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Shortening and Combining Prayers while Traveling
Question of Fatwa
Dear scholars, As-Salaam `Alaykum! Regarding shortening and combining prayers:
a) What is correct number of days that shortening of the prayers is applicable
while traveling? b) What is the most accurate way to count the number of days
that a person is on journey? c) Some say that while traveling and shortening
prayer it is OK to combine Zuhr/`Asr and Maghrib/ `Isha. Others say that the
prayers must all be done at their appropriate times. Also, some of those who
advocate the combining of prayers say it is ok to combine Zuhr with `Asr and
perform them both at `Asr time and perform Maghrib and `Isha at the `Isha time.
Is this correct? Jazakum Allah khayran
Content of Reply
Wa`alykum As-Salaamu Warahmatullahi Wabarakaatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His
Dear questioner, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place
in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our
work for His Sake.
In his response to the question you posed, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer
and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
"1) There is general consensus among scholars that if a traveling person is
determined to return as soon as his work is done and does not know when that
will be, then he may continue to pray Qasr as long as he is on travel.
If, however, a person decides to settle down in a city, the moment he does so,
he ceases to be a traveler, and, therefore, he must pray full.
If, on the other hand, one is determined to stay only for a few days the number
of which he knows precisely, then he should pray full, according to a great
number of scholars, if his stay exceeds more than four days. The Hanafi School,
however, puts the number of allowable days at fifteen, while a third group of
scholars put it at eighteen.
The first view seems to be the safest view to follow, as it has been based on
the Prophet’s practice. According to authentic reports, he stayed in Makkah for
four days, and during his stay he prayed Qasr; he had already known in advance
how many days he would be staying. He is reported to have prayed Qasr for
eighteen and twenty days on two different occasions, when, most likely, he had
no idea as regards the number of days he would be staying.
Having said this, I should rush to state that if anyone follows the position of
the Hanafi School, he should not be blamed for his action, for theirs is a Fiqh-
ruling based on acceptable practices of the Salaf as-Salih (pious predecessors).
Since it is merely a question of differences of interpretation based on valid
Ijtihad (creative exercise of reasoning), one should never make a big issue out
of such differences of opinion among Imams.
2) The most accurate way to count the number of days for a traveler is to
consider oneself a Musaafir (traveler) only after one has crossed the boundaries
of his city of residence. Thus in case of people living in Toronto, if they are
in a long distance journey they will be considered travelers only after they
have crossed the boundaries of GTA. The days of stay are calculated by excluding
the day/days of going and returning.
3) Yes, according to vast majority of scholars and Imams, it is perfectly
allowed for a traveler to combine Zuhr and `Asr , and Maghrib and `Isha. This
ruling (known as Jam`) is based on the authentic traditions which clearly state
that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had combined Zuhr and `Asr as
well as Maghrib and `Isha on a number of occasions while traveling.
According to Hanafi School, however, combining prayers is allowed only during
Hajj while performing the rite of standing in `Arafah. At other times they allow
only what is often termed as Jam suwari (a kind of combining): By this they mean
to say that you are allowed, for instance, to delay Zuhr and pray it at the last
time of Zuhr and then pray `Asr at the first time of `Asr .
The majority view allowing combining of prayers as mentioned earlier has been
considered to be the most authentic; it has been adopted later by many scholars
belonging to Hanafi School as well.
4) While combining prayers, you are allowed to make either taqdim (advancing) or
ta’khir (delaying): In other words, you are allowed to advance the second prayer
to the time of the first prayer. Thus, if you are combining Zuhr and `Asr , you
can first pray Zuhr at the time of Zuhr, and then advance `Asr by praying
immediately, or if you wish you can defer praying Zuhr until the time of `Asr
arrives, in which case, you will first pray Zuhr and then pray `Asr afterwards.
The same procedure applies to combining Maghrib and `Isha as well.
An important word of caution concerning Jam` is that there is no combining of
Fajr with Zuhr, or `Asr with Maghrib, or ‘Isha with Fajr.
It is also worth mentioning that while praying Qasr during travel is highly
recommended—some Imams such as Abu Hanifah even consider it as obligatory—during
travel, praying Jam’ is only allowed while one is actually traveling or
pre-occupied with pressing circumstances. Jam’ is rare, while Qasr is common.
A final remark to be made is that if a person is aimlessly wandering, he is not
considered a traveler and is, therefore, not allowed to make use of the
allowances of Qasr and Jam`."