“And perform Salaah (prayer) and give Zakah (mandatory alms), and bow down along with those who bow” [Al-Baqarah 2:43]
Allah SWT has blessed us Muslims with a complete code of life in the form of our religion Islam. Islam guides all aspects of our lives. From our birth to everyday life until our death, there is no area that Islam does not cover.
As Muslims, there are a certain set of obligations and responsibilities that we have to fulfill concerning our social lives as well as our relationship to our Master. Our religious duties include the five daily Salahs, fasting the month of Ramadan, giving mandatory alms (zakaah), and performing hajj of the Ka'ba. The way to perform these acts of ibadah is explained by the Messenger of Allah Muhammad PBUH. Whether we perform ibadah physically such as salah, fasts, and hajj, or monetarily in the form of zakah, we are required to do these acts the way our Prophet PBUH taught us.
Infirmity and ibadah
If people are infirmed with disabling conditions – or have any other physical inabilities (discussed below), their ibadah, especially the five daily prayers, may be affected. The main problem includes the inability to perform ruku and sujood properly and the inability to stand in qiyaam. These conditions can cause persons so affected to feel like they are falling behind in their ibadah. But Allah SWT with His infinite mercy has provided a blessing of Rukhsah ibadah for such people.
The concept of Rukhsah ibadah:
Rukhsah is an Arabic word that refers to a technical term in the discipline of Islamic Law that is mostly applied on ibadah.
It is a special allowance from performing an obligatory act or from submitting to a prohibition, as a result of a mitigating circumstance (ʿudhr). The result is the replacement of a command with an easier alternative in cases of need or pressure.
This is a kind of permission found in the Quran in cases of illness or inability due to an inevitable condition or situation. The permission to eat prohibited food in cases of emergency to avoid death by starvation (Al Quran 5:3), and the recommendation to use sand instead of water for purification when water is not available, called tayammum (Al Quran 4:43, 5:6). Also, the exemption of fasting the month of Ramadan for menstruating women, ill people, travelers, pregnant and breastfeeding women is known as rukhṣa. Rukhsah ibadahs include salah and its obligatory parts i.e. qiyaam (the standing), ruku (the bending), sujood (the prostration), and wudhu.
In this article, we are going to be discussing different conditions and infirmities where a person is allowed to perform Rukhsa ibadah and the way of doing it.
Infirmities and disabling conditions:
Any condition or any illness that limits a person's physical abilities or injures their mental health because of it, can be included in disabling conditions/infirmities. These conditions can be by birth, due to an injury, or a progressive medical condition that worsens with time leading to physical disabilities.
Blindness/ visual impairment:
Visual impairment or blindness can be by birth or caused by a medical condition such as diabetes which progresses to cause damage to the visual ability of the patient. At the time of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, there was a blind sahabi named Abdullah ibn umm makhtoom (RA).
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (RA) reports that a blind man came to Rasulullah (SAW) and said: ‘O Rasulullah, I don’t have a guide to walk me to the masjid for salah.’ He then asked Rasulullah (SAW) to allow him to offer his [fard] salah at home. Rasulullah (SAW) permitted him. When this blind person turned to leave, Nabi (SAW) called him back and asked: ‘Do you hear the adhan?’ He replied: ‘Yes.’ Rasulullah (SAW) then said: ‘Then respond.’ [i.e, attend] (Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 1484)
So a blind person is not exempted from salah and congregational salah.
Standing during prayer is an obligatory pillar, which cannot be omitted. It is not permissible for people to pray while seated unless they are unable to stand, or standing is very difficult for them, or they are ill and there is a concern that their illness may become worse if they pray while standing.
Bone and joint problems, such as chronic arthritis, which cause severe pain while bending for ruku or sujood and standing in qiyaam, often worsen with physical activity and may require bed rest. In such conditions, Rukhsah salah can be performed as proven from the hadeeth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW):
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to ‘Imraan ibn Husayn: "Pray while standing; if you cannot, then sitting; and if you cannot, then lying on your side."
