Making up for missed prayers if their number is not known
Fatwa No: 294403

Question

I started praying when I almost turned 16 if my memory serves me correctly. I missed most prayers before that, not all. Even after 16, for some time, I may have missed prayers due to not bathing after a wet dream. I have read that one should make up for the missed prayers out of caution.1- My first question is, from what time? I have an approximate, not exact, memory of shaving my first pubic hair sometime after I turned 14. I do remember that at that time, the hairs were very long, and I am inclined to say that I should make up for the prayers starting from about 1.5 years before that as a caution. Is this okay? Please answer me specifically for my case, and if you differ with me about the period of 1.5 years, then please mention your opinion about that period. 2- My second question is, till when? I remember that I knew about the requirement of ghusl (shower taken for major ablution) after wet dreams during the last Ramadan. I am not certain about before that. Should I make up for the prayers till the last Ramadan? Please answer me specifically for my case.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

It is well-known that, according to the majority of Muslim scholars, the sign of reaching puberty for a male is either of the following three: discharge of semen, growth of coarse pubic hair, or attaining 15 years of age based on the Hijri calendar. The Maalikis held the opinion that the male reaches puberty by attaining the age of 18; and the first is the preponderant view adopted in Islamweb. For more benefit, please refer to fatwa 83431.

As long as you are certain of the sign of growing coarse pubic hair at the age of 14, then this indicates that you reached puberty at that age, so you should make up for the prayers that you missed from that age. As for the prayers before attaining that age, you are not obliged to make up for them as long as you are not certain that you had reached puberty by then. The basic principle regarding that period (before 14) is that you had not reached puberty at that time unless you are certain that you had.

As for the number of prayers that you are obliged to make up for, if you are not certain about the number of prayers that you missed, then you are obliged to make up for a given number of prayers of which you believe that it is most likely enough to clear you from your liability. For instance, if you were uncertain of whether you missed ten or twenty prayers, then you make up for twenty out of precaution.

Shaykh Wahbah Az-Zuhayli  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

Fifthly, making up for the missed prayers if the person does not know the exact number of the missed prayers: the Hanafis maintained that when the person is liable for making up for a number of prayers and the exact number is unknown to him, he is obliged to make up for a number of prayers until he feels that he most likely cleared himself from his liability ... The Maalikis, Shaafiʻis, and Hanbalis held that he is obliged to make up for a number of prayers until he believes with certainty that he cleared himself from his liability pertaining to the obligatory prayers...” [Al-Fiqh Al-Islaami]

Mahmood Khattaab As-Subki  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

Benefit: when the person misses some prayers whose exact number is unknown to him, then he is obliged to make up for the missed prayers until he feels that he most likely cleared himself from his liability, according to the Hanafis and Maalikis, and until he believes with certainty that he cleared himself from his liability pertaining to those prayers, according to the Shaafi'is and Hanbalis.” [Ad-Deen Al-Khaalis]

There is no doubt that it is better to be on the safe side. For example, if you are unsure whether you missed the prayers of five or six months, then you should make up for the prayers of six months.

As for the prayers you performed while in a state of janaabah (major ritual impurity) out of ignorance of the obligation of ghusl, then you are obliged to make up for these prayers according to the view adopted by the majority of the Muslim jurists. Some scholars, though, held that you are not obliged to make up for them in this case.

Allaah Knows best.

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