In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
Focusing on your question, Ibn Qudamah in his Al-Mughni states that the majority of Muslim jurists are of the opinion that the missed prayers must be made up in order before the present prayer if the missed prayers are less than five, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) did so when he missed some prayers during the Battle of the Trench (Al-Khandaq).
Imam ash-Shafi`i holds the opinion that offering the missed prayers in order is recommendable rather than obligatory.
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal maintains that performing the missed prayers in order is obligatory. He based his ruling on the narration that in the year of the Confederates, the Prophet performed the Maghrib prayer and when he finished he said, “Does anyone of you know whether I offered the `Asr prayer?” They (the Companions) said, “O Messenger of Allah! You did not perform it.” So, the Prophet commanded the muezzin to pronounce iqamah (the call to commence prayer) and he offered the `Asr prayer and then performed Maghrib again.” Imam Ahamd says that this is evidence for the obligation to offer the missed prayers in order.
However, Imam Malik and Abu Hanifah are of the opinion that if the missed prayers are more than five, it is not obligatory to offer those missed prayers in order to avert any hardship resulting from this.
Ash-Shirazi, one of the Shafi`i jurists, is of the opinion that if one missed three prayers, it is desirable to offer them in order because the Prophet did so when he missed four prayers during the Battle of the Trench.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.