How to Pray in a Chair When Needed [Shaykh Saalih al-Fowzaan]

In the Name of Allaah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful…

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Shaykh Saalih al-Fowzaan (may Allaah preserve him) was asked about how one is to pray in a chair when needed.

The reply: Prayer is the second pillar of Islaam. It is the foundational support-post of Islaam, and it is the first of all deeds a person will be held to account for on the Day of Judgment. If it is accepted [by Allaah], the rest of his deeds will be accepted. If it is rejected, the rest of his deeds will likewise be rejected. It is an obligation that no Muslim is ever excused from so long as he remains of sound mind.[1] A Muslim prays according to his ability.

As Allaah has said, “Fear Allaah to the best of your ability.”[2] And He, the Most High, has said, “Allaah does not burden any soul beyond its scope.”[3] Furthermore, the Prophet, may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace, said, “When I have forbidden you from something, stay away from it [entirely]. When I have ordered you to do something, do as much of it as you are able.”[4]

From this [generality] is prayer. A Muslim is to pray to the best of his ability, the best he can, due to the statement of the Prophet, may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace, “A sick person prays standing. If he is unable, then he may pray sitting. If he is unable, then he may pray [laying] on his side.”[5] In one narration, “If he is unable, then laying back with his feet toward the qiblah.”[6]

Prayer has its required conditions (shuroot), necessary elements (arkaan, lit. pillars), obligations (waajibaat), and recommended manners (sunan). A sick person is to do as much of these things as he is able to. Some things are to be done while standing, while others are done while sitting or in prostration.

What is done standing is the initial takbeerah (saying, “Allaahu akbar”), reading [Soorah] Al-Faatihah and whatever else is easy of the Qur’aan, and bowing (rukoo’), which is done by bending over with one’s head and back until the hands reach the knees, saying in that position, “Glorified be Allaah, the Great One.”

What is done while sitting is the tashahhud, the prostration, saying, “Glorified be Allaah, the Most High,” and the tasleem.

How does a [sick] person perform these actions?

If he is able to stand and sit, but cannot bow or prostrate, then he motions with his head for the bowing while he stands, and he motions with his head for the prostration while he sits.

If he is able to sit, but cannot stand, then he performs the initial takbeerah, the recitation of Al-Faatihah and what is easy of the Quran to recite [while sitting]. He motions with his head for the rukoo’ (bowing) while he sits. He prostrates on the ground if his able. If not, then he motions with his head for the prostration while sitting, making his nodding [or bending over] lower for prostration than for bowing.

When praying seated, it is better and more complete to sit on the floor if one is able. If not, then he may sit in a chair, and he does everything a person would do sitting on the floor.  

The chair is to be lined up along with the row, and it should be a small chair whenever possible, so it does not take a large amount of space and encroach upon the space of those next to, behind, and in front of him.

He does not pray directly behind the imaam, to leave that place for healthy people who could take his place when needed, or prompt him when he cannot remember something in his recitation. This is due to his statement, “Let the people of intellect and understanding stand directly behind me [in congregational prayer].”[7]

This was written by [Shaykh] Saalih ibn Fowzaan al-Fowzaan, Member of the Council of Senior Scholars, on 08-17-1433.

Translation and footnotes: Moosaa Richardson

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[1] With the exception of women during their menses and post-natal bleeding. (All footnotes are from the translator.)

[2] Soorah at-Taghaabun (64:16)

[3] Soorah al-Baqarah (2:286)

[4] From an authentic hadeeth collected by Al-Bukhaaree (no.7288) and Muslim (no.1337).

[5] From the meaning of an authentic hadeeth collected by Al-Bukhaaree (no.1117).

[6] This additional wording is not authentic as a hadeeth. Review: Irwaa’ al-Ghaleel (no.558).

[7] From an authentic hadeeth collected by Muslim (no.432).

22 thoughts on “How to Pray in a Chair When Needed [Shaykh Saalih al-Fowzaan]

  1. Assalamu Aleykum wa rahmatullahi. Akhi i have a skin condition known as psorasis. It leave built up skin on my knees and sometimes it leaves. If I pray standing and go into sujood it gives me pain. Question is it better if i pray standing when my condition flares up? I can manage the pain so some insight would be much needed.

  2. Assalaamu alayka wa rahmatullaah.
    Our noble brother I hope you can advise me regarding leading the prayer whilst seated on a chair due to my inability to stand for the length of a rakah… my children are not yet fully discerning of the rules pertaining to leading the prayer. Can you offer any information for my education regarding leading both the fard and non-fard (eg taraweeh) whilst being seated? My children want to stand even when I sit… I thought they must follow the ‘imaam’? Please enlighten me.

    • Wa ‘alaykis-salaam wa rahmatullaah. The scholars differ in this issue, based on what the final action of the Messenger was (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace). Allaah knows best.

    • Wa aleykum salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,
      Sister I hope you can find you answer in this fatwa below.

      Fatwas of Nur `Ala Al-Darb
      Browse by Volume Number > Volume 12 > Book on Salah (section 7) > Chapter on the rulings of the office of Imam continued > An excused person leading the healthy in Salah
      21- Ruling on an excused person leading the healthy in Salah

      Q: What is the ruling on an excused person (e.g. one who has an illness) leading the healthy in Salah (Prayer), bearing in mind that the latter is not versed in Qur’anic recitation?

