I am confused about the 4 cycles of prayers before Asr and Isha.
How should I pray them? Like the emphasized sunna prayers?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
I pray this finds you in the best of states.
The Ruling of Four Extra Cycles Before ‘Asr and ‘Isha
Praying four cycles of voluntary prayer before praying the ‘Asr prayer is recommended (mandub). Doing so before the ‘Isha prayer is also recommended. [Shurunbulali, Nur al-Idah]
Their Textual Proof
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said: “The one who will pray four cycles of prayer before the ‘Asr prayer won’t be touched by the fire of Hell.” [Tabarani] He also said: “May Allah have mercy upon the one who prays four (extra) cycles of prayer before ‘Asr.” [Abu Dawud; Tirmidhi; Ahmad; Ibn Hibban – with reliable chains of narration according to Tirmidhi, Ibn Khuzayma, and Ibn Hibban]
In the Hanafi fiqh literature, it is mentioned from ‘A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and send him peace) used to pray four cycles of prayer before ‘isha and four after it. Then he would lay down. [Al-Mawsili, al-Ikhtiyar; Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah]
Even though this hadith doesn’t seem to be found in the primary books of hadith. The four recommended (mustahabb) cycles before ‘isha fall under the general recommendation of the Hadith in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and send him peace) said, “There’s a prayer between every two calls to prayer [i.e. adhan and iqama], except for maghrib.” [Bazzar – with a good chain of narration according to Haydarabadi, Zujajat al-Masabih]
Based on this instruction, the Hanafi school deemed four cycles before the obligatory ‘isha prayer recommended (mustahabb), as four cycles are the most complete form of a nafila prayer. [See Thanwi, I‘la’ al-Sunan]
How to Pray Recommended (mustahabb) Prayers
Because these voluntary prayers are not an emphasized sunna you will need to recite the blessings upon the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings upon him) after the tashahhud during the first sitting. [Shurunbulali, Nur al-Idah]
You will also need to recite the opening supplication (thana’) at the beginning of the third cycle. [Shurunbulali, Nur al-Idah] Seeking refuge against the devil (ta‘awwudh) is also performed at the beginning of the third cycle for these recommended prayers. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah]
How to Pray Emphasized Sunna Prayers (sunna mu’akkada)
As for the voluntary prayers of four cycles which are an emphasized sunna, sending blessings upon the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings upon him) is only done during the last sitting. As for the opening supplication and seeking refuge against the devil, it is only performed at the beginning of the first cycle. [Shurunbulali, Nur al-Idah]
The reason for this ruling is that the emphasized sunna prayers, due to their importance, resemble the obligatory prayer. Thus they are performed in the same manner. This is not the case for recommended prayers. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah]
And Allah knows best.
[Ustadh] Sufyan Qufi
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Sufyan Qufi is an advanced seeker of knowledge, originally from Algeria, who grew up in France. He began searching far and wide for answers to the fundamental questions of life and was disappointed at the answers he found.
Then he connected with various traditional teachers and gradually connected with SeekersGuidance. He embarked on his journey of learning through the various teachers at SeekersGuidance, including his mentor Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
He studied numerous texts in Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith, and other areas with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and other teachers, including Shaykh Abdurrahman al-Sha‘ar, Shaykh Ali Hani, and others.
He is an active instructor at SeekersGuidance and answers questions through the SeekersGuidance Answers Service.