What is the ritual prayer? What are the types of ritual prayer? What are the 3 main prayers?
According to the Ḥanafis, the ritual prayers are divided into farḍ, wājib, sunnah, and mustaḥab. The prayers that every intelligent and adolescent Muslim must perform five times a day at certain prescribed times in a certain number of cycles are “farḍ al-‘ayn (individual obligation)” and the Friday prayer is also of this nature. The witr and Eid prayers are wājib. Prayers performed both before and after the obligatory prayers are sunnah. The tarawīḥ prayer is also a type of sunnah. The prayers performed at other times called nafilah or tatawwū are sunnah or mustaḥab such as the tahajjud prayer, the mid-morning (ḍuḥā) prayer, and so forth.
Since the majority of schools, except the Ḥanafis, do not accept wājib as a separate value category for the acts of believers, they divide the prayer into two groups farḍ (obligatory) or nafilah (supererogatory).
A) Fard Prayers
A command which is based on a piece of evidence, which is firmly authenticated and clear in meaning, refers to a “farḍ” act and is absolutely required to be fulfilled by its addressee. There are both material and spiritual penalties for those who do not practice such an act. However, anyone who repudiates and rejects the command itself is considered to have left the religion of Islam. The obligatory prayers are divided into two types of prayers; farḍ al-‘ayn (individual obligation) and farḍ al-kifāī (communal obligation). Farḍ al-‘ayn prayers are obligatory upon every intelligent and adolescent Muslim, and they are the prayers that everyone is obliged to perform as an individual. Such as performing five daily prayers and Friday prayer every week are of this nature.
The number of cycles of five daily obligatory prayers is as follows: There are 17 farḍ cycles per day, comprising two cycles in the dawn prayer, four cycles in the noon prayer, four cycles in the late afternoon prayer, three cycles in the evening prayer, and four cycles in the night prayer. If one spends 1.5-2 minutes for each cycle, it can be construed that a person is required to reserve no more than 25-30 minutes per day for worship and servitude to Allah. Moreover, for those who complain about the intensity of their work and the lack of time, the ease of allocating such time on the trains, buses, ferries, planes, or on the sickbed, if needed, and considering the earth as a mosque are indicators of the universal understanding of worship in Islam.
The Friday prayer is a prayer performed in the congregation at the time of the noon prayer on Friday, and its obligatory part is two cycles. When the Friday prayer is performed, the normal everyday noon prayer is not required.
Farḍ al-kifāī, on the other hand, is a type of prayer in which the obligations of all individual Muslims are eliminated when some Muslims perform it. The funeral prayer is of this type. When some people perform a funeral prayer in a village, town, or city, the responsibility of all other Muslims is removed. But if no one carried out the act, the whole of the community in that settlement becomes responsible for it. Moreover, those who participate in such a prayer attain rewards and virtues.
According to the Hanbalis, the Eid prayers are also a type of farḍ al-kifāī prayers upon anyone who is required to perform the Friday prayers.
B) Wajib Prayers
According to the Ḥanafis, the legal value of the acts that Allah and His Messenger require the Muslims to do in a binding way, but where the bindingness is established not with firm evidence but rather a conjectural one, is called “wājib”. The witr and Eid prayers and prostration of recitation are of this nature. Yet, it is considered binding to carry out the wājib act, but the penalty for those who do not fulfill them is less than the penalty of farḍ. Whoever denies the wājib is not considered to have left the religion of Islam, but is deemed to be a sinner and to have gone astray. For example, while abandoning an obligatory part of a prayer invalidates the prayer, it is makrūḥ taḥriman to deliberately abandon a wājib act of prayer, and abandoning them unintentionally can be fixed by performing prostration of forgetfulness at the end of the prayer.
According to the majority of schools, witr and Eid prayers are sunnah muakkadah. The details of the Eid prayers will be examined in the related section of the book.
According to the Ḥanafi school, the votive prayer, the prostration of recitation, and the making up of the invalidated nafilah prayers are also types of wājib prayers. The witr prayer is three cycles, and the Eid prayers are two cycles. According to the Shafiʿis and the Hanbalis, the witr prayer can be between one cycle and eleven cycles in odd numbers. According to the Malikis, it is only one cycle. However, one more cycle can be added to it.
C) Nafila (Supererogatory) Prayers
Prayers other than farḍ or wājib ones are called nafilah (supererogatory) prayers. Sunnah prayers performed before or after the obligatory prayers, as well as the ḍuḥā, tahajjud, awwābīn prayers, and the prayers performed as tatawwū are included in the scope of nafilah prayers. Some jurists distinguish between sunnah and nafilah (supererogatory) and thus classify the prayers in general under four types a) Farḍ, b) Wājib, c) Sunnah, and d) Nafila prayers.
