Question: An imam I know omits all the time the sunnatsalat of Salat al-‘Asr. When I asked him the reason why he did so, he answered, “Our Master the Prophet did not use to offer the sunnatsalat of Salat al-‘Asr with continuity. Rather, he frequently abandoned it. I am applying his sunnat, for it is sunnat upon us to do what he practiced and not to do what he did not practice.” Is it true?
It is not true and is a very wrong thought. It is sunnat upon us to do what our Master the Prophet did, but it is not sunnat upon us not to do what he did not do. Islamic scholars state, “It is sunnat to do a deed that brings thawab, but it is not sunnat to do a deed that does not have any thawab.” Two examples:
1. It is wrong to say, “As the Messenger of Allah did not get on a plane, it is sunnat not to get on a plane.”
2. As the Messenger of Allah did not use a computer, it cannot be sunnat upon us not to use it.
It is not necessary to do everything that our Master the Prophet did and to avoid everything that he did not do. That is, it is not permissible to imitate him in every aspect because, according to the book Mawahib-i Ladunniyya, there were harams and fards peculiar to our Master the Prophet alone. For example, the following are of the acts that were made fard upon him alone: to sacrifice an animal (qurban); to perform Salat ad-Duha, the sunnat salat of Salat al-Fajr and salat at night; to use a miswak; to decide his affairs in consultation with others; to forbid munkar wherever and whenever he sees; to finish what he starts to do. Besides, there are things that were made haram upon our Master the Prophet alone, such as marrying an Ahl-i Kitab woman and receiving zakat and alms. It was not fard upon him to give zakat even if he were rich. Can anyone say now, “Our Master the Prophet would not give zakat, so I follow him and do not give zakat, either”?
The following are some more examples written in the book Mawahib-i Ladunniyya:
1. Our Master the Prophet married more than four women. Marrying more than four women to follow him is not an act of obedience to sunnat, but rather it is haram.
2. It was haram upon our Master the Prophet to write.
(Follow Allah and His Messenger, the ummi Prophet, so that you may find the right path.) [Al-A’raf 158]
(Is it obedience to sunnat not to write in order to follow the Messenger of Allah?)
3. It was haram upon him to leave inheritance.
(We prophets do not leave any inheritance. No one can be an heir to us.) [Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai]
(Not leaving inheritance is not an act of obedience to sunnat.)
4. It was haram upon him to eat bad-smelling food, such as onion or garlic.
(I do not eat onion or garlic because the angel comes near me.) [Hakim]
(One’s avoiding eating onion and garlic to follow our Master the Prophet is not an act of obedience to sunnat.)
5. It was haram upon him to recite poetry.
(It is haram upon me to recite poetry.) [Abu Dawud]
(One’s avoiding reciting poetry is not an act of obedience to sunnat. If the contrary were the case, many scholars and awliya’ would not have written poems.)
6. It was fard upon him to pay off the debt of a Believer who died in debt.
(If a Believer has died in debt, it is fard upon me to pay it.) [Muslim]
(It is not necessary for us to pay off the debt of the dead so that we may be counted as having followed him.)
7. It was haram upon him to receive zakat.
(It is not halal upon us to receive zakat.) [Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud]
Hadrat Imam-i Munawi states:
It was not fard upon prophets to pay zakat because zakat is for removing the dirt from wealth. Prophets are immune from becoming dirty. They are the most trustworthy people created on Earth by Allah. (Sharh Jami-us-saghir)
If a rich person avoids paying zakat to follow the Messenger of Allah, he will not be counted as having applied the sunnat or acted upon it. Rather, it will be haram. There are many more such examples. Omitting ghayr-i muakkad sunnats thinking that the Messenger of Allah sometimes abandoned them is not an act of obedience to him. Rather, it is an act of opposition to his order because he did not order us to omit salat, but ordered us to perform it.
Question: Is there anything wrong with not performing the sunnatsalat of Salat al-‘Asr from time to time? Are sunnat salats added to omitted fardsalats?
It is written in Radd-ul-mukhtar, “Every sunnat salat is nafilah [voluntary, optional], but every nafilah salat is not sunnat.” The ghayr-i muakkad sunnat salats of Salat al-’Asr and Salat al-Isha are nafilah acts of worship. If any shortcoming is found in the sunnat elements of one’s fard salats, these shortcomings are made up with one’s nafilah salats. It is declared in hadith-i shairfs:
(On the Day of Resurrection, the first questioning will be about salat. If a person has performed salats properly, he will be saved. If not, he will be in a difficult situation. If any shortcoming is found in his fard salats, they will be completed with nafilah salats.) [Hakim]
(If a person has not completed his salat, his nafilah salats will be added to it until it is complete.) [Darimi]
(Any shortcoming in salat, zakat, and the other fards is made up with the nafilah.) [Bayhaqi]
No matter how high is the status of a person, his deeds cannot be faultless. For this reason, nafilah acts of worship compensate for the mistakes made in fard salats. Performing the nafilah was ordered so that the mistakes made in fardsalats would be compensated for. Salvation in the Hereafter depends on performing the fards flawlessly. Especially salat is very important. Allahu ta’ala says, “If you get over your account of salat, salvation is yours. I will facilitate your other accounts.”(Umdat-ul-Islam)
A person who does not have any missed fard salats should be constant in performing nafilah salats so that the mistakes he made in fard salats may be corrected.
The sunnat salat of Salat al-‘Asr falls into the category of ghayr-i muakkad salats, but it is one of nafilah salats that have virtues. It is declared in hadith-i sharifs:
(Whoever keeps on performing a four-rak’at salat before the fard of Salat al-‘Asr will be given a mansion in Paradise.) [Abu Ya’la]
(Whoever keeps on performing the sunnat of Salat al-‘Asr, his sins will be forgiven.) [Abu ash-Shaikh]
(The body of a person performing the sunnat salat of Salat al-‘Asr is haram for Hell.) [Tabarani]
(May Allah show him mercy who performs four rak’ats before the fard of Salat al-‘Asr.) [Tirmidhi]
The above-mentioned du’a of our Master the Prophet is certainly accepted. Then we should perform the sunnat salat of Salat al-‘Asr on a regular basis to become beneficiary of his du’a, for the most beloved deed to Allah is that which is done regularly, even if little. It is said in hadith-i sharifs:
(The best deed in the sight of Allah is the one done regularly, even if little.) [Bukhari]
(O people, do deeds according to your capacity. Allah is not fed up with giving rewards to you unless you are fed up with the deeds you do. One of the deeds most beloved to Allah is the one done without interruption even if little.) [Muslim]
The deeds that a person does sporadically are not beloved to Allah. Rather, he will get a scolding from Allahu ta’ala in return for them. A hadith-i sharif says:
(If a person who does an act of worship for Allah’s sake is fed up with it and omits it, Allahu ta’ala hates him intensely.) [Ibn Sunni]
Allah’s wrath is severe. For this reason, one should be regular in acts of worship unless there is an extreme necessity to abandon them. Allahu ta’ala does not want us to do many deeds. He says, “Do righteous deeds.” He likes those righteous deeds on which there is constancy, even if little. Accordingly, we should strive to do the deeds loved by our Rabb. (Anwar-ul-Kudsiya)