Praise be to Allaah.
Standing during prayer is an obligatory pillar which cannot
be omitted. It is not permissible for anyone to pray sitting unless he is
unable to stand, or standing is very difficult for him, or he is sick and
there is the fear that his sickness may become worse if he prays standing
That also includes a paralyzed person who is unable to stand
at all, and an elderly person for whom it is difficult to stand, and a sick
person who will be harmed by standing because it will either make his
sickness worse or delay his recovery.
The basic principle concerning that is the report narrated by
al-Bukhaari (1050) from ‘Imraan ibn Husayn (may Allaah be pleased with him)
who said: I had haemorrhoids, and I asked the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) about praying. He said: “Pray standing; if
you cannot, then sitting; and if you cannot, then lying on your side.”
Ibn Qudaamah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: If standing
will make a sick person’s sickness worse, then he should pray sitting. The
scholars are unanimously agreed that a person who cannot stand may pray
sitting. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said
to ‘Imraan ibn Husayn: “Pray standing; if you cannot, then sitting; and if
you cannot, then lying on your side.”
It was also narrated by al-Bukhaari, Abu Dawood and
al-Nasaa’i, who added: “If you cannot, then lying on your back, and Allaah
does not burden any soul beyond its scope.”
Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of
Allaah (S) fell from a horse and was injured on his right side. We entered
upon him to visit him and the time for prayer came. He prayed sitting and we
prayed sitting behind him. Agreed upon.
If he is able to stand but he fears that his sickness will be
made worse, or that his recovery may be delayed, or it is too hard for him
to stand, then he may pray sitting down. Something similar was said by
Maalik and Ishaaq. Maymoon ibn Mahraan said: If he is unable to stand for
any worldly purpose, then let him pray sitting. Something similar was
narrated from Ahmad.
i.e., if he is able to stand for some worldly purpose then he
must also pray standing and it is not permissible for him to pray sitting.
Then Ibn Qudaamah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: But
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “[He] has not laid upon you
in religion any hardship” [al-Hajj 22:78]. Obliging a person to stand in
this case is hardship. And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah
be upon him) sat when he had been injured on his right side, although it
appears that he was not completely unable to stand, but because of the
difficulty involved in standing, this requirement was waived for him, and is
waived for others too… If a person is able to stand by leaning on a stick or
on the wall, or leaning on someone who is next to him, then he should do
that, because he is able to stand without it causing him harm, so he must do
it, just as he should if he is able to do it without these things. End quote
from al-Mughni, 1/443
Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The ummah is
unanimously agreed that whoever is unable to stand in an obligatory prayer
may pray sitting, and he does not have to repeat it. Our companions said:
That does not detract from the reward that he would earn if he prayed
standing, because he is excused. It is proven in Saheeh al-Bukhaari
that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) said: “If a person is sick or is travelling, there is written for him
(the reward) for the deeds he used to do when he was healthy or not
travelling.” Our companions said: For a person to be allowed to pray
sitting down, it is not a condition that he should be completely unable to
stand, and it is not enough if he finds it a little difficult; rather what
counts is evident hardship. If he fears that it will be extremely difficult
or it will make his sickness worse, etc, or a person who is travelling by
boat fears that he may drown or become dizzy, then he may pray sitting, and
he does not have to repeat it. End quote from al-Majmoo’, 4/201.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him)
explained the definition of the hardship which makes it permissible for a
person not to stand in an obligatory prayer, and how to sit. He said: The
definition of difficulty is that which takes away khushoo’ (proper focus and
humility). Khushoo’ means that the heart is focused and at peace. If it is
the case that standing will make a person severely anxious and have no peace
of mind, and he is longing to get to the end of al-Faatihah so that he can
bow because he is finding it too hard to stand, then it is too difficult for
him to pray standing, so he should pray sitting.
The same applies to one who is afraid and cannot pray
standing, such as if he is praying behind a wall, and there are enemies
around watching out for him, and if he stands they will be able to see him
from behind the wall, but if he sits he will be hidden from his enemies. In
this case we say to him: Pray sitting.
