Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher
There was a point in time when my heart was dead and I disobeyed Allah wal eyaz billah by not praying at all. Alhamdililah, Allah was merciful to me and sent me hidaya walhamdililah and now I am trying to make up all my missed fard prayer. After reading the Reliance, I am still confused about the nafila vs. makeup idea (discussion in w18.9) and I am not sure what I should say (I make the intention to make up the particular prayer). Should I pray extra nawafil to make up for the fact that I had no excuse not to pray and should I follow the rules in the Reliance pertaining to missed prayers (in terms of audible, inaudible etc.)?
Q2Several months ago, I was taught that it was permissible to break wind in the salat and continue praying and it was valid. I did this for two months or so…After learning it was not ok, and changing my prayer/wudu; I didn’t make these prayers up. Also I was taught that it was ok to simply wipe over cotton socks during ablution and make salat, and this would be valid. After learning that it was not, I stopped and corrected it, however I did not make up those prayers. Should I calculate the number of prayers missed to the best of my knowledge, and make them up ? There is a section in Reliance… f 2.12, I was wondering if this applies to me ?
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
The First Step
The first step to take whenever one finds out that one has committed a mistake is to turn to Allah in repentance. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
“Allah is happier at the repentance of His slave than one of you who finds his camel that he had lost the middle of the desert.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
He also said:
“Allah Almighty stretches out His hand during the night, turning towards the one who sinned during the day, and stretches out His hand during the day, turning towards the one who sinned during the night, until the day the sun rises from the place it set.” (Muslim)
The scholars of the heart tell us that repentance (tawba) is at the heart of all spiritual stations. The spiritual path to Allah is one of continual repentance. One should not be disheartened when one commits a sin. It is the work of the Shaytan to make us lose hope in Allah and whisper to us that things are too bad to make amends. The door of repentance is always open. Allah is waiting for His servants to turn back to him.
In the case of making repentance from a past habit of not praying, one should conjoin with the repentance a determination to try one’s utmost to make up all the prayers that one missed.
Making up Missed Obligatory Prayers
It is obligatory to make up missed obligatory prayers according to all four Sunni schools. For a detailed discussion of this topic, one can refer to section w18 of The Reliance of the Traveller.
When making up missed prayers, one can intend the same thing that one would intend if one were praying it on time. If one missed the zuhr prayer, for example, and was making it up after its time, one would say, “I intend to pray the obligatory prayer of zuhr (usalli fard al-dhuhr).” It is not necessary to intend whether the prayer is a make-up or a current performance, although it is superior to do so (Reliance, f8.3).
Note that if one has missed obligatory prayers, one makes amends by making repentance and then trying one’s utmost to pray all the missed prayers. It is not necessary to pray extra supererogatory (nafl) prayers.
Calculating Missed Prayers
All the prayers that one has missed (or performed in an invalid manner) since reaching puberty must be made up.
According to the Shafii school, missed prayers must be estimated conservatively, meaning that if one is uncertain whether or not one prayed a prayer after reaching puberty, one must make it up. (Fath al-Allam, 2.80)
Puberty, however, need not be calculated conservatively. If one is unsure when one reached puberty, one may calculate from the latest time that one could have reached puberty.
Both these rulings stem from the principle “certainty is not removed by uncertainty.” With respect to possibly missed prayers, if one is unsure whether or not one did an act, one returns to the certainty that one had not done it and assumes that it still needs to be done (al-Mawahib al-Saniyyah `ala al-Fara’id al-Bahiyyah Nazm al-Qawa`id al-Fiqhiyyah, 85). With respect to puberty, if one is unsure when something happened, one returns to the certainty of it occurring at the latest possible time (al-Mawahib al-Saniyyah `ala al-Fara’id al-Bahiyyah Nazm al-Qawa`id al-Fiqhiyyah, 86); i.e. the certainty that one had not reached puberty is not removed by the uncertainty of having reached it.
Women should also account for their menstrual periods: they should not make up prayers that they missed while menstruating.
How many make-ups should I do every day?
