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Salah (Ritual Prayer) on a Chair

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Mathabah.org

By the Darul Iftaa of Jamiah Islaamiyah Maseehul-Uloom, Banglore
Translated by Mufti Shoeb Ingar with minor edits by Shaykh Yusuf Badat

Increase of Chairs in Masaajid Prayer Halls

The performing of Salaah on a chair has become very common in cities around the world, especially in wealthy localities.  Pondering over this condition of people, it seems as if the permission granted to the people with disabilities is being used incorrectly by common worshipers, due to ignorance and misunderstanding, ultimately defecting the validity of Salaah.

The Darul-Iftaa of “Jamiah Islaamiyah Maseehul-Uloom, Bangalore” has conducted a detailed research and analysis regarding this matter.  The complete specifics and documentation of this research are present in the Darul-Iftaa and can be obtained by both the learned and those interested on the subject.

For the benefit of the general masses, and also distribution in Masaajid (Islamic places of worship), a brief summary of the research is provided below.

Qiyaam (Standing) in Fardh (Obligatory) Prayers

Qiyaam, meaning to stand, is a “RUKN (integral part)” in Fardh SalaahFardh Salaahwill be incomplete, if performed while seated by an individual who is capable of standing.   The Prophet (pbuh), while traveling would at times perform Nafl Salaah (optional prayers) on his conveyance, but would alwaysdescend (climbing off the conveyance) when performing the Fardh Salaah.  Never once in his life, did he (pbuh) perform his Fardh Salaah while travelling on his conveyance.  If Qiyaam had not been a Rukn in Salaah, The Prophet (pbuh) would have at least once performed his Salaah while mounted on his conveyance to confirm the permissibility of doing so.  The Ahaadeeth (prophetic reports) in this matter are numerous. Listed below are a few references:

عن جابر (رضى الله عنه) قال: كان رسول الله ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ) يصلي علي راحلته حيث توجهت فاذا اراد الفريضة نزل فاستقبل القبلة- (البخارى 1/400)

Jaabir (ra) reports, “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) offered his prayers upon his conveyance (transportation) in which ever direction the (conveyance animal) was facing. When he intended to perform the Fardh prayer, he would climb down and face the Qibla”. (Bukhari)

Standing for as Long As Possible is Fardh

If a person is capable of standing, although it may not be throughout the entire Salaah, it is Fardh for him to stand for as long as possible.  If such a person sits down for even the short period in which it is possible to stand, the Salaah will be incomplete!

وان قدر على بعض القيام لزوما بقدر ما يقدر، ولو قدر آية أو تكبيرة لأن البعض معتبر بالكل (در المختار مع الشامى 2/97)

“If one is capable of standing for a short while, it is necessary to do so in accordance to the duration of one’s ability even though it may be for the duration of (listening) to one verse or a takbeer (saying Allahu Akbar), for indeed the partial is considered for the overall”. (Dur Al Mukhtaar with Shaami)

Standing While Reclining Rather Than Sitting

If a person is able to stand, while gaining support from an object or leaning upon something, the Salaah will be rendered incomplete, if performed in a seated position.

ولو قدر على القيام متكئا ، الصحيح أنه يصلى قائما متكئا ولا يجزيه غير ذلك وكذلك لو قدر على ان يعتمد على عصا أو على خادم له فانه يقوم و يتكئ ( الشامى 2/97)

“If one has the ability to stand while leaning, the correct view is that one should offer the prayer while in a standing position reclining on something. It would not be correct to do other than that. Similarly, if one has the strength to lean on a staff or an attendant, he is to stand and lean (for prayers)” (Shaami)

Who is Excused From Standing in Fardh Prayers?

A person will only be considered “excused” or “exempt” (from standing) who is unable to stand at all under any circumstances. If he were to stand, he would fall down, become sick or the illness would increase and prolong.  An experienced, righteous Muslim doctor’s advice would be required to confirm this condition. Islamically, all other pretexts would not be taken into consideration for being exempt from the mandatory standing during prayer.

اراد بالتعذر الحقيقى بحيث لو قام سقط ، أو حكمى بان خاف زيادته أو بطئ برئه بقيامه ، أو دوران رأسه ، أو وجد لقيامه ألما شديدا ، صلى قاعدا ( الدرالمختار مع الشامى 2/96)

“The physical sense of the exemption (from standing) is the condition where if one is to stand, they would definitely fall. The elusive sense of the exemption would be in the condition where the standing would result in fear of worsening of the health condition, delay in gaining cure for one’s ailment, dizziness of the head, or experiencing unbearable pain by standing. It is only in these conditions one may perform the prayers, while seated”. (Dur Al Mukhtaar with Shaami)

Minor Average Slight Pain 

It is impermissible for a person with average pain (which is bearable) to perform Salaah in a seated position.

فان لحقه نوع مشقة لم يجز ترك ذلك القيام (1/136)

“If one experiences the average slight difficulty, it is impermissible for such a person to abandon the standing position due to such a minor inconvenience” (Shaami)

If we analyze the situation today of Salaah being performed on a chair, we would find the majority invalidating their Salaah.  The same majority who are seen attending their daily needs, standing, walking and roaming around throughout the day, yet when Salaah approaches, they become apparently physically disabled.

The Correct Way of Sitting, If One is Genuinely Unable to Stand

Salaah performed on a chair will be incomplete if a person is capable of sitting on the ground and doing sujood (prostration). This ruling applies to one, even though one may not be capable of standing in Qiyaam.

Sitting on the Ground Verses on a Chair, Even if One is Genuinely Unable to Render Qiyaam and Sujood

If a person is able to sit on the ground and perform Salaah, though the person may be incapable of doing sujood (prostration on the ground), the person should perform Salaah seated on the ground while gesturing for sujood (prostration).  In this condition, it is preferred for a person to sit on the ground and offer the prayer rather than on a chair.  It is also preferred for a person sitting and praying to sit in the position of Tashahhud (seated posture in prayer while reciting Al Tahiyyatu). if this is not possible, then any other position comfortable for the worshiper may be adopted.

ينبغى ان يقال: ان كان جلوسه كما يجلس للتشهد ايسر عليه من غيره أو مساويا لغيره كان اولى ، والا اختار الايسر فى جميع الحالات (در المختار 2/97)

“The seating posture of Tashahhud, if possible, is superior to any other posture. If sitting in the Tashahhud posture is not possible, the worshiper is to opt for any suitable position in all circumstances”. (Dur Al Mukhtaar)

Responsibility of Masjid Management Committees

The Masaajid may arrange for chairs to serve those genuinely considered “excused” in accordance to the Shariah however the chairs should be available as per the requirement of each congregation. The practice of performing salaah on chairs is not to be encouraged.  The correct rulings for Salaah offered on chairs should also be posted somewhere near the chairs.

The Practice of Stretching Hands Is Incorrect While on Chairs

It has been commonly noticed that those performing Salaah on chairs extend the hands forward while doing Rukuu and Sujood, this is also incorrect.  The hands must remain on the thighs while gesturing with the head only.

The Ruling for Nafl Prayers (Optional Prayers) 

Although Qiyaam (standing) is not a Rukn (Integral part) in Nafl Salaah (optional prayers), it must be borne in mind that the Sujood(prostration) still remains a Rukn!. Hence, Nafl Salaah will be regarded incomplete on a chair with gestures, if a person is capable of sitting down to do sujood on the ground.

This answer was collected from Mathabah.org. It’s an Islamic educational institute based in Canada. The questions are generally answered by Sheikh Yusuf Badat and Sheikh Omar Subedar.

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