Joining prayers due to an illness
Is it permissible to join prayers when one is ill? If so, what are the conditions?
The importance of prayer
Prayer is one of the pillars of Islam and it is to faith what the head is to the body. Both the Qur`an and sunnah demonstrate its great importance. Islam further places great emphasis on its observance and on respecting the prescribed times of its performance. God the Almighty says, “For such prayers are enjoined on Believers at stated times” [An-Nisaa`, 103]. Ibn Umar (may God be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Islam has been built on five [matters]: testifying that there is no God save Allah, observing prayers, paying zakat, performing hajj, and fasting Ramadan” [recorded by Bukhari and Muslim].
A Muslim is commanded to observe prayers at all times. This applies whether he is a resident or traveler, during times of security and fear, peace and war, and even during the most difficult situations when fear is at its most intense such as when Muslims are at battle with the enemy. God the Almighty says, “Guard strictly your (habit) of prayers. Especially the Middle Prayer; And stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind). If ye fear (an enemy), pray on foot, or riding, (as may be most convenient), but when ye are in security, celebrate Allah’s praises in the manner He has taught you, which ye knew not (before)” [Al-Baqarah, 238-9] i.e. pray during times of fear and war, on foot or riding in the manner most convenient for you without bowing or prostrating but with gestures, and without necessarily facing the direction of prayer. God the Almighty says, “To Allah belong the East and the West: whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah’s face. For Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing” [Al-Baqarah, 115].
It has been established that prayers may be joined only for an excuse. It is permissible to join the noon prayer and midafternoon prayer during the time of either of them and to pray the sunset prayer with the night prayer provided that the intention for joining the two prayers is made before the time of midafternoon or the time of night enters. Excuses that permit joining prayers include illness and muddy terrain in analogy to travel, the common element being hardship. Anas said, “When the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) started a journey before the sun passed its zenith, he would delay the noon prayer to the time when he would stop for the midafternoon prayer and join both prayers” [recorded by Bukhari and Muslim]. Mu’adh said, “We were with the Prophet at the battle of Tabuk. He joined the noon and midafternoon prayers and the sunset and night prayers” [recorded by Muslim].
Al-Nawawi wrote in Al-Majmu’ (4/383), “Al-Qadi Hasan said: ‘It is permissible to join [prayers] at the time of the earlier or later prayer due to fear or an illness as one would while traveling. It is preferable do whatever is easier for one. Al-Mutwally substantiated this opinion and deemed it strong. Al-Rafi’i said, ‘Malik and Ahmad maintained that it is permissible to join prayers due to an illness or to muddy terrain. The imams of our school who include Abu Sulayman Al-Khatabi and Al-Qadi Hussein opined the same, while Al-Ruyani sanctioned this opinion in Al-Hilya. I said, “This is a very strong opinion and attesting to it is the report of Ibn Abbas who said, “The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) joined prayers in Al-Medina although he was not in a state of fear and there was no rain” [recorded by Muslim]. From this, it is deduced that joining prayers is permissible due to an illness or an excuse which is of the same or lesser degree and because the need of a person who is ill or in a state of fear is greater than that due to rain.”
And God the Almighty knows best.