In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and I send prayers and blessings on our Prophet, Muhammad and upon all his family and Companions.
How Should a Person Pray in an Airplane?
1 . He should offer the voluntary prayers in an airplane while he is sitting in his seat in whatever direction the airplane was facing, indicating the bowing and prostrating (by inclining his head), making the prostration lower than the bowing.
2. He should not offer the obligatory prayers in an airplane, unless he is able to face towards the Qiblah throughout the whole of the prayer and he is also able to bow, prostrate, stand and sit.
3. If he is unable to do that, he should delay the prayer until he lands at the airport and then pray on the ground. If he fears that the time for the prayer will expire before the airplane lands, he should delay it until the time of the next prayer. This is the case if it is one of those prayers that may be combined with another, such as Zuhr with ‘Asr or Maghrib with ‘Isha’. If he fears that the time for the next prayer will expire, he should pray them both in the airplane before the time ends and perform whatever conditions, pillars and obligations of the prayer he is able to. For example: If the airplane took off just before sunset and the sun set while he was in the air, then he should not offer the Maghrib prayer until the airplane lands at the airport, he disembarks, and then prays on the ground. But if he fears that the time for offering the Maghrib prayer will expire, he should delay it until the time of ‘Isha’ and offer them both together, combining them and delaying the Maghrib prayer until the time of the ‘Isha’ prayer after he descends. But if he fears that the time for the isha prayer will expire – and it expires at midnight – he should offer them before the time expires in the airplane.
4. The manner of performing the obligatory prayer in the airplane is to stand facing the Qiblah and make the Takbir. Then he recites Sural Al-Fatihah and the words which it is prescribed to recite before it, such as the opening supplication (Du’a Al- Istiftah) and some Qur’anic Verses after it. Then he should bow, then straighten up from bowing, and relax in a standing position, then prostrate, then straighten up from prostration, and relax in a sitting position, then prostrate again, then do likewise in the remainder of the prayer. If he is unable to prostrate, he should sit and indicate the prostration while sitting, and if he does not know the Qiblah, and no one reliable can inform him of it, he should use his judgement and try to ascertain it, then pray according to his judgement.
5. The prayer of the traveller in an airplane is shortened, so he performs the four Rak’ah prayer as two Rak’ahs like other travellers.
Fatawa Arkanul-Islam -Islamic Verdicts on the Pillars of Islam (Volume Two)
Prayer, Zakah, Fasting, Hajj
By the Honorable Shaikh Muhammad bin Salih Al- ‘Uthaimeen
Collected and Arranged by Fahd bin Nasir bin Ibrahim As-Sulaiman