Answered by Ustadha Shaista Maqbool
Question: Asalamu alaikum
I converted to Islam 7 years ago. It took over a years to start praying regularly as it took a while to learn and I was afraid to pray around my parents as they were so strongly against Islam.When I told them I was a Muslim initially I had a very hard time and they would often yell at me.
Recently at a study circle someone mentioned I have to make up the missed prayers.
Am I required to make up all of those missed prayers? If so I will pray them instead of the sunnah as it is beyond my capacity to do both.
Answer: Wa’alaikum assalaam warahmatu Allah,
May this find you in the best of states.
Firstly, making up prayers is something many people have to do and have done; there are many, many Muslims who have made up years of prayers due to one reason or another; it is far from an impossible task, rather through commitment and moderation, it may be accomplished without extreme hardship.
In your situation, because you became Muslim in a non-Muslim country, you are not responsible to make up prayers during the time you had no knowledge of their being obligatory. In other words: after you were informed that Muslims must pray and were informed of the bare minimum of the prayer, if you didn’t pray thereafter, then you must make up those prayers.
It is important to note that what is the bare minimum for a prayer is not much and may be learned in an afternoon; the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would teach people to pray in a very short time. In light of this, it would not be allowed for one to not pray for months after learning that prayer was obligatory, since he/she could learn the bare minimum quickly and start prayer right away. Yes, to learn the complete prayer with its sunnahs and ettiquettes will take longer to learn, but to pray one only needs to know the obligatory acts of the prayer.
Yes, Islam was revealed in stages, but as soon as the prayer became obligatory, everyone had to pray.
I would suggest doing your best to determine if you do fall into the category of having to make up prayers; calculating what you need to make up using your best guess and adding to that to be on the safe side.
Then make a schedule for praying make up prayers that you can keep up, for example: making up one day of prayer everyday. Yes, it may take a year, or longer, but that is okay. What is crucial here is that you are in control of how you schedule your make ups; you are not obliged to leave other activities and spend your entire time making up prayers.
Therefore, it is important to incorporate the confirmed sunnah prayers into your schedule. Again, you choose how you will make up those prayers, so you there is no reason for you to feel overwhelmed because you can adjust your schedule to suit you. Nonetheless, in other than the Hanafi school, one may leave the sunnah prayers if one has to; but again, it is best to make a schedule that will allow you to pray make-ups and the sunnah prayers.
May Allah ta’ala give you tawfiq/success to do that which He loves and eases for you all of your affairs.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani