What is the ruling of performing Salāh whilst seated on a chair?
Beware of the Chair
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
و صلى الله على النبي الكريم
As long as a person is able to stand, it will not be permissible for him to sit unless he in incapable of performing Sajdah, which will then allow him to sit. Those who are incapable of Qiyām and performing Sajdah (prostrating), they must perform their Salāh whilst sitting on the ground, but not on a chair.
If sitting on a floor is extremely difficult for a person who is incapable of performing Sajdah, then it will be permissible for him to sit on a chair and complete his Salāh by means of indication. Unfortunately, there is a lot of carelessness attributed to this Mas’ala (ruling) nowadays and there is a dire need for it to be rectified.
Commonly nowadays, we find that due to a mild fever, slight headache or any other minor inconvenience, Salāh is performed whilst sitting on chairs, whereas the very same people will stand and spend long hours in vain talks. In current times we could say that those people who sit and perform their Salāh while on the other hand they would spend innumerous hours standing in their shops and other such activities; should take full precaution with regards to this matter. It is Fardh (compulsory) to repeat all those Farāidh and Wājib Salāh performed in the chair for those who have the ability to stand and perform Salāh.
It is apparent from the above mentioned quotations that it is not permissible to sit and perform Salāh whilst having the ability to stand; if one is unable to perform Sajdah then it will be permissible to sit on the floor/ground and perform Salāh, and still it will be impermissible to sit on a chair and perform Salāh.
If a person is able to stand but not able to perform Sajdah, then he is absolved from standing but that still does not mean that it will be permissible for him to sit on a chair. Qiyām falls away here as it is only a means of reaching the true object of Salāh, which is Sajdah. It will be best that Sajdah is performed whilst sitting on the ground as this form of sitting is very similar to Sajdah and is closer to the ground and indicates the objective of Salāh, which is submission to Allāh Ta’ālā. This is why it is better to sit on the ground if one is unable to stand as the object will not be gained whilst sitting on a chair.
Reasons to abstain from the chair:
1. Salāh is the symbol of submission and humility, as mentioned in al-Ashbāh: ‘Salāh is the highest form of humility and submission, where the servant surrenders to his master’ [Vol. 1 pg. 154] Sitting on the chair, though not intended, displays the opposite of submission, thus defeating the purpose and objective of Salāh.
2. Whilst in Salāh, a true servant should stand in front of Allāh Ta’ālā just as slaves would stand in front of a king, with utmost humility and respect. The Musalli must display his feebleness in Salāh just as a beggar, but the chair defeats this purpose. The Shariah recognises the weaknesses of human beings and the various conditions with which humans may be afflicted (such as sickness, old age etc.) and accordingly the Shariah has given concessions in various occasions. If the Musalli is unable to stand, he is permitted to sit on the ground.
3. There is no proof, neither during the blessed era of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم nor during the era of the Ṣahābah رضي الله عنهم, with regards to performing Salāh on the chair. Even though, the chair existed during that time, the weak, old-aged and the sickly did not use the chair to perform Salāh.
Therefore, there is a dire need for us to rethink the need of keeping chairs in our Masājid. As nowadays, the trend is that due to sheer laziness people have resorted to utilizing the chair for Salāh. The Qurān Shareef has termed laziness in Salāh as a sign of hypocrisy.
In this day and age, practical Islām is not to be found but in a few acts of worship, amongst which is fasting, Hajj and the discharge of Zakāh. Usually, these are restricted to a selected few. Salāh is the only act which is binding on all. If this sacred act is also destroyed, it will be a sad state of affairs for the Muslim Ummah at large.
1. Bayhaqi Vol. 2 pg. 435
2. Hashiyah al-Tahāwi Ala Maraqi al-Falāh Vol. 1 pg. 234
3. Fatāwā Alamgīrī vol. pg. 136
4. Kifāyatul mufti vol. 4 pg. 51