Can I make up for my missed prayers?

My teacher mentioned that one cannot ever make up for missed prayers unless if they were missed because of sleep or forgetfulness.

I actually missed a lot of prayers when I was young and not practicing, but I’ve been trying to make these up with each regular prayer. Tell me, is this wrong? Can no prayer at all be done as qadha (compensation)?

You’re doing the right thing, may God enable you to do it all. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “If one of you misses a prayer because of sleep or forgetfulness, let him make it up as soon as he remembers, for there is no compensation (Kaffaara) for it other than that.”

The highlighted sentence in the hadeeth is often overlooked in the religious opinions. It simply means that missed prayers cannot be compensated with money, fasting, repentance, feeding the poor, etc. It can only be compensated in kind. That is, with equal numbers of prayers.

The fact that the hadeeth gives examples of reasons for missing prayers does not necessarily mean these are all the reasons. To conclude that one cannot make up missed prayers because a scholar said you can’t, is a very serious conclusion. You are going to face God alone on the Day of Judgment and that scholar will not be with you to plead for you.

My humble advice is to start making up your missed prayers as much as you can until they are all done. I know a gentleman who missed 17 years of prayers! When he started taking Islam seriously, he decided to pray one missed prayer after each regular prayer and he kept asking God to keep him alive long enough to make up for all his missed prayers. God responded to him favorably and he’s made up all 17 years worth of missed prayers! Ma=sha-Allah. It became second nature to him.

But the teacher said that even such qadha is not accepted.

How does he know that? Where is it in the Quran or the authentic Hadeeth that says that a qadhaa’ prayer is not accepted?

Almighty God says “God wants for you ease, He does not want for you difficulty” (2:185). Stay away from people who want to make things difficult, thinking that it would lead to piety. There is no relationship between difficulty and piety.

God says that He will not deny the People of the Book the good they do! (2:115), so do you think that He would deny Muslims the good they do?

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) aid in al-Ikhtiyaaraat (34): “It is not prescribed for the one who misses a prayer deliberately to make it up, and the prayer, if he makes it up, is not valid; rather he should do a lot of voluntary (naafil) prayers.

With all due respect to him, and he is due a lot of respect, what is his evidence? You can’t declare that something God will not accept if neither God nor His Messenger have told you so!

I am still confused as to how it is allowed for a person to pray the fard (mandate), that he missed years ago ‘out of neglectfulness’, now?? I am a layman.. so have patience with me.

Simple. Are you allowed to pay a Zakah (alms) that you neglected years ago? Are you allowed to fast days of Ramadhaan that you neglected years ago? Are you allowed to perform Hajj (pilgrimage) which you could have made years ago but did not?

Why is it hard then to understand that you can pray neglected Fardh prayers from years ago?

The reason you said, still didn’t clarify whether the Prophet (PBUH) has permitted that type of prayer.

He did not forbid it, therefore it’s allowed! But he actually did more than allow it. He implied that you must do it when he told the man who asked him about performing Hajj on behalf of his dead mother, by making the analogy (Qiyaas) of a debt, that debt owed to God has more priority than other debts. That analogy applies to neglected prayers, Zakah and fasting as well, since all are debts owed to God.

What about a person who didn’t pray for five years or so and then takes the deen (religion) sincere. If he has to pray all the missed out prayers how will he pray? Like should he pray the missed out maghrib (Sunset prayer) at the time of maghrib or at what time? In any case whats the evidence?

I mentioned earlier the gentleman I know who neglected praying for 17 years! Then his conscience woke up and he started to take Islam seriously. He vowed to make up all 17 years of missed prayers! What resolve! He followed a simple, disciplined method: with every regular prayer he prays another one like it. Thus, he made up a day everyday! He kept supplicating to God to keep him alive until he has finished his debt to Him. God answered his supplication and he finished compensating all 17 years. Ma-sha-Allah. I felt like dancing in joy when I heard it.

This is just one method that’s been tried and tested and proved successful. You can come up with other ideas that might work equally well.

Wouldn’t it be much easier for him if he prays voluntary prayers hoping that it will compensate for the fard in the Hereafter?(especially because we have a proof)

Easier for sure, but it’s a gamble! How do you know it would be enough? Sure God is merciful, but since He did not tell us that He would forgive neglected prayers and neither did the Prophet (PBUH), one stands on shaky grounds if one thinks they might get away with praying nawaafil (voluntary but recommended prayers) and hope for the best!

We do not have proof that voluntary prayer is all we need in this case. We have opinions of scholars. Opinion is not proof.

I am afraid your suggestion would amount to bid’ah (novelty). Not accusing you of anything, but rather it is the hadeeth of Rasool-Allah (Messenger of God), pbuh, that every innovation will be rejected. A scary area.

This is another widely misunderstood hadeeth. Bid`a, meaning novelty, is any change to the religion. When you mandate something that is not mandated by God or His Messenger, or forbid something that they did not forbid, then you have changed the religion. Bid`a is not any innovation, because building domes on top of mosques is an innovation, furnishing mosque floors with carpets is an innovation, using a rosary (Sibha) for tasbeeh (sanctification of God) is an innovation, etc.

But isn’t it true that if a person deliberately abandoned a prayer until the stated time for it had expired, making up for it would not benefit him. This is because an act of worship which is scheduled for a certain time must be performed at that stated time.

It is true that mandated prayers are timed, but that does not prove that making up for them when not done in time is disallowed. If one follows that logic, one may not make up for missed days of Ramadhaan, because it too is timed, or Zakah for that matter, but we know that we can make up for them, right? So, that logic is flawed.

OK. There is a hadeeth, reported by Muhammad bin ‘Uthman Adh-Dhahabi, which says:

“The first of people works that they should be called to account for on the Day of Judgment is the Prayer. Our Lord, Holly and Exalted will say to His angels, while knowing better than they, ‘Look at the Prayer of My servant. Did he perform it in full, or fall short of it?’ If it is in order, then he will have prospered and succeeded; if it is wanting, then he will have failed and lost. While if anything is missing from it, He will say, ‘Look to see if My servant has any supererogatory worship.’ And if he has, Allah will say, ‘Complete My servant’s obligatory Prayers for him from his supererogatory ones’. And he will be dealt with likewise in his other works.”

Thanks for finding this hadeeth. Authenticity aside, it is clear from it that it does not prohibit making up for missed prayers, nor does it say that such Qadhaa’ will not be accepted. Thus, all we can conclude from it, assuming it’s authentic, is that voluntary prayer will save us if our regular prayer was lacking. That does not preclude Qadhaa’.

As for the notion that our intention is what matters (which is true) and that God is merciful (which is also true), that does not mean that neglect of mandates should not be compensated. Otherwise, we may skip fasting in Ramadhaan or paying the Zakah and hope that God will forgive us because we convinced ourselves that our intentions were good. When God or His Messenger tell us that something has a Kaffaara (expiation), that means the Kaffaara must be made if the mandate was neglected or missed.

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