Prayers of The Travelers

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How to pray while traveling? How do you pray salah when traveling?

I. Being on a Journey

As a religious term, “being on a safar (journey,)” means travelling to a place a certain distance away. The required length of the journey is equal to what a loaded camel caravan can cover in two days, which is about 90 kilometers. Neither a person who travels to a place less than 90 km away from his residence, nor the one who does not intend to go to such a distance when getting out of his residence, even if he travels more than 90 km, is considered “a safari (traveler)” according to Islamic law.

The journey begins when the traveler reaches a place in which he would, by commonly accepted standards, be considered a traveler. For someone residing in a settlement composed of constructed dwellings, his journey is deemed to begin when he goes beyond a wall connected to the place from where he is traveling, as long as the wall is located on the side of the settlement from where he intends to travel. If there is not a wall, what matters is for the person to pass out of the inhabited, built-up residential area. Today, the official borders of the districts in big metropolitan cities, entrances of airports and highways are accepted as the beginning points of a safar (journey). When the person gets back to the beginning point of his travel, his journey ends.

The person who is not on a journey is called “muqim (resident)” in Islamic terminology. If the person who is on a journey consciously intends to stay in his destination place for four complete days, not including the day he arrives and the day he departs, he becomes a resident in his destination as soon as he arrives and he will no longer be considered as a traveler.

It is not appropriate to set out on a journey on Friday morning after dawn before the Friday prayer since there is an apprehension in missing the Friday prayer. However, if there is a possibility to catch the Friday prayer at a place during the journey, then it becomes permissible to set out on a journey before the Friday prayer. If a person sets out on a journey on Friday morning due to necessity and cannot find a place to perform the Friday prayer on the way, then it becomes obligatory upon him to perform the Noon prayer.

II. Facilities Provided When Being on a Journey

Islam has taken into consideration the hardship and problems that one may face during a journey and established some special facilities for the travelers. So much so that:

  1. The person who is on a journey may continue to wipe his sock (khuff) for three days.
  2. The person who is on a journey may shorten the four-cycle obligatory prayers to two cycles. This is called “qasr al-salah”. The three cycle obligatory Evening prayer and Witr prayer are performed as they are without shortening.
  3. The person who is on a journey may combine two prayers, which is called “jam’ al-salatayn”. One may combine the Noon and the Late Afternoon prayers or the Evening and the Night prayers and perform them in the time of either one of the prayers. For example one may combine the Noon and the Late Afternoon prayers either in the time of the Noon prayer (which is called jam’ al-taqdim) or in the time of the Late Afternoon prayer (which is called jam’ al-ta’khir.)
  4. The person who is on a journey may perform supererogatory prayers on his/her mount or vehicle. The person who travels on a mount, bus, or plane etc. performs the prayers on his/her seat towards the direction that his/her ride is traversing. If it is possible, it is recommended to perform the Sunnah muakkadah prayers during a journey. If it is not possible or the ride cannot wait, then it is permissible not to perform them.
  5. The person who is on a journey in the month of Ramadan has been given the allowance not to fast and postpone the fasting for after the month of Ramadan. However, it is obligatory to make those missed days up after the month of Ramadan.

In order to benefit from the above-mentioned facilities, the journey must be for a religiously lawful purpose. All schools of Islamic law except Hanafis argue that if a person sets out on a journey for an unlawful purpose such as to kill someone, to steal, to oppress people, and for a woman to set out on a journey without her husband’s permission, that person is not allowed to benefit from the concessionary rules of being on a journey. This is because being on a journey is the cause of benefiting from such concessionary rules, whereas without her husband’s permission a woman is not allowed to benefit from these concessionary rules and also that such rules cannot be used as the basis for committing sins.

III. The Rulings Regarding Shortening the Prayers on a Journey

If a traveler fulfills all the other necessary conditions, he/she is allowed to perform the four cycle-obligatory prayers, i.e. Noon, Late Afternoon, and Night prayers, by shortening them to two cycles. However, if he/she wants, he/she can perform them to completion. (According to Hanafi School, it is strongly reprehensible (makruh tahriman – reprehensible close to haram) to perform them to completion.)

