In a Hadith-i-Qudsi -a tradition that was communicated by Allah by inspiration to the Prophet (pbuh) and related by him as if Allah was speaking:
"Whoever bears enmity to My saintly servant I will proclaim war on him. The thing that I like most among the acts that bring My servant closer to me is his performance of the acts that I enjoined on him. At the same time, My servant keeps coming closer to Me through optional worship. In the end he attains My Love. And when I love him I become the ears that he hears with; I become the eyes he sees with, I become the hands that he holds with, I become the feet that he walks with (I become the heart that he reasons with, and I become the tongue that he speaks with). When he asks for anything from Me, I immediately grant it to him. When he seeks refuge in Me, I safeguard him. I never hesitate about anything as I do in taking the life of a believing servant: He dislikes death, and I do not like anything he dislikes..." (Bukhari, Rikak, 38).
Therefore, pious Muslims, following the tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) offer The Supererogatory prayers in times of fear, during the latter part of the night and at other times, and when they need something- in addition to performing the obligatory prayers. They are among those who are praised in the Qur'an:
.".. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration."
(Al-Fath 48: 29).
They get endless pleasure from prayer and The Supererogatory prayers are offered to keep up this endless pleasure. The Prophet (pbuh), though he committed no sin, used to pray at nights until his feet became sore, and he used to read the Qur'an until he was exhausted. So, The Supererogatory prayers do not hinder obligatory prayers but, on the contrary, fortify them. The point here is to try to perform them in their proper way.
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
"The first worship that the servant will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement is prayer. If his prayers are done properly, he will be saved. If not, he will be among the losers. If the obligatory prayers are not enough to save him, Allah will ask:
"Are there The Supererogatory prayers done by My servant so that they could complement the obligatory prayers?'
Other worship will be the same." (Tirmizi, Salat, 188).
So, regarding obligatory prayers as sufficient will be a grave mistake, for it is almost impossible to perform the obligatory ones perfectly and duly. No matter how much weight we give to them we may, any time, make mistakes in our performance. Thus, we have no other chance, but The Supererogatory prayers to complement our mistakes. Our deficiencies in offering the obligatory ones may be complemented by optional ones as we do not have a second chance to perform the obligatory prayers in case we miss or perform them incorrectly them. However, this does not mean that we should leave out the obligatory prayers for optional ones. We should try to observe both at the same time. The practice of the Prophet (pbuh) in this regard is a unique example before us. On the other hand, those who did not offer obligatory prayers in time should not try to supplement only the unperformed prayers, but try to offer optional prayers as unperformed prayers could be done any time of the day whereas such optional prayers as those done during the night, forenoon, the rising of sun, and late-evening are to be done only at certain times.
Rabia bin Ka'b al-Aslamî said:
I used to stay with the Prophet at night and wait upon him to bring water for ablution and so forth. One day he told me:
" – Wish anything you like from me!"
" – I want to be with you in Paradise."
" – What else do you wish?"
" – I only wish what I said."
" – If so, please help me by offering as much prayer as you can!" (Muslim, Salat, 226).
Another saying of the Prophet (pbuh) in this regard is as follows:
"Nothing is more helpful to the servant to approach Allah than prostrations s/he does in solitude. Namely, it is The Supererogatory prayers that s/he does on his/her own at home that bring him/her close to Allah most." (ibn Mubarak).
Shaqeeq al-Balkh said:
We looked for five things and we found them in five things:
- The fruitfulness of sustenance in forenoon prayer.
- The light in the grave in prayer done during the night.
- The answers to the questions asked by the two angels that question the dead in reading the Qur'an.
- The success in passing the bridge from this world to Paradise in fasting and giving alms.
- The shelter on the Day of Judgement in remembering Allah in solitude.
There are various The Supererogatory prayers. The most important ones are as follows:
Tarawih Prayer (prayer performed after the prescribed night service of worship in the month of Ramadan)
Aisha, wife of the Prophet, (may Allah be happy with her) said:
"The Prophet was not so wrapped up in worships in other months as he was in the month of Ramadan. And he was particularly wrapped up in worships done during the last ten days of Ramadan." (Muslim, Itikaf, 832).
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
"Whoever spends a night of Ramadan offering prayer with a sincere belief and hope that s/he will get reward for it, his/her past sins are forgiven." (Bukhari, Iman, 27).
And the primary prayer that is done in Ramadan is the tarawih prayer. It is done in twenty units. And as it takes a long time one is supposed to observe it duly.