1. If a Muslim has only recently started to pray, does the person have to "catch up" on the prayers missed? Is there any way to atone for them?
There are two points of view concerning the question of missed prayers. The first says that non-praying, born Muslims were kafir (unbelievers). Prior to their discovering Islam, while the other says that such people are no more than sinful Muslims.
On the first opinion, the Hanbali school asks followers who did not pray to perform Tawbah, (asking Allah for forgiveness). Being non-Muslims before, there is no obligation on them to catch up on missed prayers. They should begin to pray regularly from the day they "entered Islam".
According to the second opinion after making Tawbah, the person -who is considered to be a Muslim all along - should calculate the number of prayers missed. These prayers have to be completed whenever time allows. One method involves performing a missed prayer immediately after finishing a Fard prayer. The choice of method rests with the individual, and depends entirely on personal circumstances, state of Iman (faith), etc.
A person who recently came to Islam is under no obligation to fulfil anything from anything in the past. His position is akin to that described in the Hanbali example above. Detailed Islamic obligations like prayer are incumbent only on believers, as illustrated by the following Hadith; Amr Ibn al Aas, ready to accept Islam at the hands of the Prophet (upon whom be peace), withdrew at the last minute. The Prophet asked him if had changed his mind to which Amr replied that he wanted to make sure that Allah had forgiven for the past sins he had committed against Islam. "Amr, said the Prophet (upon whom be peace), didn't you know that Islam erases your previous mistakes with Tawbah. Islam is a new, clean page in your life. Your test begins from the day you become a Muslim."
(57 - Solah 3)
2. I've been called up for jury service. But I have reservations about going because I will be helping to administer a justice system which is something other than the Shari'ah. Should I go?
When we consider the justice system in this country we see that it is basically just and built upon conceptions of decency and human benefit.
It is wrong for you to think that you are going against the Shari'ah because you are not opting out of a Shari'ah system into a non-Shari'ah code of justice. In a Muslim society, Muslims are not allowed to resort to man made systems of injustice. The Qur'an has made it very clear that anyone opting for a code other than the Shari'ah is a transgressor.
But in this country, which is not a land of the Shari'ah, the justice system is directed at achieving a justice of sorts which can be rationally held to be decent. Anyone who is involved in this is helping to achieve justice. They are not saying that they are preferring one legal system over another.
(156 - Living in the West 4)