Please tell us about the ruling on missed prayer. Is there a way to make amends for missed prayers, of which we do not have an exact number?
God has made it obligatory to perform prayer at specific times, but it is understood from the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, that if prayer is not performed at these specific times due to an excuse, such as sleep or forgetfulness, then it is obligatory to make up for it at another time; as it has been narrated from His Excellency that he said: «مَنْ نَسِيَ صَلَاةً أَوْ نَامَ عَنْهَا فَكَفَّارَتُهَا أَنْ یُصَلِّیَهَا إِذَا ذَكَرَهَا»; “Whoever forgets a prayer, or sleeps through it, its expiation is that he must perform it when he remembers it”, and this is in accordance with the ruling of the intellect on istishab and precaution, but rather it may be deduced from some verses of the Quran; such as the verse that says: ﴿وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي﴾; “And perform prayer for the remembrance of Me”; in view of a narration from the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, in which he has considered its intention to be the necessity of performing prayer when it is remembered, and said: «مَنْ نَسِيَ صَلَاةً أَوْ نَامَ عَنْهَا فَلْیُصَلِّهَا إِذَا ذَكَرَهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى یَقُولُ: ﴿وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي﴾»; “Whoever forgets a prayer, or sleeps through it, must perform it when he remembers it; God Almighty says: ‘Perform prayer for the remembrance of Me’”, and the verse that says: ﴿وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ﴾; “And remember your Lord whenever you forget”; in view of the interpretation that one of our companions informed us about, he said:
«سَأَلْتُ الْمَنْصُورَ عَنْ قَوْلِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى: ﴿وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ﴾، فَقَالَ: إِذَا نَسِيتَ صَلَاةً فَصَلِّهَا إِذَا ذَكَرْتَهَا، فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى يَقُولُ: ﴿أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي﴾»; “I asked Mansoor about the words of God Almighty that says: ‘And remember your Lord whenever you forget’, so he said: Whenever you forget a prayer, perform it when you remember it, for God Almighty says: ‘Perform prayer for the remembrance of Me’”.
Therefore, there is no disagreement among Muslims about the necessity of making up for prayer that has been missed due to an excuse. But is it obligatory to make up for prayer that has been missed deliberately and out of carelessness? There are two views among Muslims on this; in this way that some of them, such as ibn Hazm, ibn Taymiyyah, and some of the companions of al-Shafi‘i, believe that making up for such a prayer is not obligatory, but rather it is not considered correct and acceptable; because, on the one hand, God has commanded to perform prayer, and making up for it is another obligation that requires another command from Him, while no other command has come from Him but for one who abandons it due to an excuse, and therefore, making up for it for one who abandons it without excuse is making a religious law and void, and on the other hand, one who abandons prayer without excuse is considered a disbeliever or a sinner, while if he is considered a disbeliever, according to the rule «الْإِسْلَامُ يَجُبُّ مَا قَبْلَهُ»; “(Embracing) Islam removes previous misdeeds”, it is not obligatory for him to make up for the acts of worship that he has missed during the time of disbelief, and if he is considered a sinner, according to generalities and absolute indications concerning repentance, it is enough for him to repent and ask for forgiveness, without it being obligatory for him to make up for missed prayers; especially when making up for them is difficult and hard for him, and this is the view that has been attributed to Umar ibn al-Khattab, Abdullah ibn Umar, Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqas, Salman, ibn Mas‘ud, Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Badil Aqili, Muhammad ibn Sirin, Mutarrif ibn Abdullah, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, and some others. However, most Muslims, including Shias and the four Sunni madhhabs, believe that making up for such a prayer is a fortiori obligatory, and this is a view that is closer to the truth; because when making up for missed prayer due to sleep or forgetfulness, which are not considered sins, is obligatory, then making up for missed prayer due to deliberateness and carelessness, which are considered sins, is more deserving to be obligatory, and therefore, not mentioning it in narrations has been due to its being certain or rare among Muslims compared to its abandonment due to sleep or forgetfulness; although not mentioning it in narrations is not proven; because «مَنْ نَسِيَ صَلَاةً»; “Whoever forgets a prayer” in narrations, like ﴿إِذَا نَسِيتَ﴾; “Whenever you forget” in the Book of God, can also include one who has abandoned prayer due to deliberateness and carelessness; considering that God in His Book has interpreted abandonment due to deliberateness and carelessness as forgetfulness, and said: ﴿قَالَ كَذَلِكَ أَتَتْكَ آيَاتُنَا فَنَسِيتَهَا ۖ وَكَذَلِكَ الْيَوْمَ تُنْسَى﴾; “He said: This is how Our verses came to you, then you forgot them, and this is how you are forgotten this Day”, and said: ﴿فَذُوقُوا بِمَا نَسِيتُمْ لِقَاءَ يَوْمِكُمْ هَذَا إِنَّا نَسِينَاكُمْ﴾; “Then taste (the punishment), because you forgot the meeting of this Day of yours, We have forgotten you”, and said: ﴿نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَنَسِيَهُمْ﴾; “They forgot God, so He forgot them”, and said: ﴿وَنَسُوا حَظًّا مِمَّا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ﴾; “They forgot a portion of what they were reminded of”, and said: ﴿فَلَمَّا نَسُوا مَا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَبْوَابَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَتَّى إِذَا فَرِحُوا بِمَا أُوتُوا أَخَذْنَاهُمْ بَغْتَةً فَإِذَا هُمْ مُبْلِسُونَ﴾; “Then, when they forgot what they were reminded of, We opened to them the doors of everything until when