Translator’s Note: This is known in Arabic as Jalsat ul Al-Istiraahah (The Sitting of Rest)
There are three opinions on this issue among the scholars:
First: It is definitely recommended.
Second: It is not recommended at all.
Third: It is dependent on the condition of the person. If he finds it difficult to stand immediately after [the second prostration], then he should sit. However, if he does not find it difficult, then he should not sit. The author of Al-Mughni said, “This opinion combines the two [opposite] opinions and is the middle position between them.” And the author mentioned in the page following it [a statement] from ‘Ali bin Abu Talib that he said, “Verily, it is from the sunnah of the obligatory prayer that when a person gets up to stand in the first two rak’ahs [after the second prostration] that he not place his hands on the ground unless he is a very old man and cannot do so.” (Reported by Al-Athram)
Then the author [of Al-Mughni] said:
“The hadith of Malik ibn Al-Huwayrith which states that when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) raised his head from the second prostration, he would sit [briefly] and then would support himself on the ground [with his hands before getting up] possibly did so because he found it difficult to stand due to his old age. He (pbuh) is reported to have said [in his later life], “I have become heavy, so do not compete with me in bowing and prostration.” (Abu Dawud)
And this is the opinion that I incline towards in the end [as well]. This is because Malik bin Al-Huwayrith came [and met] the Prophet (pbuh) when he (pbuh) was preparing for the Battle of Tabuk. During that time, the Prophet (pbuh) had grown old and began to become weak [due to old age]. It is reported from Aisha that she said, “When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) grew bulky and heavy he would observe (most of his Nafl) prayers sitting.” (Muslim) Hafsah [another wife of the Prophet (pbuh)] is reported to have said, “Never did I see the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) observing supererogatory prayer sitting till one year before his death when he would observe Nafl prayer in a sitting position.” (Muslim)
All of the above reports show that the Hadith of Malik ibn Al-Huwayrith about relying on the ground or something else [with one’s hands after a brief sitting of rest to get up after the second prostration] is only done when there is a need for it.