Q. Is there any point in making up prayers? For example, if someone is really busy at work and miss the zuhr and asr prayers, should these missed prayers be performed even if it is after maghrib?

A. The Qur'an is specific on the aspect of salat being "written," i.e. prescribed. In one verse, this is conditioned by "at times," but then in other verses it comes without conditioning, defining rather that a person who is truly pious must perform the prayer. From the sunna, as far back as we see, there is the method of making up missed prayers. It shows to the Creator that even though mundane affairs may have been given precedence because of the situation, in the end, the prayers, which is the bond between God and humans, is still there. The Qur'an says: "And I have not created jinn and humans except that they should worship Me." Now this worship can take many forms, but since in Islam, the most obvious form of worship is the salat, the matter seems clear.

In a case where the prayer is missed, it should be made up as early as is possible with ease. If situations present themselves, where for example maghrib, etc. comes in before the zuhr and asr that you still have to perform, then one makes the maghrib and can immediately go into the zuhr and asr if he/she feels like it. Otherwise, wait until the mind is at ease, for I feel that the prayer should not be done with the idea of churning it out to complete a routine. However, the prayers should be done at home rather than at a mosque, for the simple reason that since they are fard, if they are made up after maghrib, then the people around you may find reason to gossip. This is in a scenario where one performs prayers regularly and it involves a day.

There is another scenario in which I will exercise my personal opinion, and may Allah forgive me if I am wrong, for I am going out on a limb, so to speak. If one has a calamity in the family, and in the process for example, questions God's justice, and for this reason and the grief, etc., abandons the prayer for let us say several weeks. Or if the burden is so much that the prayers are missed, not out of questioning, but just stress, I feel that to make up prayers for such a long period would be difficult, and that if the person sincerely seeks Allah's forgiveness, then insha Allah all should be well. When one questions, it is as if one has suspended being Muslim. After such a state, one repents, and asks forgiveness. It would be nice if prayers missed for an extended period could be made up, but the whole aspect seems without benefit, for one cannot bring back what has been lost.

Posted January 12, 1999