Please clarify regarding offering the voluntary prayers before and after the obligatory prayers? My viewpoint is that, as you love and hold affection for the Prophet, Muhammad (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam), you must definitely follow his Sunnah. But some people regard it as next to obligation. For example, during Fajr prayer, people who come late to the prayer do not join the congregation and start offering Sunnah and sometimes the prayer of congregation ends. I think this is not correct. People should first offer the Farz prayers and then offer Sunnah because they will be questioned about the obligatory prayers at the Day Judgement.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the World; and blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.
All those prayers, which are, performed other than the obligatory prayers are called al-Nawafil (supererogatory prayers). The Nawafil are of two kinds:
1. The specific Nawafil prayers, which are performed before and after the obligatory prayers are, called al-Sunan al-Rawatib.
Al- Sunan al-Rawatib are of two kinds: Confirmed Sunan which consist of twelve Rakah; two Rakah before the Fajr prayer, four Rak'ah before the Zuhr prayer and two after it, two Rakah after the Maghrib prayer and two after the Isha prayer. The unconfirmed Sunan are four Rakah before 'Asr, two Rakah before Maghrib and two Rakah before Isha.
2. The supererogatory prayers other than the al-Sunan al-Rawatib are many some are as follows: a) Witr the most important voluntary prayer, its minimum number is one Rakah and the maximum is thirteen. The time of Witr prayer begins after the Isha and lasts till dawn. When one performs Witr in thirteen Rakahs he has to perform it in sets of two Rakah and one in the last Rakah.
b) Tahajjud prayer is also called Qiyam al-Lail (night prayer). The time of this prayer is the same as the time of Witr prayer.
c) Duha prayer, the minimum Rakah of this prayer is two and the maximum are eight. The time of this prayer begins fifteen minutes after sunrise and lasts until just before meridian time.
3. There are other voluntary prayers, which are recommended on certain occasions such as performing two Rakah after making Wudu, two Rakah for Istikhara, two Rakah when one meets his new bride for the first time, two Rakah for the prayer of Hajah (need). The need prayer is performed when a person needs something from Allah. Though some scholars do not agree about this prayer for the lack of sound evidence.
4. There are other prayers, which are performed in-groups such as the feast prayers, prayer for rain, prayer of lunar and solar eclipse. Only two Rakah are performed in all the above prayers.
5. There are some other Nawafil which are called general voluntary prayers. They are not restricted to a given time or numbers. They may be performed at any time except the time when performing non obligatory prayers is prohibited or disliked.
The Prophet Muhammad (Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said: "If the congregational prayer begins no other prayer should be performed". [Reported by Imam Muslim and the four Imams of Sunan]. Many scholars deduce from this Hadith that initiating any voluntary prayer after the beginning of an obligatory prayer is undesirable; some scholars even believe that the above Hadith proves that initiating any voluntary prayer after the beginning of a congregational prayer is forbidden. We support the latter opinion since the words of Hadith indicate the meaning of prohibition according to the rules of Usool al-Fiqh (Fundamentals of Islamic jurisprudence). Breaking a voluntary prayer may be with Tasleem before completing it or merely leaving it or doing any act, which normally annuls the prayer.
Allah knows best.