This is indicated by the verse in which Allaah says
(interpretation of the meaning):
“And if you fear (an enemy), perform Salaah (pray) on foot
Allaah has exempted the
one who is afraid from bowing, prostrating and sitting, and the same applies
to standing if he is afraid.
But how should he sit?
He should sit mutarabbi’an on his buttocks, with each calf
tucked up to the thigh. This is called tarabbu’, and in this posture the
calf and thigh on the right and the left are all visible, whereas in the
case of iftiraash the calf disappears beneath the thigh, but in tarabbu’ all
four parts (thigh and calf on both sides) are visible.
Is it obligatory to sit like this?
No, it is Sunnah. If a person prays muftarishan (in the
posture called iftiraash) there is nothing wrong with it, and if he prays
muhtabiyan (sitting with one’s legs drawn up and wrapped in one's garment)
there is nothing wrong with it, because of the general meaning of the words
of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), “If he
cannot, then sitting.” He did not explain how he is to sit.
If a person says, Is there any evidence to suggest that he
should pray mutarabbi’an? The answer is yes. ‘Aa’ishah said: I saw the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) praying
mutarabbi’an. And because that is usually more comfortable than
al-iftiraash. It is well known that standing needs a longer recitation than
saying, “Rabb ighfir li warhamni (Lord forgive me and have mercy on
me).” Hence it is better to sit mutarabbi’an. And there is another benefit,
which is differentiating between sitting instead of standing, and sitting
when one is supposed to sit; if we say that a person should sit muftarishan
during the time of standing, there would be no difference between the way of
sitting when one is supposed to and the way of sitting when it is done
instead of standing.
If that is at the time of bowing, some of them say that it
should be muftarishan but the correct view is that it should be
mutarabbi’an, because when bowing a person’s leg and thigh are upright, and
he only bends his back. So we say that if a person is mutarabbi’an he should
remain like that and bow in that posture. This is the correct view
concerning this matter. End quote from al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 4/461.
With regard to naafil prayers, it is permissible to sit
during them with no excuse, according to scholarly consensus, but the reward
of the one who sits in that case is half the reward of one who stands,
because of the report narrated by Muslim from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr (may
Allaah be pleased with him) who said: I was told that the Messenger of
Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The prayer of
a man who sits is half of the prayer of a man who stands.” I came to him and
found him praying sitting. I put my hand on his head and he said, ‘What is
the matter, O ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr?” I said, “I was told, O Messenger of
Allaah that you said, ‘The prayer of a man who sits is half of the prayer of
a man who stands,’ and you are praying sitting.” He said, “Yes, but I am not
like one of you.”
Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Sharh
Muslim: What this means is that the prayer of one who sits brings half
the reward of the prayer of one who stands, which means that it is valid but
brings a lesser reward. This hadeeth is to be understood as referring to a
naafil prayer offered sitting when one is able to stand. This brings half
the reward of a prayer offered standing. But if a person offers a naafil
prayer sitting down because he is unable to stand, then the reward is not
reduced, rather it will be the same as one who stands. With regard to
obligatory prayers, if a person prays sitting down when he is able to stand,
his prayer is not valid and he will not be rewarded, rather he is sinning.
Our companions (the Shaafa’is) said: If he believes that to
be permissible, he is a kaafir and is subject to the rulings on apostates,
just like one who regards zina (adultery), riba and other haraam things to
If a person offers an obligatory prayer sitting down because
he is unable to stand, or lying down because he is unable to stand or sit,
then his reward will be like that of one who stands, and it will not be
reduced, according to the consensus of our companions. The hadeeth about the
reduction in reward is to be understood as applying to one who offers a
naafil prayer sitting when he is able to stand. This differentiation is our
view and is the view of the majority concerning the meaning of this hadeeth.
And he said: With regard to the words of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “I am not like any one of you,”
according to our companions it is one of the unique characteristics of the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that his naafil
prayers offered sitting when he was able to stand were like his naafil
prayers offered standing, as an honour for him, as he was also singled out
for other honours that are well known in the books of our companions and
others. We have discussed them in the beginning of Tahdheeb al-Asma’
wa’l-Lughaat. End quote from Sharh Saheeh Muslim, 6/14
And Allaah knows best.
See also the answer to question no.