The Shafiis also hold that if a traveler postpones the prayer so close to the end of its designated time period that there is only enough time left to perform two cycles, he must shorten his prayer, and it is not permissible for him to pray the prayer to completion.

If a person misses a four-cycle prayer during a journey, he can make it up as shortened when he is still on the journey. However, after he comes back from the journey, he is not allowed to shorten them.

The sufficient distance for the permissibility of shortening prayers is two stages (two camping distance – 90 km). if the length of the journey is three or more ‘stages’ [135 km or more], it is considered preferable to shorten one’s prayers. If the traveler is a sailor, it is preferable for them to pray all their prayers to completion even if the length of their journey exceeds three “stages.”

The one who sets out on a journey cannot shorten the prayers before leaving the residential area like the buildings, gardens, fields, and cemeteries of the place where he resides. If one who lives in a port city sets out on a journey by sea, he can begin shortening prayers as soon as his ship leaves the port.

The legality of shortening the prayers during a journey and in cases of fear is based on the verses of the Qur’an, Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) and the consensus of the Muslim scholars. In this regard, it is stated in the Qur’an, “When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear that the Unbelievers may attack you: For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies.” (al-Nisa, 4: 101)

It is more appropriate to shorten (qasr) the prayers during a journey even if there is no fear. The Companion Ya’la b. Umayya said, “I told ‘Umar b. al-Khattab that Allah says: “You may shorten the prayer only if you fear that those who are unbelievers may afflict you” (al-Nisa, 4: 101), whereas the people are now safe. He replied: I pondered about it in the same way as you are pondering about it, so I asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) about it and he said: “It is an act of charity which Allah has done for you, so accept His charity.”[1]

In addition ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with both of them, said, “When I accompanied the Prophet on a journey, he would only pray two rak’ahs. This was likewise the practice of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman.”[2]

The following conditions are required for the validity of shortening the prayers:

  1. The person should go at least 90 km away from the place where he resides. If one has two routes to choose, one of which is shorter and the other is longer than 90 km, and if he prefers the route that is longer, but comfortable and safer, he can shorten his prayers.
  2. One should intend to undertake a journey at the moment of setting out on it. One who does not know where and which direction to go or who sets out to a journey to look for a debtor or something similar, whose location is not known, cannot shorten his prayers. In like manner, one who intends to go a certain required journey distance, but does not complete the distance or one who intends to stay in his destination for more than four days, excluding the departure and arrival days, cannot shorten his prayers.

If the person who sets out on a journey has doubts whether or not he has made intention at the beginning of his journey or one who has doubts whether he has left his residence city needs to perform his prayers to the completion.

If a traveler intends to leave the place he is visiting within the specified time, but postpones it day by day due to his business responsibilities, he may shorten his prayers for as long as eighteen days, excluding the days of departure and arrival. However, if the traveler knows for certain that his business will take more than four days, then he cannot shorten his prayers.

  1. The prayer, which will be shortened by the traveler, must be a four-cycle obligatory prayer and the traveler must intend to shorten it.
  2. The traveler must not follow a resident imam in a congregational prayer. If he follows a resident imam, then he must perform the prayer to the completion even if he catches the congregation in the last testification of faith (final sitting).

It is permitted for a resident to follow an imam who is a traveler. In such cases, the resident person must complete the prayer after the imam completes the prayer in the shortened form.

  1. The traveler must be free in his decisions. In cases that the travelling person is subject to the decisions of another person, such as a wife to her husband, a soldier to his commander, a servant to his master, and a student to his teacher, one cannot shorten the prayers. This is because in such cases one cannot act freely.
  2. The traveler must intend to stay in his destinations less than four days excluding the days of departure and arrival.
  3. The state of being on a journey should continue from beginning to the end of prayer. If the ship of a person, which is traveling by sea, arrives at his residence and the person on it is performing his prayers in shortened form, then he is obligated to perform his prayers to completion.

IV. Combining the Prayers (Jam’i Taqdim and Jam’i Ta’khir )

Allah Almighty commanded us to perform prayers in their prescribed times: “…For such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times” (al-Nisa, 4: 103). However, Islam permits the combinations of some obligatory prayers, and the facility to perform them outside their standard times under certain circumstances in order to remove hardships.

