Answered by Sidi Salman Younas
Question: I converted to Islam about a year and a half ago. However, I have been studying Islam for years, and I knew I wanted to become a Muslim for a while. Since I was living with my parents earlier and they absolutely forbade me from converting, I did not pray, fast, or say the shahadah out loud, even though I believed it. This went on for a a few years until I entered college and finally had the freedom to start practicing Islam. Do I need to make up the prayers and fasts that I didn’t do during those three and a half years? I wasn’t officially Muslim yet in that I hadn’t said the shahadah, and I didn’t know how to pray properly. Some say that I have to make up these prayers and fasts, while others say that because I wasn’t really Muslim then (since I didn’t say shahadah) I don’t need to make them up since my sins have been forgiven through repentance and me taking my shahadah. Please advise.
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
I pray you are well and in the best of spirits.
May Allah bless you with your new found faith and grant you success in this life and the next. It is beautiful to hear how you persisted in your faith despite all the obstacles and difficulties.
As for your question, it would be best to make up the prayers you had missed, if you are able to do so, and to do so in the most effective of ways.
There is a difference of opinion between the scholars regarding the testimony of faith (shahada) and its relation to faith (iman). There are three major opinions:
1. It is a condition (shart) for the soundness of one’s faith (iman).
2. It is an actual part (shatr) of faith, which would render it similar to the first position, namely that faith without it is not valid.
3. It is a condition for worldly rulings to apply to a person, not for faith itself.
[Bajuri, Jawharat al-Tawhid]
According to the first two positions, an individual who believed but did not pronounce the testimony of faith to enter into Islam never entered it to begin with. According to this position, since the individual never entered Islam there would be no obligation to make up missed prayers as they were missed while the individual was still a non-Muslim.
According to the third position, having conviction and accepting Islam in one’s hearts would suffice for one to be considered a Muslim with Allah. However, the testimony of faith is a condition for worldly Islamic rulings to apply to the individual, such as issues related to marriage, burial, giving Zakat, and so forth. This is because though inward conviction suffices in the knowledge of Allah, the Muslim community requires an outward indicator of an individuals Islam before applying the laws of Islam to them.
All three of these positions are strong and have been held by great scholars throughout our tradition.
As such, the more cautious approach would be to make-up such missed prayers. You should try to do this gradually, viewing it as an opportunity that Allah has given you to draw closer to Him. There is no need to overburden yourself. Rather, the best actions in the eyes of Allah are the ones that are consistent, even if small.
May Allah facilitate you to do what is best for He is the best of facilitators.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani