Salat-ul-Qasr or The Traveller’s Prayer-Part II

In our previous blog we dealt with the definition of travel for the purpose of praying Salat-ul-Qasr. In this blog we intent to shed some light on what a day’s journey mean in modern units of measurement. The Prophetic traditions use the term ‘day’s travel’ in the books of ahadith. The standard units of measurement for travel during early Islam were the farsakh and the barīd.                                                                    

Barīd was a distance that a messenger could travel before he needed to stop to allow his animal to rest.

Farsakh appears to be a Persian unit of measurement that the Arabs adopted. A barid is made up of four Farasakh.

The question arises as to how much distance could be travelled in one day so that the number of days could be changed into distance. Without going into the minute details of this issue, the Hanbalis, Shafies and the Malikis believe this distance (to be eligible for shortening the prayer) to be 16 Farasakh and the Hanafis believe it to be 15 Farasakh. There are differences of opinion about the conversion into modern units. Hanafis take this distance approximately equal to 78 kms or 48 miles while as Imam Nawawi converts this into about 139 kms. There is no precise and agreed upon conversion factor for translating a day’s journey into a tangible and precise measure of distance. The modes of transport back in those days (i.e. 1400 years) and now are completely different. Given the different modes of transport that we use in contemproray times, it is extremely difficult to actually measure and fix an exact numerical figure to this.

However, the opinion of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah is different from all the four schools of thought. He says, The Prophet PBUH did not specify any distance and it does not make sense that the Shariah would place a numerical value when such unit-definitions were not known or followed by the majority of that generation. The purpose of this ruling regarding shortening the prayer is to ease the burden upon the traveller by allowing him to shorten the prayer.  So Ibn Taymiyya’s opinion that a traveller’ is one who is customarily considered one.

The second issue is for how long does one remain a traveller? 

The Hanafi School considers a traveller to be someone who intends to reside at a place for fifteen days or less (inclusive of the day that he intends to travel). The Malikis, Shāfiʿīs, and Hanbalis claimed that the time that makes a traveller into a resident is four days. They base their argument on the command of the Prophet PBUH that the Emigrants (Muhajirun) who were performing Hajj with him should not stay in Makkah for more than three days [Reported by Muslim].

Ibn Taymiyyah holds the opinion, like his opinion about the distance of the travel, that there exists no explicit and specific time frame which converts a traveller (musafir) into a resident (muqeem).  Therefore, he felt that a traveller would remain a traveller even if he stayed at a specific location for a longer period of time, as long as his lifestyle was that of a ‘traveller’. Ibn Taymiyya also pointed out that there are authentic narrations that indicate the Prophet PBUH would pray qaṣr for more than fifteen days. There is the Hadith of Jabir that the Prophet PBUH camped at Tabuk praying qaṣr for twenty days (Reported by Abu Dawud). Another is the hadith of Ibn ʿAbbās in which he reported that the Prophet PBUH stayed in Makkah nineteen days, praying qaṣr (Reported by al-Bukhārī).

All the four schools interpret these evidences by claiming, that the Prophet PBUH did not know how long he would camp at Tabuk during that expedition, However  Ibn Taymiyyah holds the view that the Prophet PBUH suggested no specific number of days. At times He PBUH prayed Qasr for more than four or fifteen days.

But perhaps understanding that this open ended permission had potential problems and probably was more prone to misuse, Ibn Taymiyya did feel that the opinion of four days was safer to follow. Ibn Taymiyya himself did not unequivocally allow such a person to pray qaṣr for a limitless number of days. Even though he said that it is permitted and that one should not rebuke those who do this, he also said that it was better to pray full.  (Ibn Taymiyya, Majmūʾ al-Fatāwā 24/17, 18).

In such matters, one could follow any of the four schools or the opinion of Ibn Taymiyyah and one should not look down upon other for following a particular practice.

Regarding the legal status of Qasr, the Hanafis deem it to be obligatory for the traveler and state that if the traveler prays the regular prayer, he will in fact be sinful. The other schools say that shortening the prayer is preferred, but not obligatory.

The Hanafi School does not allow combining the prayers (jama bain asalat) except during Hajj. A vast majority of other scholars allowed Zuhr and Aṣr to be joined, and Maghrib and Ishā to be joined. They say that this should preferably be done only during the actual travel.


7 thoughts on “Salat-ul-Qasr or The Traveller’s Prayer-Part II

  1. Dear Brother Shoaib
    As salaam alaikum wa rahmathullah hi wa barkathuhu.
    The subject of Salat-Ul-Qasr has put me in great confusion with different people giving different opinions. Because there is not one type of situation in travelling, there can be many different situations (Travelling by road, by air, same day return, long travel hours, short travel hours, long stay, short stay etc…). I am a very frequent traveller due to my nature of job and would appreciate if you could clarify if salath-ul-qasr will be applicable to my situation and how. I work in Saudi Arabia and leave my home(family) on Saturday and return back home on Wednesday then continue again on Saturday and return back on Wednesday. That is I stay in a hotel in the destination city for the whole working week and stay at home during weekends. For your information I travel by air always. So how can my situation be considered for applying Salat-ul-qasr? Would appreciate your authentic response. I guess as long as you are able to hear the Adaan in your place of stay or work during these days outside home you need not pray Qasr is it true? please clarify.

    1. Wa alaikumus salaam…

      Dear Brother Reyaz,

      There are two possibilities that you haven’t mentioned, i.e., whether you travel to the same destination every weekdays or is it different everytime?

      #1 : If it is the same destination everyweek, then you are not allowed to shorten your prayers or combine your prayers, because both the places are like your place of stay (even if you change your hotels every week). The town which you intend to stay in for more than four days is also considered a place of residence, according to the opinion of the majority of scholars. But you may avail the concession only whilst travelling.

      #2 : If the destination is different everyweek, then you are eligible to shorten or combine your prayers during the whole working week.

      #3 : It is not true that as long as one is able to hear the Adaan in his place of stay or work during these days outside home you need not pray Qasr. It is not the voice of adaan that obliges us to pray, it is the time of salaah that compels us to offer salaah. So when you hear adaan or you dont (due to any reason) and it is time for salaah, then you may offer Qasr if you are a traveller.

      [Saqib Hafiz]

  2. Dear Br Shoaib
    I must thank you for the very well detailed piece and a very important one.
    Br Riyaz had added one more dimension and made it more inclusive.
    I personally resonate more with the views of Ibni Taymiayyah (Rahmatul Allah) but one question somewhat not fitting well in the process of thinking.
    Whether you are entitled to Salatul Qasr for a travel period up to 4 days or 15 days will depend on the school of Fiqah you follow. Now if your stay is more than the minimum of 4 days or 15 days (as the case may be) then you are Muqeem. My question is do you become a Muqeem on the very first day or when the minimum no of days (4 or 15) is completed.
    I would appreciate your response.
    Rafiq Ahmad

  3. Asa

    Thank you all for sharing such a great topic that often put lot of us in great clueless , unease and confused.

    I live in North America, often go out on journey for the sake of pleasures / picnics / outings / family visits in different cites etc in combined group of families.
    The journey’s are purely for sake of pleasure … sometimes required us to stay overnight and sometime short day return, distances ranging sometimes over 50 to 100 km in luxury vehicles with often stays in area where all the amnesties are easily available like area for prayers / abulution . In other words, there is no hardships what so ever, can we shortened the prayers in these cases.

    Pls give detailed answer

    JazakAllah khairon

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