Combining the Noon and the Late Afternoon prayers in the time of the Noon prayer or combining the Evening and Night prayers in the time of the Evening prayer is called “jam’ al-taqdim”. Combining the Noon and the Late Afternoon prayers in the time of the Late Afternoon prayer or combining the Evening and the Night prayers in the time of the Night prayer is called “jam’ al-ta’khir”. The Dawn prayer cannot be combined with any other prayer.

Pilgrims perform the Noon and the Late afternoon prayers in time of the Noon prayer as jam’  taqdim in the plain of Arafat; and the Evening and the Night prayers in the time of the Night prayer as jam’ ta’khir in Muzdalifa. All schools of Islamic law have consensus on combining the prayers during this period of pilgrimage.

Ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) said, “I have never seen the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) observing a prayer other than in its appointed time except combining the Noon and the Late Afternoon prayers in Arafat and combining the Evening and the Night prayers in Muzdalifa.”[3]

Based on this hadīth, the Hanafi School does not deem it permissible to combine prayers except in Arafat and Muzdalifa during the pilgrimage. According to them, the examples of combining prayers in times of travel and hardship were a combination of prayers only in appearance (jam’ suri), which took place in fact as performing one prayer at the end of its prescribed time and the next one at the beginning of its prescribed time. The hadīth presented as a proof in this regard reads as follows,

“Whenever the Prophet (pbuh) started the journey before noon, he used to delay the Zuhr prayer till the time for the ‘Asr prayer and then he would dismount and pray them together; and whenever the sun declined before he started the journey he used to offer the Zuhr prayer and then ride (for the journey).”[4]

According to majority of the schools of Islamic law (Maliki, Shafii and Hanbali Schools), during a journey, performing every prayer in its designated times is preferable, but it is also permissible to combine two consecutive prayers either in the time of the first one or in the time of the second.  Abdullah b. Abbas (may Allah be pleased both of them) said, “Together with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), I performed eight cycles of prayer by combining the Noon and the Late afternoon prayers and seven cycles by combining the Evening and the Night prayers.”[5] “When he was on a journey, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would combine the Noon and the Late afternoon prayers. He would also combine the Evening and the Night prayers.”[6]

The Conditions of Jam’ al-Taqdim and Jam’ al-Ta’khir:

There are six conditions for the permissibility of combining prayers in the time of the first prayer (jam’ al-taqdim) during a journey:

  1. Intention, one should make an intention to perform two consecutive prayers by combining them. For example, if a person is thinking to combine the Noon and the Late Afternoon prayers during the time of the Noon prayer then he must make his intention to perform the Late Afternoon prayer right after the Noon prayer. It is a requirement for the person to make this intention by heart while performing the first prayer. One may also express his intention in various ways, for example:

For the Noon prayer: I intend to perform the Noon prayer for the sake of Allah by shortening it to two cycles and combining it with the Late Afternoon prayer.

For the Late Afternoon prayer: I intend to perform the Late Afternoon prayer for the sake of Allah by shortening it to two cycles and combining it with the Noon prayer during the time of the Noon prayer.

For the Evening prayer: I intend to perform the Evening prayer as three cycles and combine it with the Night prayer.

For the Night prayer: I intend to perform the Night prayer by shortening it to two cycles and combine it with the Evening prayer during the time of the Evening prayer.

  1. Following the order (tartib). If one intends to combine the Noon and the Late Afternoon prayers, he should first perform the Noon prayer; or if he intends to combine the Evening and the Night prayers, he should first perform the Evening prayer.
  2. Muwalaat, which means to perform two consecutive prayers successively without giving a certain amount of time between them. The time break between the two prayers cannot be more than a period long enough to perform a two-cycle prayer. It is not permissible to perform a Sunnah / supererogatory prayer between them. If one gives a break between the two prayers, even if it is for a valid excuse such as losing consciousness or making a mistake, the combining prayers becomes invalid and it becomes obligatory to perform the second prayer in its prescribed time. However, a short time break such as a call for prayer, call for commencement of a prayer, or performing the minor ablution etc. does not make the jam’ invalid. In fact, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) recited call for the commencement of prayer (iqama) between two prayers when he combined the prayers in the place called Namira.
  3. The state of travel should continue. The state of being on a journey should continue at least until the beginning takbir of the second prayer. If the state of being on a journey ends before the beginning of the second prayer, performing the second prayer by combining it to the first one does not become valid.
  4. The time of the first prayer should continue. One must be sure that the time of the first prayer will not end.
  5. The first prayer should be validly performed. For example, if the first one is Friday prayer, if it is performed in more than one mosque without a necessity, and if it is not known for sure in which mosque it was performed first, it is not valid to combine it with the Late Afternoon prayer.

