Can qada (missed) prayers be performed instead of sunnah prayers?
Can a person who has to perform qada prayers perform sunnah prayers?
The Answer: A person who misses a prayer without having a legitimate excuse is regarded to have made a mistake and committed a sin. Therefore, a person who has missed a prayer has to perform it as soon as possible. Performing missed (qada) prayers is fard just like performing fard prayers. When a person performs a missed prayer later, he is regarded to have paid his debt. He also has to repent and ask for forgiveness for the sin to be forgiven.
It is more appropriate to perform qada prayers instead of nafilah (supererogatory) prayers about which there are no hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh). However, according to Hanafis, it is not appropriate to perform qada prayers instead of nafilah prayers about which there are hadiths. The following decree is present in Hanafi fiqh books:
“It is more important and more appropriate to perform qada prayers than to perform nafilah prayers except the sunnahs of five daily prayers, duha, tasbih, tahiyyah al-masjid and awwabin prayers. That is, those sunnah and nafilah prayers are not abandoned to perform qada prayers.”1
Above all, the sunnah prayers performed before and after fard prayers are complementary to fard prayers and they are means of intercession (shafa’ah) of the Prophet (pbuh). Therefore, a person who has missed his prayers should perform those prayers in order to be freed from debt; on the other hand, he should perform the sunnah prayers in order to show his commitment to the Prophet (pbuh).
It is the view of Hanafi madhhab; however, according to the other three madhhabs, it is not permissible but haram for a person who has to perform qada prayers to perform nafilah or sunnah prayers.
According to Malikis, it is haram for a person who has to perform qada prayers to perform nafilah prayers. However, it is permissible to perform the sunnahs of the five daily prayers and tahiyyah al-masjid.
If such a person is engaged with performing other prayers, for instance, tarawih prayer, he will gain rewards but he will be regarded to have committed a sin because he postpones the qada prayers.
According to Shafii madhhab, it is abominable (makruh) for a person who has to perform qada prayers to perform the sunnahs of the daily prayers and other nafilah prayers till he performs his qada prayers because it is necessary to finish performing qada prayers as soon as possible.
According to Hanbali madhhab, it is haram for a person who has to perform qada prayers to be engaged in nafilah prayers. However, it is permissible for him to perform witr prayer and sunnahs of five daily prayers. However, if he has to perform a lot of qada prayers, it is better for him to be engaged in qada prayers instead of sunnah prayers. However, the sunnah of the morning prayer is excluded; it is necessary to perform it.2
In conclusion, it cannot be said that a Hanafi person will be responsible if he performs qada prayers instead of sunnah prayers. To say that it is not appropriate or not better to perform qada prayers instead sunnah and nafilah prayers does not mean that “it is not permissible to perform qada prayers instead sunnah prayers.”
However, if a person does not have to perform many qada prayers it is better for him to perform one qada prayer after each fard prayer. Besides, it should not be forgotten that there are hadiths informing us that God Almighty will complete the incomplete fard prayers with sunnah prayers on the Day of Judgment.
Footnotes: 1. Mawlana ash–Shaykh Nizam. al-Fatawal-Hindiyya. (Bulaq: Matbaa al-Amiriyya, 1310), 1:125; Ibn Abidin. 1493; al-Madhahibu’l-Arbaa, 1:492; Halabi as-Saghir, p.349.
2. al-Madhahibu’l-Arbaa, 1:492.