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Dear Brother / Sister,

Firstly, we think it is more appropriate to attribute the increase in the number of people performing prayers by sitting on chairs today compared to the people in the past to the consciousness of the people about prayers.

Having good thoughts about others fits us and is enough for us. We should not think that anybody will prefer sitting on a chair in order to perform a prayer easily when he is healthy and when he can perform a prayer properly. It is necessary to write about the states of excuse making it permissible to perform prayers sitting on a chair.

There are six pillars in a prayer. That is, there are six main acts that form a prayer. There are rules of performing these six acts properly (ta'dil al-arkan). These acts become pillars through those rules. From this point of view, to obey those rules is fard according to Shafii and Maliki madhhabs and Imam Abu Yusuf, one of the imams of Hanafi madhhab; it is wajib according to Abu Hanifa and Imam Muhammad. These pillars and the acts in them (ta'dil al-arkan) cannot be ignored arbitrarily. If they are ignored, the prayer will be harmed. To put it more clearly, if even one of those six pillars is missing, or if it is not performed properly, it will not be called a prayer.

If there is a pillar or ta'dil al-arkan that one is too weak to do, the necessity to do it is exempted. In that case, that person needs to do the acts that he can and try to act in accordance with ta'dil al-arkan as much as he can. For, the following is a definite principle of the Quran: “On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear!” (al-Baqara, 2/286) Our religion does not order anything that cannot be done.

Imran Ibn Husayn, one of the Companions, narrates: "I was suffering from hemorrhoids. I asked the Prophet (pbuh) how I shall perform prayers. He said,     

'Perform your prayers standing. If you cannot perform standing, sit. If you cannot perform sitting, lie down on your side.'" In the narration of the hadith in Nasai, the following addition exists: "If you cannot perform by lying down on your side, lie on your back. Allah does not place anybody a burden greater than he can bear." (Bukhari, Taqsir, 19; Tirmidhi, Mawaqit, 157; Abu Dawud, Salat, 175; Zaylai, Nasbu'r-Raya, II, 175)

As for the issue of how to sit in the prayer, according to Hanafis, a person needs to sit as in the sitting (tashahhud). If he cannot sit like that, he can sit as he wishes. According to Malikis, it is mandub for him to sit cross-legged except in prostration and tashahhud. According to Hanbalis, it is sunnah for him to sit cross-legged except in bowing down (ruku) and tashahhud. It is also permissible for him to sit as he wishes. According to Shafiis, it is sunnah for a person who performs prayers sitting to sit by spreading his feet under his body except in prostration and tashahhud. A person who cannot sit like that can sit as he wishes according to the four madhhabs.  

If a person who performs prayers sitting can bow down and prostrate, he needs to do them but if he cannot do them, he performs them through gestures. If a person who performs prayers sitting can bow down and prostrate, he needs to bow down and prostrate; if not, he needs to use his gestures. In that case, the gesture for prostration needs to be more inclined than the gesture for bowing down; it is wajib to do so. A person who can stand but cannot bow down and prostrate needs to use his gestures while standing for bowing down and prostration. In that case, it is necessary to bow more for the sajda than ruku.  

Standing is not obligatory in supererogatory prayers. However, it is necessary for a person who can do them to do them. For, there exists the principle of ease and tolerance in supererogatory prayers since they are abundant. The same ease is in question for the ill people who cannot stand in both fard and supererogatory prayers.

Islamic fiqh scholars unanimously agree that those who are too ill to stand in prayers do not have to stand. The evidence of it is the hadith reported by Imran b. Husayn we have mentioned above. If a person can perform qira'ah (reading the Quran) by standing even if it is one verse, he needs to stand long enough to read it.

Those who perform prayers sitting need to perform ruku and sajda to the extent that they can. If it is not possible for a person to bend or if it is harmful for him, he needs to gesture by his head. While gesturing, it is necessary to bend the head a bit more for prostration than bowing down. Thus, it becomes possible to differentiate between them.  

It is not necessary for a person who cannot bend fully in ruku and sajda or a person who performs prayers by gestures with his head to place something high before him. In fact, it was forbidden by a hadith. According to a narration by Jabir b. Abdillah,  Hz. Prophet (pbuh) went to see an ill person; when he saw him trying to prostrate on a pillow he placed before him, the Prophet removed the pillow and said, "If you can, perform prayers on the ground. If it is not possible, perform prayers by gestures. Bend a bit more in sajda than ruku." (Zaylai, ibid, 2/175 ff)

If an ill person cannot sit, he needs to lie on his back, make his feet face the qiblah and gesture for ruku and sajda. It is also permissible if he lies on his side by facing the qiblah and perform prayers by gesturing.

According to the majority of the Islamic fiqh scholars, a person who cannot gesture by his head needs to gesture by his eyes; if he cannot do it by his head and eyes, he needs to do it by his heart. He cannot abandon prayers if he is sane.

