How Should a Paralyzed Patient Pray?
Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
I have a condition that renders me motionless and effectively paralyzed for long periods of time. Consequently, I regularly find myself unable to perform ablution or dry ablution, and other times I am unable to face the Qibla during prayer. Do I have to make up all these prayers, or am I excused?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to that which is pleasing to Him. Amin.
May Allah grant you a full recovery and make the challenges you face a means of expiation for your sins. Anyone afflicted with trials in their health that renders them incapable of purifying themselves or praying in the usual manner should pray as best they can. They don’t need to make up their prayers, and Allah knows best.
How Should Ill People Pray?
There are two categories of people. There are those who are unable to sit and those unable to stand.
Unable to Stand
Someone unable to stand may pray the prescribed prayer seated and need not make it up. Unable here, means that standing involves manifest hardship, will cause illness or the worsening of a present illness, or cause vertigo, as when one is on a ship. Such a person may sit for the prayer any way he likes, though the iftirash style (as done in the tashahhud) is recommended.
It is offensive in prayer to sit on the ground, palms down and knees drawn up, or to sit with legs outstretched (when there is no excuse).
When seated for the prayer, the minimal bowing is to incline until the forehead is farther forward than the knees. The optimal way is to incline until the forehead is as far forward as the place where the head rests in prostration. When unable to bow or prostrate, one comes as close to the ground with the forehead as one can. When unable to do this, one performs them by nodding. [Nawawi, al-Majmu‘]
Unable to Sit
If an abscess or the like prevents one from sitting, then one “sits” standing (meaning ordinary standing, with the intention of sitting so that one stands between prostrations and for the Testification of Faith (Tashahhud).
If one is capable of standing but suffers from a painful swelling of the eyes or something similar (such as a wound that can be treated by having the patient remain lying down) and a reliable physician (reliable in terms of knowledge and expertise in medicine, and can be trusted) tells one that praying while on one’s back will enable one to be treated, then it is permissible to pray while lying down without having to make up the prayer. [Nawawi, al-Majmu‘]
Unable to Stand and Sit
If unable to stand and unable to sit, one lies on one’s right side (the right is recommended) facing the direction of prayer (qibla) with the face and front of one’s body, though one must bow and prostrate if possible (meaning one stands up enough to bow, then bows, then prostrates; or else sits up and bows).
If this is impossible, one bows and prostrates by merely nodding one’s head (O: bringing one’s forehead as near to the ground as possible), deeper for prostration than for bowing.
If unable to even nod, one merely glances down with the eyes for bowing and prostration. If one cannot do the above, one goes through the integrals of the prayer in one’s mind. If unable to speak to recite the Fatiha, one recites it in one’s heart.
The obligation of prayer exists as long as one can reason. [Nawawi, al-Majmu‘]
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.