Solah While Traveling

Solat While Musafir

To Shorten or Complete Prayers While Traveling

Question: I was on a trip and when the Prayer was due I performed it in its shortened form (qasar). Some of my friends did so, while others opted for completing the Solat, 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 Solat or to shorten it? Jazakumullah 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.

Many thanks for your question, which emanates from a God-fearing heart, since it shows your commitment to Solat, the cornerstone of Islam.

Solat While Musafir (Traveling)

The view held by the majority of scholars that Qasar, shortening the solat is proper for a traveler, since the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and the caliphs used to shorten their solat while traveling. This opinion, in addition, spares us the controversy whether qasar the solat is obligatory or not. However, a traveler is permitted either to shorten his solat or complete it, according to a group of scholars. Other scholars deem completing the Prayer while traveling as reprehensible since traveler who completes the Prayer 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:

In his book Al-Majmu`, Imam An-Nawawi (Rahimahullah) says:

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

However, the traveler is permitted to complete the Prayer, as `A’ishah (radiallahu’anha) reported that she traveled with Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in Ramadan to perform `Umrah. He did not fast but she did. He shortened the Prayer and she performed the whole Prayer. Then `A’ishah (radiallahu’anha) said, “O Messenger of Allah, you did not fast but I did, and you shortened your Prayer and I completed it.” He (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) replied, “You did well, `A’ishah.”

In fact, shortening the Prayer is rukhsah (a legal concession) that can be abandoned, exactly as is the ruling of with wiping over leather socks in ablution.

Imam Ibn Taymiyah (Rahimahullah) says:

Some scholars deem completing the Prayer in travel better than shortening it. Others prefer shortening but they see no harm in completing the Prayer. Rather, they consider it the apparent ruling and they say that one should not shorten his Prayer unless he intends to do so. Still others argue that completion is not permissible, and the Sunnah is to shorten the Prayer while traveling. According to them, it is reprehensible for a traveler to complete his Prayer. These scholars hold that shortening the Prayer is a permanent Sunnah for the traveler, while combining the Prayers (jama`) is a temporary legal concession. In fact, this opinion seems to be the closest one to Sunnah.

[Majmu’ al-Fatawa]

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

The Maliki, Shafi`ie, and Hanbali (Rahimahullah) 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 Prayer 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 (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam ), and spares us the controversy introduced by those maintaining the obligation of shortening the Prayer, such as Imam Abu Hanifah (Rahimahullah). 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 Prayer to avoid the controversy introduced by a group of scholars, including Imam Ahmad (Rahimahullah), who hold that people in such cases should complete their Prayer.

On the other hand, the view in the Shafi`ie School is that completing the Prayer 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 Prayer is deemed better since it is the original ruling.

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

Hanafis, on their part, have the view that qasar is the original ruling of the Prayer. Prayer was initially composed of only two rak`ahs for both travelers and residents. This is indicated by the hadith that `A’ishah narrated: “The Prayer was prescribed as two rak`ahs, both in journey and at the place of residence. The Prayer while traveling remained as it was (originally prescribed), but an addition was made in the Prayer (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 Prayer would not be deemed as rukhsah for a traveler, but rather an act of disobedience to the Sunnah.

Moreover, shortening the Solah is an `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. He (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) shortened his Solat in Makkah and said to the Makkans, “Complete your Solat.” If the completion of the Solat had been permissible, he would not have performed only two rak`ahs.

Allah Almighty knows best.

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


About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

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