Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Solat While Traveling

To Qasar or Complete the Prayers While Traveling

Question:  I was on a trip and when the solāt was due I performed it in its shortened form (qasar). Some of my friends did so, while others opted for completing the Prayer, arguing that this is the preferable act. What is the Shari`ah ruling in this regard? And what is the better choice for a traveler: to complete the Solāt or to shorten it? Jazakumllah khayran.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Prayers While Traveling

The scholars differs in their opinion about it, but the most correct opinion is the view held by the majority of scholars that Qasar (shortening the Solāt) is proper way of observing solāt for a traveler, since the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) and the caliphs used to shorten their solāts while traveling. This opinion, in addition, spares us the controversy whether shortening the Prayer is obligatory or not. However, a traveler is permitted either to shorten his solāts or complete it, according to a group of scholars. Other scholars deem completing the Solāt while traveling as reprehensible since the traveler who completes the Solāt does not follow the Sunnah.

This debate is applicable if the traveler prays alone or is led by another traveler. If a traveler is led by a resident, then the preponderant opinion is that he should complete the Prayer (pray in full).

To elaborate on the subject, we cite the scholars’ arguments in this regard:

Imam An-Nawawi (rahimahullah) says:

If the travel continues for three days, then the shortening would be better choice. `Imran ibn Husain (radiallāhu`anhu) said, “I performed Hajj with Allāh’s Messenger (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), and he used to pray two rak`ahs. And I traveled with Abu Bakar (radiallāhu`anhu) and he used to pray two rak`ahs until he died. Also, I traveled with `Umar (radiallāhu`anhum) and he used to pray two rak`ahs until he died. I traveled also with `Uthman (radiallāhu`anhu). He used to perform two rak`at for six years, then he performed the whole Prayer in Mina.” 

Thus, it is appropriate to follow the footsteps of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam). It is the better choice.

However, the traveler is permitted to complete the Solāt, as `A’ishah (radiallāhu’anha) reported that she traveled with Allāh’s Messenger (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) in Ramadan to perform `Umrah. He (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) did not fast but she did. He (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) shortened the Prayer and she performed the whole Solāt. Then `A’ishah (radiallāhu’anha) said, “O Messenger of Allāh, you did not fast but I did, and you shortened your Prayer and I completed it.” He (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) replied, “You did well, `A’ishah.In fact, shortening the Solāt is rukhsah (a legal concession) that can be abandoned, exactly as is the ruling of with wiping over leather socks in ablution.


Thus, there three views:

Some scholars deem completing the Solāt in travel better than shortening it, which is permissible.

Some prefer shortening it, but no harm in completing the Solāt. But the ruling is that one should not qasar his Prayer unless he intended to do so.

Others argue that completion is not permissible, and it is the Sunnah to qasar the Solāt while traveling. According to them, it is reprehensible for a traveler to complete his Solāt. These scholars hold that shortening (qasar) the Solāt is a permanent Sunnah for the traveler, while combining the Solāts (jama`) is a temporary legal concession. In fact, this opinion seems to be the closest one to Sunnah. It is the view held by the majority of scholars that Qasar (shortening the Solāt) is proper way of observing solāt for a traveler, since the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) and the caliphs used to shorten their solāts while traveling.

Qasar (shortening the Solāt)

 Shedding more light on the question, the Kuwaiti Encyclopedia of Fiqh states:

The Maliki, Shafi`ie, and Hanbali (rahimahullāh) scholars maintain that the original ruling is the completion of the Prayer, and the shortening is a legal concession. They corroborate their argument with the hadith narrated by Imam Muslim to the effect that shortening the Solāt is “an act of charity which Allah has done to you.”

Yet, the prevalent view in the Shafi`ie School is that, in case a travel should last three days, shortening the Prayer is better than completion as it conforms to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), and spares us the controversy introduced by those maintaining the obligation of shortening the Solāt, such as Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullāh). In this context, some cases are exceptional, such as the crew of a ship accompanied by their families in their travels overseas, and one who is in permanent travel with no specific homeland. Such people are recommended to perform the whole Solāt to avoid the controversy introduced by a group of scholars, including Imam Ahmad (rahimahullāh), who hold that people in such cases should complete their Solāt.

On the other hand, the unpopular view in the Shafi`ie School is that completing the Solāt is better in all circumstances, due to the fact that it is the original ruling and the oft-repeated practice. Yet if a travel would not last for three days, then completing the Solāt is deemed better since it is the original ruling.

The Hanbalis maintain that shortening is better than completing the Solāt, as the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) and the caliphs always shortened the Solāt while traveling. Yet there is no harm in completing the Solāt for those originally allowed to shorten the Prayers.

The Hanafis, on their part, have the view that qasar is the original ruling of the Solāt. Solāt was initially composed of only two rak`ahs for both travelers and residents. This is indicated by the hadith that `A’ishah narrated:The Solāh was prescribed as two rak`at, both in journey and at the place of residence. The Solāh while traveling remained as it was (originally prescribed), but an addition was made in the Solāh (observed) at the place of residence.” As a matter of fact, this cannot be known except through tawqif (revelation). Thus, performing only two of the four rak`ahs by the traveler is not originally considered a kind of shortening (qasar). In fact, this is the original and complete ruling as far as the traveler is concerned. Also, completing the Solāt would not be deemed as rukhsah for a traveler, but rather an act of disobedience to the Sunnah.

Shortening the Solāt is `azimah (an established and confirmed ruling).  It is known that `azimah is better than rukhsah, and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) used to choose the best of deeds. He would abandon the better deeds once or twice only to teach his Ummah the legal concessions. Rasullulah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) shortened his Solāt in Makkah and said to the Makkans, “Complete your Solāh.” If the completion of the Solāt had been the only  way  that is permissible, he would not have performed only two rak`at, as well as asking the Makkan to complete thier solat.

Allah Almighty knows best.

[Excerpted with modifications from Islam Online, Ask the Scholar, published on October3, 2004]

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