The official position of the Shafii school is very strict. Ibn Hajar says in his Tuhfa:
“It is not permissible […] for the one who has missed prayers without excuse to spend his time doing anything other than making them up (such as performing supererogatory prayers) except for what he is absolutely compelled to do, such as sleeping, supporting those he is obliged to support, and performing another time-constricted [mudayyaq] obligatory action that he fears he will miss.” (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 1.440)
In other words, every moment of one’s life must be spent making up missed prayers, unless one needs to eat, drink, sleep, earn a living, or perform some other obligatory action that would be missed if one were to pray make-ups. The reasoning is simple: what is obligatory (in this case: making up missed prayers) takes precedence over what is not (in this case: everything besides eating, drinking, sleeping, earning a living, and performing some other obligatory action).
Practically, however, this is not feasible for most of us. I have heard one of the scholars mention that after making up a couple of days of missed prayers in a row, most people won’t be able to tell up from down. What is often advised, therefore, is that one should devise a plan for making up all the obligatory prayers that one has missed (for example, that one will make up 5 days of prayers every day) and then resolve to carry out this plan until one has completed all of one’s make-ups.
This advice confirmed by the author of Bughyat al-Mustarshidin, who mentions that Imam Abdullah al-Haddad (the famous faqih and sufi, author of The Book of Assistance) gave a fatwa that missed prayers did not have to be made up in the manner described above, and that they should instead be made up at one’s own pace according to one’s ability (ala al-tarakhi wa’l-istitaah) without excessive rigor or laxity. The author of the Bughya then says,
“This is […] better than what the fuqaha say (that all of one’s time needs to be spent in making up missed prayers except for what one needs for oneself and for those one is obliged to support) because of the tremendous hardship that this entails.” (Bughyat al-Mustarshidin, 36)
Even if one does not follow the official position of the Shafii school, one can at least infer from it the seriousness of the matter at hand. Making up missed prayers is a debt that one owes to Allah, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “A debt to Allah has more right to be repaid.” (Bukhari, Muslim). One should roll up one’s sleeves and pray those make-ups as quickly as one reasonably can, for if one dies without having completed them when one could have, one dies sinful (Fath al-`Allam, 2:79).
What about sunna prayers?
According to the Shafii school, someone who has to make up obligatory missed prayers cannot pray any supererogatory prayers and it is forbidden (haram) for him to do so. Shafiis who have to pray missed obligatory prayers should substitute sunna prayers (such as the sunnas before and after fard prayers, the duha prayer, the tahajjud prayer, and (during Ramadan) the tarawih prayer) with the make-ups that they have to perform. 
The Shaytan often creeps in at this point, and fools us into not praying our sunna prayers and not performing our make-ups either. One should be careful not to be duped by this argument: it only leaves one worse off than before. Shafiis who have make-ups to perform should still pray some rakas before and after the zuhr prayer, for example, but pray make-ups instead of the sunna prayers.
Following another school
I have heard several scholars mention that someone who has many years of make-ups to perform should find out whether his prayer was valid in any of the four schools. If it was, he can retroactively follow that school and assume that his prayer was valid. Making up years of prayers is an example of there being a compelling reason to follow a school other than one’s own. If it is only a matter of a small number of prayers (one or two months, for example), it would certainly be superior to stick to one’s own school and make up the prayers even if they are valid according to another school.
With regard to the examples given in the second Question, one should check with scholars of other schools to see if one’s prayer could have been valid according to them. I doubt, however, that praying after breaking wind would be valid on any school. With regards to thin socks, there may be a Hanbali dispensation that could be taken, but again, one should check with someone who has expertise in the Hanbali school. Note that one’s wudu and complete prayer (from the opening Allahu akbar to the final salams) must be valid according to one school.
According to the Shafii school, however, the prayers mentioned in the Question were definitely invalid.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) informed us that the first matter that one will be Questioned about on the Day of Judgment will be one’s prayer. Missed prayers are no light matter, and many Sufis give extremely high priority to making them up. They mention that such prayers are like a weight that keeps one from attaining to spiritual stations mentioned in books like the Ihya of Imam Ghazali and the Risala of Imam Qushayri.
And Allah knows best.
Hamza Karamali and Mostafa Azzam.
 Other schools are of the opinion that certain sunna prayers must still be performed, so one should not hasten to correct others when they perform such sunna prayers.