Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Question: Assalamu Alaikum, How does one make up for a large number of prayers (let’s say, years of them)? Does he/she have to make up for each individual prayer? Would they have to make up for all those prayers or would a general tawbah be required in such a case?
Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh
I pray you’re well.
The Importance of the Prayer
The prayer is of central importance in Islam, and trying to perfect one’s prayer is a life-long objective of every believer. It is the purest act of worship through which slavehood to Allah Most High is expressed.
From puberty onwards, every believer is expected to perform the five fard prayers – and the wajib witr prayer for Hanafis – every day. If any of these are missing then one will be accountable for them on the Day of Judgement.
Therefore, all missed prayers must be made up – regardless of the reason behind them being missed. One must also repent from any prayers missed due to negligence.
The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The first thing a servant will be taken to account for on the Day of Judgement from his deeds is the prayer. If it is right he is successful and saved. Otherwise, he is ruined and has lost out.
The Lord – Infinitely Generous and Lofty is He – will say [to the angels], ‘Look; does my servant have any voluntary worship which can compensate for the deficiencies in his obligatory worship?’ Then the rest of his works will be treated in the same way.” (Abu Dawud).
This narration also highlights the importance of the sunna prayers and voluntary worship.
How To Make Up Missed Prayers
The simplest way is to start from the point you reached puberty. If you do not know the precise month and year then make a good guess.
Once you have this date calculate the number of years, months, and days from puberty until you started to consistently pray properly. It might be wise to add 2% of this figure as a backup.
At this point you should start to make up the prayers. You do need to pray them in order, and there is no rush.
The easiest way is to start making up one day’s worth of prayers a day. The order can be mixed up to facilitate the process, though it is better to pray maghrib and the witr prayer in a place where no one can see you. This is to avoid letting others know that you missed prayers in the past. The other prayers can be passed of as voluntary prayers.
It is also important that you keep on top of your current prayers – they are a priority. Also, do not miss the emphasised sunnas: the two before fajr; the four before zuhr, and the two after it; the two after maghrib, and the two after ‘isha.
A sample routine could be that you make up:
before/after fajr – a previous zuhr
after sunrise until noon – a previous maghrib
after zuhr – a previous asr
before (ideally) / after asr (before the sun goes reddish) – a previous ‘isha
after maghrib – a previous fajr
before bed/tahajjud time – a previous witr.
This way you’ll be able to place the missed prayers in the slots of the recommended voluntary prayers without disrupting your routine much. Alternatively, you could find a 20 minutes slot in the day and pray them all back to back.
The simplest intention is to say “I intend to make up the last fajr/zuhr/asr, etc prayer that I missed and have not prayed yet.” Do this for every prayer, and each time you perform a prayer one will be knocked off the list and the one prior to it will become ‘the last prayer you missed’
Keep a separate written record of how many days you have made up, ideally in a place you won’t lost it, such as iCloud.
Beware Of Burnout
The Devil will undoubtedly come and make you rush through the prayers, and also make you think the number you are doing isn’t enough. Ignore him. Start with making up one day a day, and when you have consistently done this for three months consider adding another day to the routine.
This way you will keep advancing. A small amount over a long period of time is better than a big sudden splash and then nothing. I know many people who have built up to consistently making up five days worth of prayers a day, and kept at it. This requires a bit of sacrifice but the fruits are well worth it.
As with everything, ask Allah for help, and tell Him you are doing this to please Him, and to fulfil His rights that you were deficient with. This way you will be rewarded for it all even if you die before completing them all. Allah is very kind and generous.
(Shurubnulali, Maraqi al Falah)
May Allah facilitate all matters for you.
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with erudite scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina, and others. He was also given licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabir and Shaykh Yahya Qandil. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.