Question # 14: Few people told me that when there is jama’at than prefer jama’at over qasr? What I know is that in travel, prefer qasr over jama’at. Please clarify.

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: To make the observance of His deen easy, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has permitted and given the option to the believers to shorten their prayers when they are on a journey, but that does not in any way mean that the offering of full prayers can be forgone altogether. Thus if one is on a journey and is praying alone or is made the ‘imam’ of a congregation, then it would be best to offer salah in ‘qasr’.  But when on a journey one happens to come upon residents offering their prayers in congregation, he should join and offer full prayers along with the congregation.

Long Answer: Prayer in congregation is obligatory and it is not permissible for a Muslim not to do that unless he has an excuse and there are number of evidences in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Moreover, the soundest opinion among the scholars is that prayer in congregation in the mosque is obligatory. For example, this is the view of ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabaah, al-Hasan al-Basri, al-Awzaa’i and Abi Thawr, and of Imam Ahmad as it appears from some of his statements. This was also stated by al-Shaafa’i in Mukhtasar al-Muzni where he said: “With regard to praying in congregation, I do not allow a concession to anyone not to do it except one who has an excuse.”

Based on this, one has to offer salah in congregation in the mosque. If the imam is a resident (is not travelling) then you should offer the prayer in full with him, and not shorten it.

Shaykh Ibn Baaz was asked: If a person travels to Jeddah, for example, is he allowed to shorten his prayers or does he have to pray with the congregation in the mosque?

He replied: If the traveler is still en route, it does not matter, but if he has reached his destination then he should not pray on his own, rather he has to pray with the people and offer the prayer in full. But if he is still on the road and is alone and the time for prayer comes, there is nothing wrong with him praying on his own and shortening the prayers whilst travelling, making the four-rak’ah prayers two rak’ahs. (Majmoo Fataawa wa Maqaalaat Mutanawwi’iah li’l-Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said:

…Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) was asked why a traveler should pray two-rak’ahs when he is alone and four when he prays behind a resident. He said: “That is the Sunnah.” (Narrated by Muslim and Ahmad)

The obligation to pray in congregation is not waived for the traveler, because Allah has enjoined that even in the case of fighting. Allah says in the Qur’an: “When you (O Messenger Muhammad) are among them, and lead them in As-Salaah, let one party of them stand up [in Salaah] with you taking their arms with them; when they finish their prostrations, let them take their positions in the rear and let the other party come up which have not yet prayed, and let them pray with you…” (Soorah an-Nisa’, 4:102)

Based on this, if the traveler is in a city or town other than his own, he has to attend prayers in congregation in the mosque if he hears the call to prayer, unless he is far away or fears that he may miss meeting up with his travelling companions, because of the general meaning of the evidence which indicates that the one who hears the adhan or iqamah is obliged to pray in congregation.

… The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to a man who asked him for permission not to pray in congregation: “Can you hear the call?” He said, “Yes.” He said: “Then answer it.” (Narrated by Muslim) And he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said:  “Whoever hears the call and does not come, there is no prayer for him (i.e., his prayer is not valid), except for one who has an excuse.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)

There is no evidence to indicate that this ruling applies only to the traveler, unless your going to the mosque will cause you some problems in your journey, such as if you need to rest and sleep and you want to pray in the place where you are staying so that you can sleep, or you are afraid that if you go to the mosque the imam will delay the prayer, and you want to leave and you are scared that you may miss the train or plane, etc. (Majmoo’ Fataawa wa Rasaa’il al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen)

Last but not the least, one should not forget the hadith: Abdullah ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه) reports that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Prayer in congregation is superior to a prayer performed individually by twenty-seven degrees.” (Related by Bukhari and Muslim)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.