Question # 534: Is it permissible for me to perform sunnah / naafil prayer with more than one intention?
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: Acts of obedience and worship are connected to their intentions. Therefore, it is valid to combine multiple niyyah (intentions) within one act of worship provided the two acts are not intended for its own sake or as independent prayers, such as Tahiyyatul-Masjid (i.e., salutation to the mosque), two rak’ahs following wudu’, the Sunnah prayer upon assuming Ihraam, the Istikharah prayer, the Sunnah of Tawaaf, the Sunnah prayer upon assuming Ihraam, the prayer of need, among others. For example, if one combines the niyyah of praying two rak’ahs of Tahiyyatul-Masjid (i.e., salutation to the mosque), the two rak’ahs following wudu’ and two regular Sunnah prayers, then he will attain the reward of three prayers [six rak’ahs] in two rak’ahs.
However, if each of the two or more acts of worship is intended for its own sake and are independent (i.e., each of which is required to be done individually) and doing one of them does not suffice for the other, it is not possible to combine their intentions in one act. For example, the missed Sunnah prayer of Fajr cannot be combined with the Duha prayer at the time for Duha prayer, or the Sunnah prayer following tawaf with the Sunnah prayer of Fajr because the two Sunnah are separate, and they do not suffice for each other. Similarly, if one act is connected to the other that came before it, then those cannot be combined, like the obligatory prayer of Fajr cannot be combined with the regular Sunnah of Fajr.
Long Answer: Acts of obedience and worship are connected to their intentions, as far as their soundness and their multiple rewards are concerned. Combining acts of worship falls into two categories:
- The first category includes acts of worship where it is valid to combine those acts. The guideline concerning that is that one of the two acts of worship is not intended for its own sake. In this case, it is permissible to combine them so that one deed counts as two [so that the reward may be multiplied with multiple intentions for a single deed.]
An example is [combining] the two rak’ahs of Tahiyyatul-Masjid (i.e., salutation to the mosque) and the two rak’ahs following wudu’, and similar prayers that are not intended for their own sake… Shaykh Khaalid al-Mushayqih said: “[Salutation to] the mosque” is not a prayer that is intended for its own sake so that it may be combined with another prayer, such as the regular Sunnah prayer. So if you enter the mosque to pray Dhuhr, then you can pray two rak’ahs with the intention of the regular Sunnah prayer and with the intention of greeting the mosque. If you intend to greet the mosque and offer the regular Sunnah prayer, you will attain the reward of two prayers [four rak’ahs] in two rak’ahs. If you do wudu’ and come to the mosque with the intention of offering the regular Sunnah prayer, greeting the mosque, and praying the two rak’ahs following wudu’, then you will attain the reward of three prayers [six rak’ahs] in two rak’ahs. This is one of the benefits of forming the intention…” (al-‘Aqd ath-Thameen)
An-Nawawi said: “If a person starts to pray, intending it as both the fard (obligatory) prayer and the prayer to greet the mosque, his prayer is valid, and he will attain the reward of both the obligatory prayer and greeting the mosque. (al-Majmoo ‘)
The Shafiʻi scholar, Al-Bujayrimi, wrote, “The voluntary prayers that are not intended as independent prayers, such as the prayer of greeting the masjid, the Sunnah prayer after ablution, the Sunnah of Tawaaf (circumambulation), the Sunnah prayer upon assuming Ihraam (ritual state of consecration assumed for Hajj or ‘Umrah), the Ghaflah (heedlessness) prayer (between the Maghrib and the ʻIsha’), the Istikharah (guidance-seeking) prayer, and the prayer of need…” (Haashiyat Al-Bujayrimi)
Haashiyat Ash-Shabraamallisi ʻala Nihaayat Al-Muhtaaj reads, “The Sunnah prayers whose intentions can be combined with other voluntary prayers are the prayer of repentance, the two-Rakʻah prayer before execution, the two-Rakʻah prayer before consummating the marriage with the wife, and the like because the objective is fulfilled by performing any given prayer.”
An-Nawawi in Al-Athkaar, “If one recited the supplication of Istikhaarah after the Sunnah of the Dhuhr prayer or any recommended voluntary prayer, general or specific (i.e., reported Rawaatib or Sunnah prayers that have a specific order, number, and so on), it would suffice.” (Fath Al-Baari)
- The second category includes cases where combining acts of worship is not allowed. That is, if each of the two acts of worship is intended for its own sake. In this case, it is not possible to combine two intentions for one action.
Shaykh Ibn’ Uthaymeen gave an example of that. He said: A man missed the Sunnah prayer of Fajr until the sun rose and the time for Duha prayer came. In this case, the Sunnah of Fajr cannot suffice for Duha prayer, and Duha cannot suffice for the Sunnah of Fajr, and they cannot be combined either because the Sunnah of Fajr is separate, and the Sunnah of Duha is separate. Doing one of them does not suffice for the other.
Similarly, if one of them is connected to the one that came before it, they cannot be combined. If someone were to say: I want to form the intention to combine the obligatory prayer of Fajr and the regular Sunnah of Fajr, we say: That is not valid because the regular Sunnah prayer is connected to the (obligatory) prayer, so doing one of them does not suffice for the other.
And he said: A similar example is the Sunnah prayer following tawaf and the Sunnah prayer of Fajr. For example, if a person finishes his tawaf after the adhan for the Fajr prayer and before the iqamah, and he intends to combine the Sunnah prayer of tawaf with the Sunnah prayer of Fajr, this is not valid because doing one of them does not suffice for the other, because the Sunnah of tawaf is to be intended for its own sake, and the Sunnah of Fajr is to be intended for its own sake. (Liqaa’aat al-Baab al-Maftooh)
As-Suyooti said, quoting an-Nawawi: “… If one of the two Sunnahs is not implied by the other, then the intentions thereof should not be combined in one act, such as the Sunnah prayer of Duha and making up the Sunnah of Fajr. This is unlike greeting the mosque and the Sunnah of Dhuhr, for example, because greeting the mosque may be implied and included in the Sunnah of Dhuhr.” (al-Ashbaah wa’n-Nazaa’ir)
[Therefore,] it is not valid to combine the intention to observe two independent acts of worship while each of which is required to be done individually and neither of which can be included within the other. For example, the Maghrib prayer may not be combined with a recommended voluntary prayer as a single act of worship with the same intention. This is invalid since these two acts of worship cannot be considered parts of one another.
[Lastly,] there is no harm in combining two [or more] intentions for a single act of worship as long as they are overlapped, such as the Friday Ghusl and the Ghusl of Janabaah (i.e., ritual bath of purification from post-sexual intercourse impurity).
(Unless stated otherwise, the above reply is based on various answers on similar topics provided by:
- Islamqa.info; and
- Islamweb.net, a website belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.