Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Is it true that one cannot pray the sunna prayers outside the prayer time? I thought it would be allowed since I we are allowed to pray the sunna of Fajr after sunrise if one is not able to pray it before the fardh.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful

Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

The basis is that the sunna prayers cannot be made up after their time. The only exception to that is the Fajr prayer, as this is the only sunna prayer the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk) performed outside its time–on condition of making it up with the obligatory Fajr prayer the same day it was missed, before Zuhr time enters. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

However, it is good (hasan) to perform an equivalent number of voluntary (nafl) rakats of prayer for the sunnas missed, to compensate for lost reward and in order not to get used to breaking one’s spiritual routines. This doesn’t count as a “make up” of one’s sunna, but a making up of lost reward. Sayyida A’isha relates that if the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) missed something of his routine (wird) of night worship, he would make it up after sunrise. This was also the counsel of Sayyiduna Umar (Allah be pleased with him) on the matter. [Related by Nasa’i and others]

Thus:

1. If you miss Fajr prayer, you should make it up with its sunna, before Zuhr. This is the exception to making up missed prayers.
2. If you miss other sunna prayers, then you have missed them and they can’t be “made up” (such that one’s action would count as a delayed performance of the sunna).
3. However, if you miss sunna prayers, it is good to perform a like number of voluntary (nafl) rakats, to make up for lost reward and in order to accustom yourself to maintaining your spiritual routines–because the actions most beloved to Allah are those that are most consistent.

And Allah alone gives success.
Faraz Rabbani

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)