      A: The ruling depends on the state of the excused person. If his excuse does not prevent him from doing any of the obligations and integrals of the Salah, e.g. a person who has had his hand cut or some fingers cut,
      (Part No. 12; Page No. 42)
      there is nothing wrong with him leading the Salah. However, if the excuse prevents him from standing in Salah, he cannot lead the Salah sitting down. In such a case, someone other than the excused person should lead the Salah, unless he is an appointed Imam (the one who leads congregational Prayer) or the Imam of the district, in which case it is permissible that he leads the Salah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) led his Companions in Salah while sitting down, for he was very ill. He (peace be upon him) said in this regard: The Imam is appointed but to be followed; hence, if he prays sitting down, sit down behind him. Therefore, if the excused person is an appointed Imam and prays sitting down, the Ma’mums (people being led by an Imam in Prayer) have to pray sitting down as well. However, if they pray standing, their Salah will be valid. Towards the end of the Prophet’s life, when he was so ill, he led the Companions in Salah sitting down, while they were standing. And he did not command them to sit down, which indicates that it is permissible. On the other hand, if the excused person is not the Imam of the district, he should not lead the Salah sitting down. Instead, they should look for someone who is not excused to lead the Salah


  3. assalaam alaikum,

    jazaakallaahu gair ustaadh for your efforts, this site has been very beneficial to me! I was wondering something about the prayer, but couldn’t find a topic related to sujoodu s-sahw.

    The question is: it can be difficult to stay fully concentrated during the prayer, up and to the point that you’re in your final tashahhud and can’t really recall whether you did takbeer in the first rakah for example. I’ve read in sharh mumti what the ruling is in general on doubts in prayer, but this kind of doubt is something that can happen quite often. Do you maybe know what the scholars have said about this and if you still have to do sujoodu s-sahw?

    What is also linked to this: What if you lose your concentration and you just do the tashahhud on automatic pilot so to say (knowing that this is something blameworthy but it can happen), and right before the tasleem you realize you wasn’t really paying attention, does this also count as doubt? Because you can’t be 100% sure that you said everything correctly.

    I hope you can help me out, may Allaah reward you.

  4. Assalamu alaikum,I would like to clarify regarding the motions of salah while seated,for example does one tie his hand in takbeerath position,or does one keep the hands on the thighs?does one also have to raise the hands symbolizing the other postures too?i need an urgent clarification.jazakallahu khairan

  5. assalaam alaikum,

    I couldn’t find an appropiate place to ask this question so I chose this topic..: Is your prayer valid if you forget the sujud as-sahw? So during your prayer you decide to do the sujud once your finished, but at the end of your prayer you forget and after a couple of hours or even the next day you remember you had to do the sujud. Do you know what the scholars have said about this and their proofs?

    ahsanallaahu ilayk

  6. Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullaah. Baarak Allaah feek for this article and all your contributions. Aameen.

    Could you please provide a bit more insight into exactly how the chairs should be lined up with the row? We have a constant discrepancy in our Masjid regarding whether or not the chair should be lined up with the feet or shoulders. Some of the Sisters who use chairs don’t sit for the duration of the Prayer, so their shoulders won’t always be level with those of their Sisters standing. If the Sisters are able to stand for Qiyaam and Rukoo, then would it be better to line the chair up in such a way where the person’s able to line their shoulders and feet with others? Likewise, should the one unable to stand line their feet up with the feet of the other Musalleen, while they sit in a chair?

    I hope this is clear, bi ithnillaah.

    Jazaak Allaahu khairaa.

  7. Assalamo alaikum
    I don’t have any problem in standing but I cannot sit on the knees due to surgical problem.the braces planted hurt badly for days.I’m confused shall I stand for the namaz and sit on chair after rukoo or shall I sit for the entire namaz as in nafil.plz guide

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Stand, bow, sit, and prostrate when you can do so without pain. If your are unable to do any of these, or you can do them but with considerable pain, then fulfill the others completely, and do the closest thing you can do to the position you are unable to fulfill (without pain). It seems like sitting for prostration and jalsah is appropriate for you, and Allaah knows best.

  8. I just became a new Muslim and I have two questions one is if I have pain in my knees when I am praying, so I was wondering if I could learn how to pray sitting in a chair or sitting on my praying mat.

  9. Assalamualaikum warrahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

    I am a very obese person and suffer from arthritis, especially at my knees.
    I can stand for solaat and I can also bow (rukuk) but I experience pain when going down for prostation (sujud) and have difficulty standing up again from the floor.
    Is it permissible for me to sit for prostration ?

    • wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. Fear Allaah to the best of your ability. If you can stand for part of the prayer without considerable pain, then do so. When it becomes difficult to continue standing or to return to standing after sitting, then continue the prayer sitting due to the hadeeth of ‘Emraan ibn Husayn in Saheeh al-Bukhaaree: (( صل قائما، فإن لم تستطع فقاعدا، فإن لم تستطع فعلى جنب )) which means, “Pray standing if you can. If you are not able, then pray sitting. If you are not able, then pray on [your] side.”

      And Allaah the Most High says (( فاتقوا الله ما استطعتم )) (Fear Allaah to the best of your ability), And Allaah knows best.

      And may Allaah the Most High bless your knees & health, and reward you for your patience.

  10. Assalaamu’alaykum..

    As it relates to sitting whilst drinking, if a person squats and drinks, then is this also considered “sitting” ?

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