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What is the ruling for the sick and elderly that cannot perform their ablution using water?


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.

First, we would like to present some Quranic evidences that explain the principles of tolerance in Islam that denies haraj or distress. Islam is not a religion that burdens its people with things that they are not capable of.

These evidences are the basis of Manhaj al-Taisir (manhaj that ease) in fiqh al-Islami:

Allah SWT states:

لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا

“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.” 

Surah al-Baqarah (286)

In a verse of the Quran, Allah SWT:

فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ

“So, fear Allah as much as you are able,”

Surah al-Taghabun (16)

Allah SWT also states:

مَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيَجْعَلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ حَرَجٍ

“Allah does not intend to make difficulty for you,” 

Surah al-Maidah (6)

Allah SWT states in the Quran:

وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ

“He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty.” 

Surah al-Haj (78)

In another verse of the Quran:

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

“Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship” 

Surah al-Baqarah (185)

Illness or injury that results in the inability to perform the ablution using water, or one’s physical condition that restricts him from using water, for it will delay his recovery, are reasons that syara’ ruled permissible for him to perform tayammum instead to replace his wudhu’.

This is in accordance with Quranic and Prophetic evidence as well as the opinions of scholars regarding this issue.

Allah SWT states in the Quran:

وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَى أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنكُم مِّنَ الغَائِطِ أَوْ لامَسْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُوا مَاءً فَتَيَمَّمُوا صَعِيداً طَيِّباً فَامْسَحُوا بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُم مِّنْهُ

“But if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and do not find water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and hands with it.” 

Surah al-Maidah (6)

The above verse clearly states the sanctioning of tayammum for the people mentioned in the verse.

Al-Maraghi said: “When you are experiencing one of the three conditions, such as illness, travel, or when there is no water available, and you have to purify yourself from the two types of hadas (minor or major hadas), then you have to find pure dust, then pat both your hands on the dust until it covers your hands to your wrists.” (Tafsir al-Maraghi 3/1500)

The prophetic evidence for tayammum is from a hadith from the Prophet PBUH, where he said:

وَجُعِلَتْ لَنَا الأَرْضُ كُلُّهَا مَسْجِدًا وَجُعِلَتْ تُرْبَتُهَا لَنَا طَهُورًا إِذَا لَمْ نَجِدِ الْمَاءَ

“The whole earth has been made a mosque for us, and its dust has been made a purifier for us in case water is not available.”

Sahih Muslim (522)

According to mazhab Syafie, the reasons that made it permissible to perform tayammum include if someone is ill and he cannot perform ablution using water.

The following are the citation from al-Fiqh al-Manhaji:

When someone is restricted from using water, whether the restriction is clear, such as there is no water available, or if water available is far away and there are enemies waiting there, or syara’ restrictions, such as fear of contracting an illness if he uses water or it will delay his recovery process. In these situations, it is permissible for him to perform tayammum and it is no longer an obligation for him to use water. This is in accordance with a hadith where a man died due to a head injury after performing his obligatory bath. The Prophet PBUH said:

إِنَّمَا كَانَ يَكْفِيهِ أَنْ يَتَيَمَّمَ أَوْ يَعْصِبَ عَلَى جُرْحِهِ خِرْقَةً ثُمَّ يَمْسَحَ عَلَيْهَا وَيَغْسِلَ سَائِرَ جَسَدِهِ

"It would have been enough for him to perform Tayammum and wrap it with something and wipe over the wrapping and wash the rest of his body."

Sunan Abu Daud (336)

The same is stated in al-Mu’tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafie, a book written by Syeikh Muhammad al-Zuhaili.

This is in line with Islamic legal maxim that states:

المشقة تجلب التيسير

“Hardship Begets Facility.”

An example situation is when a mukallaf faces hardship in performing what has been obligated to him.

Tayammum in this situation is a facilitation given by syara’. This facilitation is named as Rukhsah Tark (رخصة ترك), which is a facilitation by syara’ due to desperate situations or a need to leave an obligation.

However, majority of scholars hold the opinion that performing ‘azimah, which means applying the original ruling (performing the obligation) is prioritized, however, in this particular issue, where it may lead to more harm, then he should take the facilitation for him. Especially if the patient has received the advice from medical experts to take the facilitation.

The following are the conditions and prerequisites of tayammum cited from al-Fiqh al-Manhaji:

Conditions for Tayammum

  • Certain of the time for prayer
  • Try to find water after the time of prayer begins
  • Using dust that is pure and does not contain flour or chalk
  • Get rid of any najis first
  • Determining the kiblat before tayammum

Prerequisites for Tayammum 

  • Niat (intention). The place of niat is in the heart. Thus, it is sunnah for someone performing tayammum to recite I’m making the prayer permissible; the obligatory prayer, the sunnah prayer and others. When someone performs tayammum with the intention of making permissible of what is obligatory, then he can perform other sunnah worship with his tayammum.
  • Dusting face and both hands to the elbows, patting two times, which means patting the earth with both hands, on pure dust, then wipe his whole face. Then pat the dust a second time and wipe both hands to the elbows, using your right palm for your left hand, and your left palm for your right hand.

This is in accordance with a hadith of the Prophet PBUH, where he explains how to perform tayammum:

التَّيَمُّمُ ضَرْبَتَانِ ضَرْبَةٌ لِلْوَجْهِ وَضَرْبَةٌ لِلْيَدَيْنِ إِلَى الْمِرْفَقَيْنِ

"Tayammum is two strikes: one for the face and one for the hands up to the elbows." 

Sunan al-Daraqutni (1/256)

  • In the order (as stated above). The reason is, tayammum is a replacement of wudhu’ and among the prerequisite of wudhu’ is it must be done in order. Thus, it is also a prerequisite for tayammum since tayammum is its replacement.

Lastly, may this explanation help us perform the obligations commanded by our religion with perfection. Amiin.