Do mentally and physically disabled people have religious responsibilities?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

Mentally Disabled People

When Allah holds His servant obliged to do something or not to do it, it is called taklif.

Taklif, which is derived from the root kalf, which lexically means “to be fond of something, to undertake a job despite difficulties”. It means “to burden someone with a difficult task” (Raghib, Mufradat, “klf” item; Tahanawi, Kashshaf, 1/504-505)

Intellect and puberty (adolescence) are very important in Islam. When a person is sane and reaches the age of puberty, the period of being responsible (mukallaf), which can be summarized as “performing deeds of and avoiding sins”, begins.

However, as for the disabled, it is necessary to find solutions to problems by always considering our Almighty Lord’s verse, “On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear” (al-Baqara 2/286) and hadith of our Beloved Prophet (pbuh) “Make things easy; do not make them difficult... “ (Bukhari, Jihad, 164).

That is, a person must have the power to understand the message given to him and to fulfill what is necessary in order to be considered responsible for taklif (obligation). The purpose of holding a person responsible is to make him fulfill the obligation in accordance with the conditions of the test.

The condition of the obligation for a person is reaching the age of puberty with the power of distinguishing between the good and the bad.

Therefore, mentally handicapped insane people and children are not considered responsible (Zarkashi, al-Bahrul-Muhit, 1/343-352; Zakiyyuddin Shaban, Usulul-Fiqh p. 275-277)

To sum up, if someone is mentally disabled (i.e. mentally handicapped), there is no responsibility for that person. He will not be held responsible for worship and prohibitions.

Partially mentally handicapped people who are sane enough to perform deeds of worship, on the other hand, are held responsible to the extent that they are sane.

In order to determine the situation of such people, it is necessary to get information from specialists (doctors) - whose explanation is valid.

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Is a person who is physically disabled and needs the help of others in daily life but is slightly mentally retarded obliged to perform fasting and prayers and to wear hijab?

Answer 2:

Physically Disabled People

If a person is physically disabled but sane, that person is responsible for all worship like healthy people. However, he performs worship in a way that his health is suitable. For example:

- Those who cannot make wudu make tayammum.
- Those who cannot stand perform prayers by sitting.
- Those who are dumb read with their hearts.
- Disabled people can perform two prayers together (jam’) in case of need.
- Those who cannot fast pay fidyah.
- Those who cannot go to hajj can send a proxy.
- Those who cannot walk are exempt from going to mosque, including Friday and eid prayers.

Our disabled brothers and sisters are not regarded to have sinned because of the worship they cannot perform even though they want to. On the contrary, they will also be rewarded for fulfilling their worship despite difficult conditions and physical obstacles.

Some questions

Is it permissible to have abortion when it is determined that the baby in the womb will be physically or mentally handicapped?


It is not permissible because that baby is a human being and is alive. If that child was born healthy and later became paralyzed for some reason, could we kill him? Definitely not. In that case, our baby in the womb is also a living being; no one has the right to take his life.

Is being disabled a punishment?


Disability is never a punishment for the child or his family. On the contrary, that child is a gift from Allah to his family. The disabled child and his family are assigned a special duty. If they patiently fulfill their duty, they will earn a lot of rewards and deserve Paradise.

What will be the state of disabled people in the hereafter like?


Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) states that mentally ill people will not be responsible for anything. Disabled people who have faith, try to do their worship in the best way they can and act patiently will be resurrected in good health on the Day of Judgment. In addition, they will enter Paradise due to their faith and worship.

Note: We recommend that you also read the article entitled No Barriers to Worship below:

No Barriers to Worship

Man was created to worship (serve) Allah. (see adh-Dhariyat, 51/56)

No obstacle except for lack of mind prevents being a servant of Allah. In order to fulfill the duty of servitude to Allah, which is the purpose of existence, it is necessary to know Allah, the Prophet, the Book, and religious obligations and duties, to believe in accordance with their conditions, to perform fard duties, to avoid makruh and haram things, to be grateful for blessings and to be patient in the face of calamities. Every person is responsible to the extent of his power. (see al-Baqarah, 2/286)

“No blame is there on the blind, nor is there blame on the lame, nor on one ill...” (al-Fath, 48/17)

“Three people are not held responsible: He who is asleep until he wakes up, the child until he reaches the age of puberty, and a mentally handicapped person until he is cured.” (Abu Dawud, Hudud, 17)

In terms of religious obligation, we can divide disability into two parts:

Mental disability and physical disability.

Mental Disability

“Mental disability” is the complete or partial absence of mental ability. It is possible to divide the mentally disabled people into three parts.
- Those with permanent mental disability.

- Those with partial mental disability.

- Those with temporary mental disability.

A person has to be intelligent and have reached the age of puberty to be religiously responsible for his words, actions and deeds. Therefore, according to Hanafi mujtahids, people who have completely lost their mental abilities and are too mentally retarded to evaluate events are not responsible for any religious duties. Partially mentally disabled people are held responsible for religious duties to the extent that they have strength.

1. Wudu and prayer (salah):

a) The state of those who lose their mental activities for a short time, such as falling into a coma and fainting, regarding wudu and prayer differs according to the duration of this state. Those who are in a state of fainting and coma that last a period to cover five daily prayers or more are regarded exempt from worship.

According to Abu Hanifa, if a person who is unconscious or in a coma or who has lost his mind regains consciousness within 24 hours, he has to perform the missed prayers of this period.

According to Imam Muhammad, if the number of missed prayers is fewer than five, a person is not regarded exempt; those prayers have to be performed after recovery. If the number of missed prayers is more than five, such a person is regarded exempt, and the missed prayers do not have to be performed later.

b) It is fard al-ayn for every Muslim who is responsible to learn and memorize at least one verse of the Quran in order to be able to perform prayers and it is wajib to memorize al-Fatiha and an additional chapter (surah) or three short verses of the Quran.

Those who cannot memorize the chapters and supplications to be read in prayer or cannot remember what they have memorized due to mental disability can recite the shortest verses and supplications they can learn. If they cannot learn or memorize at all, they are regarded exempt from qira’ah (recitation), and they perform their prayers by fulfilling the other fard, wajib and sunnahs of the prayer.

2. Fasting:

a) If mental illness, unconsciousness or coma occur at short intervals, they do not prevent fasting.

b) A mentally ill person whose illness continues during the month of Ramadan does not have to make up for the fasts that he has not been able to keep even if he recovers afterwards.

c) In case of fainting and coma lasting for one day, the fast that cannot be kept for that day does not have to be performed.

d) Partially mentally disabled people who are sane enough to worship have to fast.

3. Hajj:

Hajj becomes fard for a person if he is sane, has reached the age of puberty, healthy, free, not under arrest and restricted, has economic means, has road safety, is alive at the time of hajj, and has the safety of life, property and honor (for women).

Therefore, if partially mentally disabled people have the power to perform hajj, they are obliged to perform hajj provided that other conditions are also met.

4. Zakah, fitrah and sacrifice:

Zakah is fard for Muslims who have wealth at least the amount of nisab.

According to Hanafis it is necessary for a Muslim to be sane and have reached the age of puberty to be liable for zakah because mentally ill people are not responsible for zakah, sadaqah and sacrifice.

According to other madhhabs, it is not necessary for a Muslim to be sane and have reached the age of puberty to be liable for zakah. Therefore, children, people with complete or partial mental disabilities are responsible for zakah, sadaqah and sacrifice if they are rich. The guardians of these people give their zakah and sadaqah and have their sacrifices slaughtered. (Tirmidhi, Zakah, 15)  

The state of fainting and coma is not an obstacle to giving zakah because it is not usual for this state to last long.

Physical Disability

1. Wudu, ghusl and prayer (salah):

a) Physically handicapped people who lack one of their wudu organs, for example, who do not have feet or arms, wash only their healthy organs. Prostheses do not have to be washed or wiped. It is all right if they are clean.

b) People whose blood from the nose or a wound, whose urine and women whose discharge continue throughout a prayer time and do not stop for a long time to pray, are deemed “to be excused”.

According to Hanafi madhhab, those people make wudu for each prayer time and perform their prayers. Unless something else that will invalidate the wudu occurs within a prayer time period, those people are considered to have wudu and can perform any worship they want, circumambulate the Kaaba and hold the Quran in their hands. (See Bukhari, Hayd, 19; Wudu’, 63) When the time period for that prayer ends, their wudu become invalidated.