According to the Ḥanafis, the number of cycles of the sunnah prayers is as follows: There are two cycles in the dawn prayer, four cycles as the first sunnah (performed before the farḍ cycles), two cycles as the last sunnah (performed after the farḍ cycles) of the noon prayer, four cycles in the late afternoon prayer, two cycles in the evening prayer, four cycles as the first sunnah (performed before the farḍ cycles), and two cycles as the last sunnah (performed after the farḍ cycles) of the night prayer. There are four cycles as the first sunnah (performed before the farḍ cycles), four cycles as the last sunnah (performed after the farḍ cycles) of the Friday Prayer, and there is also another two-cycle sunnah called the “sunnah of the time” performed after the last sunnah of the Friday Prayer.
The tarawīḥ prayer is twenty cycles. Other supererogatory prayers are at least two cycles each.
The sunnah prayers performed as attached to the daily prayers are called “rawātib prayers”. The sunnah cycles of dawn, noon, and evening prayers and the last sunnah cycles of the night prayer are called “sunnah muakkadah (emphatically enjoined Sunnah)”, while the four-cycle sunnahs performed before the farḍ cycles of the late afternoon and night prayers are called “sunnah ghayr-muakkadah” or mustaḥab and mandūb. The sunnah muakkadah are the supererogatory prayers that the Prophet performed constantly and abandoned rarely. The ghayr-muakkadah sunnahs are the nafilah prayers where there is no definitive proof that they were performed continuously by the Prophet (saw).
Supererogatory prayers other than rawātib sunnahs are called raghāib. These are the prayers performed at certain times or on some occasions based on the practices of the Prophet, or practices that a person voluntarily performs at any time he/she wants in order to get closer to Allah and gain reward. The tahajjud prayer, the mid-morning (ḍuḥā) prayer, the istikhāra prayer, the rain prayer, the husūf and kusūf prayers, the tahiyyat al-masjid prayer, the repentance prayer, the awwabīn prayer, the tasbīḥ prayer, the prayer to enter the state of ihram, the departing and returning from a journey prayer, the prayer performed for the fulfillment of a need, and the prayer performed after performing minor ablution and major ablutions are of the raghāib type nafilah prayers.
On the other hand, the Hanbalis divide the voluntary prayers, which are associated with the five obligatory prayers, into two categories: The first category, referred to as rawātib, consists of a total of ten cycles, namely: (a) two cycles before the noon prayer and two after it, (b) two cycles after the evening prayer, (c) two cycles after the night prayer, and (d) two cycles before the dawn prayer. As for the second category of voluntary prayers tied to the five obligatory prayers, they consist of twenty more cycles: (a) four cycles before the noon prayer and four after it, (b) four cycles before the late afternoon prayer, (c) four cycles after the evening prayer, and (d) four cycles after the night prayer.
The Shafiʿis divide the voluntary prayers associated with the five obligatory prayers into two categories: (1) sunnah muakkadah (emphatically enjoined), and (2) sunnah ghayr-muakkadah (non-emphatically enjoined). The first category consists of the following: (a) Two cycles before the dawn prayer, (b) Two cycles before the noon prayer or the Friday congregational prayer. (c) Two cycles following the noon prayer or the Friday congregational prayer, (d) Two cycles after the evening prayer, (e) Two cycles after the night prayer, and (f) The witr prayer. As for the second category, namely, voluntary prayers which are not emphatically enjoined, they come to a total of twelve cycles: (a) two cycles before the noon prayer or the Friday congregational prayer over and above those already mentioned; (b) two cycles after the noon prayer or the Friday congregational prayer in addition to those already mentioned; (c) four cycles before the late-afternoon prayer; (d) two cycles before the evening prayer; and (e) two cycles before the night prayer.
As for the Malikis, they divide the voluntary prayers associated with the five obligatory prayers into two categories: (1) rawātib, and (2) others. The rawātib category includes prayers performed at the following times: (a) between the commencement of the time period for the noon prayer and the performance of the noon prayer itself, (b) after the noon prayer, and (c) between the commencement of the time period for the late-afternoon prayer and the performance of the late-afternoon prayer, and (d) after the evening prayer. Unlike the other schools, the Malikis do not specify how many cycles such prayers should consist of; however, they hold that the preferred numbers are those which are commended in certain hadiths, namely: (a) four cycles before the noon prayer, (b) four cycles after the noon prayer, (c) four cycles before the late-afternoon prayer, and (d) six cycles after the evening prayer. As for the category 2 note above as “others”, it includes: (a) two cycles before the dawn prayer, (b) The shaf’ (meaning “even number”), which consists of a minimum of two cycles and has no maximum. The shaf’, which is simply recommended, is performed between the evening prayer and the witr. Finally, (c) The witr, which is emphatically the most enjoined of all voluntary prayers other than the two cycles associated with the circumambulation of the Ka’bah.
 Akyüz, ibid, vol. 2, p. 212.
 Akyüz, ibid, vol. 2, p. 208.
 Jaziri, Abd al-Rahman, Islamic Jurisprudence According to the Four Sunni Schools, Fons Vitae, 2009, p. 427.
Source: Basic Islamic Principles (ilmiḥal) According to the Four Sunni Schools With Evidence From The Sources of Islamic Law, Prof. Hamdi Döndüren, Erkam Publications