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Modes of Performing Prayers during Travelling
Question of Fatwa
As we know, while travelling, Muslims are allowed to shorten and combine
prayers, like performing Zuhr and `Asr prayers together. My question is, how do
we know the distance that permits such dispensation? Do we need to make the
intention of delaying, say for instance, Zuhr or Maghrib during the due time of
anyone of them then perform either Zuhr or Maghrib with `Asr or `Isha? I say
“delay” because someone has told me that one is allowed to delay prayer while
travelling, just for the sake of travelling.
Content of Reply
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Almighty Allah, and peace and blessings be upon
Dear brother in Islam, thank you very much for having confidence in us, and we
hope our efforts, which are purely for Allah's Sake, meet your expectations.
First of all, we would like to inform you that shortening and combining prayers
together in travel is a dispensation that Allah has granted Muslims to make
worship easier. Almighty Allah is Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
In his response to the question, Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr, former head of Al-Azhar
Fatwa Committee, states the following:
"Allah says in the Glorious Qur'an: "And when ye go forth in the land, it is no
sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may
attack you…" (An-Nisaa': 101)
Fear of temptation mentioned in the verse is not the condition that warrants
shortening prayers. This is according to the Prophet, peace and blessings be
upon him, who considered this as a gift Allah has bestowed on His servants.
Therefore, it is fitting for us to accept Allah’s gift.
As for the type of travelling that warrants shortening prayers, the scholars
vary in opinion on this. According to Zahirites, one is allowed to shorten
prayers in any journey, whether the distance is long or short and even within
three miles. They base this on the Hadith where Anas Ibn Malik, may Allah be
pleased with him, says that whenever the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon
him, set out on a journey of three miles or nine miles (this indicates
doubtfulness on the part of the narrator, Shu`bah), he’d perform prayers of two
Imam Al-Qurtubi comments on this: "This does not qualify enough to be evidence,
as it is doubtful. Even if we assume the authenticity of one of those two
distances, it might be the starting point of the Prophet’s journey, which
extended to more than three miles or more."
Actually, the distance of a journey that warrants shortening prayers is neither
clarified in the Qur'an nor in the Sunnah. The reason for this is that what was
meant by the Arabic word "As-Safar" at that time was well known to people of
that period (the people first receiving the Qur'an). Besides, we know that
leaving the house for a short errand is not considered as travelling in the
lexical and literal meaning. But anyone who walks a long distance that takes
three days is considered to be travelling and the same applies to a person who
walks a distance that takes a day and night, according to Imam Malik.
This is based on the Hadith in which the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon
him, says: "It is not permissible for a woman to travel a distance that takes a
whole day and a night without a non-marriageable kin."
The previous Hadith has many versions: in some occasions it says "a day and a
night…" and others "three days." Due to this, Imam Malik adopted the practice of
`Abdullah Ibn `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, in such cases. He used to
shorten prayers within the limit of Reem (a place near Madinah) in a distance of
four Burds (about 20 km). Ibn `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, used to
emulate the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.
Most scholars understand the issue of shortening prayers as a form of
dispensation or facilitation of matters, especially in journeys that involve
hardship. As-Shafi', Malik, and their followers, Al-Layth, Al-`Awzai`e, and
scholars of Hadith like Ahmad, Ishaaq and others opine that a journey lasting a
day is enough for one to shorten his prayers.
In his book Al-Mughni, Ibn Qudamah mentions that some scholars maintain that one
can shorten prayers even in a journey of a distance less than the aforementioned
limit (four Burds — about 20 km). But this opinion doesn't carry much weight.
In the opinion of the famous four juristic schools, prayers are allowed to be
shortened within a distance of 16 Farsaqs (one Farsaq equals three miles, and
one mile equals 6000 arms length). So the distance here is about 80 km.
Those who are excluded from this restriction in distance are the people of
Makkah, Mina, Muzdalifah and Al-Muhassab. Whenever they leave their place of
residence to `Arafat during the Pilgrimage, they are allowed to shorten prayers
coming and going, as long as they are in the midst of Hajj rituals.
As for making the intention to delay the prayer, there is no need to voice it
aloud, as this is related to heart. This rule regards all acts of worship save
Hajj and `Umrah where one needs to make the intention for rituals audible.
There is a good example of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him,
delaying a prayer, while travelling, so as to join it with the following prayer.
He delayed the Zuhr prayer and combined it with the `Asr prayer. The same
happened with the Maghrib and `Isha prayers, according to the Hadith narrated by
Mu`adh Ibn Jabal, may Allah be pleased with him, which follows. "The Prophet,
peace and blessings be upon him, in the expedition to Tabook, combined the Zuhr
and `Asr prayers and Maghrib and `Isha prayers. When Mu`adh was asked why, he
replied that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, didn’t want things to
be difficult for Muslims."
Allah Almighty knows best.