The habitual sitting style of the Messenger of Allah was sitting on his knees. (Muslim, Iman, 1, 5; Bukhari, Iman, 37) However, there are other styles of sitting that were seen by the Prophet (pbuh).
One of them was to sit cross-legged. Jabir b. Samura (r.a.) reported that Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) used to sit (pbuh) cross-legged after performing fajr (early-morning) prayer until the sun rose high. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 26)
Sitting cross-legged was one of the sitting styles that the Prophet (pbuh) liked and frequently did; for this position makes a person comfortable and covers the private parts. Thus, it is an appropriate manner of sitting. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) preferred this position not only in the mosque but also in other places of gatherings. According to the historical sources we see that companions, too, preferred this sitting position.
Another style is the one called “kurfusa” or “ihtiba.” Ibn Umar (r. anhuma) reported:
“I saw Allah’s Apostle in the courtyard of the Ka’ba in the ihtiba posture putting his hands around his legs like this” and then he thrust his legs to his thighs, held his knees with his arms, and sat on his buttocks.” (Bukhari, Isthi’dhan, 34)
It is narrated by Qaylah daughter of Makhramah (r.anha): “When I came to accept the message of Islam, I saw the Prophet (pbuh) sitting with his arms around his legs. When I saw the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) in such a humble condition in the sitting position, I trembled with fear. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 22) This was also a sitting style chosen frequently by the Prophet (pbuh). According to Qadi Iyad Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) preferred this style more than sitting cross-legged. The reason for the preference of this position is, like sitting cross-legged, it ensures the Islamic principles of covering and non-existence of the possibility of revealing private parts. Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) often sat in this position.
However, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) prohibited this sitting style on Fridays while listening to the Friday sermon. (Abu Dawud, Salat, 228) This is because it might trigger an urge to sleep and keep one from listening to the sermon. The worst of all is that it may cause one to violate the ablution requirements.
Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) also sat crouching. He (pbuh) usually sat in this position, which is called “ihtifaz” and “i’qa,” while eating something. Anas b. Malik (r.a.) reported:
“I saw Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) squatting and eating dates.” (Muslim, Ashribah, 148-149)
Another position witnessed in the life of the Prophet (pbuh) was that he sat on the edge of a well and let his legs hang down.” According to an incident reported by Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (r.a.) he saw the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sitting at the edge of well called Aris with his legs uncovered, hanging in the well. (Bukhari, Ashab al-Nabi, 5)