In Qiyam, I stand with a straight back and eyes looking at the place of prostration however I've seen some (elderly) brothers who stand with their upper body a little forward so it's not vertical. Funnily enough I was listening to a Fiqh of Salaah lesson and the teacher said to not stand like that. Is this common with some Muslims or a misunderstanding? I thought with the elders it could be due to back pain.

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In the hadith of Humaid as-Sa'adi we find a description on how the prophet () was standing during the prayer:

... 'When Allah's Messenger stood for Salat he would stand with his back straight and raise his hands until they were at the level of his shoulder. Then he would say: (Allahu Akbar) ... (See for example in Jami' at-Tirmdihi and Sunan ibn Majah)

We may also find a link in the hadith of the man who didn't pray correctly:

... So he said: 'Alright. When you stand for Salat then perform Wudu as Allah ordered you. Then say the Tashahhud, and the Iqamah as well. If you know any Quran then recite it, if not then praise Allah, mention His greatness, and the Tahlil. Then bow such that you are at rest in your bowing, then stand completely, then prostrate completely, then sit such that you are at rest while sitting them stand. ...
(See for example in Jami' at-Trimidhi, Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

Basically the prayer is an act in which people witnessed and prayed according to what they witnessed as the prophet () told us:

... and offer your prayers in the way you saw me offering my prayers, ...
(See for example in Sahih al-Bukhari)

But nevertheless this doesn't mean that a person should burden himself more than he can take:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Leave me as I leave you, for the people who were before you were ruined because of their questions and their differences over their prophets. So, if I forbid you to do something, then keep away from it. And if I order you to do something, then do of it as much as you can."
(See for example in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

which goes ahead with:

  • Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. ... (2:286)

  • So fear Allah as much as you are able and listen and obey and spend [in the way of Allah ]; it is better for your selves. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul - it is those who will be the successful. (64:16)

This means if you can't stand with the back straight you are allowed to stand in the manner that suits you.

Moreover we are also taught that in case we are not able to stand we may pray otherwise:

  • Imran bin Husain had piles. Once Abu Ma mar narrated from `Imran bin Husain had said, "I asked the Prophet (p.b.u.h) about the prayer of a person while sitting. He said, 'It is better for one to pray standing; and whoever prays sitting gets half the reward of that who prays while standing; and whoever prays while Lying gets half the reward of that who prays while sitting.' "
    (See in Sahih al-Bukhari and other hadith compilations)

  • Narrated `Imran bin Husain:
    I had piles, so I asked the Prophet (ﷺ) about the prayer. He said, "Pray while standing and if you can't, pray while sitting and if you cannot do even that, then pray Lying on your side."
    (See in Sahih al-Bukhari and other hadith compilations)

This goes ahead with verses like:

  • Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides ... (3:191)

  • And when you have completed the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting, or [lying] on your sides. But when you become secure, re-establish [regular] prayer. Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times. (4:103)

So if you are young and have no excuse and can stand with your back straight it is the best to pray this way, if you can't stand like this you may stand in a manner that suits you, if you can't even stand you may sit etc. All this is a correct manner to pray, if the conditions of ability are met.

See also:
How do you pray salah lying down?
How am I supposed to pray when I'm having terrible headaches?

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