Answered by Shaykh Abdurrahman al-Kharsa
How should a sick person pray?
All praise is due to Allah.
The Critical Importance of Prayer
Prayer is the pillar of the religion and an obligatory act of worship for every sane adult Muslim. It must be performed at its appointed times, as Allah, the Most High, says, “Observe the ˹five obligatory˺ prayers—especially the middle prayer—and stand in true devotion to Allah” (Quran, 2:238).
Prophetic Instructions to Those Who Are Ill
However, sometimes an adult obligated to pray may be ill and unable to stand, bow, or prostrate. In such cases, how should they pray?
Imran ibn Husayn (Allah be pleased with him) narrated, “I had hemorrhoids, so I asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) about the prayer, and he said, ‘Pray while standing. If you cannot, pray while sitting. If you cannot do even that, pray while lying on your side.'” [Bukhari]
Scholars have explained that this advice, though directed to Imran ibn Husayn specifically, applies to all worshipers in general, with the following guidelines:
- Able to Prostrate and Bow, without Standing: If a person cannot stand due to illness, they should pray sitting however they wish, with bowing and prostration. However, if they can stand for part of the prayer, they should do so.
- Able to Stand, without Bowing and Prostration: If a person can stand but cannot bow or prostrate, they should make the motion of bowing and prostration while sitting. The height of their prostration should be lower than their bowing.
- Unable to Sit or Stand: If a person cannot sit, they can make the motions lying down, keeping their feet towards the qiblah, or on their sides.
- Unable to Move: If a person cannot even indicate by motion and the missed prayers are many, the obligation to make up the prayer is lifted from them. He does not motion with his eyes, nor within his heart, nor with his eyebrows (1).
May Allah grant a complete recovery to all sick Muslims and keep us and you steadfast on the straight path.
(1) Source: Tanwir al-Absar, Chapter on the Prayer of the Sick.