Thursday 7 February 2019

How to Offer Salah (Prayers): Obligatory and Voluntary Rakats / Cycles / Units

Salah or prayer is the second pillar of Islam and has been made obligatory on all adult Muslims five times a day. It is thus better to understand how many rakats / cycles / unit each prayer has for better performance of one's obligations. Although, the commandment to offer five daily prayers has been given in the Holy Qur'an, the rakats / units / cycles were told by the Prophet of Allah himself and he also demonstrated how these are performed.

Salah is a physical, mental, and spiritual act of worship that is observed five times every day at prescribed times. When Muslims offer prayers, they must face Ka'abah located in Makkah, the Saudi city for uniformity of direction from all over the world. 

The number of obligatory and voluntary rakats / units / cycles of five daily salah / prayer are as under:

Fajar The dawn prayer:
  • 2 rakats voluntary (Sunnah Moaqqada)
  • 2 rakat Obligatory (Fard)
Dhuhr - The midday or afternoon prayer:
  • 4 rakats voluntary (Sunnah Moaqqada)
  • 4 rakat Obligatory (Fard)
  • 2 rakat voluntary (Sunnah Moaqqada)
  • 2 rakat optional (Nafl)
Asr  - The late afternoon prayer
  • 4 rakats voluntary (Sunnah Non Moaqqada)
  • 4 rakat Obligatory (Fard)
Maghrib - Te dusk prayer
  • 3 rakat Obligatory (Fard)
  • 2 rakat voluntary (Sunnah Moaqqada)
  • 2 rakat optional (Nafl)
Isha - The night prayer
  • 4 rakats voluntary (Sunnah Non Moaqqada)
  • 4 rakat Obligatory (Fard)
  • 2 rakat voluntary (Sunnah Moaqqada)
  • 2 rakat optional (Nafl)
  • 3 rakat voluntary (Witr)
  • 2 rakat optional (Nafl)
However, we need to understand certain basic rules for offering salah / prayers:
  • Salah has been made obligatory for all adult Muslims.
  • The Obligatory rakats / cycles / units in each prayer are the actual cycles / rakats of salah. If these are offered, one will be rewarded for these are Fard / Obligatory. And if someone does not offer these, he will be questioned on the Day of Judgement for not fulfilling the commandment of Allah.
  • The fard / obligatory rakats are offered in the mosque behind the Imam in the form of congregation.
  • While offering fard / obligatory rakats in the mosque behind the Imam, the first two rakats of the Fajr, first two rakats of the Maghrib and first two rakats of Isha prayers are spoken aloud by the Imam. All four rakats of fard / obligatory prayers of Dhuhr and Asr are offered silently.
  • All other voluntary rakats are offered individually.
  • Other than the Obligatory prayers, all other rakats/cycles/units are voluntary. If one offers these, he will be rewarded. But if one does not offer these, he will not be asked 
  • In the voluntary rakats, there are two types: Sunnah Moaqqada and Sunnah Non Moaqqada.
  • Sunnah Moaqqada are those voluntary rakats which the Prophet of Allah never skipped or missed. So these are known as Sunnah Moaqqada and normally it is stressed to offer these as respect to the Sunnah of the Prophet of Allah. Some even stress that these are as compulsory as Fard/Obligatory rakats.
  • Sunnah Non Moaqqada are those voluntary rakats which the Prophet of Allah sometimes offered or sometimes skipped. Some call these  as essential, if not compulsory.
  • The three rakats known as Witr are in fact the obligatory late night rakats for the Prophet of Allah which he offered after getting up late at night. Seeing the Prophet of Allah offering these three rakats, companions of the Prophet also started to offer these. However, some complained that they were unable to get up late night to offer these Witr rakats, to which the Prophet said that these can be offered after the Isha prayers. So normally these are offered after Isha prayer.
  • The optional Nafl rakats are additional rakats which Prophet too offered but never stressed over his companions.
In order to better understand these rakats and he obligatory / voluntary rakats, please listen to the following commentary by Professor Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a Pakistani Muslim theologian, Quran scholar, Islamic modernist, exegete and educationist, on the subject. The video is in Urdu, but has English subtitles for those who cannot understand Urdu: :

May Allah bless us for any mistake that we may make in offering our salah and make us regular in offering at least our obligatory rakats in each prayer.

Disclaimer: The data above has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

For more Scholarly views and videos, please read our reference page: Scholars' Viewpoint on Important Issues Related to IslamYou may also refer to our Reference Page - As Salat - Prayers for knowing more about prayers (As Salat) and Jumu'ah congregational prayers.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
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