I had a stroke and am now forced to pray while sitting in a chair. My question is, is it permissible for me to be the imam for my wife and children where they will pray normally (standing)? Hope to get an answer from you. Thank you.
Waalaikumussalam wrm. wbt.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Generally, a person who experiences a debilitation where he cannot stand straight, or is sick that he is unable to perform the ruku’ and sujud normally, then it is permissible for him to do it in a sitting position. This is according to a hadith narrated by ‘Imran bin Husain RA, he said:
صَلِّ قَائِمًا، فَإِنْ لَمْ تَسْتَطِعْ فَقَاعِدًا، فَإِنْ لَمْ تَسْتَطِعْ فَعَلَى جَنْبٍ
“Pray while standing and if you can't, pray while sitting and if you cannot do even that, then pray lying on your side.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1066)
Referring to the books of previous scholars, there are several matters that are considered as masyaqqah (debilitation) which permits a person to pray while sitting.
The following we include several examples:
- Unable to stand
- Has a disease that would worsen if he prays whilst standing
- A person on a ship, boat, raft, of which he feared that he would sink if he prays while standing on the water vehicle that he is in
- A person with severe headache
- Severe illness that would distract him from having khusyuk in prayer
All of this is based on the words of Imam al-Nawawi Rahimaullah: “If the person (who prays alone) is fearful that of a great burden or increased illness or a person on a boat who fears that he would sink (if he prays while he is standing) or person with a severe headache then it is permissible for him to pray while sitting and it is unnecessary for him to repeat the prayer.” Refer Al-Majmu’ Syarh Al-Muhazzab, Al-Nawawi (4/310).
Among the evidences that mentioned this is a hadith narrated by Ummu al-Mu’minin ‘Aisyah R.Anha who said:
اشْتَكَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَدَخَلَ عَلَيْهِ نَاسٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِهِ يَعُودُونَهُ فَصَلَّى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم جَالِسًا فَصَلَّوْا بِصَلاَتِهِ قِيَامًا فَأَشَارَ إِلَيْهِمْ أَنِ اجْلِسُوا فَجَلَسُوا فَلَمَّا انْصَرَفَ قَالَ إِنَّمَا جُعِلَ الإِمَامُ لِيُؤْتَمَّ بِهِ فَإِذَا رَكَعَ فَارْكَعُوا وَإِذَا رَفَعَ فَارْفَعُوا وَإِذَا صَلَّى جَالِسًا فَصَلُّوا جُلُوسًا
“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) fell ill and some of his Companions came to inquire after his health. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said prayer sitting, while (his Companions) said it (behind him) standing. He (the Holy Prophet) directed them by his gesture to sit down, and they sat down (in prayer). After finishing the (prayer) he (the Holy Prophet) said: The Imam is appointed so that he should be followed, so bow down when he bows down, and rise upp when he rises up and say (prayer) sitting when he (the Imam) says (it) sitting.”
Sahih Muslim (412)
Imam al-Nawawi when commenting on the issue said:
قَالَ الشَّافِعِيُّ وَالْأَصْحَابُ يُسْتَحَبُّ لِلْإِمَامِ إذَا لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ الْقِيَامَ اسْتِخْلَافُ مَنْ يُصَلِّي بِالْجَمَاعَةِ قَائِمًا كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ النَّبِيُّ صلي الله عليه وسلم لان فِيهِ خُرُوجًا مِنْ خِلَافِ مَنْ مَنَعَ الِاقْتِدَاءَ بالقاعد ولان الْقَائِمَ أَكْمَلُ وَأَقْرَبُ إلَى إكْمَالِ هَيْئَاتِ الصَّلَاةِ
Al-Syafi’e and ashab (al-Syafi’iyyah scholars) hold the opinion: It is sunnah for an imam when he is unable to pray while standing to replace it with someone who is able to pray while standing from among the congregants just like the Prophet PBUH who replace another person to lead the prayer. The reason is the act that avoids the khilaf which restricts following an imam sitting for prayer. It is also because a person while standing is complete and nearer to the perfection of the actions in prayer.
Refer Al-Majmu’ Syarh Al-Muhazzab, Al-Nawawi (4/264)
He further states:
أَنَّ مَذْهَبَنَا جَوَازُ صَلَاةِ الْقَائِمِ خَلْفَ الْقَاعِدِ الْعَاجِزِ وَأَنَّهُ لَا تَجُوزُ صَلَاتُهُمْ وَرَاءَهُ قُعُودًا
Indeed, in the opinion of our madhhab is it is permissible for a person praying while standing to follow an imam who sits while praying, in the situation where (the imam) is unable (to pray while standing). Also (in our opinion) it is impermissible for them (who are capable to stand while praying) to pray while sitting following the imam (who prays while sitting).
The Shafie jurists stated this opinion based in a hadith narrated by ‘Aisyah R.Anha, where she said:
لَمَّا مَرِضَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَرَضَهُ الَّذِي مَاتَ فِيهِ أَتَاهُ بِلاَلٌ يُؤْذِنُهُ بِالصَّلاَةِ فَقَالَ مُرُوا أَبَا بَكْرٍ فَلْيُصَلِّ قُلْتُ إِنَّ أَبَا بَكْرٍ رَجُلٌ أَسِيفٌ، إِنْ يَقُمْ مَقَامَكَ يَبْكِي فَلاَ يَقْدِرُ عَلَى الْقِرَاءَةِ. قَالَ مُرُوا أَبَا بَكْرٍ فَلْيُصَلِّ فَقُلْتُ مِثْلَهُ فَقَالَ فِي الثَّالِثَةِ أَوِ الرَّابِعَةِ " إِنَّكُنَّ صَوَاحِبُ يُوسُفَ، مُرُوا أَبَا بَكْرٍ فَلْيُصَلِّ فَصَلَّى وَخَرَجَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُهَادَى بَيْنَ رَجُلَيْنِ، كَأَنِّي أَنْظُرُ إِلَيْهِ يَخُطُّ بِرِجْلَيْهِ الأَرْضَ، فَلَمَّا رَآهُ أَبُو بَكْرٍ ذَهَبَ يَتَأَخَّرُ، فَأَشَارَ إِلَيْهِ أَنْ صَلِّ، فَتَأَخَّرَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ وَقَعَدَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم إِلَى جَنْبِهِ، وَأَبُو بَكْرٍ يُسْمِعُ النَّاسَ التَّكْبِير
“When the Prophet, became ill in his fatal illness. Someone came to inform him about the prayer, and the Prophet (ﷺ) told him to tell Abu Bakr to lead the people in the prayer. I said, "Abu Bakr is a softhearted man and if he stands for the prayer in your place, he would weep and would not be able to recite the Qur'an." The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Tell Abu Bakr to lead the prayer." I said the same as before. He (repeated the same order and) on the third or the fourth time he said, "You are the companions of Joseph. Tell Abu Bakr to lead the prayer." So, Abu Bakr led the prayer and meanwhile the Prophet (ﷺ) felt better and came out with the help of two men; as if I see him just now dragging his feet on the ground. When Abu Bakr saw him, he tried to retreat but the Prophet (ﷺ) beckoned him to carry on. Abu Bakr retreated a bit and the Prophet (ﷺ) sat on his (left) side. Abu Bakr was repeating the Takbir (Allahu Akbar) of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) for the people to hear.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (712)
Imam al-Bukhari placed this hadith under the title: “Chapter of Broadcasting the Takbir of the Imam to the Congregants.”
Thus, it is understood from the fiqh of Imam al-Bukhari that Abu Bakr in this situation is the makmum of the Prophet PBUH. Abu Bakr prayed while standing and the Prophet PBUH prayed while sitting.
Likewise, Imam al-Nawawi in his commentary of Sahih Muslim placed this hadith under the chapter “Chapter on Replacing an Imam When he is Unable such as When He is Sick, Travelling and Others.”
Afterwards, Imam al-Nawawi said: “And whoever prays behind an imam who prays while sitting because he is unable to stand, he is encouraged to stand if he is able to. And praying while sitting behind an imam who is praying while sitting has been abrogated on the rights of those who are able to stand while standing.”
Refer Syarah Al-Nawawi ‘ala Muslim (4/135)
Then, in another place Imam al-Nawawi said:
وَيَحْصُلُ الْمَقْصُودُ وَهُوَ أَنَّ صَلَاةَ الْقَادِرِ وَرَاءَ الْقَاعِدِ لَا تَجُوزُ إلَّا قَائِمًا
And the purpose of an able (to stand) person is fulfilled behind a person (who prays) sitting is impermissible except by (praying) standing.
Refer Al-Majmu’ Syarah Al-Muhazzab, Al-Nawawi (4/266)
To conclude, after we have analyze the above arguments and evidences, we will end this statement with the following points:
- The prayer of a sitting person because he is unbale to stand is We have discussed this issue in-depth in Tahqiq al-Masail Series 2: Explanation on Praying Whilst Sitting (Edited Version) that can be accessed through the link https://bit.ly/3eGIEnB
- A person who prays while sitting can be the imam. Referring to the question presented, if the situation of the family involves a father who prays while sitting and the other two makmum is a wife and daughter, then the father is permissible to lead the prayer as the imam.
- However, if there is another man in the family such as a son, then it is prioritized for the son to be the imam for the prayer for he is able to perform it while standing.
- Whereas the prayer of the makmum who are following a sitting imam, then it is permissible and the prayer is valid. However, they should perform it standing if they are able to stand. Wallahua’lam.
Lastly, we pray to Allah SWT to give us all the correct understanding in practising the religion. Amin.