الحمد لله رب العالمين، وصلى الله وسلم على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين، أما بعد
Shaikh Muhammad bin Saalih Al-‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) mentioned a list of distinguishing points of difference between the optional (Nafal) prayers and the obligatory prayers – as listed below.
As a point of note, in a few of the later points; due to a difference of opinion between some of the people of knowledge in the matter the Shaikh mentioned the point of difference between the two prayers, but stated that there is no difference in that particular issue between the two prayers. The Shaikh said:
1 – The obligatory prayers were obligated on the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) whilst he was in the Heavens on the night of Al-Mi’raaj. In contrast to the Nawaafil, for they are just as the other legislations of Islaam are.
2 – It is forbidden to exit from the obligatory prayers without an excuse; contrary to the Nawaafil.
3 – The one who leaves off the obligatory prayer is sinful, contrary to the Nawaafil.
4 – The obligatory prayers are limited in number, in contrast to the Nawaafil, for they are unlimited.
5 – The obligatory prayer is (performed) in the Masjid; in contrast to the Naafilah, for it is better in the home – except where an exception has been made.
6 – There is a permissibility of praying the Naafilah upon the riding camel – without there being a necessity; contrary to the obligatory prayer.
7 – The obligatory prayer is scheduled with a specific time, in contrast to the Naafilah, from it is that which is scheduled and that which is not scheduled.
8 – During the journey the Naafilah does not have the facing of the qiblah as a condition, contrary to the obligatory prayer.
9 – The permissibility of switching (transitioning) from the obligatory prayer to the Naafilah which is not specified, whilst the opposite is incorrect.
10 – The Naafilah; one does not become a disbeliever by leaving it off – through consensus, as for the obligatory prayer then one becomes a disbeliever – based upon the correct statement (opinion).
11 – The Nawaafil complement/complete the obligatory prayers; whilst the opposite is incorrect.
12 – The standing is a pillar in the obligatory prayer, contrary to the Naafilah.
13 – The Nafal of the fugitive (runaway) is incorrect, whilst his obligatory prayer is correct.
14 – There is the permissibility of curtailing (sufficing) with the (single) tasleemah (salutation) in the Nafal prayer – based upon one of two statements, whilst not for the obligatory prayer.
15 – The adhaan and the iqaamah is not legislated for the Nafal – outright, contrary to the obligatory prayer.
16 – The obligatory prayer can be shortened during a journey, as for the Naafilah which occurs during the journey; then it is not to be shortened.
17 – The Naafilah falls away when one is unable to perform it and its reward is written for the one who is accustomed to (performing) them, whilst the obligatory prayer under no circumstances falls away, and the reward of its completion/complementation is written for the one who is incapable of (performing) it. Since it would otherwise have been from his habit to perform it.
18 – All of the obligatory prayers have dhikr legislated after them, as for the Nawaafil, then it has occurred (been reported) in regard to some of them – and in some of them it has not occurred.
19 – It is permissible to perform the Naafilah within the Ka’bah, as for the obligatory prayer then no, and that which is correct is its permissibility – hence there is no difference.
20 – There is the obligation of the congregational prayer in regard to the obligatory prayers; whilst not for the Nawaafil.
21 – The obligatory prayers have for them the permissibility of combining, contrary to the Nawaafil.
22 – The obligatory prayers are of greater value in reward than the Nawaafil.
23 – There is the permissibility of drinking a little during the Nafal prayer, whilst not for the obligatory prayer.
24 – The Nawaafil – from them is that which can be prayed as a single rak’ah (unit), in contrast to the obligatory prayers.
25 – In the Naafilah prayer it is legislated to ask and seek refuge – upon recitation of an aayah of rahmah (mercy) or an aayah of punishment. As for the obligatory prayer; then it is permissible – not legislated.
26 – The permissibility of the one who has reached puberty to follow (pray behind) the child in the Naafilah, whilst not for the obligatory prayer, and what is correct is its permissibility – so there is no difference.
27 – The permissibility of the one praying a Naafilah prayer to follow (pray behind) the one praying an obligatory prayer – not that of the opposite, and what is correct is its permissibility – so there is no difference.
