According to the verses of the Quran, there are five specific times for the Contact Prayers (Salat).

  • Dawn: 24:58, 11:114
  • Noon: 17:86
  • Afternoon: 11:114
  • Sunset: 11:114
  • Night: 24:58

Traditionalists believe that in addition to these five obligatory Salats, one can perform additional non-obligatory Salats that they call Salat Al-Nafl (صلاة النفل). The word Nafl comes from the root ن ف ل and occurs four times in the Quran. The usage of this word as used in the Quran can be understood in common speech as a bonus or extra credit.

Two of these occurrences are in Sura 8, in the context of the spoils of war, which were the extra worldly bonus the believers received on top of the credit they received from God for partaking in the battle. While the other occurrences constitute an additional gift or benefit e.g. extra credit or bonus for righteous works.

[21:72] And we granted him Isaac and Jacob as a bonus, and we made them both righteous.

(٧٢) وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ نَافِلَةً وَكُلًّا جَعَلْنَا صَالِحِينَ

The concept of nafl used in the context of Salat can be seen in 17:79.

[17:78] You shall observe the Contact Prayer (Salat) when the sun declines from its highest point at noon, as it moves towards sunset. You shall also observe (the recitation of) the Quran at dawn. (Reciting) the Quran at dawn is witnessed. [17:79] During the night, you shall meditate for extra credit, that your Lord may raise you to an honorable rank.

(٧٨) أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَىٰ غَسَقِ الَّيْلِ وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا
(٧٩) وَمِنَ الَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَكَ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَحْمُودًا

It is worth noting that the usage of the Nafl ( نَافِلَةً )in 17:79 is clear that Nafl is not Salat, but specifically the opportunity for one to do additional righteous work through staying up and being God-conscious. This shows that Nafl is something completely separate than Salat.

Even if we check Hadith, there is no Al-Salat Al-Nafl mentioned in any noteworthy sources. There are plenty of references to the messenger offering Nafl through various means, e.g. bowing, prostrating, reverence but it is always considered. separate from the actual Salat. For example

https://sunnah.com/muslim:724f

It is worth to look at the Arabic word by word to better understand what is being stated in the above Hadith.

أَنَّThat
النَّبِيَّThe prophet,
صلىblessings (of)
اللهAllah
عليهupon him
وسلمand peace,
لَمْNot
يَكُنْit be
عَلَىupon
شَىْءٍanything
مِنَfrom
النَّوَافِلِAl-Nafl (extra righteous works)
أَشَدَّmore
مُعَاهَدَةًbinding
مِنْهُthan it
عَلَىupon
رَكْعَتَيْنِbowing twice (rak’ahs)
قَبْلَbefore
الصُّبْحِmorning.

The takeaway is that the two Rakas of the Dawn Salat before morning are more important than any Al-Nafl. Again this shows a clear distinction that Al-Nafl is something separate from any form of Salat.

The Hadith that often gets cited for justification of Al-Salat Al-Nafl, is the following, but the translation is a major distortion from the Arabic as the word Nafl doesn’t even exist in the text.

https://sunnah.com/bukhari:46
فَإِذَاThen when
هُوَHe (the man)
يَسْأَلُ[he] asked
عَنِabout
الإِسْلاَمِIslam (Submission).
فَقَالَThen [he] said
رَسُولُ(the) messenger (of)
اللَّهِGod,
صلىblessings (of)
اللهAllah
عليهupon him
وسلمand peace,
خَمْسُ“Five
صَلَوَاتٍSalats
فِيin
الْيَوْمِthe day
وَاللَّيْلَةِand night.”
فَقَالَThen he (the man) said,
هَلْ“Is there
عَلَىَّupon
غَيْرُهَاother than that?”
قَالَHe (the messenger) said
لاَ،“No,
إِلاَّexcept
أَنْthat
تَطَوَّعَyou can volunteer more (righteous works).”
قَالَ[He] said
رَسُولُ(the) messenger (of)
اللَّهِGod,
صلىblessings (of)
اللهAllah
عليهupon him
وسلمand peace,
وَصِيَامُ“And fasting (in)
رَمَضَانَRamadan.”
قَالَHe (the man) said,
هَلْ“Is there
عَلَىَّupon
غَيْرُهُother than that?”
قَالَHe said,
لاَ،“No,
إِلاَّexcept
أَنْthat
تَطَوَّعَyou can volunteer more (righteous works).”
قَالَHe said,
وَذَكَرَand [he] mentioned
لَهُto him,
رَسُولُ(the) messenger (of)
اللَّهِGod,
صلىblessings (of)
اللهAllah
عليهupon him
وسلمand peace,
الزَّكَاةَ‏.‏“The Zakat (Obligatory Charity).”
قَالَHe (the man) said,
هَلْ“Is there
عَلَىَّupon
غَيْرُهَاother than that?”
قَالَHe (the messenger) said,
لاَ،“No,
إِلاَّexcept
أَنْthat
تَطَوَّعَyou can volunteer more (righteous works).”
قَالَHe (the man) said,
فَأَدْبَرَas [he] turned back
الرَّجُلُthe man.
وَهُوَAnd he (the man)
يَقُولُ[he] says,
وَاللَّهِ“By God
لاَnot
أَزِيدُI increase
عَلَىupon
هَذَاthis,
وَلاَand not
أَنْقُصُ‏.‏I decrease.
قَالَHe said,
رَسُولُ(the) messenger (of)
اللَّهِGod,
صلىblessings (of)
اللهAllah
عليهupon him
وسلمand peace,
أَفْلَحَ“He succeded
إِنْif
صَدَقَtruthful.”

It is clear from the above Hadith, as well as the verses of the Quran, that there are only five Salats. That we are free to do more righteous works, al-nafl, but these are not meant to be understood as additional Salats as it is recognized by the Muslim Ulama.

The Contact Prayers (Salat) are like a prescription for our soul given to us by our Creator. They are to be observed at their specific prescribed times, and we should not add to them nor decrease from them. Much like when we have a sickness and get medication from the doctor, we should stick with the dosage as prescribed.

[4:103] Once you complete your Contact Prayer (Salat), you shall remember GOD while standing, sitting, or lying down. Once the war is over, you shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat); the Contact Prayers (Salat) are decreed for the believers at specific times.

 فَإِذَا قَضَيْتُمُ الصَّلَاةَ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىٰ جُنُوبِكُمْ فَإِذَا اطْمَأْنَنْتُمْ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ كَانَتْ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ كِتَابًا مَوْقُوتًا

[23:9] And they are over their Contact Prayers (Salat) guardians.

(٩) وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَوَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ

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