Answered by Ustadh Sufyan Qufi
I was born a Muslim, but I was never really sure if there was a God or not, and I didn’t know if Islam was the true and only religion. I thought that every religion has something right. So I had these mindsets that leaned towards disbelief, but at some points, I cared about halal and haram, like I didn’t eat pork and said I was Muslim. For about one and a half years, I have experienced Islam as the only true religion. Is it obligatory to make up the prayers I missed during that time?
I pray this finds you in the best of states.
Please remember that you were born to Muslim parents, and as such, you are deemed Muslim as long as you don’t deny your beliefs. Thus the assumption you should go with is that you were a Muslim with confusion.
Disbelief is a matter of the heart. One cannot leave the fold of Islam except by rejecting what brought them into Islam. [Tahawi, Al-Aqida al-Tahawiyya]
What happened to you is most likely confusion, and confusion is not disbelief. Especially when you mention that you would never entertain the possibility of eating pork, for example, showing clear signs of a strong Muslim identity.
Because of this, many scholars I have been able to ask deem it obligatory for you to make up all the missed prayers of your adult life. This is what caution entails in your situation.
Nonetheless, several reliable major scholars (such as Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi and Shaykh Khalid Kharsa) have deemed that at one point in your life, you were indeed no longer a Muslim (murtadd).
Thus, If indeed you had actually stopped believing, you don’t have to make the prayers you missed while genuinely doubting the truth of Islam and not considering yourself a believer. The reason for this ruling is that those prayers have been missed during a time of apostasy. [Haskafi/Tumurtashi, Durr al-Mukhtar Sharh Tanwir al-Absar]
Faith is to accept as true everything that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has come with. To accept it as true in the context of faith is accepting the teachings of Islam as true while also humbly recognizing and accepting in your heart this reality. [Bajouri, Tuhfatu al-Murid]
Allah, Most High, says, “So, know that there is no god except Allah.” [Quran, 47:19]
For example, many disbelievers during the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) knew as a fact that his teachings were true. But despite that, they didn’t find in themselves the humbleness to recognize what the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has brought as true. Instead, they became his enemies. [Ibid]
Allah, Most High, says: “Those We have given the Scripture recognize this [Prophet] as they recognize their own children. Yet a group of them hides the truth knowingly.” [Quran, 2:146]
Not knowing whether or not Allah, Most High, Himself exists is obviously failing to display an Islamically valid faith. Thus, you were a disbeliever at that time, and it was not binding on you to pray. You don’t have to make up those prayers.
This is the theory. You know what caution entails. Please choose wisely and try first to consult a reliable local scholar.
The Best Thing to Do
The best thing to do in your situation is to ask a reliable local scholar about this issue. He will be aware of your societal environment and thus is the most likely to give the best answer for you. Shaykh Hamza Bakri has emphasized this important step.
And Allah knows best.
[Ustadh] Sufyan Qufi
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Sufyan Qufi is an advanced seeker of knowledge, originally from Algeria, who grew up in France. He began searching far and wide for answers to the fundamental questions of life and was disappointed at the answers he found.
Then he connected with various traditional teachers and gradually connected with SeekersGuidance. He embarked on his journey of learning through the various teachers at SeekersGuidance, including his mentor Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
He studied numerous texts in Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith, and other areas with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and other teachers, including Shaykh Abdurrahman al-Sha’ar, Shaykh Ali Hani, and others.
He is an active instructor at SeekersGuidance and answers questions through the SeekersGuidance Answers Service.