According to Shafi’i madhhab, the wudu of those who are excused becomes invalidated when the prayer they perform is over. They have to make wudu again for each prayer.

Liquids such as blood and pus that come out of the excused part of a person and smear on their clothes do not invalidate their prayers as long as their excuse continues. However, if the leakage ends, they have to be cleaned.

c) If a person has a wound on one of the organs of wudu, he wipes over the wound while making wudu or ghusl. If there is a bandage on the wound, he wipes over the bandage.

d) Those who cannot find or use water for wudu or ghusl due to their health perform tayammum with clean soil or something of the type of soil. As soon as it becomes possible to use water, wudu and ghusl have to be made with water.

e) Hair transplanted through tissue transplantation is considered as one’s own hair. It does not prevent wudu and ghusl. Hair that is planted on plastic skin and attached to the head is like a wig and prevents water from entering the skin and hence prevents wudu and ghusl.

f) Those who have dentures must remove them while making ghusl. If it is easy for them to remove them while making wudu, they will do so; if it is difficult, they will not because it is fard to wash the mouth in ghusl and sunnah in wudu.

g) Those who cannot wash their feet while making wudu or ghusl due to their disability, if it is possible to get help from someone else at home and make wudu’, they wear khuffs and wipe over them throughout the day. If they cannot wash their feet and have no one to help, it is enough for them to wipe their feet. It is permissible to wipe the boots on the condition that they are clean and have been worn with wudu’.

h) Those who cannot perform their prayers standing due to an illness or a pain in their knees perform their prayers by leaning on something; and those who cannot pray like that perform prayers by sitting; and those who cannot perform prayers by sitting perform them by lying on their back or on their side and extending their feet towards the qiblah. “Ima (Gesture)” means bowing the head in prayer to indicate ruku’ and sajdah. It can be done by standing or sitting, lying on one’s side or on one’s back. While lying on the side, the person lies facing the qiblah; while lying on the back, the feet face the qiblah, and a pillow is placed under the head to direct the face toward the qibla.

According to Abu Hanifa, those who cannot perform the prayer by standing or sitting, or by gesturing with their heads as they lie down postpone their prayers. According to Abu Yusuf, those who are unable to gesture with their heads perform their prayers by gesturing with their eyes and eyebrows.

According to Imam Shafi, those who are not able to perform prayers by gesturing with their eyes and eyebrows perform their prayers by gesturing with their hearts.

i) Those who cannot sit on the ground or cannot bend their knees perform their prayers by sitting on a stool or something similar. Imran Ibn Husayn, one of the Companions, narrates: "I was suffering from hemorrhoids. I asked the Prophet (pbuh) how to perform prayers. He said, “Perform your prayers standing. If you cannot perform them standing, sit. If you cannot perform them sitting, lie down on your side.” (Bukhari, Taqsir, 19)

A person who can stand to pray for a while stands and then sits down and completes his prayer. A person who can only say the takbir of iftitah standing up, utters the takbir by standing and then sits down and continues his prayer.

j) A person who cannot fully bow in sajdah due to his disability or illness does not have to raise his place of sajdah with something like a chair or a pillow. He performs ruku’ and sajdahs by gesturing and bowing as much as he can.

k) Those who cannot find clothes to wear sit on the ground and stretch their feet, covering their front and back private parts; those who do not know the qiblah perform their prayers by turning toward the direction where they think qiblah is.

l) Those who cannot go to mosque due to snow, rain, darkness, sickness, disability and security are not obliged to perform Friday and eid prayers because Friday prayer is not fard for very old people who are incapable of walking and those who are afraid of an increase in or prolongation of their illness.

m) According to Hanafi scholars, performing fard prayers in congregation, except for Friday prayers, is a sunnah for men who can do it. Therefore, women, physically disabled, sick and very old people do not have to go to mosque to pray in congregation. According to Shafi’i scholars, it is fard al-kifayah to perform fard prayers in congregation in the mosque.

n) Visually impaired people have to perform wudu, ghusl and prayer. If those people can go to mosque themselves or if they have helpers who can take them to mosque, they go to mosque for prayers, especially Friday prayers. (Muslim, Masajid, 255. I, 452) Abdullah Ibn Ummi Maktum asked permission not to go to the mosque, saying that he was old and visually impaired and that his house was far away and there was no guide for him. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Do you hear the call to prayer?” He said, “Yes”. Thereupon, the messenger of Allah said, “I cannot find a permission for you.” (Abu Dawud, Salah, 46)

According to Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad, Friday prayer is fard for the visually impaired people who have a guide to take them to Friday prayer. It is not fard according to other mujtahids.

