Are We Sinful for Missing Sunnah Prayers, or Are They Just for Extra Reward?
The confirmed sunna in the Hanafi school almost equates to the level of necessary (wajib); therefore, leaving it would be blameworthy and if consistently left, could even be sinful. [Ibn Abidin, Radd ul-Muhtar]
The Types of Sunna
Firstly, it is important to know that there are two types of sunna, the confirmed (mu’akkada) and the non-confirmed (ghair mu’akkada).
The confirmed sunna actions are things like praying in congregation, the call to prayer (adhan), washing one’s face thrice in the ritual ablution (wudu) and the like. Whilst non-confirmed sunna actions include sitting, standing and dressing like the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). [ibid.]
The Ruling of the Confirmed and the Non-Confirmed Sunna
Our teacher, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani beautifully explains that the confirmed sunna (mu’akkada) is, “an act upheld regularly by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and was not of worldly habits. This is whilst letting it be known that it is not obligatory (fard). These acts are legally considered to complete the obligatory acts. Omission here would not be punishable although it is blameworthy due to leaving the way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). ” [The Absolute Essentials of Islam]
As for the non-confirmed sunna or recommended (mustahab) actions, the one who performs these is rewarded and the one who leaves it is not sinful nor is it blameworthy.
Imam Abd al-Hayy al-Lacknawi mentions that some have said the punishment for leaving the confirmed sunna is the prevention (t: of some types) of the intercession of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) reaching one. [Lacknawi, Tuhfat al-Ikhyar bi Ihya Sunnat Sayyid al-Abrar] As mentioned, there are different types of intercession and this is not talking about the greatest intercession (shafat al-`udhma). Nevertheless, it should be enough that the scholars have even mentioned this. It suffices to say that in our school, the confirmed sunna is very important.
The Way of the Righteous
A simple principle: following the Beloved is the means to becoming beloved. Strive to learn the sunna out of love, apply it in your life out of devotion and become realised in what it means. The sunna is the way of performing our religious duties in the best and most beautiful of ways and a means of loving him (Allah bless him and give him peace) when one truly understands the reality.
And Allah alone gives success.
Answered By: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani