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The Travellers Prayer

The prayers comprising four Rak'ahs (Zuhr, Asr and lsha) are shortened to two Rak'ahs whilst on a journey.

The commandment of Shortening the prayer

It is Waajib for the traveller to shorten his prayer. It is Makrooh for him to perform the full four Rak'ahs.

If one does perform four Rak'ahs but had sat for the length of Tashah-hud during the sitting after two Rak'ahs the prayer will be valid. The extra two Rak'ahs will become Nafl but he will be sinful for leaving the essential shortening, joining Nafl with Fard and delaying the Salaam for it is Waajib to perform Salaam after the last sitting, and the last sitting in a traveller's prayer is after two Rak'ahs.

If a traveller performs four Rak'ahs and does not perform the sitting after two Rak'ahs his prayer will not be valid for that sitting (after two Rak'ahs) is Fard in shortened prayer.

The evidence for shortening the prayer

Shortening the prayer began in the fourth year after Hijrah and its authenticity is proven through the Qur'an, Sunnah and Ijmaa'. Allah (swt) says:

"And when you travel in the land, there is no sin on you that you shorten the prayer, if you fear that the disbelievers may attack you." (Qur'an :4:101)

This verse proves that shortening the prayer is legitimate when one is in fear. Though this verse does not explicitly prove that shortening the prayer is legal whilst in peace, but Sahih ahaadeeth and Ijmaa' prove this fact. Some of these ahaadeeth are :

1. Ya'laa ibn Umayya (ra) states that he asked Umar (ra), 'Why do we shorten our prayers in a state of peace?' He, Umar (ra), replied, 'I also surprised what you are surprising so I asked the Prophet who said, "This is a charity which Allah (swt) has bestowed upon you. So accept this charity from your Lord." (Muslim)

2. Abdullah ibn Abbas (ra) states, 'Through the tongue of your Prophet , Allah (swt) has made prayer Fard upon you. In residence four Rak'ahs, in travel two Rak'ahs and in fear one Rak'ah.' (Muslim)

3. It is narrated by Aisha (ra), 'In Makkah two Rak'ahs were made compulsory in all prayers. When the Prophet came to Madeenah he increased each prayer by two Rak'ahs, except Maghrib, which is the daytime Witr and Fajr for it contains a long recitation. And when he was on a journey he would pray as before. (i.e. as what was Fard in Makkah). (Ahmad)

4. Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) was asked, 'In the Qur'an there is a mention of the prayer whilst in residence and the prayer whilst in fear but there is no mention of the prayer in a journey?' Ibn Umar (ra) replied, 'Verily Allah (swt) sent Prophet Muhammad towards us. We do not know anything but simply do what we saw him (the Prophet ) doing.' (Muwatta)

The distance of the journey which makes shortening valid

The shortest length of journey, which induces the change in the commandment, is that distance which one could comfortably cover walking or on the medium pace of a camel on three of the shorter days of the year. This works out to be 98 kilometres. This refers to the distance to the destination and does not include the distance covered in the return journey.

For the ruling of Qasr (shortening) to become valid it is not conditional that the above distance is covered in three days. Even if it was covered in less than three days it remains valid to shorten the prayer because one can cover this distance very quickly on an aeroplane.

The rulings which change due to the journey are as follows: The shortening of the prayer, the permission to break the fast, the widening of the validity of wiping on moccasins to three days, the obligation of the Jumu'ah, two Eid Prayers and sacrifice (Nahr) is invalidated and the impermissibility of the free women leaving for a journey without a Mahram.

When a person, upon whom these laws of Shari'ah apply, intends to travel, he is ordered to shorten his prayer when he leaves the populated area of his city of residence. Similarly he should continue to shorten his prayer until he returns into the populated part of his city. Without physically leaving one's city a person does not become a traveller by simply making the intention of travel but becomes resider with only intention.

The intention of travel

There are three requirements which form the Niyyah (intention) of journey.

1. At the beginning of the journey one must make the intention of the whole journey. If somebody aimlessly wanders around with no idea to where he is going he is not allowed to shorten his prayer even if he ends up travelling the whole world in this way. This is because at the initiation of his journey he had no intention of covering this distance.

2. To have free will. This is because a dependant's intention is unreliable, without the Niyyah of the independant. Thus a wife's Niyyah is incomplete without the husband's Niyyah; the soldier's Niyyah without the commander's and the servant's Niyyah without the master's.

3. Niyyah must be made by a mature person. The intention of a child is not valid.

The prayer of a traveller behind a resider

and vice versa It is valid for a traveller to perform the prayer of that time behind a resider and the traveller should in this situation perform four Rak'ahs. If a traveller leads residers in prayer the travelling Imaam should offer two Rak'ahs and say Salaam and the residers should stand up and perform the remaining two Rak'ahs. But, they will not recite Qiraa'ah nor Sajdah Sahv, because they began their prayer behind an Imaam thus the condition of Qiraa'ah has already been fulfilled.

After performing the Salaam it is Mustahabb for the Imaam to say, 'Complete your prayers for I am a traveller'. It is better if the Imaam says these words before beginning the prayer so as to rid any doubts. It is provident to say this both at the beginning and the end of the prayer. (Pirzada)

A person will remain a traveller until he makes the intention of staying in a town or village for at least 15 days. When he makes such an intention he becomes a resider. In this situation he will offer his prayers fully (i.e. four Rak'ahs) but if the intention of residence is for less than 15 days he will continue to shorten his prayer.

If a person enters a city and does not intend to stay there for 15 days but rather each day says that he will leave tomorrow, he will continue to shorten his prayers, even if this situation persists for several years. When a person enters his own city he will offer his prayers fully, even if he makes no intention of residence.

Shortening the Sunnah Prayers

There is no shortening of Sunnah Prayers. Some Fuqahaa have allowed for a traveller to leave out the performance of Sunnah Prayers. But the authentic opinion is that if the traveller has convenience, comfort and peace in a place he should offer the Sunnah Prayers, and if he is on the move or fearful he may leave out Sunnah Prayers, with the exception of the Sunnahs of Fajr and Maghrib.