In conclusion, the limit for the ease for an ill person regarding prayers is gesturing by the head according to Hanafis, by the eye or intention according to Malikis, and following the parts of the prayer by the heart according to Shafiis and Hanbalis.

As for the use of a chair, the following options can be offered to the ill people:

1. If a person who cannot perform ta'dil al-arkan while standing and bowing down can perform ta'dil al-arkan in prostration and tashahhud, he is not allowed to sit for prostration and tashahhud. This person can use a chair as a support for standing and/or bowing down. However, it is fard for him to perform ta'dil al-arkan in prostration and tashahhud.

2. . If a person who can perform ta'dil al-arkan while standing and bowing down but cannot perform ta'dil al-arkan in prostration and tashahhud, he needs to prostrate if he can by stretching his legs or some other way. He can sit by turning toward the qiblah as he wishes. If he cannot touch the ground/floor with his forehead, he can perform prostration and tashahhud as he wishes (by sitting or lying).   

3. A person can use a chair as a support for any of the six pillars of prayer that he cannot perform ta'dil al-arkan without a chair. He is not allowed to use a chair for the other pillars that he can perform ta'dil al-arkan without a chair.

4. If a person is too ill and old to perform prayers without leaning on somewhere, he can perform prayers by leaning. It is makruh for a person to lean if he can perform prayers without leaning.

5. Situations like the ground being muddy, the caravan not waiting for a person, the horse, camel, etc being grumpy and difficult to control when one dismounts can be used as an excuse to perform a prayer on horseback, camelback, etc. From this point of view, it can be said that a person who has difficulty in sitting or standing can perform his prayers by sitting on a chair.    

6. To have peace of mind while praying is also important. If a person suffers when he performs a prayer sitting and if he feels all right on a chair, he can perform prayers by sitting on a chair.

Note: The decree of the Turkish Directorate of the Religious Affairs regarding the issue is as follows:

Prayer is a kind of worship in which a person approaches Allah the most. Due to this quality, the Prophet (pbuh) defines prayer as the best deed (Ibn Majah, Taharah, 4) and states that the first thing man will be questioned about on the Day of Judgment is prayer.  (Tirmidhi, Salat, 188) Therefore, a person is not allowed to abandon prayers and he is demanded to perform prayers even if by gestures. Hz. Prophet (pbuh) said, "Allah's protection will be away from a person who abandons performing prayers deliberately." (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, VI. 421)

The pillars of prayer are stated in the Quran and Sunnah; the Prophet (pbuh) himself explained orally and practically how to perform prayers. Those pillars are the takbir of iftitah (opening), standing, qira'ah (reading the Quran), bowing down (ruku), prostration (sajda) and the last sitting. Allah said, "Stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind)" (al-Baqara, 2/238) "O ye who believe! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper." (al-Hajj, 22/77) Hz. Prophet (pbuh) taught a Companion how to pray and showed how to do tashahhud at the end; he said, "When you do this, your prayer will be complete." (Tirmidhi, Abwabu's-Salat, 226)

If one of those pillars is omitted without any excuse, the prayer will not be valid. However, in our religion, responsibilities are determined based on the power of a person (al-Baqara, 2/286); the principle of easiness is introduced for the situations that a person cannot cope with (al-Baqara, 2/185). The disorders that prevent a person from performing any of the pillars of the prayer are regarded as excuses.   

Accordingly, a person who cannot perform prayers properly by standing can perform them by sitting. Such a person can perform prayers by kneeling down, sitting cross-legged or stretching his legs toward the qiblah based on his state. When a Companion who was ill asked the Prophet (pbuh) how to perform prayers, he said, "Perform prayers standing. If you cannot perform them standing, sit or lie down on your side." (Bukhari, Taqsiru's-Salat, 19)

A person who can stand and can sit but who cannot prostrate needs to start prayer standing, sit after ruku and prostrate by gestures.

A person who can stand but cannot stand up after sitting starts prayer standing and completes his prayer sitting after prostrating.

A person who can stand and can perform ruku but cannot sit starts prayer standing; after ruku, he performs prostration by gestures by sitting on a stool or something like that.

A person who cannot stand and cannot sit on the ground/floor sits on a stool, chair, etc and performs ruku and sajda by gestures. 

When a person worships his Lord, he should be sincere and try to fulfill the formal conditions determined by the religion. He should be aware of the fact that he will be held responsible because of the lack of efforts and sensitiveness. Therefore, the excuses a believer makes in order to perform prayers on a chair, stool, etc should persuade his conscience. Slight bodily disorders that will not prevent performing prayers properly should not be put forward as acceptable excuses.    

On the other hand, to perform prayers on chairs in mosques without any compulsory and religiously acceptable excuses causes an unpleasant appearance in mosques and leads to quarrels among the congregation. Placing fixed benches and chairs in mosques with the purpose of performing prayers does not comply with the ambiance and culture of mosques. Therefore, it is more appropriate for those who have some illnesses and excuses to perform their prayers by sitting on the ground/floor than on a chair, stool, etc.

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