Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 2: The prayer of a traveler
Allah says in the Qur'an: "And when you go forth in the land there isno sin upon you, if you shorten your prayer when you fear the disbelievers mayattack you." This concession is not limited to situations of danger.
Ya'la ibn Umaiyyah said: "I said to 'Umar ibn al-Khattab: 'Explain tome why the people shorten the salah when Allah says, 'And when you goforth...[the preceding verse] and those days are gone now!' 'Umar said: 'I wonderedabout that too and I mentioned that to the Prophet and he said: "This is acharity that Allah, the Exalted, has bestowed upon you, so accept Hischarity.'" This is related by the group.
At-Tabari records that Abu Munib al-Jarshi mentioned this verse to Ibn 'Umarand said: "We are safe now and are not in fear, should we, then, shortenthe salah'?" He answered him: "You have indeed in the Messenger ofAllah a beautiful pattern (of conduct)."
The issue was also referred to 'Aishah and she said: "The salah wasmade fard in Makkah in sets of two rak'at. When the Prophet sallallahu alehiwasallam came to Medinah, two rak'at were added to each salah except themaghrib salah because it is the witr of the daytime, and the dawn prayer due toits lengthy Qur'anic recital. But if one travels, he performs the originalprayer [i.e., only two rak'at]." This is related by Ahmad, alBaihaqi, IbnHibban, and Ibn Khuzaimah. Its narrators are trustworthy.
Ibn al-Qayyim says: "The Prophet would pray only two rak'at for thoseprayers which consisted of four, whenever he traveled until he returned toMedinah. And it is not confirmed that he ever prayed four rak'at [whiletraveling], and none of the imams differ on this point, although they do differabout the ruling of shortening the salah."
'Umar, 'Ali, Ibn Mas'ud, ibn 'Abbas, ibn 'Umar, Jabir and the Hanafischolars say that it is fard. The Maliki school holds that it is sunnahmu'akadah (the stressed one); it is even more emphasized than thecongregational salah. If the traveler cannot find another traveler to lead himin the salah, he may pray by himself as it is disliked that he should followone who is a resident [i.e., and pray four rak'at] according to the Malikischool. The Hanbali school holds that it is preferred for the person to shortenthe prayer rather than to pray the complete salah. The Shaf'i school has asimilar opinion, if the person has traveled a sufficient distance.
The conclusion from the Qur'anic verse is that any traveling, be it long orshort, which falls within the linguistic definition of the word"travel" would suffice to shorten one's salah, to combine them and tobreak the fast. There is nothing in the sunnah which confines this general termto any particular meaning. Ibn al-Munzhir and others have mentioned more thantwenty reports on this point. Here we shall mention some of the more importantreports.
Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and al-Baihaqi record that Yahya ibn Yazid said:"I asked Anas ibn Malik about shortening the prayer, and he said: 'TheMessenger of Allah would pray two rak'at if he had traveled a distance of threemiles or farsakh."' Ibn Hajar writes in Fath al-Bari: "This is themost authentic hadith which states and clarifies [that question]." Theconflict between mile and farsakh is made clear in Abu Sa'id al-Khudri'sstatement: "If the Prophet traveled a distance of one farsakh, he wouldshorten his prayer." This was related by Sa'id ibn Mansur in his Sunan andby al-Hafiz ibn Hajar in at-Talkhis, and he implicitly accepted it by notmaking any further comments about it. It is well-known that a farsakh equalsthree miles and, therefore, Abu Sa'id's hadith removes the confusion whicharises from Anas' hadith when he says that the shortest distance, due to whichthe Prophet shortened his prayer, was three miles. One farsakh is equivalent to5,541 meters while one mile equals 1,748 meters. The shortest distance whichhas been mentioned with respect to the shortening of salah is one mile. Thiswas recorded by Ibn abi Shaibah, with a sahih chain, on the authority of Ibn'Umar. Ibn Hazm follows this report, and argues that if the distance is lessthan one mile, one is not to shorten the salah, the Messenger of Allah went tothe graveyard of al-Baqi' to bury the dead and (similarly) he went off toanswer the call of nature and did not shorten his salah.
Concerning what some jurists say, namely, that the journey must be at leasttwo days long or as some say three days, Imam Abu al-Qasim alKharqi'srefutation of their opinion is sufficient for us. In al-Mughni he says: 'I donot find any proof for what those scholars say. The statements of the (sahabah)companions are contradictory, and they are not a (conclusive) proof if theydiffer. Something has been related from Ibn 'Umar and Ibn 'Abbas which differsfrom what these scholars use as proof. Even if that were not the case, theirstatements do not constitute a proof when a statement or action of the Prophethimself exists. Even if their statements were accepted, we would not be able tofollow the distance they mentioned due to the following two reasons. One, theydiffer from the sunnah that has been related from the Prophet and from theclear meaning of the Qur'an, as the clear meaning of the verse allows one toshorten one's salah if one makes any journey upon the earth. Allah says:"If you journey on the earth, there is no blame upon you if you shortenyour prayer." The condition of there being fear has been deleted as can beseen in the hadith we recorded from Ya'la ibn Umayyah, and what remains is theclear meaning of the verse which covers every type of journey. The Prophetsaid: "The traveler may wipe over his socks for a period of threedays." This shows the length of time that one may wipe over the socks andit cannot be used as a proof for the question we are discussing here. One couldargue that traveling is less than a three-day journey on the basis of thehadith: "It is not allowed for any woman who believes in Allah and thelast day to travel a journey of one day, save in the presence of a malerelative." Two, the question of the distance to be traveled is one thatmay only be answered by some sort of revelation from Allah, the Exalted [theQur' an or Sunnah]; it is not the type of issue which one may address on thebasis of personal reasoning, nor is there any way to derive an analogy. Theproofs which exist support the opinion that shortening the salah is permissiblefor every traveler, unless there is some consensus to the contrary."
Similar to that is the traveling by planes, trains, and so forth, or a tripthat is in obedience to Allah, the Exalted, or otherwise. If there is someonewhose occupation requires him to always be traveling, for instance, a pilot, aship captain, truck driver, and so on, then he is permitted to shorten hissalah or break his fast as he is truly traveling.
The majority of the scholars are of the opinion that it is permissible toshorten one's salah when one leaves one's residence and is outside of one'scity, and that is a condition, and he is not to resume his regular salah untilhe reaches the first houses of his city.
Ibn al-Munzhir says: "I do not know of the Prophet shortening his salahduring any of his travels until after he had left Medinah."
Anas relates: "I prayed four rak'at at Zhul-Halifah." This isrelated by the group. Some of the early scholars say that if one makes theintention to travel, he may shorten his salah even if he is in his house.
A traveler may shorten his salah as long as he is on a journey. Likewise ifhe stays in some place for business or some other affair, then he may shortenhis salah as long as he is there, even for years. If the person intends to stayin a place for a certain amount of time then, according to Ibn al-Qayyim, heremains a traveler, regardless of whether he plans to stay there for a long orshort time, as long as he does not plan to stay [i.e., reside and not return]in the place that he has traveled to. The scholars differ on this point.Summing up and giving his own opinion, Ibn al-Qayyim says: "The Messengerof Allah stayed in Tabuk for twenty days and during that time he shortened hissalah and he did not say that one may not shorten his salah if he stays longerthan that, although there is agreement that he did stay there for that periodof time."
In Sahih al-Bukhari, it is recorded that Ibn 'Abbas said: "The Prophetstayed, during some of his journeys, for nineteen day and he prayed only tworak'at. If we stayed in a place for nineteen days, we would not pray thecomplete salah. However, if we stayed longer than that, we would perform thewhole salah." Ahmad states that ibn 'Abbas was referring to the Prophet'sstay in Makkah at the time of its conquest when he said: "The Messenger ofAllah stayed in Makkah for eighteen days during the time of the conquest as hehad to go to Hunain and was not planning to stay there." This is hisinterpretation of Ibn 'Abbas' statement. Others say that Ibn 'Abbas wasreferring to the Prophet's stay in Tabuk as Jabir ibn 'Abdullah said: "TheMessenger of Allah stayed in Tabuk for twenty days and performed qasrsalah." Imam Ahmad related this in his Musnad. Al-Miswar ibn Makhramahreports: "We stayed with Sa'd in some of the cities of ash-Sham [Syria]for forty days, and Sa'd would perform qasr while we would offer the wholesalah." Naf'i relates: "Ibn 'Umar was in Azerbaijan for six months,as there was snow blocking the pass, and he would pray two rak'at." Hafsibn 'Ubaidullah says: "Anas ibn Malik stayed in ash-Sham for two years andhe prayed the salah of a traveler." Anas relates: "The companions ofthe Prophet stayed in Ram Hurmuz for seven months and they shortened theirsalah." Al-Hassan reports: "I stayed with 'Abdurrahman ibn Samurahfor two years in Kabul, and he shortened his salah but he did not combine thesalah." Ibrahim says: "We resided in Rai for a year or more and inSijistan for two years . . . [and we prayed qasr]. This is the guidance of theProphet and his companions, and this is the correct position.
Concerning other opinions which people follow Imam Ahmad say: "If aperson intends to stay for four days, he has to offer the whole salah and hemay offer qasr if his intention is for less than that. This is based on aninterpretation of the reports from the Prophet and his companions [i.e., theynever intended to stay for longer than that and would always say: 'We willleave tomorrow,' and so on]. This interpretation is obviously suspect. TheProphet conquered Makkah and stayed there to establish Islam, eradicatepolytheism, and to guide the Arabs. It definitely goes, without saying, thatsuch an objective does take more than a day or two to complete. Similarly, hisstay in Tabuk was in preparation for the impending war and he knew that thismight take longer than just four days. In the same way, Ibn 'Umar's stay inAzerbaijan for six months, and his praying qasr during the entire time was withthe knowledge that it takes more than two or three days for such snow to meltand the pass to become traversable. The same is the case with Anas' stay of twoyears in ash-Sham and his praying qasr and the companions' stay in Ram Hurmuzfor seven months while shortening their prayers. It is well known thatactivities like theirs, such as jihad and guarding, took more than fourdays." The followers of Ahmad maintain: "If one is staying in a placefor the purpose of jihad or due to imprisonment or sickness, then one mayshorten one's salah regardless of whether the person thinks that such asituation may last for a short time or a long time." This is correct butthere is no proof that such conditions have been stipulated in the Qur'an,Sunnah, ijma' (consensus), or practice of the Prophet's companions. They arguedthat such conditions are based on what is needed for the person to fulfill hisneed while remaining a traveler, and that is what is less than four days. Hisresponse to them was: 'From where do you derive those conditions, while theProphet sallallahu alehi wasallam stayed for more than four days, shorteninghis salah, in Makkah and Tabuk, and he did not mention to anyone anything aboutit and he never told them that he never intended to stay for more than fourdays, even though he knew that the people would [strictly] follow his actionsconcerning the salah. They surely followed him in his shortening of the salah,and he did not object to their praying qasr if they were to stay for more thanfour nights. This should be made clear as it is very important. Similarly, thecompanions (as-sahabah) followed him in that and he did not say anything [inobjection] to those who prayed with him."
Malik and ash-Shaf'i say: "If one intends to stay for more than fourdays, he should perform the whole salah, and if he intends to stay for lessthan that, he is to offer qasr."
Abu Hanifah holds: "If one intends to stay for fifteen days, he shoulddo the qasr. If he intends to stay for less than that, he should not shortenthe salah." This is also the opinion of al-Laith ibn Sa'd, and it has alsobeen related from three companions: 'Umar, ibn 'Umar, and Ibn 'Abbas.
Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab is of the opinion that: "If you stay for fourdays, you pray four rak'at." A statement similar to that of Abu Hanifah'shas also been related from him. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib says that if one stays forten days, he is to perform the whole salah, and the same has been related fromIbn ' Abbas .
Al-Hassan says: "One who does not get to his destination or (city ofresidence) may shorten salah."
'Aishah says: "One who does not put down his provision is to shortenthe salah."
The four imams agree that if one has some need to take care of and alwayshas the intention of leaving the next day, then he may shorten his salah for aslong as he is in that state. However, according to one statement of ash-Shaf'i,he may do so only for seventeen or eighteen days and he is not to shorten hissalah after that time. Ibn al-Munzhir states in his Ishraf: "The people ofknowledge are in agreement that a traveler may perform qasr as long as he doesnot intend to stay in a place, even though he stays there for years."
The majority of the scholars are of the opinion that it is not disliked toperform nawafil during the state in which one is shortening his salah. On thispoint, there is no difference between regular sunnah prayers and other nawafl.
Al-Bukhari and Muslim record that the Prophet made the ghusl in the house ofUmm Hani on the day of the conquest of Makkah and then he prayed eight rak'at.
Ibn 'Umar reports that the Prophet prayed while riding in whatever directionhe was facing and nodding his head [i.e., for the movements of the salah].
Al-Hassan relates: "The companions of the Prophet while on a journeyperformed supererogatory prayers before and after the fard salah."
Ibn 'Umar and others are of the opinion that there are no nawafl, before orafter the fard salah, except for during the middle of the night. He saw somepeople praying after the salah and said: "If I were to pray, I would haveperformed the whole salah [as obviously that would have taken preference]. Onephew, I accompanied the Messenger of Allah [on joumeys] and he never prayedmore than two rak'at until Allah took his soul. And I accompanied Abu Bakr andhe did not pray more than two rak'at." He also mentioned the name of 'Umarand 'Uthman, then he recited the verse: "Ye have indeed in the messengerof Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct)." This is related by al-Bukhari.
Ibn Qudamah combines what al-Hassan and what Ibn 'Umar say by concludingthat al-Hassan's report points to the fact that there is no harm in prayingnawafil while traveling, whereas Ibn 'Umar's report points to the fact thatthere is no harm in not praying such nawafil.
There is no harm in traveling on a Friday if it is not during the time ofthe salah.
'Umar heard a man say: "If today was not Friday, I would haveleft." 'Umar said: "Leave. Friday does not keep one fromtraveling."
Abu 'Ubaidah traveled on Friday and he did not wait for the salah.
Az-Zuhri wanted to travel before noon on Friday and the people mentionedsomething to him, and he said: "The Prophet traveled on Friday."