Actions leading to Paradise : (11) – The Reward for Voluntary Prayers

عَنْ أُمِّ حَبِیْبَۃَ زَوْجِ النَّبِیِّ صَلَّی اللّٰہُ عَلَیْہِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنَّہَا قَالَتْ: سَمِعْتُ رَسُوْلَ اللّٰہِ صَلَّی اللّٰہُ عَلَیْہِ وَسَلَّمَ یَقُوْلُ: ’’مَا مِنْ عَبْدٍ مُسْلِمٍ یُصَلِّیْ لِلّٰہِ کُلَّ یَوْمٍ ثِنْتَیْ عَشْرَۃَ رَکْعَۃً تَطَوُّعًا، غَیْرَ فَرِیضَۃٍ، إِلَّا بَنَی اللّٰہُ لَہُ بَیْتًا فِي الْجَنَّۃِ

Translation:

It is narrated by Umm Habibah, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: ‘Whoever among the believing servants performs twelve additional rak’ahs (units of prayer) voluntarily every day, beyond the obligatory prayers, for the pleasure of Allah, Allah will build a house for him in Paradise.

Explanation:
This means that those who perform twelve additional rak’ahs (units of prayer) every day, apart from the obligatory prayers, Allah will build an additional house for them. This is the reward for the voluntary prayers, which will be granted to those who, by virtue of their faith and deeds, qualify for Paradise.
In the religion of Islam, there is a strong emphasis on bodily cleanliness, the purification of food and drink, and the adoption of ethical purity. Upon reflection, you will realize that the entire Shariah of Allah is founded on these three principles.

Similarly, in religion, acts of worship are prescribed to strengthen one’s relationship with Allah. What is the primary purpose of prayers, fasting, Hajj, and Umrah? The Holy Quran states that it is to maintain the remembrance of Allah. Since Allah is not physically visible to us, it was necessary to adopt symbolic methods for remembrance. This symbolic approach is inherent in all acts of worship.

Generally, when people turn towards religion, they tend to go to extremes in their practices and beliefs. In Christianity, as detachment from worldly desires became more prevalent, the philosophy of worship evolved into the practice of monasticism.
Therefore, Allah prescribed acts of worship through His prophets to remind us of Him and to maintain our relationship with Him. This allows humans to fulfill their natural need for divine connection without falling into excess or negligence.

The prayers prescribed for us throughout the day and night constitute the worship we must perform regularly. These include the mandatory prayers: two rak’ahs at Fajr, four at Dhuhr, four at Asr, three at Maghrib, and four at Isha. Collectively, these obligatory prayers typically amount to about half an hour spent in the presence of Allah. If there is a mosque nearby, one will join others there in worshiping Allah; otherwise, one will bow down in humility before Allah alone.

The Holy Quran emphasizes an important aspect of worship. While it mandates certain acts of worship and servitude to demonstrate our connection with Allah, these are compulsory only to the extent that they have been prescribed. However, if someone chooses to engage in additional worship beyond what is required, such as giving more than the mandatory rate of Zakat, the Quran states: ‘And whoever does good voluntarily, then indeed, Allah is Appreciative, Knowledgeable’ (Al-Baqarah: 158). This voluntary act is known as ‘Tatawwu’ in Islamic terminology. In common language, such additional acts are referred to as ‘Nafil’

The term ‘Nafil’ refers to acts that are not obligatory; their performance is voluntary and not required. If you do not perform them throughout your life, you will not be questioned. However, it is a recognized principle of human nature that going above and beyond what is required merits reward. For example, if Allah mandates giving two rupees to the poor and you choose to give ten, it is understood that you should be rewarded for your additional generosity.

Similarly, extra acts of charity, fasting, performing Hajj and Umrah are ways to express human devotion to Allah. Likewise, additional units (rak’ahs) of prayers in daily life also reflect this devotion.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned that a believer who performs twelve extra rak’ahs daily, beyond the obligatory prayers, will receive Allah’s pleasure. Typically, these include two rak’ahs before the Fajr prayer, four before and two after the Dhuhr prayer, as well as two after both the Maghrib and Isha prayers. When summed up, these additional voluntary prayers total twelve rak’ahs.

It is important to understand that these additional rak’ahs are not obligatory, and you will not be held accountable or questioned if you do not perform them. If you choose to perform them voluntarily, it should be seen as an expression of your desire to spend more time in the path of your Lord. While you are invited to present yourself in His presence perhaps just for a few minutes during obligatory prayers, choosing to perform additional rak’ahs means you opt to spend more time and further prostrate before your Lord.

In this narration, the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned two things: first, performing twelve rak’ahs, and second, that these should be voluntary (Tatawwu’)—in addition to the obligatory prayers, performed voluntarily with the intention that you are presenting this of your own accord. If you do so, Allah will build a house in Paradise as a reward. This expression indicates that an additional blessing will be granted among the blessings Allah has promised. This expression was chosen because it was appropriate for the common people present at the time, allowing them to understand that they would receive an additional blessing, such as an extra Paradise or an additional house.

It should be clear that these additional blessings will be granted only to those who, through their faith and actions, have earned the right to enter Paradise.

The question here is not about how to enter Paradise; the conditions for that are separate and must have been fulfilled. You have not wronged anyone, taken anyone’s property unjustly, harmed anyone’s life, property, or honor, or deprived anyone of their rights. You have not committed any acts of shirk (associating partners with Allah). You have fulfilled your responsibilities and duties. These are the actions that will take you to Paradise. To attain higher ranks in Paradise, you perform additional voluntary acts. These are the extra deeds you do out of your own free will (Tatawwu’).

The Holy Quran uses the term ‘Tatawwu’ in relation to fasting and the Sa’i between Safa and Marwah. However, this concept can be extended to all acts of worship and good deeds. This means that while certain actions are obligatory, increasing the amount of these actions and performing them with sincerity will surely lead to greater rewards from Allah.