There are two conditions for the permissibility of combining prayers in the time of the second prayer (jam’ al-ta’khir) during a journey:

  1. To make the intention in the time of first prayer to combine the two consecutive prayers in the time of the second prayer (jam’ al-ta’khir).
  2. The state of being on a journey should continue until the end of the times of the two combined prayers. If the state of being on a journey does not continue until the end of the combined prayers and ends earlier, the combined prayers becomes invalid and the first prayer needs to be made up.

Tartib and muwalat in the case of jam’ al-ta’khir is not obligatory, but a Sunnah.

According to the Shafii School, it is permissible to combine prayers due to heavy rain. This is based upon the following hadīth, “Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) combined the Noon and the Late Afternoon prayers, and the Evening and the Night prayers in Medina without being in a state of fear, nor due to journey.” In regards to this hadīth, Imam Malik said, “I think this happened on a rainy day.”[7]

If the Noon and the Late Afternoon prayers or the Evening and the Night prayers are to be combined due to rain, they can be combined in the time the first prayers (jam al-taqdim).

It is permissible, on account of rain, for a person who is ‘resident’ in a place to combine the prayers as one would while traveling, including the combination of the Friday congregational prayer with the Late Afternoon prayer during the time period for the Friday prayer; this ruling applies even if the rain is light enough that it only wets the top of one’s garment or the soles of one’s shoes, and the same applies to snow or hail, even if it melting.

However, the person who is ‘resident’ may only engage in this practice given the following conditions:

  1. The worshiper must consciously have intended to combine the two prayers.
  2. The original order (tartib) between the two prayers must be maintained.
  3. One should observe muwalat between the two prayers, which means there must be continuity between the two prayers.
  4. The rain, hail, or snow must be present when the worshiper utters the beginning takbirs (takbirat al-ihram) for both prayers and when he utters the final greeting of peace for the first prayer. However, it does no harm the combined prayers if the rain stops during the first or the second prayer, or after they are both concluded.
  5. The imam must consciously intend both to lead others in prayer and to pray in an community. The second prayer must be performed in community, even if this includes only the utterance of the beginning takbir. However, it is not required that the community remain present until the end of the second prayer based on the best-attested view, even if the worshiper parts with the group and begins praying on his own before completing its first rak’ah.
  6. The prayer must be combined in a mosque or some other site set aside for prayer, which is far enough away by commonly accepted standards that it would cause hardship for people to get there.

Moreover, based on the most widely prevalent view, the reasons for why someone who is ‘resident’ may combine prayers does not include intense darkness, fear of wind, mud or illness, although there are well-attested arguments in favor of the view that it is permissible to combine prayers (both during the time period for the second prayer and during the time period for the first prayer) on account of illness.

[1] Muslim, Musafirin, 4; Ahmad, al-Musnad, 1/25[2] Muslim, Musafirin, 10.[3] Al-Bukhari, ‘Hajj’, 99; Muslim, ‘Hajj’, 292; Abu Dawud, ‘Manasik’, 65[4] Al-Bukhari, Taqsir al-Salat, 15, 16; Muslim, Musafirin, 46; Abu Dawud, Salat, 274; al-Nasai, Mawaqit, 42[5] Al-Bukhari 1118, 1174, Muslim 705/55, al-Nasai 603[6] Al-Bukhari, Taqsir al-Salat, 13[7] Muwatta, ‘Qasr al-Salat,’ 4; Muslim, ‘Musafirin’, 49

Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications

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