What Are the Islamic Rulings Related to Someone Suffering From Dementia?
Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: Assalam aleykum
My grandma has totally lost her mind. She doesn’t know what she is saying, can’t eat, or relieve herself, so the family need to do everything for her.
a. Is she exempt from prayers?
b. Does she still have to cover herself in the presence of non-mehram man?
c. When taking her up the stairs to the bathroom, at times, I have to help lift her. There are occasions when we make body contact. Is it sinful?
Answer: assalamu alaykum
We ask God to grant your family health and ease.
Regarding your questions:
a. Based on the description you have given, it does not seem like the prayer would be obligatory on your grandmother as she is no longer considered morally-responsible (mukallaf) due to a deficiency in intellect (aql).
b. The basis is that a woman must cover her entire body in front of a non-mahram man except the face, hands, and feet.
However, in the case of an elderly woman who is no longer sexually desirable, a number of scholars stated that it is permissible to look at those parts of the body that are “generally” uncovered in front of her mahrams. This would include her face, hands, head/hair, feet, arms, neck, and shin. [Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni (9:491) & Sharh al-kabir (7:342); al-Buhuti, al-Kashshaf (5:31); al-Mardawi, al-Insaf (8:26)]
c. The general rule is that it is permissible to touch those areas of a woman that are not considered part of her nakedness (awra). The exception to this is (a) if one fears desire in doing so and (b) a non-mahram. In your cases, as your grandmother is your mahram, it would be permissible for you to touch the areas mentioned above. This is especially the case if there is no one else able to properly assist her as it would be a genuine case of need.
[Ustadh] Salman Younas
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir.