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Can I make up the prayers for my parents?

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Islamic researcher, graduated from Al-Azhar University, Islamic Studies in the English Language. I also studied at Temple University in the US.
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In a Nutshell:
Most scholars of the Islamic schools of law agree it is not permitted to make up (qadaa') the prayers missed by the dead, because there is no evidence that it is permitted (mashru'). However, there are a few scholars who it was permitted.

Juristic Analysis

The majority of scholars say it is not permitted to make up the missed prayer of the dead. They back up their opinion by a statement of Abdullah ibn Umar (ra):

عبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنَ عُمَرَ كَانَ يُسْأَلُ هَلْ يَصُومُ أَحَدٌ عَنْ أَحَدٍ أَوْ يُصَلِّي أَحَدٌ عَنْ أَحَدٍ، فَيَقُولُ لَا يَصُومُ أَحَدٌ عَنْ أَحَدٍ وَلَا يُصَلِّي أَحَدٌ عَنْ أَحَدٍ
Abdullah ibn Umar used to be asked, "can someone fast for someone else, or do the prayer for someone else?" and he would reply, "No one can fast or do the prayer for anyone else." (Book 18, Hadith 674.) an-Nasa'i narrated a similar statement by ibn Abas.
The stipulation of fasting has been conditioned by hadiths that permit it (quoted below).

Imam al-Qurtubi said:

وَأَجْمَعُوا أَنَهُ لَا يُصَلِي أَحَدٌ عَنْ أَحَدٍ

"There is a consensus of scholars that it is not allowed to make up the prayer of another." (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 17, pp. 114.)
Few scholars allowed a Fiyah (ransom) for each day/prayer, as the case of fasting such as al-Butty and as-Sarkhasi.

As-Sarkhasi, a Hanafi scholar said:

إِذَا مَاتَ وَعَلَيْهِ صَلَوَاتٍ يُطْعَمُ عَنْهُ لِكُلِ صَلَاةٍ نِصْفُ صَاعٍ مِنَ حِنْطَة.
"If a person died and he had missed a prayer, his inheritors can feed (it'am) the poor for each prayer half sa' (weight scale - a standard measure that equals 3kg) of wheat." (as-Sarkhasi, al-Mabsut, Vol. 3, p. 90.)
It is better to adhere to the majority view here and do the following mandub deeds and offer them their reward to the dead.



What good deed could we do for the deadDoes the thawab reach the dead?

Most scholars agree, except narrations in Shafi'i and Hanbali schools of law who allowed in only in nadhr, the reward (thawab) does not reach the dead except the reward of sadaqah, 'Ilm, good offspring, fasting, Hajj, reading the Quran. They based their opinion on the following:

وَأَنْ لَيْسَ لِلْإِنْسَانِ إِلَا مَا سَعَى
"And that man shall have nothing but what he strives for." (Surat an-Najm, 53: 39.)
But this verse is conditioned to other narrations that permit certain deeds, so most scholars allowed it only in the mentioned deeds. Such as the following: 

يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ هَلْ بَقِيَ مِنْ بِرِّ أَبَوَىَّ شَىْءٌ أَبَرُّهُمَا بِهِ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهِمَا قَالَ:‏ "نَعَمِ الصَّلاَةُ عَلَيْهِمَا وَالاِسْتِغْفَارُ لَهُمَا وَإِنْفَاذُ عَهْدِهِمَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِمَا وَصِلَةُ الرَّحِمِ الَّتِي لاَ تُوصَلُ إِلاَّ بِهِمَا وَإِكْرَامُ صَدِيقِهِمَا ‏"‏

Messenger of Allah is there any kindness left that I can do to my parents after their death? He replied: Yes, you can invoke blessings on them, forgiveness for them, carry out their final instructions after their death, join ties of relationship which are dependent on them, and honour their friends." (Sunan Abi Dawud 5142.)
إِذَا مَاتَ الإِنْسَانُ انْقَطَعَ عَنْهُ عَمَلُهُ إِلاَّ مِنْ ثَلاَثَةٍ إِلاَّ مِنْ صَدَقَةٍ جَارِيَةٍ أَوْ عِلْمٍ يُنْتَفَعُ بِهِ أَوْ وَلَدٍ صَالِحٍ يَدْعُو لَهُ
"When a man dies, his deeds come to an end, except for three: A continuous charity, knowledge by which people derive benefit, pious son who prays for him." (Muslim, Book 7, Hadith 949.)
جَاءَ رَجُلٌ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ أُمِّي مَاتَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا صَوْمُ شَهْرٍ أَفَأَقْضِيهِ عَنْهَا فَقَالَ ‏"‏ لَوْ كَانَ عَلَى أُمِّكَ دَيْنٌ أَكُنْتَ قَاضِيَهُ عَنْهَا ‏"‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ نَعَمْ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ فَدَيْنُ اللَّهِ أَحَقُّ أَنْ يُقْضَى ‏"

"A man came to the Messenger of Allah (saw) and said: Messenger of Allah, my mother has died (in a state) that she had to observe fasts of a month (of Ramadan). Should I complete (them) on her behalf? thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Would you not pay the debt if your mother had died (without paying it)? He said: Yes. He (the Holy Prophet) said: The debt of Allah deserves more that it should he paid." (Sahih Muslim 1148 b. al-Bukhari.)
جَاءَتْ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَتْ إِنَّ أُمِّي نَذَرَتْ أَنْ تَحُجَّ، فَلَمْ تَحُجَّ حَتَّى مَاتَتْ أَفَأَحُجُّ عَنْهَا قَالَ ‏ "‏ نَعَمْ‏.‏ حُجِّي عَنْهَا، أَرَأَيْتِ لَوْ كَانَ عَلَى أُمِّكِ دَيْنٌ أَكُنْتِ قَاضِيَةً اقْضُوا اللَّهَ، فَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ بِالْوَفَاءِ ‏

A woman from the tribe of Juhaina came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said, "My mother had vowed to perform Hajj but she died before performing it. May I perform Hajj on my mother's behalf?" The Prophet (ﷺ) replied, "Perform Hajj on her behalf. Had there been a debt on your mother, would you have paid it or not? So, pay Allah's debt as He has more right to be paid." (Sahih al-Bukhari 1852.)

Conclusion

The shari'a permits us to do istighfar, charity, Hajj, fasting, supplications, clear debts and other good deeds for our dead relatives and friends. However, there is no evidence in any authentic or established Sunnah where the Prophet (saw) permitted the believers to offer prayers or even fast for another or transfer its rewards to another.

The scholars generally agree it is not permitted to make up a prayer they missed before death, but we could do the above rewardful acts instead.

May Allah have mercy on Muslims who have passed away and forgive us when we accompany them. Ameen.

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