28 – From the Nawaafil are those that can be made up for (due to expiry of time) upon its characteristic (feature), and from them are those which can be made up for upon other than its characteristic – such as the Witr. As for the obligatory prayer; then they are to be made up for upon their characteristic, however the Jumu’ah prayer can be excluded from that; since if it is missed; then it is to be made up for as Dhuhr.
29 – The obligatory prayer of the night is to be read aloud with recitation within it, as for the Nafal which is in the night; then one has the choice between reciting aloud and its absence.
30 – The obligation of covering the shoulder in the obligatory prayer; based upon one of two statements, whilst not for the Naafilah.
31 – From the Nawaafil is that which falls away due to travelling, as for the obligatory prayers; then there is nothing from them that falls away.
(Taken from Sharh Al-Mumti’ ‘alaa Zaad Al-Mustaqni’ vol 4 p.129-131)
 The Shaikh (rahimahullaah) mentioned three instances in which facing the qiblah falls away from the one who is praying, he said: “From the conditions of the soundness of the prayer is facing the qiblah, and the prayer is not correct except with it…” Citing the three exceptions to this he then stated:
“The first issue: If one is unable – such as the sick person whose face is directed to other than the qiblah and he cannot turn to face the qiblah, facing the qiblah falls away for him in this state…
The second issue: If one is in a state of extreme fear, such as a person who is fleeing from an enemy or fleeing from a predatory animal or fleeing from a flood which can drown him, here he should pray where his face is directed…
The third issue: During the Naafilah when on a journey; whether one is on an aeroplane or in a car or upon a camel, he should pray where his face is directed in the Nafal prayer such as the Witr and the night prayer and the Duhaa (Forenoon optional prayer) and whatever resembles that…So if one intends to perfrom the Nafal prayer and he is a traveler; then he should pray the Nafal prayer towards where he is facing, that is established in the two Saheehs from the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam).” (See: Majmu’ Fataawa wa Rasaa-il Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen vol 12 p.433-434)
 The Shaikh mentioned the rulings regarding changing the intention whilst in the prayer when he said: “Changing the intention is either from that (prayer) which is specified (designated) to that which is specified, or from that which is general (unspecified) to that which is specified – these are incorrect, and if it is from that which is specified to that which is general (unspecified) then there is no harm, examples of that:
From that which is specified (designated) to that which is specified: One intends to switch/transition from the Sunnah of the Duhaa prayer to the supererogatory of Fajr which he wishes to make up for (due to elapse of time), he makes the takbeer with the intention that he is praying the two rak’ahs for the Duhaa prayer, then he remembers that he has not prayed the supererogatory (Sunnah) of Fajr, so he switches it to the supererogatory prayer of Fajr – here it is incorrect because the supererogatory (Sunnah) prayer of Fajr is two rak’ahs – both of which he should intend with from the beginning of the prayer.
Likewise also if a man enters into the ‘Asr prayer and during the prayer he remembers that he has not prayed the Dhuhr prayer – so he alters the intention to Dhuhr – this also is incorrect, because that which is specified must have its intention set from the beginning of the affair.
As for altering from that which is general (unspecified) to that which is specified: Then an example is of a person who prays a general prayer – the Nawaafil – then he remembers that he has not prayed the Fajr prayer, or that he has not prayed the supererogatory (Sunnah) of Fajr, so he switches this intention to the Fajr prayer, or to the Sunnah of Fajr, then this too is incorrect.
As for altering from that which is specified to that which is general (unspecified): then an example is that one begins his prayer upon the basis that it is the supererogatory (Sunnah) of Fajr, and during the prayer it becomes clear to him that he had indeed prayed it. Here he can only switch from the first intention to the intention of the (new) prayer.
Another example is of a person who commenced an obligatory prayer by himself; then the congregation begins and so he intends to switch the obligatory prayer to the Naafilah in order to limit it to two rak’ahs. This is permissible because he has switched from that which is specified to that which is general (unspecified). This is the principle:
From that which is specified (designated) to that which is specified – is incorrect.
From that which is general (unspecified) to that which is specified – is incorrect.
From that which is specified to that which is general (unspecified) – is correct.”
