Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)
Is praying for others obligatory or recommended?
Praying (making dua) for others is in essence obligatory, but doing it in abundance is an expression of a believer’s excellence (ihsan). The more he does it, the more he will be elevated by Allah. One of the best prayers that we can make is for someone who is absent.
Allah has taught us to pray for others in the Fatihah by saying: “Guide us to the straight path.” In the tashahhud (when one sits to make the testification of faith) one must say: “Peace be upon us and all the righteous servants of Allah.” Likewise at the end of the prayer one sends peace to the right and to the left intending that it reaches all believing people, jinn and angels. These are examples of prayers for others that are obligatory.1
If we ponder upon the Prophetic statement that “The one who does not concern himself with the affairs of the Muslims is not one of them” then we will realise that to pray for the believers is an essential expression of our concern for them.
1 Sending “salam” or peace to someone is in reality a prayer for that person for wellbeing and safety from harm.