Question: It is written in fiqh books, “It is better to make up one’s qada salats than to perform nafila salats. However, performing sunnat salats of the five daily salats and the other sunnat salats praised in hadith-i sharifs, such as Salat ad-Duha, Salat at-Tasbih, Tahiyyat al-Masjid, Salat al-Awwabin, and Salat at-Tahajjud, is better than making up qada salats.” Then why do you say that a person who has qada salats cannot perform sunnat salats?
[To carry out a salat within its prescribed time period is called adaa. To carry it out after its prescribed time has ended is called qada. Throughout this article, we will use the verb make up to mean to do qada of a salat.]
In fiqh books, not the phrase “the salats that were abandoned” but the phrase “the salats that were made fawt” appears. The statements that you mentioned in your question apply to those who made fawt of their fard salats, that is, who missed them unintentionally due to an excuse. For a few salats missed in this way, the fiqh books say that one should not make up these salats by skipping sunnat salats but should perform them separately. There is no need to perform a few qada salats that one missed due to an excuse in lieu of sunnat salats because just as it is not a sin to miss a fard salat due to an excuse, so it is not a sin to delay making it up as much as the time allotted for the performance of sunnat salats. However, missing a fard salat due to an excuse (that is, making fawt of it) is different from abandoning it (that is, not performing it intentionally without an excuse and out of laziness). The former is not sinful while the latter is a major sin. They are pole apart. It is very wrong to consider these two as the same.
The phrase “Making up faita salats [the salats that were missed due to an excuse]” appears in the fiqh books of the Hanafi Madhhab. It is not written “Making up the salats that were abandoned” in them because a Muslim does not abandon fard salats deliberately. He/she only makes fawt of them due to an excuse, such as negligence (ghaflah), sleeping, and forgetting. In the madhhabs of Shafi’i and Maliki, a Muslim who abandons a fard salat is killed as a punishment. In the Hanbali Madhhab, such a person is killed because he is considered an apostate. In the Hanafi Madhhab, a person who abandons salat is imprisoned. This shows the importance of fard salats. It is in no way permissible to delay making up one’s omitted salats by performing sunnat or nafila salats. Hadith-i sharifs say:
(A person who abandons a fard salat deliberately is a disbeliever.) [Tabarani]
(Whoever abandons the five daily salats will be destitute of Allah’s protection and security.) [Ibn Majah]
(A person who does not perform salat has no religion.) [Bazzar, Ibn Nasr]
(Whoever abandons salat, Allahu ta’ala will not accept his other acts of worship.) [Isfahani, Abu Nu’aym]
This being the case, how can fard salats be compared with nafila salats? In all of the four madhhabs, one who has fard salats to make up is not allowed to perform sunnat or nafila salats. It is written in all reliable books that sunnat salats, too, come under the heading of nafila salats.
If one does not perform, even once in a lifetime, the salats that are highly praised in hadith-i sharifs, such as Salat ad-Duha, Salat al-Awwabin, and Salat at-Tahajjud, one will not be questioned about them in the Hereafter as to why one did not perform them. However, if one neglects to do a fard act of worship, one will be questioned about it because one has committed a major sin. It is idiocy, as scholars stated, to delay a fard act of worship, which must be performed, and to busy oneself with nafila ones.
Perform a two-rak’at salat before going on a journey. If you have salats to make up, then you must make up two or three salats because it is idiocy to perform voluntary salats when one has salats to make up. (The pamphlet Bay wa Shir’a)
Sayyid Abd al-Qadir Ghaylani stated:
The hadith-i sharif “If a person has a missed fard salat, his performing voluntary salat is like [the case of] a pregnant woman who has a miscarriage when she is about to give birth to the baby. The woman cannot be said to be pregnant, nor can she be called a mother anymore. So is this person. Unless he makes up his missed salats, Allahu ta’ala will not accept his voluntary salats,” which was reported from Hadrat Ali, shows that it is idiocy to spend time performing nafila salats while one has salats to make up. A person performing nafila salats while he/she has debts of omitted salats is like a debtor taking a present to the person to whom he/she owes, which, normally, is not acceptable. A Believer is like a business person. The fard salats are his/her capital, and voluntary salats are his/her profit. Unless the capital is rescued, they will give no profit. (Futuh al-Ghayb)
It is stated in a hadith-i sharif:
(The nafila salat of a person who has a fard salat to make up will not be accepted.) [Durrat-ul-Fakhira]
Hadrat Abu Bakr said the following in his will to Hadrat ‘Umar:
If you carry out in the daytime the rights of Allah that you must do at night or if you carry out at night the rights of Allah that you must do in the daytime, He will not accept them. He will not accept your voluntary acts of worship unless you do those acts of worship that are fard on you. (Kitab-ul-Haraj)