Salaah in a Chair

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Q: What are the conditions for when a person is permitted to read salaat sat in a chair?
There is a growing number of musallees who offer their salaah while seated on chairs.  Some musjids have rows of chairs exclusively for those who appear incapable of rending the qiyaam or standing posture of salaah.  It is indeed a strange and rather pathetic sight to see a full row of seated musallees in the musjid. In view of this new and increasing trend among people of sitting on chairs and reading their salaah, it is important that we highlight some Shar’ee rules in this regard.

The books of Fiqah contain the following rules on the salaah of the sick and disabled:

1)    Qiyaam means standing, and this is a rukn of salaah. Rukn means a faradh act which if left out will render the salaah null and void. Since standing is faradh, there must be very strong and compelling reasons for anyone to omit this fundamental of salaah.

2)    A musallee is allowed to leave out the standing posture of salaah for one of the following reasons:
a)    Unbearable pain while standing;
b)    Aggravating an existing illness or medical condition;
c)    The risk of fainting or sever dizziness that can lead to fainting;

3)    If the above conditions are not found, it would not be permissible to sit and read salaah. Such a salaah would not be valid because a faradh act of salaah would have been omitted. Every musallee should be honest and sincere in assessing the ability or lack of it to make qiyaam. Remember that Allah Ta’ala knows our physical condition only too well. We cannot fool Allah. He knows whether we really have valid reasons for leaving out what He has declared a faradh in salaah.

4)    If due to illness a musallee is able to stand for a short while, then it is faradh upon him or her to stand for as long as possible. After that, the musallee may sit down and continue with the salaah.

5)    If a musallee is only capable of standing for the duration of the takbeer-e-tahreema, then this much standing is faradh.

6)    From the above it is clear that one who can stand for the shortest duration, yet chooses to offer the entire salaah seated, has omitted a faradh and the salaah of that person is not valid. Qadha of such a salaah has to be made.

7)    It is not permissible to leave out the qiyaam just because one is tired. Fatigue or exhaustion is not a valid reason in Shariah.

8)    If the pain suffered during standing is not severe but bearable, then too, it is not permissible to sit and read salaah. One should rather shorten the qiraat but offer salaah with proper qiyaam.

9)    If one suffers from a leaking bladder or any other ailment that causes wudhu to break, and experience has proven that sitting and reading salaah prevents such flow or leakage, then it is permissible for such a musallee to sit and offer the salaah.

10)    If the indisposed musallee can lean on a stick and offer salaah, then it is not permissible for him or her to sit and read salaah. Likewise if one has a servant to lend support for the standing position, it will not be permissible to sit and read salaah. One would have to use the stick or the support of a servant and fulfil the rukn of qiyaam in this manner.

11)    As in the above, it will also be permissible to lean against a wall and offer salaah, if the musallee is really incapable of standing erect.

12)    On the strength of the above, it can be said that should a musallee suffer from any of the conditions mentioned in paragraph 2 above, it will be permissible to sit on a chair and offer the salaah. However, some Imams have preferred the tashahhud position for those who are able to sit in such a posture.

13)    Those who suffer from knee pains that prevent them from sitting in tashahhud, will be permitted to sit on a chair and offer the salaah.

14)    If due to a health complication one is able to stand and read salaah at home, but would have to sit if attending the jamaat salaah in the Musjid, then it is necessary to read the salaah at home while standing, instead of coming to the Musjid and offering that salaah while seated. This is due to the qiyaam being faradh, whereas reading salaah with jamaat is either sunnat-e-muakkada or waajib, according to the different views. This rule will apply in cases where the qiraat of the Imam is lengthy, whereas a musallee is only capable of standing for a short while. Such a musallee should rather read a short salaah at home while fulfilling qiyaam, instead of attending the jamaat but doing the salaah sitting.

15)    One who is capable of standing but unable to make sujood, should rather sit and make salaah. This is better than standing and then sitting down for ruku and sujood. However, if this musallee does stand instead of sitting, the salaah will be valid, according to the Hanafi math-hab. According to the other mathaa-hib, it is waajib for such a musallee to stand and make the salaah. In either case, this musallee would make ruku and sujood by token indications with the head and upper body. The musallee will bend forward slightly for ruku and a little more for sujood. If this difference in ruku and sujood is not maintained, the salaah will not be valid.

16)    Some musallees who make sujood while seated on a chair, stretch out their palms in a gesture of making sujood as one would do when making sajda on the ground. This is not necessary and incorrect. The sitting sajda shall be made with the hands firmly on the knees. There is no need to push the hands forward and suspend them in mid-air for sajda.

17)    Sitting on a chair in the saff: It is preferable that the sitting musallee offers his salaah at the end of the saff if circumstances allow this. If not, then he should ensure that the legs of the chair are place in line with the heels of the musallees on his right and left. In other words, the legs of the chair will serve as a guide to align the saff for one who has a valid reason to offer salaah sitting.
And Allah Ta’ala knows best, for His Knowledge is Infinite
The above rules were extracted from the following books:
Fataawa Aalamgeeri
Bahishti Zewar

Mufti Siraj Desai
Darul-Uloom Abubakr, Port Elizabeth