Pregnancy and Prayer
- January 28, 2013
- Posted by: Anse Tamara Gray
- Category: Guest Blog Pregnancy
Then reality sets in…
At this point the last thing on her mind may be the prayer, yet in this state, as in every state of the Muslim, it must be the first thing on her mind. Jabir b. Abdullah (r) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (s) saying: ‘Between a man and polytheism and unbelief is the non-performance of prayer.’” (Sahih Muslim)
A pregnant woman may feel as though she is now invincible – I remember myself, four months pregnant with my first child; I had a vague, though not articulated, feeling that immortality had come upon me with the presence of this baby. I didn’t realize I had this feeling until I read in the local paper of a woman who had died in a plane accident – she was four months pregnant. I cried for the woman, and then cried for my foolish self. There is a sacredness of pregnancy to be sure; but no guarantee. Here, as in every other stage of life, we must take seriously our obligations to our Lord first and foremost, before even our obligations to our self and/or our unborn child.
Our personal obligations to Allah (swt) are compounded by the trust we carry in our wombs. For the prayer is certainly something the baby is interacting with. I remember Ramadan 1991; I was six months pregnant with my second child. Every evening when I would stand to pray taraweeh, she would wake up and do somersaults. I started to say, “Ok time to wake up, we are about to pray.”
Babies get their first exposure to the outside world through their mothers. While there are not any studies that I am aware of about the positive effects of salah on the unborn child, there are plenty about the negative effect of stress on the unborn child. Dr. Katrina Johnson of Emory University speaks to the problem of stress on the unborn child, “When we are stressed, a series of chemical changes is set off in our bodies and brains, such as the release of cortisol and adrenaline. … Stress hormones in the mother’s body do reach the baby. When a pregnant woman is chronically stressed or experiences extreme stress, the baby may be exposed to unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which can impact the baby’s brain development. Chronic or extreme maternal stress may also cause changes in the blood flow to the baby, making it difficult to carry oxygen and other important nutrients to the baby’s developing organs. In addition, chronically or severely stressed mothers may feel overwhelmed and fatigued which might impact their diet and sleep habits and consistency of prenatal care. All of these factors may help explain how maternal stress during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the unborn child.”
She continues, “Importantly, studies are beginning to examine what factors might help buffer the effects of stress during pregnancy…” Your unborn child hears you pray, feels the movement of the prayer – day in and day out. It is a protection and the beginning of his own spiritual life. Your prayer helps you deal with your daily life, and brings about a peace in your soul that you share with your baby. The recitation of Quran that your child hears, and the rhythmic movements that your child joins you in day in and day out, are all part of a deep habit that you are establishing and will stay with him until his final day.
It is interesting to note that a woman does not pray during menstruation, yet she does not stop praying during pregnancy. Whether she is vomiting in the morning or squinting her eyes with a headache at night, the prayer must still be prayed.
During the nine-ten months of pregnancy, she will face many physical difficulties, days of exhaustion, and some nights without sleep. It is important to have knowledge of the prayer, so that she never misses what is essential, and can complete her prayer without worrying about not giving it its due. Indeed, `Uthman b. `Affan (r) tells us that he heard the Prophet (s) say, “Not a single Muslim prepares for a written prayer, and makes good his wudu’, his presence in the prayer (khushu`), and his ruku` but that it is a penance for him for all that came before of sin, that which was not of a major sin, and this is for all time.” (Sahih Muslim)
Obligations of Prayer:
Salah has many layers. There are those aspects of the prayer that are absolutely necessary for it to be considered ‘salah’, and there are those aspects that enrich it and make it a more complete prayer. Schools of thought agree on most of what is absolutely necessary.
1. The intention: `Umar (r) has narrated that the Prophet (s) said, “Indeed deeds are in their intentions…” and the prayer’s most important act is the intention. It is a “heartfelt determination or firm resolve to perform an act or worship for the sake of drawing near to God alone.” All four schools agree that salah is not valid without the intention. So pregnancy brain or not – before every prayer, pause and make sure you know the number of rak`ahs you are about to pray, which prayer you are about to pray, and that you are about to offer this prayer to the Lord of the worlds, Almighty God, may He be glorified.
2. The takbirat al ihram – or saying Allahu Akbarto commence the prayer: All four schools agree that it is necessary to say Allahu Akbar to begin the prayer. And that once these words have been uttered we have entered into a sacred presence, one that must not be sullied by any action or words that are outside the act of praying. The Prophet (s) said, “We open the way for prayer by cleansing ourselves of ritual impurity; we sanctify it with the takbir, and we conclude it with the greeting of peace.” For those of us who were not born with an Arabic tongue, it is worth it to learn to pronounce this phrase correctly.
3. Standing: It is this obligation of the prayer that a pregnant woman need pay heed to, for all schools agree that standing is an obligation in every rak`ah if the person praying is capable. In non-obligatory prayers (sunnah) the schools agree that the prayer can be performed from a seated position even if the person is capable of standing. For obligatory prayers, however, if you can stand to do the dishes, you need to stand to do the prayer.
4. The Fatiha: The Shafi`is, Malikis, and Hanbalis all agree that the Fatiha must be recited in each rak`ah. The Hanafis opinion is a little more complicated, but for the purposes of this particular article, they also agree that the Fatiha should be recited in all the rak`ahs of prayer.
5. Ruku`: All the schools agree that one must bow in ruku’ if they are capable of it. There is a difference in opinion about how much of a bow is necessary to fulfill this obligation. If your protruding stomach does not get in the way, then you should prostrate fully. If you have bladder issues that are aggravated by a full bow you may lessen it as long as you bow to some degree.
6. Sujud: All schools agree that the person performing her salah must prostrate twice for each rak`ah. The actual position of the bow differs according to the different schools, but all agree that your forehead, nose, hands, knees and toes must face the Qibla. In pregnancy, you and your baby prostrate together to Allah the Most High.
7. To rise to a standing position after ruku`
8. To rise to a sitting position after each sujud
9. To rise from the position of sitting after the second sujud to a position of standing for the next rak`ah.
10. To pause: When a person rises to the standing position or the sitting position in between ruku` and sujud, she should pause and not rush into the next movement.
11. The final sitting
12. The final testimony
13. The greeting of peace
14. The order of the movements of prayer
Pregnancy and the movements of prayer:
For a pregnant woman, it is the movements of the prayer that could possibly be difficult or impossible for her to do at different times throughout her pregnancy:
1. The Obligation of Standing: In general if she can stand to talk on the phone, or to do the dishes, or to wait in line, it is an obligation to stand in the prayer. Feeling tired is not an excuse to leave the qiyam and to pray sitting. If it is a sunnah prayer, then she may pray sitting, but if an obligatory prayer all the schools agree that standing is an obligatory part of the prayer. The Prophet (s) said, “Indeed the prayer standing is preferred, and who sits in prayer receives half the reward, and who prays lying down receives half of he who is sitting.” (Sahih Bukhari) It is a blessing that the sunnah prayers are acceptable sitting, so that if she is tired, she can increase her worship without hardship; for half the reward is better than no reward. However, it is important to stand for the obligatory prayers if she is able.
2. Praying as an ill person: If there are complications in the pregnancy that cause the mother to fear for her own health or the health of the baby, she may pray as an ill person.
a. The ruling is that, if standing for the prayer will increase the symptoms or delay her recovery, she may pray from a sitting position.
i. In the case where she is on bed rest, and cannot stand to perform the prayer, she can sit. In this case if she can stand to go to the bathroom, she should begin her prayer standing and, after the takbir, she may sit to complete it.
ii. If she cannot stand at all, she may begin her prayer from a sitting position.
iii. If she cannot even sit, she may pray with her head, and if she cannot do anything but move her eyes, or gesture in her heart, she is required to do so (the Hanafis take exception to this particular rule).
b. If she is well enough to stand during the qiyam, but cannot do the full ruku` or sujud, she may gesture or indicate the ruku` and prostration, either from the standing position or from a sitting position. In either case the ruku` must not be as low as the sujud.
