Answered by Shaykh Yūsuf Badāt
I do not remember how many mandatory prayers I have missed in my lifetime; please let me know how I should perform the replacement prayers for these.
Thank you for your question.
Your concern regarding mandatory prayers is admirable.
The author of Nūr al Iḍāh writes,
“To maintain a sequential order between a missed prayer and the current one is necessary, that is one must offer the missed prayer before the current one. The sequential order is also required between the missed prayers themselves provided they are less than six. For example, if a person misses the fajr, dhuhr, ‘asr and maghrib, then he must perform them in order and thereafter offer the current prayer, in this case the ‘Ishā’. The reason a sequential order is required is due to the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him),
‘Who ever missed a prayer due to sleep or forgetfulness and did not remember it until he was praying with the imām, he must complete the one he is praying, and then pray the one he missed, and thereafter repeat the one he prayed with the imām” – Dār Qutnī.
The order is excused with one of three things:
The order is excused when the desirable part of the prayer time is insufficient in allowing the performance of the missed prayers plus the current one, and this is the most correct view. An example of the disliked times, is the period before sunset, in which case one may pray the current prayer, then the missed one if he cannot pray both in the desirable time.
Forgetting is an exception to the order because a person cannot offer something he cannot remember.
The third is when the missed prayers become six [or more] not including the witr. Verily, the witr is not a reason to excuse the order even though one must still perform it in order after the ‘Ishā’ prayer. Note: The reason the order is excused when a person misses six prayers [or more] is because if one had to repeat them in order, it would burden him and Islam is opposed to this, as Allāh said, which means,
‘He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion’ (Qur’ān 22:68)
If one misses a large number of prayers, then he is required to specify each missed prayer, such as saying ‘I intend to perform the noon prayer of the 12th January 2007’. If however one wishes to simplify the matter, then he may specify the first dhuhr prayer due on him or the last dhuhr due on him.”
(See Nūr al Iḍāh with notes by Wesam Charkawi)
Once the timing of a ṣalāh has expired, one is only obliged to make up for fardh prayers, not the attached sunnah or optional prayers.
And Allāh Knows Best
This answer was collected from Mathabah.org. It’s an Islamic educational institute based in Canada. The questions are generally answered by Sheikh Yusuf Badat and Sheikh Omar Subedar.