At our mosque, during the last 10 days of Ramadan, we were praying Tahajjud together led by the Imam. This was first time, I ever prayed Naf’l1 in Jamaa`ah. Well, any way, one night, after two rak`ah of naf’l, our Imam forgot and stood up instead of offering salaam. Even though the Jamaa`ah repeatedly indicated to him but he didn’t sit down so we all finally stood up and continued praying two more rak`ah. On top of that our Imam didn’t offer sajdah e sahaw2, so most of the people got upset but the Imam said its not necessary to offer sajdah e sahaw in Naf’l.
I need your input regarding this matter.
Naf’l prayers may be offered in two or four rak`ahs. However, if the Imam had initially intended for two rak`ahs but then forgot to finish his prayer after two rak`ahs, and continued to complete four rak`ahs, the rak`ahs shall then be considered as four rather than two. Nevertheless, in such a situation, I would consider it highly desirable to offer sajdah e sahaw. It should remain quite clear that if sajdah e sahaw has not been offered, it would not mean that there is anything lacking in the prayer itself. It is highly desirable – not obligatory – to offer sajdah e sahaw in such a case.
Sajdah e sahaw is primarily an indication of the fact that if satan temporarily engaged us and thereby deviated our minds from our prayers, we respond to it by once again prostrating to our Lord – the very act from which satan deviated our minds. With this understanding at the back of our minds, we should try not to be miserly in offering sajdah e sahaw. A correct understanding of sajdah e sahaw inculcates the spirit of offering it for all the mistakes one commits in a prayer without even considering the point that whether such a sajdah is obligatory or not.
In my opinion, therefore, even though the said Imam’s opinion cannot be termed as incorrect that ‘its not necessary to offer sajdah e sahaw in Naf’l‘, yet I would still have preferred to offer this sajdah even though it is not obligatory. However, it should be noted that I do not suggest to alter the status of sajdah e sahaw. I simply suggest to make praying (whether naf’l or obligatory rak`ahs) more of a spiritual experience rather than a mere fulfillment of a legal obligation.
22nd March 1999