Q. Why is it not permissible to pray in a vehicle?
A. Salaah is a great act of Ibaadah (worship) which Allah Has made compulsory upon us. Based on the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), this act of Ibaadah consists of certain postures which must be adopted for its validity. For example, Sajda, Ruku, Qiyaam are from among those actions which are known to be Farz (compulsory) in Salaah. These cannot be neglected except that one is unable to do them. Sajda is the act of prostration by placing ones forehead and tip of the nose on the ground. In fact, it is recorded in the traditions of the Prophet (SAW) that the posture of Sajda (prostration) must be done on seven bones. In this regard, Imam Bukhari has recorded the tradition of Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) in which he reports that the Prophet (SAW) said, ‘We have been ordered to prostrate (perform Sajda) on seven bones and not to tuck up the clothes or hair.’ ( Sahih Al Bukhari Hadith No. 774)
From these traditions, it is clearly evident that while performing the posture of Sajda, (which is compulsory in salaah) one must prostrate in a manner that all seven parts touch the ground. This requirement of Sajda cannot be accomplished when one performs salaah in a vehicle while sitting on the seat. What people do by bowing low for Sajda (while sitting in the vehicle) is not a Sajda, it is simply a sign and an indication of Sajda and cannot replace the original and required Sajda which has been identified in the Holy Quran. Hence, when a person performs Salaah in this manner, he/she is actually performing Salaah without the Sajdah which makes one’s Salaah invalid.
In a similar manner, Ruku is another Compulsory element of Salaah which must be done in the prescribed manner. Ruku is done by bowing in a manner that the back is kept level and straight. In this regard, Imam Bukhari has narrated the tradition of Abu Humaid in which he said, ‘The Prophet (SAW) made Ruku and kept his back straight’. (Sahih Al Bukhari Hadith No.758). Imam Bukhari has also narrated that Huzaifa (RA) (a companion of the Prophet (SAW) saw a person who was not performing the Ruku (bowing) and Sajda (prostration) perfectly. He said to the person, ‘You have not prayed and if you should die you would die in a religion other than that of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) (Sahih Al Bukhari Hadith No.757). Here, it is also seen that the manner and mode of bowing in the Ruku posture has been ordained and fixed in the teachings of Islam. If one does not perform it in this manner, (when he has the health, strength and ability to do so) then the Salaah would remain incomplete.
From this explanation, it can be concluded that what a person does in a vehicle (while sitting on the seat) by bending a little for Ruku (while praying) is not the Ruku (bowing) which is required in the teachings of Islam.
Those who perform Salaah in a Vehicle (by sitting on the seat) are doing so through signs, gestures and indications, and those are prohibited for these who have the health and strength of performing the actual postures of Salaah.
The Prophet (SAW) also said ‘Perform Salaah standing and if you do not have the strength and capability to do so, then you may sit and if you do not have the strength and capability to do so, then you may lie down by making sings and indications for salaah’.
In short, we can clearly see that salaah cannot be fulfilled in the manner it was ordained by performing it in a vehicle when one sits on the seat. Hence, one should not perform his/her Salaah in a vehicle in this manner.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan