Is there a sunnah prayer before Maghrib prayer?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
There is a 2 rak'ahs sunnah prayer before Maghrib prayer according to a hadith of the Prophet PBUH. However, it is not categorized as one of the rawatib (sunna prayers associated with fardh prayers) and it is not one of sunnah muakkad (encouraged sunnah).
This is in accordance with a hadith from Abdullah bin Mughaffal al-Muzni RA, he reported the Prophet PBUH said:
صَلُّوا قَبْلَ صَلاَةِ الْمَغْرِبِ. - قَالَ فِي الثَّالِثَةِ - لِمَنْ شَاءَ كَرَاهِيَةَ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَهَا النَّاسُ سُنَّةً
“Perform (an optional) prayer before Maghrib prayer." (He repeated it thrice) and the third time he said, "Whoever wants to offer it can do so," lest the people should take it as a Sunna (tradition).”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1183)
Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (w.852H) Rahimahullah cited the opinion of al-Muhib al-Tabari Rahimahullah in his book Fath al-Bari saying the above hadith is a strong evidence of the sanctioning of sunnah prayer before Magrib prayer, but it is not to be performed continuously. Thus, most scholars of mazhab al-Syafie does not include it as an encouraged rawatib sunnah prayer (rawatib prayers that considered as sunnah mu’akkadah). (See Fath al-Bari Syarh Sahih al-Bukhari. Dar al-Ma’rifah, 3/60)
In another hadith from Anas bin Malik RA, he said:
كُنَّا بِالْمَدِينَةِ فَإِذَا أَذَّنَ الْمُؤَذِّنُ لِصَلاَةِ الْمَغْرِبِ ابْتَدَرُوا السَّوَارِيَ فَيَرْكَعُونَ رَكْعَتَيْنِ رَكْعَتَيْنِ حَتَّى إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ الْغَرِيبَ لَيَدْخُلُ الْمَسْجِدَ فَيَحْسِبُ أَنَّ الصَّلاَةَ قَدْ صُلِّيَتْ مِنْ كَثْرَةِ مَنْ يُصَلِّيهِمَا
“When we were in Medina, the moment the Mu'adhdhin made the call to the sunset prayer, the people hastened to the pillars of the mosque and prayed two rak'ahs with the result that any stranger coming into the mosque would think that the obligatory prayer had been observed owing to the number who were praying then.”
Sahih Muslim (837)
Opinions of Mazhab
- Mazhab Hanafi & Maliki: Sunnah prayer after sunset before Maghrib prayer is makruh according to both mazhab. It is ruled makruh in fear of the sunnah prayer would delay the Maghrib prayer. (See Majma’ al-Anhar fi Syarh Multaqa al-Abhar, 1/110 & Mukhtasar Khalil)
- Mazhab Syafie: 2 rakaat sunnah prayer before maghrib is considered as sunnah but is not a muakkad sunnah according to the valid qaul in the mazhab (the opinion of Imam al-Syafi’e himself). (See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 3/502)
- Mazhab Hanbali: It is permissible. It is neither makruh, nor sunnah. Though some scholars of mazhab Hanbali ruled it sunnah. (See Hasyiah al-Raudh al-Murbi’ Syarh Zaad al-Mustaqni’, 2/218)
According to the above evidences and opinions from various mazhab regarding this issue, in our opinion, there is a sunnah prayer before Mahgrib prayer, however it is not one of sunan al-muakkadah (encouraged sunnah). The same is stated in al-Mu’tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafi’e by Prof. Dr. Muhammad al-Zuhayli Hafizahullah, where he said for anyone who wants to perform the sunnah prayer before Maghrib prayer, he should simplify his prayer (in terms of duration for rukuk and sujud, sunnah and manners in prayer) to ensure that he does not delay his Maghrib prayer because the time for Maghrib prayer is short. (See al-Mu’tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafi’e. Dar al-Qalam, 1/370)