بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
[Here’s Part 1.]
[Note: I haven’t mentioned the ahadeeth in this part either. If anyone wants a particular reference, please feel free to ask.]
Okay, suppose you’re already doing the fard and rawatib prayers.
What else can you do?
Note: Once again, you don’t have to do all of them at once. Start step by step and increase in them as much as you are able to do so.
These are the supererogatory prayers. [Look, this is what they’re officially called. I don’t even know the meaning of that word.]
They are less important than the rawatib. The four rakahs before Asr fall under this category, as do the two rakah before Maghrib.
The two rakahs after the two rakahs of rawatib after the Dhuhr (that was a mouthful) are also nawafil.
Are there more nawafil? I think so and I also read about there being some differences of opinion on which ones they are. However, these are the only ones that I am sure of.
As for the four rakahs that many people pray before Isha, I tried to find the evidence for it, but thus far have been unable to do so.
There is evidence for two of those rakahs, if they are prayed between the adhan and the iqaamah (as there is a well-known authentic hadeeth on this issue).
If anyone has more information on this issue, then please do share it with us.
This prayer starts about 20 minutes after sunrise and ends about 15-20 minutes before Dhuhr.
The minimum number of rakahs is 2.
What about the maximum, you ask? Well, there is a difference of opinion on this. Some scholars say 8, others say 12 and yet others say that there is no upper limit.
If you’re not sure, don’t exceed 8 rakaahs.
The best time to pray Dhuha is in its latest time.
Here’s a short article on the Dhuha prayer.
3) Tahajjud / Qiyam Al-Layl
Yes, they’re both the same prayer.
The time starts after Isha prayer* until the adhan of Fajr. [Witr is part of Qiyam al-Layl.]
[In two places, I’ve heard that it starts after Maghrib. I need to do more research on this issue though, insha-Allah.]
When is it best to do it? Well, in the last third of the night. [The night lasts from Maghrib until Fajr.]
Qiyam Al-Layl is the best prayer after the fard prayers. It’s also one of the most difficult prayers because of its timing.
However, I think everyone will agree that it is also the most satisfying prayer (when we actually manage to crawl out of bed and actually do it, I mean).
These days, we seemed to have singled out Ramadan for Qiyam Al-Layl which is most unfortunate.
The early Muslims were OBLIGATED to spend the WHOLE night in prayer. [Please read the explanation of Surah Al-Muzzammil.]
Why? In order to strengthen them.
Subhan Allah, we are so worried about not getting enough sleep. Due to this, we don’t pray Qiyam Al-Layl and we sleep after Fajr.
And we really don’t have much time in the day nor do we have that much energy.
All of this, despite us “taking care of our sleep”.
The early generations on the other hand, seemed to be more concerned about worshipping Allah. Because of this, it seems that the little sleep that they got was more blessed than the huge amount of sleep that we get.
Despite their “little” sleep, they didn’t have to sleep after Fajr, they had lots of time and lots of energy.
So, perhaps this Ramadan, we should worry less about our sleep and more about worshipping Allah and pleasing Him, and insha-Allah, we will see a big difference.
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.