tashahhud and salam, except when there is evidence to say a certain nafila in another way, such as the Watr Prayer which is one rak'a, and a prayer that is recommended to be performed at the eve of Eid al-Ghadir which consists of continuous 12 rak'as, with each two rak'as involving a tashahhud, and salam should be said at the end of the 12th rak'a.
Daily nafila prayers are also performed in two rak'as. For example, the noon nafila prayer consists of four two-rak'a prayers, and the night nafila prayer consists of five two-rak'a prayers and one one-rak'a prayer.
Like other mustahab prayers, nafila prayers can be performed both while standing and while sitting. But it is recommended to count every two rak'as as one rak'a. For example, if one chooses to perform the 8 rak'as of the noon nafila prayer while sitting, he or she had better perform 16 rak'as.
Daily Nawafil while on a Travel
Daily nawafil whose associated obligatory prayers are performed as broken while on travel, such as Noon and Afternoon Prayers, should not be performed. Thus, nawafil of noon, afternoon, and 'isha' prayers are not recommended while one is on a travel, but night, morning, and evening nafila prayers can be performed while on travel.
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- Mishkīnī, Muṣṭalāḥāt al-fiqh, p. 528.
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