(See: Majmu’ Fataawa wa Rasaa-il Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen vol 12 p.447-448)
 Imaam An-Nawawee (rahimahullaah) said: “It is permissible with us that one can pray within the Ka’bah – the obligatory (prayer) and the optional (Nafal). Aboo Haneefah, Ath-Thawree and the majority of the scholars stated that.” (See: Al-Majmu’ vol 3 p.194) Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said: “So that which is correct in this issue is that the prayer within the Ka’bah is correct – whether it is obligatory or optional (Nafal).” (See: Sharh Al-Mumti’ vol 2 p.258)
 The Fuqahaa (Jurists) are in agreement that the one who is praying is prohibited from drinking, and that if he deliberately drinks in the obligatory prayer, then the repetition (of the prayer) is necessary upon him. As for the voluntary prayer; then drinking deliberately (within it) nullifies it with the majority of the Fuqahaa, since that which nullifies the obligatory prayer would nullify the voluntary prayer just like the other things which nullify it. There is a report from Ahmad that it does not nullify it, and it is reported from Ibn Az-Zubair and Sa’eed bin Jubair that they both drank in the voluntary prayer. (Abridged from: Mawsoo’ah Al-Fiqhiyyah (Al-Kuwaitiyyah) vol 25 p.368-369)
Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen states the two opinions also where he said: “As for drinking; then with drinking a great amount deliberately or forgetfully it becomes nullified, and it is not nullified due to a little – forgetfully, and it is not nullified also when done deliberately with a little if it is a Nafal prayer. They give reasons for that through a report as well as a consideration. As for the report; they then say that ‘Abdullaah bin Az-Zubair (radhiyallaahu ‘anhu wa ‘an Abeehi) would lengthen the Nafal prayer and maybe he would become thirsty – so he would drink a little. This is an action of a companion, and the action of a companion – so long as it does not contradict a text or the action of another companion; then it is a proof. As for the consideration; then it is because the Nafal prayer is lighter than the obligatory prayer with the evidence that there are obligations which fall away in the Nafal prayer and do not fall away in the obligatory prayer such as the standing and facing the qiblah during the journey. So if the Nafal prayer is lighter and the person perhaps lengthens it a great deal so he needs to drink – it has been made allowable for him to drink a little as an encouragement for him upon the Naafilah…
The second saying: is that in the origin of the issue: there is no exemption from drinking a little in the Nafal prayer deliberately, just as there is no exemption from it in the obligatory prayer – and the majority of the people of knowledge have stated with it (this opinion). They give reasons for that: in that the origin is the equal nature of the obligatory and the Nafal prayers, as well as the statement/opinion that one is not exempt from (drinking) a little, hence the authoritative recourse with regards to a little and a lot returns back to customary practice.” (See: Sharh Al-Mumti’ vol 3 p.356-357)
 The Shaikh (rahimahullaah) said: “The Witr ends with the appearance of Fajr, so if Fajr has appeared and you have not performed the Witr, then do not perform the Witr, however; what should you do?
The answer: It is to be prayed during the Duhaa (forenoon) as a Witr accompanied with a rak’ah (unit), so if it was from your habit to pray the Witr as three (rak’ahs) – you would pray four, and if it was from your habit to pray the Witr as five (rak’ahs) – you would pray six. Due to the hadeeth of ‘Aa-ishah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa) that the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam): ((If he was overcome from performing the night prayer due to sleep or an ailment; he would pray twelve rak’ahs during the day.))” (Reported by Muslim no.746) (See: Sharh Al-Mumti’ vol 4 p.13)
Shaikh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez bin Baaz (rahimahullaah) said: “If the adhaan has been given for Fajr and the person has not performed the Witr prayer, then he should delay it until the Duhaa (forenoon) after the sun has risen, then he should pray that which is easy. He can pray two or four or more, two by two. So if it is from his habit to pray three (for Witr) and he has not prayed it in the night; he should pray it at Duhaa as four – with Tasleematayn (two salutations), and if it is from his habit to pray five and it was not facilitated for him to perform it in the night due to illness or sleep or other than that; then he should pray it at Duhaa as six – with three Tasleemaat (salutations) and like this. Since the Prophet (‘alaihis salaatu was salaam) would do that if he was busied from performing his Witr prayer in the night due to sleep or illness. He would perform the Witr with eleven rak’ahs, yet if he was busied due to sickness or sleep he would pray it in the day as twelve rak’ahs. This is what ‘Aa-ishah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa) stated as is reported by the two Shaikhs – Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim from her.”(See: Majmu’ Fataawa Shaikh bin Baaz vol 11 p.300-301)