Question: I have heard that it is permissible to sometimes perform the sunnat salat of Salat al-Asr as two rak'ats in order to catch up with the jama'at. Then is it permissible to perform a three-rak'at qada salat instead of the sunnat salat of Salat al-Maghrib or a qada of Salat al-Witr instead of the post-fard sunnat salat of Salat al-Isha? In this case, will one be considered to have omitted the sunnat salat because a nafila salat does not consist of three rak'ats? Is there any information about this matter in the book Endless Bliss?
When one performs a salat in addition to a fard salat, one is considered to have performed the sunnat salat as well. That is, instead of the pre-fard sunnat salat of Salat al-Asr, one can perform a three-rak'at qada of Salat al-Maghrib or a two-rak'at qada of Salat al-Fajr. Even if a person who does not have salats to make up performs qada salats in this way, one will not be considered to have omitted sunnat salats.
Some passages from the book Endless Bliss about this matter are as follows:
1. "The great scholar Ibni Nujaym was asked: 'If one has salats to make up and if one performs the sunnat salats of Salat al-Fajr, Salat az-Zuhr, Salat al-Asr, Salat al-Maghrib, and Salat al-Isha with the intention of making up one's missed salats, will one be considered to have omitted sunnat salats?' His answer was: 'One will not be considered to have omitted sunnat salats because the purpose in performing sunnat salats of the five daily salats is to perform a salat [whether a voluntary salat or a qada salat] in addition to the fard salat of each salat time.' It is written in Nawadir that by performing qada salats instead of the sunnat salats one is considered to have performed sunnat salats, too. By performing one more salat in addition to the fard salat of each salat time, those who have debts of qada are considered to have done the sunnat as well."
2. It is written in Ashbah, "It is not necessary to intend for a sunnat salat when performing the pre-fard and post-fard sunnats of the five daily salats. The rawatib (prescribed) sunnat salats will be valid when performed with the intention of a voluntary salat or with the intention of salat only. That is, they will be the sunnat salats of the times within which they are performed. It is not necessary to intend specially for sunnat salats. For example, if one performs two rak’ats before dawn with the intention of Salat at-Tahajjud and then finds out that dawn had already broken before one performed it, this salat stands for the sunnat salat of Salat al-Fajr. Also, there is a dependable report that it is not necessary to intend for Salat at-Tarawih before one starts it. If one who does not have any Salat al-Fajr to make up intends 'I intend to perform the last Salat az-Zuhr that I have not performed though I have reached the time for it' as one performs the four rak’ats after Salat al-Jumu'ah and if one finds out later that the Salat al-Jumu'ah has been valid, these four rak’ats, according to a dependable and authentic report, become the sunnat salat of Salat al-Jumu'ah.
When nafila salats and prescribed sunnat salats are performed with the intention of salat only, or of any kind of salat other than the sunnat salats, they will be valid. As is seen, any salat [e.g., a qada salat] performed in addition to current fard salat is at the same time considered the sunnat salat of that fard salat."
Ibn Abidin states in the section concerning intention for salat:
"According to profoundly learned scholars, a sunnat salat performed only with the intention of salat is valid because the sunnat salats of five daily salats means the salats performed by our Master the Prophet. It was later that those salats were named sunnat salats. When performing the sunnat salats of the five daily salats, the Messenger of Allah used to intend, ‘To perform salat for Allah’s sake.’ He did not intend, ‘To perform a sunnat salat.’ Any salat performed so in every salat time becomes the salat called sunnat."
"The sunnat salats of the five daily salats and Salat at-Tarawih are, originally, nafila [voluntary] salats. When making intention for them, it suffices to intend only for a salat."
"It is sunnat to perform a two-rak'at salat after entering a mosque. This is called Tahiyyat al-Masjid. When entering a mosque, if one performs a fard, a sunnat, or any other salat, one will be considered to have performed Tahiyyat al-Masjid, too. The salat that is performed does not need the special intention of Tahiyyat al-Masjid."
3. Hadrat Abdulhakim Efendi stated:
"A sunnat salat refers to a salat performed in addition to a fard salat. If one performs a qada salat instead of pre-fard and post-fard sunnat salats, one will be considered to have performed sunnat salats as well because a qada salat performed in this way meets the conditions set in the definition of a sunnat salat" (Islam Ahlaký).
While the imam is saying the iqamah or while he is performing a fard salat, no sunnat salat can be performed. As for the sunnat salat of Salat al-Fajr, one should perform it at a separate place if one is sure that one will catch up with the jama'at in the fard salat. If there is not a separate place, one must skip it. It is written in the book Se'adet-i Ebediyye:
"It is makruh to start a nafila salat while the jama'at is performing a fard salat."
It is makruh to start the sunnat salat of Salat al-Asr among the jama'at the moment the jama'at is about to start the fard salat. If it is possible for one to catch up with the jama'at if one performs two rak'ats, one can perform a qada salat of Salat al-Fajr.