A pregnant woman is not automatically an ill person. As long as she is healthy she should perform her obligatory prayers as any other healthy person. She may decide to pray tahajjud, and her sunnah prayers sitting – especially if nausea, headaches, or at the end, heaviness, leave her weary. On the other hand, if she is suffering complications, she must not skip her prayer but take upon herself the ease of this beautiful religion, and pray her prayers sitting or lying down.
It is a world of the educated pregnant woman. She who carefully chooses what she ingests, and reads article after article about her baby’s development. In this context, it is crucial that the Muslim woman recognize the importance of prayer in her life. Just as she ingests organic dairy products and green leafy vegetables because she knows that the cells of her unborn child are dependent on her to feed them well, she must also perfect her prayer, stand, bow, and prostrate to the best of her physical ability, realizing that the soul of her unborn child is dependent upon her as well.
May Allah guide us to carry the amanah (trust) of the child in our womb- that we may prepare him and/or her in the best of ways physically and spiritually. And may we be ever cognizant of our first and foremost obligation – that of servant to our Lord; of which the prayers prayed correctly and on time is a primary obligation. Ameen.
 Islamic Jurisprudence according to the Four Schools; 2009 pg. 275
ASA and JAK for the post. One issue not mentioned here is that of dizziness – I think comparing standing for prayer to standing to wash the dishes is not quite an equal comparsion, because washing the dishes does not involve moving from prostrate on the floor directly to standing. I’m currently 38 weeks pregnant and found from 5 or 6 months that completing one rakah would leave my head spinning and me reeling, and for that reason chose to complete most of my prayers sitting. This is my second viable pregnancy and I didn’t have this issue with the first, and prayed standing then, but I believe it’s common for women to experience dizziness during pregnancy and perhaps it would be worth mentioning as an issue affecting salah.
Assalamu `alaikum! Thank you for raising the issue of dizziness. Dizziness that causes vertigo would fall under the category of ‘praying as an ill person’ and therefore depending on the intensity of it, she would either start standing and then complete her prayer sitting, or perhaps complete the whole fatiha etc standing and then perform ruku’ and sejud sitting. Or if very severe she would possibly pray the entire prayer sitting. The point being that she should consider her state of being and pray accordingly, not just automatically rush into praying sitting because she is ‘pregnant.’
Another thought is that in the case of dizziness, she may want to be sure that she is ‘pausing’ at each movement of the prayer so that she doesn’t suddenly stand and therefore lose her balance.
The process of interacting with the prayer at every stage of our lives is a fascinating and exciting thought process for me.. thank you for more to think about!
May Allah send blessings upon you and your loved ones. 🙂
Assalam o Alaikum
JazakAllah khair for such a wonderful article. I just wanted to ask one thing that can any position in salah cause harm to the unborn child. I am 25th weeks pregnant. My husband and motherinlaw says that i should pray while sitting on a chair because a position occurs while performing sujood could lead to preterm labor. How true is it?. JazakAllah
Wa alaikum as salam wa rahmatullah Sadia,
If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and have not been put on any activity restrictions by your doctor, there is nothing in the prayer (even the sujjud position) that you should be unable to do.
I do not restrict my Muslim patients at any point of their pregnancy from any position in prayer. Patients who have complications of pregnancy are different, and if you have any complications in your pregnancy, you should discuss the positions of prayer in detail with your doctor.
JazakAllah khair sister. MashAllah you are doing a great job online. May Allah SWT reward you for this.
Asalam o alaikum
Thank you for your insightful article. It was really lovely reading this as I was advised by my mother in law to pray sitting down and I didn’t feel comfortable with this in my head.
I had very bad morning sickness in the beginning and back problems for which I had received so physio advise and with the exercises I have manged to still pray salat the normal way.
I am now 32weeks pregnant alhamdulillah and get very breathless praying but iv just slowed myself down more to adjust so I an still pray.
A thought had come to me today where I realised that maybe prayer is actually good for a pregnant woman to help her baby get into the right position for birth. I have read that watching tv on all fours is recommended to help baby get into the right position for delivery and thought that the performance of pray is actually not thy far off and hence why we are not exempt. What are your thoughts as a doctor.
