Prayers: Offering only obligatory prayers & the time range

Q485 :Could you please comment on the practices of people who are lax with their Sunnah prayers in conjunction with their obligatory ones. Some people offer only two rak'ahs of Sunnah with the obligatory two rak'ahs of Friday prayer. What I have learned is that one should offer a total of 17 rak'ahs. Other people are in the habit of delaying Isha prayer till after mid-night, due to laziness or attending to business. Others rarely wake up for Fajr prayer.

A485 : The importance of praying Sunnah, or voluntary prayer, can be appreciated when we look carefully at this authentic Qudsi Hadith in which the Prophet is quoted to have said: "Allah, the Almighty says: Whoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, I shall be at war with him. My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have imposed upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his ear with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks. Were he to ask something of Me, I would surely give it to him; and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it." (Related by Al-Bukhari). What is meant by "supererogatory works" mentioned in this Hadith is any voluntary action which is added over and above the religious duties Allah has imposed. This relates particularly to prayers, since the Hadith uses in Arabic the same word [nafl] we use to refer to voluntary prayers. However, what the Prophet has recommended or encouraged us to do, by way of offering voluntary worship, remains voluntary. It is not obligatory. Hence, it is not for anyone to demand it of others. Allah will question us on the day of judgment about any obligatory prayer we deliberately miss. But He will not question us about Sunnah we do not do. He will reward us for the Sunnah we do, but He does not punish anyone for omitting any voluntary action [though we may be reproached for not following the recommended practice of the Prophet, peace be upon him]. When a man told the Prophet that he was not prepared to add anything to what Allah has made a binding duty on him, the Prophet commented: "(The man) will prosper if he fulfills what he says." Allah has given us a time range for each prayer. It is far more preferable to offer Isha prayer before midnight, but if one delays it after that, it is acceptable. Some people prefer to delay Isha in order to conclude their day's activity with a prayer. While it is more preferable to offer Isha prayer with the congregation at the beginning of its time, the thought of concluding one's day with it is [also] fine. Making a habit of missing Fajr prayer is certainly very serious. One has to take every precaution in order to offer it on time. For this reason, it is better to go to bed early and make sure of waking up to offer Fajr before sunrise. If occasionally one oversleeps he should pray Fajr immediately on waking up. When a prayer is deliberately missed, it cannot be offered because its time has lapsed. Only when it is missed through oversleep or loss of consciousness, can it be offered when consciousness is regained. If one has not prayed for several years, one should repent, seek Allah's forgiveness, resolve not to miss any single prayer again and offer as much in Sunnah as possible.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )