Wa `alaykum As-Salamu waRahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
Answering your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a Senior Lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
It is wrong to say it is a bidah to pray four rakahs before Isha prayer. Those who label it as a bidah are misusing this word. How can it be considered a bidah when one of the most prominent schools, namely the Hanafis, consider it recommended?
We may do well to remember that they did not invent this practice; rather they have simply followed the practice of some of the companions they trace their teachings. Hence, it is wrong to say they invented it.
Here is a story from Imam Malik shedding light on this. When the Abbassid Caliph wanted to impose the teachings of the Muwatta (his work) on the people of other cities, he advised him against it saying: Following the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him) his companions dispersed in various lands carrying with them aspects of the Sunnah. So, we may do well to let them follow what they have inherited as each one of them has a basis in Sunnah.
With regard to the number of supererogatory prayers, the Prophet said: “Allaah will build a house in Heaven for whoever is diligent in observing 12 Sunnah rakahs (as follows): four rakahs before and two after the Zhuhr (Midday) Prayer, two after the Maghrib (Sunset Prayer), two after the Isha’ (Evening) Prayer and two before the Fajr (Dawn) Prayer.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.