Answered by Shaykh Arasalan Haque
Question: Assalamu alaikum. I would like to know if Salat al-Haja prayer (prayer of need) is nafl or sunnath prayer in the Shafi’i Madhab.
Answer: Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
The following terms are used interchangeably in the Shafi’i school:
All of these terms convey the same meaning: that an action is recommended but voluntary (not obligatory).
Shaykh Ba-Fadl says in al-Muqaddima al-Hadramiyya, “It is recommended [mustahabb] to […] perform the Need Prayer [Salat al-Haja].” Ibn Hajar explains in al-Manhaj al-Qawim, “It consists of two units [rak’ataan]. The basis for it is a Prophetic report which is weak.”
The report is related in Sunan al-Tirmidhi, where Ibn Awfa narrates that Allah’s Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Whoever has a need from Allah, or someone from the children of Adam, should perform ablution [wudu’] with excellence, then pray two units [rak’atayn], then glorify Allah, Most High, then send blessings upon the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, then say, ‘There is no god but Allah, the Forbearing, the Honorable. Glory be to Allah, Lord of the Magnificent Throne. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Universe. I ask You for what guarantees Your Mercy, and brings about Your Forgiveness; for a share from every act of piety, and protection from every sin. Do not leave any of my sins unforgiven, any of my worries unremoved, or any of my needs unfulfilled – as long as they attain your pleasure.”
And Allah knows best.