بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
[Note: Due to the fact that I’m half-asleep at the time of writing this, I won’t be putting up the evidence for the prayers. They’re all fairly well-known though.
If anyone wants the evidence for any of the points, please say so and I’ll put it up later, insha-Allah.]
Okay, so we’re working on our khushoo (humility) in the fard (obligatory) prayer.
What’s next? Well, that would be doing some of the other voluntary prayers on a regular basis. One of the virtues of the voluntary prayers is that, on the Last Day, they will compensate for the missed obligatory ones.
[Does a person sin if they do voluntary prayers one day and not the next?
NO, because they are voluntary not obligatory. However, one of the characteristics of the believers is regularity in doing the voluntary acts.
Proof? It’s all over the Quran and the Sunnah. Just look at how many times Allah mentions those who give charity or those who pray at night. Aren’t both of these acts voluntary?
Too often, many Muslims just stick to doing the obligatory acts. Whilst this is permitted, it is not a great thing. If we want to get closer to Allah, we need to start doing the acts which are voluntary and do them on a regular basis.]
On the Last Day, the voluntary prayers will compensate for the missed obligatory ones.
Okay, so which voluntary prayers can we offer?
Well, I would suggest starting with the 2 sunnah rakaahs before the (fard) Fajr prayer.
After this, one could add the witr (the time of which is from after the Isha prayer until before the adhan of Fajr). The witr prayer consists of at least ONE rakaah.It could also be 3, 5, 7, etc.
So, that’s 2 at the beginning of the day and 1 at the end.
You could do the rawatib prayers (there’s a nice house in Paradise for those who pray these).
Which ones are the rawatib prayers, you ask?
Well, the 2 rakaah of Fajr is one of the 12 rawatib prayers. The rest are mentioned below:
[Fard is in blue and Rawatib is in red.]
Fajr: 2 2
[That means that Fajr has two rakaahs of sunnah (rawatib) followed by the 2-rakaah fard prayer.]
Dhuhr: 2 2 4 2
[Some narrations imply that there are only 2 rawatib before Dhuhr but other narrations imply that there are 4.]
[The 4 rakaahs before the Asr prayer are nawafil, not rawatib.]
Maghrib: 3 2
Isha: 4 2 W
[W = Witr]
Okay, some people might say “Oh, there are so many prayers!”
Well, nobody said that you had to start doing all the rawatib at once. This is a big misconception that many people have. They assume that you have to do all 12 or else leave all 12.
Yes, in order to get that house in Paradise mentioned in the hadeeth, you need to do all 12 on a regular basis. However, suppose you regularly pray the Fajr and Maghrib rawatib. You are still going to get the reward for those.
So, don’t leave all 12 just because you can’t do all 12.
You could aim to pray all 12 on a daily basis but then make sure that you try to do a portion of them regularly.
For example, suppose that tomorrow you decided you would never miss the Fajr rawatib.
You try this for one month. During this month, you pray some of the others but not consistently.
In the next month, you decide that you are going to be consistent with the Maghrib rawatib.
So, for this month, you pray both the Fajr and Maghrib rawatib regularly. As for the others, you might do them but not consisently.
Then, in the third month, you decide you’re going to pray two rakaahs before the Dhuhr prayr. So, you pray this and the Fajr and Maghrib rawatib consistently for this month.
And on this goes until you are consistent with all 12 rakaahs.
When I say “consistent”, it means that you do them every single day and never leave them* even if you are very tired.
[*An exception to this would be whilst traveling because the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) only prayed the Fajr rawatib and one rakaah of witr (along with the fard prayers, of course) at this time.]
Obviously, if you are very ill, you might have difficulty doing them. If you are unable to, then at least be sure to be regular with them when you get better. Don’t let this habit go.
In the next part, insha-Allah, I’ll talk about the tahajjud, dhuha, nawafil, etc prayers.
To be continued…
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
What are the “optional” prayers? Well, they would include all the prayers apart from the 5 obligatory ones. Examples would include rawatib (the 12 sunnah ones), tahajjud, dhuha, etc.
Unfortunately, many people don’t seem inclined to do them at all or they just do some of them (i.e. taraweeh) in Ramadan.
That’s not good. Why not?
Well, prayer is one of the greatest acts of worship so if we don’t want to increase in it, what does that say about us?
Here’s some advice from a scholar for those who only pray the obligatory prayers and nothing else:
[Note: I should also point out that it is not just about praying the optional prayers but rather it is about being consistent with them day in and day out.]
What is your advice to someone who has stopped praying the Sunnah prayers in the daytime and does not pray anything at night?
ANSWER by Shaykh Muhammad ‘Umar Baazmool, instructor at Umm Al-Quraa University in Makkah
There is nothing more outstanding as advice than the hadeeth of the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), when he said:
“The very first thing a servant will be asked about on the Day of Judgement is the prayer. If it is found to be deficient, then it will be said, ‘Doesn’t he have any optional prayers?’ If it is found that he has optional prayers, then they will fill the void, and thus his prayers will be accepted, and the rest of his deeds will also be accepted.” 
And the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) was asked about a dream that Ibn Umar had, so he (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:
“What a good man ‘Abdullaah ibn Umar is, so long as he prays at night.” 
So then consistently praying the optional prayers, the most important of them being the Witr prayer and the (12) Sunnahs throughout the day and night, is from the most important of all affairs to the Muslim. This is because you, O Muslim, by way of them, compensate for the lapses found in your obligatory prayers.
And the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) clarified in a hadeeth that a man may pray but he may only be credited with half of it, another may pray but only be credited with one third of it, and another may pray but only be credited with one fourth of it… 
The meaning is that it often occurs that the people have shortcomings in their prayers, while it is obligatory to offer them, completing them perfectly. So have you actually offered all of your prayers completely and perfectly according to the Sharee’ah?
So then you must take care to consistently offer optional prayers, you must take care to consistently offer the Witr prayer, you must take care to offer the other optional prayers consistently. It has been related that Imaam Ahmad said about the one who does not consistently pray the Witr prayer, “He is an evil man, his witness is not to be accepted.”
So how could a Muslim who has no work keeping him from his worship become lazy and then abandon these (optional) prayers. No doubt, he has caused himself to lose a great amount of good, and to miss an opportunity to obtain tremendous virtues, while being free to do them and try to keep consistency in offering them.
I ask Allaah to excuse us and him, and to be gracious.
There is a hadeeth of the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam):
“May Allaah have Mercy on the one who offers four (rak’ahs) before ‘Asr prayer.” 
When you do not pray this prayer, four rak’ahs before the ‘Asr prayer, you have prevented your own self from being included in those whom the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) supplicated for, those who pray this prayer.
The Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:
“Whoever consistanly prays twelve rak’ahs throughout the day and night, a palace will be built for him in Paradise.” 
When you abandon the rawaatib prayers, and you do not pray these twelve rak’ahs, you have deprived your own self from this virtue.
Most of the optional prayers have great virtues attached to them, described by the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). So then, O Muslim, how can you lose out, how can you not be concerned about it?
And Allaah knows best.
 Collected by At-Tirmithee, Aboo Daawood, An-Nasaa’ee, and others, see Saheeh Al-Jaami’is-Sagheer wa Ziyaadah #2020.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree #1122 (3/10 of Fat-hul-Baaree)
 see Saheeh Sunan Abee Daawood #796
 Saheeh Sunan Abee Daawood #1270
 Saheeh Sunan Abee Daawood #1250
This was translated exclusively for http://www.bakkah.net from a cassette recording with the knowledge and permission of the shaykh, file no. AAMB015, dated 1423/6/25.