As salamu aleykum,
The Prophet (saw) mentioned in a hadith that night prayers should be observed two rakaat by two rakaat (as narrated by the authors of Sunan)
Does this mean that we should pray the nafila prayers after Salaat al Magrib in sets of 2?
Then why we pray the 4 rakaat nafila before (and eventually after) Salaat al Isha as one set of 4 rakaats with one taslim ? Should we not pray those nafila’s as sets of 2 by 2 ?
In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.
It is advised to pray four rakaats of voluntary prayer in the daytime with only one salaam. Meaning, after reading four rakaats one should separate it with one salaam. To offer more with only a single pair of salaams at the end is disliked.
With regards to the voluntary prayer in the night, then to read more than eight rakaats with one salaam is disliked.
The best practice in the day and night with respect to voluntary prayer is to perform them in fours with one salaam according to Imam Abu Hanifa (RA). (Nural Idah p.94 & Raddul Muhtar p.455 v.2)
It is mentioned in a hadith that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam was diligent in performing Salatul Duha as four rakaats and diligent in performing four at nighttime. (Sahih Muslim)
However, Imam Abu Yusuf (RA) and Imam Muhammed (RA) say that the best practice in the day is four and in the night is two. Some have said that the fatawa is upon this view. (Raddul Muhtar p.455 v.2)
The Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam has said, “The night prayer is offered as two rakaats followed by two rakaats.” (Sahih Bukhari p.155 v.1)
With regards to your question, the aforementioned view of Imam Abu Yusuf (RA) and Imam Muhammed (RA) is based upon which is preferable i.e. it is more virtuous to read nafl prayers during the night in pairs. Furthermore, the views of my respected teachers is that the four rakaats before the Isha prayer is an exception to the aforementioned ruling due to the sunnah of reading four rakaats before the Isha prayer.
With regards to the four rakaats before the Isha Salah Saaiduna Baraa Radiallahu Anhu narrates that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasalam as saying: “He who reads 4 rakaats before Isha, shall be rewarded as though he performed Tahajjud Salah that night, and he who performs four rakaats after Isha, shall be rewarded as though he performed those four rakats on Laylatul Qadr.” Hafiz Ibn Hajar mentions this hadith in Al-Diraaya Fi Takhreji Ahaadith al-Hidaaya. (p.157 v.1)
Furthermore, Saaidah Aisha Radiallahu Anha relates that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam would read four rakaats before Isha and four rakaats after Isha upon which he would rest.” Hafiz Qasim ibn Qutlubulugha in his At Tarif Wal Ihbar quotes this hadith from Al Ikhtiyaar.
Only Allah Knows Best
Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham