What Does “Voluntary Action” Mean in Abu Huraira’s Narration?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch


I have a question regarding a narration from Abu Huraira; How to understand this hadith?

What is meant by voluntary prayers here? Sunna prayers or Nafil prayers, or both?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

The Narration in Question

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Indeed, the first thing the servant will be taken to account for on the Day of the Judgment of his deeds is the prayer. If it is sound, he has succeeded and attained salvation. If it is corrupt, they have failed and lost. If there are deficiencies in their obligatory actions, the Lord Most High says, ‘See if My servant has any voluntary actions with which the obligatory prayers can be completed.’ This is done such with all their deeds.” [Tirmidhi]

What Is Meant by Voluntary Actions

Voluntary action in the above narration refers to all prayers aside from the five obligatory prayers.

The word in the above narration, “Tatawwu‘” is defined as that which a person undertakes of their own free will without that thing being an obligation upon them. [Zabidi, Taj al-‘Arus]

This definition is inclusive of any action that is not obligatory (fard). The necessary acts (wajib) would also fall under this definition. Thus, any action outside these categories would apply in this Prophetic narration.

Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch teaches Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he completed four years at the Darul Uloom Seminary in New York, where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences.

He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he studied for three years in Dar al-Mustafa under some of the most outstanding scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib.

In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and several texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.