Salat-ul-Qasr or The Traveller’s Prayer

Salat-ul-Qasr means the shortening of prayers usually offered when on a journey. The Quran says, “And if you travel in the land, there is no sin on you that you shorten your prayers (taqṣurū min al-ṣalāt) if you fear that the unbelievers may harm you.” [An-Nisa’ 4:101].

Even though the verse mentions ‘fear’ as a condition, it is no longer a requirement. ʿUmar bin al-Khattab was asked how it was still permissible to shorten prayers even though there was no ‘fear’ remaining. He replied, “I asked the Prophet PBUH the exact same question, and he said, ‘this is a charity that Allah has given to you, so accept His charity,” [Muslim]. In other words, Allah has graciously lifted the condition mentioned and allowed Muslims to shorten the prayer while travelling even if there is no fear of any attack by enemy forces.

The Prophet PBUH used to shorten his prayer during travel and never prayed any four-unit prayer while in a state of travel. (Ibn Taymiyya, Majmūʾ al-Fatāwā, 24/8). 

There is a unanimous consensus amongst all the scholars of Islam that a traveller who is undertaking a legitimate journey may shorten the four-unit prayers to two. But the difference of opinion remains between scholars and various schools of thought (Maslak) as to what constitutes ‘Travel’ for offering Qasr prayers. The issues concerning this stem from

  • The distance travelled and
  • The number of days of stay for which Qasr is valid.

In this blog we delve into the first issue and Insha Allah, the second issue will be discussed in our next blog.

Narrated Anas RA, “when the Prophet PBUH went out on a journey of three miles or three Farasikh, he used to pray two Raka’at,” [Muslim]

Two doubts arise in this hadith

1) Whether it is three miles or three Farasikh. The original Hadith does not state it, but it is the doubt of a reporter in the chain of narrators, as to whether Anas RA used the words three miles or three Farasikh.

2) Farasikh is the plural of Farasakh. It is a measure of distance in Persian. One Farasakh is approximately equal to three miles.

According to the Hanafi School, ‘Travel’ is a three day journey. In other words, it is the distance that a traveller on a camel of average speed would traverse in three complete days. This is the position of the Companion Ibn Masʿūd RA. This position has been inferred from the following Hadith of Prophet PBUH where he said, ‘’It is not allowed for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day that she travel for a distance of three days without her father, son, husband, brother or any mahram.” [Muslim]

Whereas Hanbali, Shafee and the Maliki School consider Travel as a journey of two days based on the following Hadith, “It is not allowed for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day that she travels for a distance of two days without a mahram. [Muslim]

Imam Bukhari in his Saheeh considers Travel as a journey of one day. Prophet PBUH said, “It is not allowed for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day that she travels for a distance of one day without a mahram. [Bukhārī]

The last opinion on this is that a journey is not defined by how much one has travelled but by what one does and how one prepares for it. This is the opinion of Ibn Qudama, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Shawkanī and others. They opine that there is no scriptural evidence that defines ‘travel’, and hence they resort to what is culturally understood to be as ‘travel’.

Ibn Taymiyya disagreed with any specific distance that other scholars sought to derive. According to him, there is no explicit evidence from the Quran, Sunnah, language or custom of that generation that would be binding on later Muslims.

In fact, all three of the previous opinions use the same basic Hadith that prevents women from travelling without a male companion – yet, as is obvious, each Hadith uses a different limit. This in itself shows that the intention of the Hadith is not to define the distance of what constitutes ‘travel’.

In his Majmūʾ al-Fatāwā, (24/15), Ibn Taymiyya writes:

‘’a person might leave his village to go to the desert in order to collect wood, and he leaves for two or three days, and he will be a traveller, even though the distance might be less than a mile! In contrast to this, another person might go [a longer distance] and come back the same day, and he will not be a traveller. This is because the first person will take provision for the journey, and bags [with his necessities], whereas the second person will not. Therefore, even a near distance can be considered a ‘travel’ if someone stays for a period of time, and a longer distance will not be considered a travel if a person stays for a short period. A ‘travel’ is therefore defined by the actions that are required in order for that journey to be called ‘travelling’… and this is a matter that people recognize by their own customs.’’

Therefore, according to Ibn Taymiyya, a ‘travel’ is not merely a distance but also a state of mind. We must know that in order to be eligible to offer a two Raka’at prayer, no distance has been specified in any Hadith. In fact, this concession has been kept open to the effect that it is permissible to offer a two Raka’at prayer during any trip which is considered travelling.

Inshallah we shall continue the topic in the subsequent blog Salat-ul-Qasr or The Traveller’s Prayer-Part II.

[ Authored by Tariq Jameel ]