Also do you have any advice on pregnancy and fasting. I am based in the uk and we have a very bad heatwave with 15-16hr fasts I have made the decision not to fast as I don’t want to cause my unborn child any harm and to make them up later inshallah. I know many people think this is a cop out but it took me days of research to come to this conclusion both medically and islamically however I feel extremely guilty not fasting in this blessed month.
Dear Ms. Khan,
Obviously, prayer is good for you. Is it particularly good for you while pregnant, absolutely. However, there is nothing in the medical data that would suggest women who pray regularly are more likely to have their baby in the proper position for delivery.
As for advice for fasting, I’ve written on it previously here:
Sarah Azad, MD
Salaamwalaikum dr, I would like to ask about continue bleeding during pregnancy. Alhumdulillah I am 10 weeks pregnant now and have been experiencing spotting every now and then. However last night and today started to bleed more heavily and continuously with cramping and bloating, similar to a period. I know according to the books there is no such thing as period during pregnancy, but it seems many woman have experienced something ‘like’ a period during pregnancy. My question is whether prayer should still be preformed at this time or should I wait until the bleeding stops? Jazakallahu khairan 🙂
As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah sister Isra,
Inshallah this finds you doing well. Most importantly, you need to follow up with your doctor about the bleeding.
In terms of prayer, this is not menstrual bleeding. In pregnancy, abnormal bleeding can be short, intermittent, ongoing, but all of it is irregular bleeding and completely unrelated to your menses (periods). It would fall in the category of “istihadha” and you would pray and fast accordingly.
jazakallahu khairan for your swift reply sister. Insha’Allah I will be going for a check up today and that all goes well 🙂
I Am 11weeks pregnant and I am spotting. I can just pray regularly just by making wudu?
ASAP sister….I’ve been sitting and praying from 3rd month of preg and nice I’m in 7th n I sit on a chair while praying as I find difficulty sitting dwn n get up due to weight issues….am I doing wrong?
As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah Sister Nabz,
Unfortunately this is not a source of fatwa. I am grateful to have Anse Tamara’s articles to post to give you general information. For specific rulings on your personal case, you will have to discuss with a local religious scholar.
Assalamu alaikum sister, i would like to ask you about regular bleeding during pregnancy. ALHUMDULILLAH now i m 8weeks pregnant. But i m experiencing spotting every now and then. However sometimes and last two days started to bleed more heavily with cramping as like as period. Even ii can’t walk easily if i walk it starts to bleeding. Doctor adviced me not to walk and to have bed rest. I have missed last 2days prayer. Actually i m feeling guilty for that. What can i do now?
MashAllah nice job sis this helps me a lot becoz my wife in 8th month and she is still offering 5 time nazam.
weldone sister! i wl like to follow ur page to get more info on woman issue like this. JAK.
I’m trying to find the rulings for namaz after endometrial ablation. Does it fall in the category of istehada ? Since you can have spotting for 2-3 months.
Assalaamu alaikkum Dr.
I have a daughter of one year old. When she was ten months, i found out that i was expecting my second baby. Now the problem is my husband’s relatives are forcing me to stop breast feeding her. I tried to do a lot of research on this topic but failed to find a convincing answer.
Can you kindly advice me on this please?
As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I apologize for late replies, as I’ve been on maternity leave.
Sam, after an endometrial ablation, the spotting is not from menses, so it would count as Istihada (irregular vaginal bleeding). However, if it starts to get heavier around the time of your expected period, then you should count it as such. The rules as to how long you pray for and what to do if you keep spotting are very specific to your school, so you should discuss with your personal/local scholar.
This question is medical, not relative to Islamic Fiqh. The most convincing answer will come from your OB/GYN. Just make an apt and ask her. In general it is safe to breast feed while pregnant, you need a lot of fluids and a lot of calories, but the breastfeeding itself will not harm the new fetus. HOWEVER, that is a very general statement, and each specific case may have specific issues. You really need an answer from your personal doctor.
Sarah Azad, MD
All of you i wan you to pray for me i am pregnant and still negative test am 6 months now
Asalamualaikum , alhumdullillah am 9 weeks pregnant and since yesterday I am having spotting that is just two days after the daye of my usual cycle can I still continue to pray
I am 11 weeks pregnant and have a subchorionic hematoma. at 8 weeks there was heavy red blood that I though was a miscarriage. Now this is just dark red blood like a period just about everyday all day. The dr and midwife said this happen until the hematoma bleeds out or re-aborbs. How should I go about making salat?
