Can Muslims Perform Missed Prayers at a Later Time?

Muslims Offer prayer at Small idgah,Rural Bengal
Partha Pal/Getty Images

In Islamic tradition, Muslims perform five formal prayers daily, within certain specified times of day. If one misses a prayer for any reason, what is to be done? Can the prayers be made up at a later time, or does it automatically count as a sin that cannot be rectified? 

The schedule of Muslim prayer is one that is generous and flexible. There are five prayers to be performed, during various periods of time throughout the day, and the time needed to perform each prayer is minimal.

Yet the fact is that many Muslims miss one or more prayers on some days--sometimes for unavoidable reasons, sometimes due to negligence or forgetfulness. 

Of course, one should try to pray within the specified times. There is wisdom in the Islamic prayer schedule, setting times throughout the day to "take a break" to remember God's blessings and to seek His guidance.

The Five Scheduled Prayers for Muslims

  • Fajr, the predawn prayer,  should be performed in the period just before dawn breaks.
  •  Dhuhr, mid-day prayer, starts after the sun passes its zenith, and lasts almost 20 minutes.
  • Asr, afternoon prayer, should start when the shadow of an object is the same length as the object itself.
  • Maghrib, sunset prayer, begins when the sun sets and lasts till the red light has left the sky in the west.
  • Isha'a, night prayer, starts when the red light is gone from the western sky. The preferred time for Isha'a is before midnight--halfway between sunset and sunrise.

    What If a Prayer is Missed?

    If a prayer is missed, it is common practice among Muslims to make it up as soon as it is remembered or as soon as they are able to do so. This is known as Qadaa. For example, if one misses the noon prayer because of a work meeting that could not be interrupted, one should pray as soon as the meeting is over.

    If the next prayer time has already come, one should first perform the prayer that was missed and immediately after the “on time” prayer.

    A missed prayer is a serious event for Muslims, and not one that should be dismissed as inconsequential. Practicing Muslims are expected to acknowledge every missed prayer and to make it up according to accepted practice. While it is understood that there are times when prayer is missed for unavoidable reasons, it is regarded as a sin if one misses prayers regularly without a valid reason (i.e. constantly oversleeping the pre-dawn prayer).

    However, in Islam, the door to repentance is always open. The first step is to make up the missed prayer as soon as possible. One is expected to repent any delay that was due to negligence or forgetfulness and is encouraged to commit to developing a habit of performing the prayers within their prescribed time frame.