Al-Bukhaari, Abu Dawood and al-Nasaa’i, also narrated it, which added: “If you cannot, then lying on your back, and Allaah does not burden any soul beyond its scope.”
Injuries to the spinal cord or which affect the legs and ability to stand or bend properly allow the affected person to perform rukhsah salah. In some cases, the person may be unable to stand or the injury may worsen from the stretch of ruku or sujood; so in such cases, we see the hadeeth mentioned above, and salah is done accordingly. In cases of such injuries, wudhu also may be problematical because it may worsen the injury. In such a case, tayammum may be an option.
With age, people may lose their physical abilities and strength. The quality of their ibadah also may be affected. Normal bending and bowing even may cause fractures or other serious injuries. Such people should not risk their health and instead choose rukhsah salah either sitting or lying down, depending on their health condition.
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Qur'an, 2:286).
Performing rukhsah ibadah:
Rukhsah ibadah is a blessing from Allah and proof of the statement that 'Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear”.
Wudhu is an obligatory act of purification required to perform salah and other acts of worship. In rukhsah ibadah, Allah has permitted people to wipe over or do masah. For example, in case of head injuries, patients can wipe over their wound dressing.
Tayammum is a form of wudhu performed with dust instead of water when water is not available. For a person who is bedridden and cannot find assistance to perform wudhu, they can use dust from any surface to perform tayammum.
Rukhsah salah is the permissibility of praying while sitting, lying down, or through gestures. It is a blessing of Allah that a person who might be completely immobile can perform salah through gestures or even through their eyes.
Overcoming disability/infirmity and empowering yourself:
“No Muslim is pricked with a thorn, or anything larger than that, except that a hasanah (good deed) will be recorded for him and a sin will be erased as a reward for that“ (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
We can observe something wonderful in how our Prophet Muhammad PBUH treated people with disabilities: He would make every effort to make them feel they are a part of the ummah (nation) in every single way, and would want them to participate and not feel out of place at all.
Amr ibn Al-Gamouh was a lame man. However, he insisted on participating with the Muslims in the battle of Uhud where he was martyred. The Prophet (SAW) passed by his body and said, “As though I could see you walking with this leg of yours, being heard, in Paradise” (Authenticated by Al-Albaanee).
It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) left Ibn Umm Maktoum twice as his successor in Madina to lead the prayer, though he was blind (Ahmad).
And it is reported on the authority of `A’ishah (RA) that Ibn Umm Maktoum was a muezzin of Allah’s Messenger (SAW) though he was blind (Muslim).
It is narrated via Sa`id ibn Al-Mosayyab (may Allah have mercy on him) that when Muslims would go on their expeditions, they used to leave those among them who were chronically ill, submit the keys of their doors to them, saying, “We have made it lawful for you to partake of our “food” (Ar-Razi).
We see from these examples that Prophet Muhammad PBUH desired for disabled and infirmed people to participate and be part of Muslim society as much as everyone else.
“Allah looks at neither your appearances nor your wealth; rather, He looks at your hearts and your deeds” (Muslim).
Salah is an obligation upon us all, whether we are ill, infirmed, or disabled, we are all created for the sole purpose to worship Our Master. It may be difficult at times to perform the act of salah or to purify oneself through wudhu, so Allah SWT has blessed us with the convenience of masah over wudhu socks. These strong and durable socks were traditionally made from leather, but leather socks have many problems themselves. Thankfully modern technology has given us new innovative materials that overcome the drawbacks of leather socks. The Wudhu Socks uses this modern technology to make waterproof yet breathable – comfortable! – socks for wudhu. Now Muslims who find it difficult to perform wudhu five times a day because of any possible reason can benefit from the convenience and comfort of The Wudhu Socks. Head to their website www.TheWudhuSocks.com for more information and to see if they are right for you.