Does Having the Urge to Relieve Oneself Break the Prayer?
Answered by Ustadh Sufyan Qufi
Is my prayer valid when the urge to pass wind/urine comes when I’m in the middle of the prayer and I hold it back. The urge only comes once or several times in prayer for example at the beginning, middle, or end or in all of that. I know that it is prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) but I don’t know if it invalidates the prayer. And if it invalidates the prayer, must I also step out of prayer, when I’m already at the salutation on the Prophet as it is a sunnah and not an obligation?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
I pray this finds you in the best of states.
No, the mere urge to relieve yourself won’t invalidate the prayer, because your wudu has not been broken and you are still in a state of ritual purity. [Shurunbulali, Nur al- Idah]
Allah, Most High, says: “O you who believe when you rise for the prayer wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads and (wash) your feet up to the ankles. If you are in a state of major impurity, cleanse yourselves well (by taking a bath). If you are sick, or on a journey, or if one of you has come after relieving himself, or you have had sexual contact with women, and you find no water, then, go for some clean dust and wipe your faces and hands with it.” [Quran, 5:6]
As you can see it is the actual relieving that breaks your wudu and render the prayer invalid, not the mere urge to relieve oneself.
As you have said to pray while having the urge to urinate or defecate or while needing to relieve oneself from gas is deemed prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman). Therefore if it distracts you, you must interrupt the prayer and relieve yourself unless you fear the prayer time will expire. [Hashiya Ibn Abidin]
I have asked Shaykh Faraz Rabbani (may Allah protect him) specifically about this issue. He told me that prayer is deemed prohibitively disliked when one is actively pushing back the urge to relieve oneself. A sign of this would be that if one would go to the toilet the relieving would happen without any effort. As for a mere feeling, it is of no consequence and one can continue to pray. Especially when this is a recurring situation.
First Follow-Up Question
So it is obligatory that I interrupt the prayer if, for example, I would fart if I didn’t hold it back?
If so, are my prayers invalid if I prayed in such a state? In the past, I prayed some prayers in this circumstance.
Yes, if holding back the urge to relieve yourself is really distracting you from the prayer then it is necessary (wajib) to break the prayer, relieve yourself and repeat the prayer.
But the prayers you have prayed in this state were all valid. You were only sinful for not breaking these prayers and repeating them. But now that you have prayed them in this state they are valid because you have fulfilled all the obligatory (fard) aspects of the prayer. Fard and wajib are two different concepts in the Hanafi school. Not doing the wajib is sinful but has no impact on the validity of our worship. Not doing the fard renders our worship invalid.
Second Follow-Up Question
And you have said that this is so unless I am afraid that prayer time will be over. Is it the same when I have to go to school because if I don’t pray the prayer now I’ll miss my train? Or when I’m tired and I wanted to establish prayer and then I want to go straight to sleep. Or wanted to do something after prayer.
As Shaykh Faraz Rabbani , may Allah protect him, has said if having this strong feeling to relieve yourself is a recurring situation you should ignore it and finish your prayer. Don’t fall into waswas.
Praying in this state, if it is real, is disliked and sinful. If repeating the prayer will make you fail to perform something obligatory (fard) such as going to work or school to earn a livelihood then it is an excuse to not repeat it.
If repeating the prayer will make you miss something merely permissible (such as an appointment with your friends) or even sunna (such as visiting a sick person) then it is not an excuse to not repeat the prayer.
In this situation, we apply the following fiqhi principles:
“Repelling corrupting matters takes precedence over reaping benefits.”
“If we are faced with two opposing corrupting matters we take care of the most harmful one by committing the less harmful.” [Majalla]
And Allah knows best.
[Ustadh] Sufyan Qufi
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani