THE FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM
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MIRACLES OF THE QURA'N
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The prayer of a traveler
Shortening the prayers that consist of four rak'at
Allah says in the Qur'an: "And when you go forth in the land there is no sin
upon you, if you shorten your prayer when you fear the disbelievers may attack
you." This concession is not limited to situations of danger.
Ya'la ibn Umaiyyah said: "I said to 'Umar ibn al-Khattab: 'Explain to me why the
people shorten the salah when Allah says, 'And when you go forth...[the
preceding verse] and those days are gone now!' 'Umar said: 'I wondered about
that too and I mentioned that to the Prophet and he said: "This is a charity
that Allah, the Exalted, has bestowed upon you, so accept His charity.'" This is
related by the group.
At-Tabari records that Abu Munib al-Jarshi mentioned this verse to Ibn 'Umar and
said: "We are safe now and are not in fear, should we, then, shorten the salah'?"
He answered him: "You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern
The issue was also referred to 'Aishah and she said: "The salah was made fard in
Makkah in sets of two rak'at. When the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam came to
Medinah, two rak'at were added to each salah except the maghrib salah because it
is the witr of the daytime, and the dawn prayer due to its lengthy Qur'anic
recital. But if one travels, he performs the original prayer [i.e., only two
rak'at]." This is related by Ahmad, alBaihaqi, Ibn Hibban, and Ibn Khuzaimah.
Its narrators are trustworthy.
Ibn al-Qayyim says: "The Prophet would pray only two rak'at for those prayers
which consisted of four, whenever he traveled until he returned to Medinah. And
it is not confirmed that he ever prayed four rak'at [while traveling], and none
of the imams differ on this point, although they do differ about the ruling of
shortening the salah."
'Umar, 'Ali, Ibn Mas'ud, ibn 'Abbas, ibn 'Umar, Jabir and the Hanafi scholars
say that it is fard. The Maliki school holds that it is sunnah mu'akadah (the
stressed one); it is even more emphasized than the congregational salah. If the
traveler cannot find another traveler to lead him in the salah, he may pray by
himself as it is disliked that he should follow one who is a resident [i.e., and
pray four rak'at] according to the Maliki school. The Hanbali school holds that
it is preferred for the person to shorten the prayer rather than to pray the
complete salah. The Shaf'i school has a similar opinion, if the person has
traveled a sufficient distance.
Volume 2, Page 110: The distance one must travel before shortening one's prayer
The conclusion from the Qur'anic verse is that any traveling, be it long or
short, which falls within the linguistic definition of the word "travel" would
suffice to shorten one's salah, to combine them and to break the fast. There is
nothing in the sunnah which confines this general term to any particular
meaning. Ibn al-Munzhir and others have mentioned more than twenty reports on
this point. Here we shall mention some of the more important reports.
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: 'The Messenger of
Allah would pray two rak'at if he had traveled a distance of three miles or
farsakh."' Ibn Hajar writes in Fath al-Bari: "This is the most authentic hadith
which states and clarifies [that question]." The conflict between mile and
farsakh is made clear in Abu Sa'id al-Khudri's statement: "If the Prophet
traveled a distance of one farsakh, he would shorten his prayer." This was
related by Sa'id ibn Mansur in his Sunan and by al-Hafiz ibn Hajar in at-Talkhis,
and he implicitly accepted it by not making any further comments about it. It is
well-known that a farsakh equals three miles and, therefore, Abu Sa'id's hadith
removes the confusion which arises from Anas' hadith when he says that the
shortest distance, due to which the Prophet shortened his prayer, was three
miles. One farsakh is equivalent to 5,541 meters while one mile equals 1,748
meters. The shortest distance which has been mentioned with respect to the
shortening of salah is one mile. This was 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 less than one mile, one is not to shorten the
salah, the Messenger of Allah went to the graveyard of al-Baqi' to bury the dead
and (similarly) he went off to answer the call of nature and did not shorten his
Concerning what some jurists say, namely, that the journey must be at least two
days long or as some say three days, Imam Abu al-Qasim alKharqi's refutation of
their opinion is sufficient for us. In al-Mughni he says: 'I do not find any
proof for what those scholars say. The statements of the (sahabah) companions
are contradictory, and they are not a (conclusive) proof if they differ.
Something has been related from Ibn 'Umar and Ibn 'Abbas which differs from what
these scholars use as proof. Even if that were not the case, their statements do
not constitute a proof when a statement or action of the Prophet himself exists.
Even if their statements were accepted, we would not be able to follow the
distance they mentioned due to the following two reasons. One, they differ from
the sunnah that has been related from the Prophet and from the clear meaning of
the Qur'an, as the clear meaning of the verse allows one to shorten 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 shorten your prayer." The condition of
there being fear has been deleted as can be seen in the hadith we recorded from
Ya'la ibn Umayyah, and what remains is the clear meaning of the verse which
covers every type of journey. The Prophet said: "The traveler may wipe over his
socks for a period of three days." This shows the length of time that one may
wipe over the socks and it cannot be used as a proof for the question we are
discussing here. One could argue that traveling is less than a three-day journey
on the basis of the hadith: "It is not allowed for any woman who believes in
Allah and the last day to travel a journey of one day, save in the presence of a
male relative." Two, the question of the distance to be traveled is one that may
only be answered by some sort of revelation from Allah, the Exalted [the Qur' an
or Sunnah]; it is not the type of issue which one may address on the basis of
personal reasoning, nor is there any way to derive an analogy. The proofs w hich
exist support the opinion that shortening the salah is permissible for every
traveler, unless there is some consensus to the contrary."
Similar to that is the traveling by planes, trains, and so forth, or a trip that
is in obedience to Allah, the Exalted, or otherwise. If there is someone whose
occupation requires him to always be traveling, for instance, a pilot, a ship
captain, truck driver, and so on, then he is permitted to shorten his salah or
break his fast as he is truly traveling.
Volume 2, Page 111: Whence one may shorten one's salah
The majority of the scholars are of the opinion that it is permissible to
shorten one's salah when one leaves one's residence and is outside of one's
city, and that is a condition, and he is not to resume his regular salah until
he reaches the first houses of his city.
Ibn al-Munzhir says: "I do not know of the Prophet shortening his salah during
any of his travels until after he had left Medinah."
Anas relates: "I prayed four rak'at at Zhul-Halifah." This is related by the
group. Some of the early scholars say that if one makes the intention to travel,
he may shorten his salah even if he is in his house.
Volume 2, Page 112: When the traveler is to pray the complete salah
A traveler may shorten his salah as long as he is on a journey. Likewise if he
stays in some place for business or some other affair, then he may shorten his
salah as long as he is there, even for years. If the person intends to stay in a
place for a certain amount of time then, according to Ibn al-Qayyim, he remains
a traveler, regardless of whether he plans to stay there for a long or short
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 Messenger of Allah stayed in
Tabuk for twenty days and during that time he shortened his salah and he did not
say that one may not shorten his salah if he stays longer than that, although
there is agreement that he did stay there for that period of time."
In Sahih al-Bukhari, it is recorded that Ibn 'Abbas said: "The Prophet stayed,
during some of his journeys, for nineteen day and he prayed only two rak'at. If
we stayed in a place for nineteen days, we would not pray the complete salah.
However, if we stayed longer than that, we would perform the whole salah." Ahmad
states that ibn 'Abbas was referring to the Prophet's stay in Makkah at the time
of its conquest when he said: "The Messenger of Allah stayed in Makkah for
eighteen days during the time of the conquest as he had to go to Hunain and was
not planning to stay there." This is his interpretation of Ibn 'Abbas'
statement. Others say that Ibn 'Abbas was referring to the Prophet's stay in
Tabuk as Jabir ibn 'Abdullah said: "The Messenger of Allah stayed in Tabuk for
twenty days and performed qasr salah." Imam Ahmad related this in his Musnad.
Al-Miswar ibn Makhramah reports: "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 whole salah." 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." Hafs
ibn 'Ubaidullah says: "Anas ibn Malik stayed in ash-Sham for two years and he
prayed the salah of a traveler." Anas relates: "The companions of the Prophet
stayed in Ram Hurmuz for seven months and they shortened their salah." Al-Hassan
reports: "I stayed with 'Abdurrahman ibn Samurah for two years in Kabul, and he
shortened his salah but he did not combine the salah." Ibrahim says: "We resided
in Rai for a year or more and in Sijistan for two years . . . [and we prayed
qasr]. This is the guidance of the Prophet and his companions, and this is the
Concerning other opinions which people follow Imam Ahmad say: "If a person
intends to stay for four days, he has to offer the whole salah and he may offer
qasr if his intention is for less than that. This is based on an interpretation
of the reports from the Prophet and his companions [i.e., they never intended to
stay for longer than that and would always say: 'We will leave tomorrow,' and so
on]. This interpretation is obviously suspect. The Prophet conquered Makkah and
stayed there to establish Islam, eradicate polytheism, and to guide the Arabs.
It definitely goes, without saying, that such an objective does take more than a
day or two to complete. Similarly, his stay in Tabuk was in preparation for the
impending war and he knew that this might take longer than just four days. In
the same way, Ibn 'Umar's stay in Azerbaijan for six months, and his praying
qasr during the entire time was with the knowledge that it takes more than two
or three days for such snow to melt and the pass to become traversable. The same
is the case with Anas' stay of two years in ash-Sham and his praying qasr and
the companions' stay in Ram Hurmuz for seven months while shortening their
prayers. It is well known that activities like theirs, such as jihad and
guarding, took more than four days." The followers of Ahmad maintain: "If one is
staying in a place for the purpose of jihad or due to imprisonment or sickness,
then one may shorten one's salah regardless of whether the person thinks that
such a situation may last for a short time or a long time." This is correct but
there is no proof that such conditions have been stipulated in the Qur'an,
Sunnah, ijma' (consensus), or practice of the Prophet's companions. They argued
that such conditions are based on what is needed for the person to fulfill his
need while remaining a traveler, and that is what is less than four days. His
response to them was: 'From where do you derive those conditions, while the
Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam stayed for more than four days, shortening his
sa lah, in Makkah and Tabuk, and he did not mention to anyone anything about it
and he never told them that he never intended to stay for more than four days,
even though he knew that the people would [strictly] follow his actions
concerning 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 than
four nights. This should be made clear as it is very important. Similarly, the
companions (as-sahabah) followed him in that and he did not say anything [in
objection] to those who prayed with him."
Malik and ash-Shaf'i say: "If one intends to stay for more than four days, he
should perform the whole salah, and if he intends to stay for less than that, he
is to offer qasr."
Abu Hanifah holds: "If one intends to stay for fifteen days, he should do the
qasr. If he intends to stay for more than that, he should not shorten the salah."
This is also the opinion of al-Laith ibn Sa'd, and it has also been related from
three companions: 'Umar, ibn 'Umar, and Ibn 'Abbas.
Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab is of the opinion that: "If you stay for four days, you
pray four rak'at." A statement similar to that of Abu Hanifah's has also been
related from him. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib says that if one stays for ten days, he is
to perform the whole salah, and the same has been related from Ibn ' Abbas .
Al-Hassan says: "One who does not get to his destination or (city of residence)
may shorten salah."
'Aishah says: "One who does not put down his provision is to shorten the salah."
The four imams agree that if one has some need to take care of and always has
the intention of leaving the next day, then he may shorten his salah for as long
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 his salah
after that time. Ibn al-Munzhir states in his Ishraf: "The people of knowledge
are in agreement that a traveler may perform qasr as long as he does not intend
to stay in a place, even though he stays there for years."
Volume 2, Page 114: Nawafli during travel
The majority of the scholars are of the opinion that it is not disliked to
perform nawafil during the state in which one is shortening his salah. On this
point, 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 of Umm
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 direction he
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 journey performed
supererogatory prayers before and after the fard salah."
Ibn 'Umar and others are of the opinion that there are no nawafl, before or
after the fard salah, except for during the middle of the night. He saw some
people praying after the salah and said: "If I were to pray, I would have
performed the whole salah [as obviously that would have taken preference]. O
nephew, I accompanied the Messenger of Allah [on joumeys] and he never prayed
more than two rak'at until Allah took his soul. And I accompanied Abu Bakr and
he did not pray more than two rak'at." He also mentioned the name of 'Umar and 'Uthman,
then he recited the verse: "Ye have indeed in the messenger of Allah a beautiful
pattern (of conduct)." This is related by al-Bukhari.
Ibn Qudamah combines what al-Hassan and what Ibn 'Umar say by concluding that
al-Hassan's report points to the fact that there is no harm in praying nawafil
while traveling, whereas Ibn 'Umar's report points to the fact that there is no
harm in not praying such nawafil.
Volume 2, Page 115: Traveling on a Friday
There is no harm in traveling on a Friday if it is not during the time of the
'Umar heard a man say: "If today was not Friday, I would have left." 'Umar said:
"Leave. Friday does not keep one from traveling."
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 mentioned
something to him, and he said: "The Prophet traveled on Friday."