I am 22 years old and all through my life I was not taught proper religious education until a few years back. I knew the bare minimum about Islam to be honest. I didn’t know the pillars of Islam properly in the sense that I had no idea that salaat was fardh, I thought that we fasted to feel for the poor only, and that we had to go to Hajj at some point. I thought just because I did good and was good to people, that I will automatically go to heaven because my parents taught me like that.
In simpler terms, deen and ibaadat were an additional benefit not something fardh as Allah Ta’ala has prescribed. It was not till a few years back that I met some friends and they corrected these misconceptions for me. I am better now but I am afraid of all those ibaadaat (mainly prayers) that I have missed. Since the prophet (pbuh) told us to learn prayer at 7, and given the fact that I did not deliberately know that prayers were fardh due to my poor religious background, do I have to make up for lost prayers? Does this qualify as jahaalat? I mean the idea that I have over 13 to 14 years of prayer to make up, I just fear I can never make them up and I am eaten up with regret about it and I am reminded of what the prophet (pbuh) said about prayers being the first thing that we will be asked about and how if they are well, then the rest is well. With all due respect, I do not believe that I can ever make up that much prayer, is there any other alternative to make up for the prayers?
2) I don’t know whether I am hanafi, shafii etc….. Is it a necessity that I select one school of thought?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
We appreciate you taking the time to write to us.
Salaat is a fundamental pillar of Deen which the rest of our Deen takes support upon. You should thank Allah Ta’ālā that he has given you the realization of the importance of Salaat. It is only and solely by the grace of Allah Ta’ālā that he has given you this correct understanding. A clear sign to show that this understanding is only from the mercy of Allah Ta’ālā is all around you. Just look at the number of the Ummah who are not punctual with their Salaat. There are numerous Ahādith that elaborate upon the importance of Salaat in a believers’ life. Salaat is the distinguishing feature of a believer.
Because of the importance of Salaat the majority of scholars are unanimous on making up any missed Salaat. In your case where there could be years of Salaat to make up there are certain guidelines. It is not expected that you make up all of your missed Salaat in one day. Rather the scholars have mentioned that such an individual who has years of Salaat should make a daily schedule by means of which he could eventually make up all his Salaat. An example of this is that with every Fardh Salaat that you perform daily you should also make up one Qadhaa(missed Salaat). We advise you to put adopt a system where you could on a daily basis make up some of your missed Salaat.
The intention that you would make when making up the missed Salaat will be as follows. When making up Zuhr Salaat for example you would have the intention, “I am performing the first of all the Zuhr Salaat that I have to make up.” Another thing to bear in mind is that as long as you have missed Salaat to make up then instead of spending your time performing Nafl you should perform your missed Salaat. To understand the logic behind this is the example of a person who owes people money but instead of paying off those debts he owes he spends his money in charity. Clearly to a sound minded person this does not make sense. Similarly you should make all efforts to try to spend any time that you would in Nafl in trying to make up all your missed Salaat.
You do not have to make up all the Salaat that you missed from the age of seven. The Hadith mentions this age so that a person has the practice of performing Salaat from early on. You are only responsible for making up all the Salaat that you missed from the time you had become physically mature. This could either be when you had first experienced a nocturnal emission or when you had reached the age of 14 and a half. Whichever of the two came first, from that period onward you were responsible for performing the five daily Salaat.
In case for some reason you eventually did not get the opportunity to make up all your Salaat it is hoped that you would be forgiven by Allah Ta’ālā for having the intention for making them up.
The answer to your second question is yes, it is necessary that you adopt one particular school of thought that you would adhere to. The purpose behind following a Mazhab is that you follow those individuals who had best understood the Shari’ah. The example of it is like one following a professional in his field of expertise. You go to the doctor and ask for a prescription. You would never dream of trying to open the books on medicine and treat yourself. The reason is because you would put your life and health endanger. Similarly, not to follow a Mazhab is to put your Deen endanger. It is only in our best interest that we adhere to one school of thought.
We advise you to adopt that school of thought which the scholars of your area follow. The reason behind this is that whenever you have a question, these scholars would be best able to give you a suitable answer in conformity to their school of thought.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Mawlana Ali bin Cassim
Student Darul Iftaa
Los Angeles, CA (USA)
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Hussain Kadodia.
 الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتية (34/ 26)
مَنْ يَجِبُ عَلَيْهِ الْقَضَاءُ:
اتَّفَقَ الْفُقَهَاءُ عَلَى وُجُوبِ قَضَاءِ الصَّلاَةِ الْفَائِتَةِ عَلَى النَّاسِي وَالنَّائِمِ….. فَأَمَّا الْمُتَعَمِّدُ فِي التَّرْكِ، فَيَرَى جُمْهُورُ الْفُقَهَاءِ أَنَّهُ يَلْزَمُهُ قَضَاءُ الْفَوَائِتِ، وَمِمَّا يَدُل عَلَى وُجُوبِ الْقَضَاءِ حَدِيثُ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ: أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَمَرَ الْمُجَامِعَ فِي نَهَارِ رَمَضَانَ أَنْ يَصُومَ يَوْمًا مَعَ الْكَفَّارَةِ (3) أَيْ بَدَل الْيَوْمِ الَّذِي أَفْسَدَهُ بِالْجِمَاعِ عَمْدًا، وَلأَِنَّهُ إِذَا وَجَبَ الْقَضَاءُ عَلَى التَّارِكِ نَاسِيًا فَالْعَامِدُ أَوْلَى
 كفاية المفتي 3/382
 الدر المختار وحاشية ابن عابدين (رد المحتار) (2/ 76)
(قَوْلُهُ كَثُرَتْ الْفَوَائِتُ إلَخْ) مِثَالُهُ: لَوْ فَاتَهُ صَلَاةُ الْخَمِيسِ وَالْجُمُعَةِ وَالسَّبْتِ فَإِذَا قَضَاهَا لَا بُدَّ مِنْ التَّعْيِينِ لِأَنَّ فَجْرَ الْخَمِيسِ مَثَلًا غَيْرُ فَجْرِ الْجُمُعَةِ، فَإِنْ أَرَادَ تَسْهِيلَ الْأَمْرِ، يَقُولُ أَوَّلَ فَجْرٍ مَثَلًا
الدر المختار وحاشية ابن عابدين (رد المحتار) (2/ 74)
وَأَمَّا النَّفَلُ فَقَالَ فِي الْمُضْمَرَاتِ: الِاشْتِغَالُ بِقَضَاءِ الْفَوَائِتِ أَوْلَى وَأَهَمُّ مِنْ النَّوَافِلِ إلَّا سُنَنَ الْمَفْرُوضَةِ
 عقد الجيد في أحكام الاجتهاد والتقليد ص: 13
بَاب تَأْكِيد الْأَخْذ بِهَذِهِ الْمذَاهب الْأَرْبَعَة، التَّشْدِيد فِي تَركهَا وَالْخُرُوج عَنْهَا - صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم َ -
اعْلَم أَن فِي الْأَخْذ بِهَذِهِ الْمذَاهب الْأَرْبَعَة مصلحَة عَظِيمَة وَفِي الْإِعْرَاض عَنْهَا كلهَا مفْسدَة كَبِيرَة
فتاوى رحيمية 1/70؛ دار الاشاعت