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How Does One Pray When Dealing with Health Issues?

3440405641_98f6f70c99_bThe Question

I have some health problems which reduce my mobility to the extent that salah (prayer) is not practical. Where can I find alternatives? I would like to pray but I do not wish to cause offense. I have researched online but cannot find any information.

One of my many health problems includes chronic sepsis, a serious condition that is not expected to heal. This means that I bleed from open wounds in my abdomen and pelvis. I have had this condition for over 10 years, and there is no sign of the bleeding slowing. I am concerned that this will compromise wudhu immediately. Also, I have lost my intestines through disease and therefore require a stoma (my intestine exits through the front of my stomach). Would this also compromise wudhu, and is there a practice that would not cause offense?

The Answer

Islam is a religion of mercy and compassion. It recognizes the plight of people, taking into consideration their abilities and weaknesses. One of the most important principles in Islamic law is “the Removal of Harm.” A Qur’anic verse states, “And He (Allah) did not make any hardship for you in religion.” In a hadith, the Prophet ﷺ said, “Islam is ease.”

In light of these major principles, your situation is considered seriously. While some scholars consider blood as impure, the stronger opinion is that it is not and that one can pray with it on their clothes, especially in the case of illness. In fact, if blood flow is due to illness then the opinion that it is impure is null since the person has no control over its flow.  It is permissible based on the Maliki opinion that one who works around blood, such as a butcher, is exempt from this since keeping his clothes free of blood is impossible. The same applies to you, since it is not possible for you to keep it from yourself or your clothes.

As for your intestinal bag, it is  out of your control. If you are able to keep it from spilling on yourself, or your clothes, then that is best. If not, then you can pray, but it is better to keep some clean garments that you pray with, if possible. This is based on the opinion that when one does not have control over something, he is not obligated by it. The axiom states, “There is no obligation in shari`ah in the face of real weakness.”

If making wudhu will contribute to your illness, then you are exempted from it, according to the scholars of the Maliki rite, and should simply make dry ablution. If you cannot do either, as noted by al-Dasuqi (a well-respected scholar), then your intention for purity is enough and you can pray without it based on the Prophet’s statement “Actions are by intentions” and the axiom “Goals are based on intent.”

As for the prayer itself, it is not advisable for you to attend the masjid in such a state. Thus, you are permitted to pray at home, and if you are unable to stand, then you can pray sitting and if you cannot sit and pray, then you can pray lying down as best you can.

Finally, I would like to remind you that being sick has a number of blessings:

  • Your sins are forgiven.
  • Your stations are raised with Allah (subhana wa ta’ala – glory be unto Him).

We are here as your brothers and sisters in faith. We pray that Allah (swt) will cure you, and we ask that you remember us in your prayers.

Allah knows best.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

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  • salam
    jazhakallah khair for that. I was just in the masjid today, and the imam was just too fast for the older women in our group. ok, the imam can’t see who’s struggling to get up after the sajda… but i suppose that a 10 min surah and a bouncy sajda race are just too much for the older people trying to come for congregational prayer. I would love to see more of them in the masjid, the youngsters would behave differently. Is it just here or is there a huge void of old people in masjids everywhere else?

  • This is so humbling, reading this persons question.

    Us with health, pay such less heed to the precision of our actions whilst we pray, in the rush of our everyday… and here is a person, with so many things that stand in his way medically, yet his being yearns to find a way around it just to supplicate and attend to the call fardh upon us!

    sub haan Allah!

    Alhumdulillah!!!

    Thank so very much for sharing…

    Question: Is there a way to directly subscribe to your posts, into my email?

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