There is unanimous agreement that Friday prayer is not fard for visually impaired people who do not have a guide to take them to Friday prayer.

o) If hearing and speech-impaired people have not been able to memorize verses of the Quran and supplications, they are obliged to perform their prayers by performing other fards, wajibs and sunnahs of the prayer other than “reading the Quran and supplication”.

2. Fasting:

a) Physically disabled people who are sane and have reached the age of puberty are obliged to fast during Ramadan unless they are sick. It is not fard for people who are too sick to endure fasting or who are too old to fast. (al-Baqara, 2/185)

b) People who are medically known that they will be ill or their illness will increase if they fast do not have to fast during Ramadan. Such people perform fasting later when they recover.

c) If it is clear that they will not be able to perform fasting later due to their permanent illnesses or being very old, they pay fidyah to “feed a poor” every day. (al-Baqara, 2/184)

Ill people may delay their fasts during Ramadan, but when they recover, they make up for it.

d) Ill people who have no hope of recovery pay fidyah to the poor for every day they can’t fast if they have the means; Allah does not keep those who do not have the means to pay fidyah responsible.

d) Visually, hearing and speech impaired are obliged to fast if they are healthy.

3. Hajj and Umrah:

a) A person has to be physically able to perform hajj for the worship of Hajj to be fard for him. Those who are sick, paralyzed, disabled, invalid and too old to get on or off a vehicle on their own are not obliged to perform hajj and umrah because Allah has made hajj fard “for those who can afford the journey”. (see Aal-i Imran, 3/97)

Hajj and umrah are deeds of worship done with the body.

b) Mujtahids have different opinions on whether or not Hajj is fard for visually impaired people if they meet other conditions. According to the famous narration from Abu Hanifa about visually impaired people, hajj is not fard for a visually impaired person even if he has economic power and someone to accompany him. (see Aal-i Imran, 3/97)

According to the view preferred by Imam Shafi, Imam Muhammad and Imam Abu Yusuf, if a visually impaired person has economic power and someone to accompany him, he is obliged to perform hajj and umrah.

Hearing and speech-impaired people are obliged to perform hajj and umrah if they have the means.

4. Zakah, sadaqah al-fitr and sacrifice:

If physically disabled, visually, hearing and speech impaired and ill Muslims are rich, they have to give zakah and sadaqah and sacrifice animals.

5. Other deeds of worship:

a) The physically handicapped can make any kind of civil transactions that they can do such as shopping, contracting, renting and witnessing.

b) Hearing and speech-impaired people can carry out transactions such as marriage and divorce in sign language; if they can read and write, it is more appropriate for them to reinforce such transactions with writing.

c) Mentally and physically disabled people and ill people are not obliged to participate in war. (see an-Nisa, 4/95; an-Nur, 24/61; al-Fath, 48/17)

d) Physically disabled, visually, hearing and speech impaired people are obliged to avoid harams such as fornication, theft, lying, perjury, slander, backbiting, drinking alcohol and gambling.

They are obliged to be truthful, to testify honestly, to perform dhikr, meditation and similar fard religious duties, to obey the orders and prohibitions of Allah and the Prophet to the extent that they can do.

In short, except for mental disability, no obstacle prevents Muslims from worshipping and serving Allah. Everyone is responsible for deeds of worship according to their strength.

Being disabled is not a fault. The value of the servant in the sight of Allah is not related to people’s language, skin color, physical structure and country, but their belief, sincerity, taqwa, righteous deeds, worship and high ethics.

Real disability is not being able to understand, to see, to tell and to practice the truth.

(Assoc. Prof. İsmail KARAGÖZ)

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