Salaam alaikum sister
I have had 1 still born and 2 miscarriages
I am now only 5 weeks pregnant but classified as a high risk due to my age I am 41 and also due to my medical history of losing 3 babies.
I am feeling very well except that I’m tired and am not sleeping very well.
But my husband has said I need to stay off my feet. The doctor said I will be put on total bed rest at 12 weeks after I have had a cervical stitch but that in the meantime I’m ok to walk around.
Now, because of my other early miscarriages my husband says I need to be extra careful and pray sitting down and also do sajood from being seated on a sofa or chair (ie not bend down and stretch or put pressure on my belly when doing sajood)
I am slightly overweight and I do feel the pressure on my stomachs when I tried sajood on the ground but it’s doable.
What are your thoughts ?
Thanks and Salam alaikum
Salam sister. I have got a positive pregnancy result but have been bleeding from day one, Drs think it’s an ectopic pregnancy but not sure I thought I miscarried but I haven’t as blood test showing I’m pregnant but on ultrasound they can’t see anything to indicate that I am preganant. Can I still read salah as I’m not sure if bleeding is due to miscarriage?
Dear sister I m pleased to c ur site, may Allah gv u ajer fir this.
My question is Alhumdulilah I m 28 eks pregnant and this is my third pregnancy n bef two was c section, n my stomachwas very big beg pregnancy also and I want to ask u tht while duing sajdah my stomach presses I hope bsc of this der wont b any harm to my baby.
Assalamu alaikum,i have one query.this is my 2nd pregnancy and i had spotting problen in my 1st trimester and i was in strict bed rest and was on hormone injection.now i am 24wks plus pregnant and healthy and joined a job for last 3months but still i m praying sitting.so should i resume praying normally.i asked my ob gyn who also happens to be my mother telling me not to pray normally rather sit and pray,what should i do now?
Assalamu alaikum dear doc
I am 4 months pregnant and i have got severe gastric issues. I am worried to stand and pray as most of the time i go to sujood my wudu breaks due to gastritis. But i find it ok to sit and pray..will this be excused?
I recently found out through the home-test kit that I am pregnant. my menses were to start on the 3rd of Dec but didn’t after little spotting. now that I have established that I am positive for pregnant, I am still seeing a little spotting every now and then, in this situation I want to know if I can pray doing wudu without taking a ghusl everyday just because of this staining. Thanks
Assalam Aleykum doc?My sister is one month pregnant and alwys naseuated and sometimes feel vomotting while praying pls advise.
Wa alaikum as salam wa rahmatullah Style,
Your sister should discuss with her doctor ways to control her nausea. If she is too ill to make sujood, she can just bend to her knees while sitting, but she should not skip the standing. Best if she can discuss with a scholar in her area. And Allah knows best.
assalamualaekum…. iam 28weeks pregnant and alhamdulillah my baby is now in head down position…. frequent sitting and getting up causes preterm labor? wat z d right position to get up after sitting down….sister plz guide me..iam worried for performing namaz
Wa alaikum as salam wa rahmatullah Heena,
No, prayer does not cause preterm labor. Neither does exercise or riding a horse or running 5 miles a day. As long as your physician has not placed you on any activity restrictions, all positions of prayer should be safe.
And Allah Knows best.
I’m 32weeks pregnant then i’ve been hospitalized for two days because my cervix open 1cm. Pre-labor then I am advice to have a complete rest after the hospitalization.. I can walk and do dishes properly but I easily get tired.. my husband advice me to perform salah while sitting.. it is acceptable and belong to the category of the person allowed to pray while sitting?
I m 20 weeks pregnant n suffering through viral cold n cough and vaginal infection. last neight i took canesten one day vaginal treatment till now nothing has come out except two drops of chalky paste . Is it normal? Till when it should flush out? N in this situation can i perform namaz? N can do fasting?
Assalam Alaykum warahmotullahi wabarakatuhu I am 1month pregnant now about 4days ago I experienced stains of blood on my pant can I pray with it or not