they were glad with what they were given, then We suddenly seized them, and they were plunged into despair”, and said: ﴿وَلَكِنْ مَتَّعْتَهُمْ وَآبَاءَهُمْ حَتَّى نَسُوا الذِّكْرَ وَكَانُوا قَوْمًا بُورًا﴾; “But You gave them and their fathers enjoyment until they forgot the Remembrance, and they were a people devoid of good”. Moreover, one who abandons prayer, if he does not deny its obligation, is not considered a disbeliever, and therefore, he cannot use the benefits of the rule of jab; also, due to his deliberateness and carelessness, he has fallen into difficulty and hardship as a result of his own actions, and therefore, the benefits of the rule of negation of difficulty and hardship do not include him either. Furthermore, the difference between him and one who abandons prayer due to sleep or forgetfulness is his being a sinner, and it is clear that being a sinner cannot be the source of reduction of obligations, but rather, according to the rule of justice, it increases its intensity, and therefore, if making up for missed prayer was supposed to be not obligatory for someone, it would not be obligatory for one who abandoned prayer due to sleep or forgetfulness, who is more deserving of reduction of obligations; as God Almighty has said: ﴿وَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ فِيمَا أَخْطَأْتُمْ بِهِ وَلَكِنْ مَا تَعَمَّدَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا﴾; “And there is no sin on you in the mistake you make, but for what your hearts deliberately intend, and God is the All-Forgiving, the Most Merciful”, and said: ﴿رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِنْ نَسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا﴾; “O Lord! Do not take us to task if we forget or make a mistake”, while making up for prayer is certainly obligatory for one who abandons it due to sleep or forgetfulness, and therefore, it is a fortiori obligatory for one who abandons it out of deliberateness and carelessness, although it is possible that God does not accept from him; as He can forbid him from doing it by way of punishment and deprivation of success; in this way that He says, ‘Now that you have not performed prayer on its time, do not perform it anymore’; as He has said in respect of jihad about those who did not accompany the Prophet when necessary: ﴿فَإِنْ رَجَعَكَ اللَّهُ إِلَى طَائِفَةٍ مِنْهُمْ فَاسْتَأْذَنُوكَ لِلْخُرُوجِ فَقُلْ لَنْ تَخْرُجُوا مَعِيَ أَبَدًا وَلَنْ تُقَاتِلُوا مَعِيَ عَدُوًّا ۖ إِنَّكُمْ رَضِيتُمْ بِالْقُعُودِ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ فَاقْعُدُوا مَعَ الْخَالِفِينَ﴾; “Then if God brings you back to a party of them, and then they ask your permission to go out, say: ‘Never shall you go out with me, and never shall you fight an enemy with me. You were indeed content to sit the first time, so sit now too with those who stay behind’”, but fortunately, He has not said such a thing about prayer that has been abandoned out of deliberateness and carelessness, and this means that there is still an opportunity to make amends for it, Insha’Allah.
But in order to make up for missed prayers, when their nature or quantity is not certain, there is no choice but to perform them with a nature and quantity that leads to the certainty that all of them have been performed; because, according to the ruling of the intellect, certain assignment of obligation demands certain freedom from it, and certain assignment of obligation exists in both doubts; considering that whenever a person knows that one of his prayers has been missed, but does not know which of the five daily prayers it was, his obligation is certainly assigned to one prayer, and therefore, he has no choice but to perform all five daily prayers to make sure that he has performed the missed prayer, and whenever a person does not know whether he has missed the prayers of three years or four years, he is in fact certain that he has missed the prayers of three years, and has doubt as to whether or not he has fulfilled his certain obligation of performing the prayers of the fourth year, and there is no doubt that this is the manner for conducting the rule of assignment of obligation, not freedom from obligation; contrary to the supposition of most contemporary jurists, who have considered it in the manner for conducting the rule of freedom, while the obligation in it is not doubtful, but rather obedience of the obligation in it is doubtful, and it clearly requires precaution, not freedom from obligation. Yes, if a person has doubt as to whether or not he had reached the age of puberty before the start of performing prayer so that it would be obligatory for him to make up for the missed prayers in it, he can perform the principle of freedom from obligation; because his doubt is in the obligation itself, and therefore, there is no certain assignment of obligation so that it would demand certain freedom from obligation, and istishab too requires his not reaching the age of puberty.
As a result, making up for missed prayers is obligatory, whether they have been missed due to an excuse, such as sleep or forgetfulness, or without excuse and out of carelessness, and if a person does not know which of his five daily prayers has been missed, he must perform all five daily prayers to make sure that he has performed the missed prayer, and if a person does not know how many days his prayers have been missed, he must perform as many prayers to make sure that he is no longer obligated to perform any prayer; in this way that, for example, if he does not know whether he has not performed prayer for three years or four years, he must perform the prayers of four years to make sure that he is no longer obligated to perform any prayer, and he must fear God, consider death at hand, and not fail to do this work to the extent of his ability; because if he does not fail to do this work and tries to the extent of his ability, it is hoped that he will be forgiven, even though he dies before making up for all his prayers; considering that he has done justice to repentance, especially if his children do good after him, and make up for his remaining prayers.