Question: I am heavily pregnant and praying is difficult. Can pregnant women pray sitting down?
Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuhu
The answer will differ for each woman.
The basis is that a pregnant woman performs the prayer as it has been prescribed with its integrals (arkan) and obligatory acts (fara’id). However, there may be genuine cases when praying according to the usual manner is either extremely difficult or practically impossible.
For example, a woman who is in her first trimester may become dizzy while she prays standing, or a woman in her last trimester may find hardship in bowing and prostrating for her prayers. Some women may experience severe back pain if they are very heavy. Others may be bedridden due to secondary circumstances.
Islam is a religion of ease and mercy. Allah Most High says: “Allah does not charge a soul except (with that within) its capacity.” [Qu’ran 2:286].
In the Hanafi madhhab, standing is an integral (rukn) for the validity of the obligatory (fard) prayer, witr prayer, and sunna prayer of Fajr – meaning that it is not acceptable to pray these prayers except by way of standing. However, if one is genuinely unable to stand – or standing causes undue hardship – then the obligation to stand is lifted.
With regards to the remaining sunna and nafl prayers, standing is not an integral, and one may pray them sitting at any time. However, if they are performed while sitting in the absence of a lawful excuse, one receives only half the reward of the prayer.
How To Pray Without Standing
If one cannot pray while standing, the Hanafi scholars outline how to pray:
- If one finds difficulty in praying while standing, then one stands for the length that one is physically able, even if it is only to the extent of saying the opening takbir (Allahu Akbar) or reciting a single verse while standing.
- If one cannot pray standing, then one prays sitting, but one rises for bowing (ruku’) and performs the prostration (sujud) directly on the floor.
- If one cannot prostrate on the floor, then one prays sitting with head movements. This category also applies to a person who can stand or bow but cannot prostrate.
- If one cannot pray sitting, then one prays with head movements while lying on one’s back or side, preferably facing the qibla.
A pregnant woman will resort to her reasonable surety (ghalabat ʾl-zhann) to determine the severity of the hardship entailed by praying while standing and which category she falls into from the aforementioned list.
Reasonable surety is known through one of three ways:
- a similar, past experience;
- the advice of a skilled, Muslim doctor who is outwardly religious;
- or apparent signs that indicate one’s dire state.
Lastly, each of these positions are explained in detail with pictures in this article: The Sick Person’s Prayer With Pictures.
It would be a good idea to also read this article about praying during labor: Five Must-Know Rulings For Praying During Labor.
Jazak Allah khayran
- Imam Ala al-Din Abidin, الهدية العلائية
- Imam ibn Abidin, رد المحتار على الدر المختار
- Imam Shurunbulali, مراقي الفلاح
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