Question # 10: Can you please explain the period of Shortening of Prayer (Qasr) while traveling?

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: The Messenger of Allah (saws) never clearly stated that if someone resides for more than a certain period of time, he must complete his prayers. The difference of opinion among scholars about the period of residence, in which a traveler can shorten prayers, depends on traveler’s intention and determination to stay in some place for a specific period; but, for a traveler, who does not intend or determine any residence and does not know when his stay will end, can shorten his prayers for the entire period of stay, even if his journey last for months or years. However, the majority of scholars say that the traveler may only avail himself of the dispensations attached to travel so long as he does not intend to stay for four days or more, which is more on the safe side.

Long Answer: A Muslim on a journey remains legally in a state of travel until he intends to “reside” in some place. According to Abu Hanifah, the period for which he is to be in a state of travel is fifteen days, because it has been narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) stayed in Makkah in the Year of the Conquest (of Makkah) for fifteen days during which he shortened (the four-rak’ah) prayers. (Narrated by Abu Dawud)

According to another narration, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) stayed in Makkah for seventeen days during which he shortened (the four rak’ah) prayers. Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Whoever resides (in a place) for seventeen (days can) shorten prayers, and whoever resides for (a period) more than that (can) perform prayers in full” (Narrated by Abu Dawud).

Ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad, however, maintain that if he intends to reside in a place for four days he should perform prayers in full, and if he intends to reside there for a period less than that he should shorten prayers. They quote as proof what has been narrated from Qatadah that he said, “If you reside for four days, then perform (the four-rak’ah prayers) in full”.

Moreover, Malik, Ash-Shafi’i, and Ahmad assert that if a Muslim “decides” to reside in a place for four days, he should perform prayers in full. In addition to this, At-Tirmidhi has narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) resided on some of his journeys for nineteen days during which he shortened prayers.

Also, Abu Dawud has narrated on the authority of ‘Imran Ibn Husayn (رضي الله عنه) who said, ‘I was with the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in the Year of Conquest and he resided in Makkah for eighteen nights during which he did not perform (any obligatory four-rak’ah prayer) except as two.”

To settle this difference, in his Fathul-Bari, Ibn Hajar has mentioned that Al-Bayhaqi gathered these different opinions together by saying: those scholars who say that the period is nineteen days have included the day on which a traveler enters to the place to which he travels and the day on which he departs it; those who say it is seventeen days have excluded these two days; and those who say the period is eighteen have included only one of them. As for the narration in which the narrator said that the period is fifteen days, perhaps he thought that the period was originally seventeen and he excluded both the day of arrival and the day of departure and so he mentioned the period as purely fifteen days.

It is worth mentioning here that the difference between faqihs about the period of residence, in which a traveler can shorten prayers, is concerning a traveler who has intended and determined to stay in some place for a specific period. This is because a traveler may not intend or determine any residence, such as a person who is on an invasion in the Cause of Allah or a person who is on a mission in some place and does not know when it will end. Such travelers can shorten prayers even if their journeys last for months or years.

At-Tirmidhi has mentioned in his Sunan that scholars unanimously agree that a traveler can shorten prayers as long as he has not decided to reside in a certain place even if his journey lasts for years.

To this effect, it is important to record here what Nafi’ said that Ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) resided in Azerbaijan for six months during which he performed the four-rak’ah prayers in twos when snow had kept him from entering his destination. Nafi’ also mentioned that Anas ibn Malik (رضي الله عنه) resided in Ash-Sham for two years during which he performed prayer as a traveler (Al-Mughni). (‘Al-Fiqhul-Muyassaru minal-Qur’ani was-Sunnah’ by Muhammad M. ‘Abdul-Fattah)

Furthermore, most importantly, the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) never clearly stated that if someone resides for more than this period must complete his prayers. The companions shortened the prayers for months, even years, Sayid Sabiq (may Allah bestow mercy on him) mentioned the following reports in Fiqh-us-Sunnah (Zarabozo’s translation with modifications):

  • Al-Miswar ibn Makhramah: “We stayed with Sa’d in some of the cities of ash-Sham [Syria] for forty days, and Sa’d would perform qasr while we would offer the whole salat.” (Ahmad)
  • Hafs ibn ‘Ubaidullah: “Anas ibn Malik stayed in ash-Sham for two years and he prayed the salat of a traveler.”
  • Anas: “The companions of the Prophet stayed in Ram Hurmuz for seven months and they shortened their salat.”
  • Al-Hassan reports: “I stayed with ‘Abdurrahman ibn Samurah for two years in Kabul, and he shortened his salat but he did not combine the salat.”
  • Ibrahim says: “We resided in Rayy for a year or more and in Sijistan for two years . . . and we prayed qasr“.

To say, these companions never intended to stay more than four days at any point would be remote. So, it seems that as long as one did not intend to take a place for a residence, such as having or intending to have an owned home, work or wife in it, then he may shorten the prayers. (Commentary on ‘Umdat al-Fiqh, Muwaffaq-ud-Deen, Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi)

Finally, to summarize, the views of the main madhahib:

  • The view of the Hanbalis is that if a person intends to stay for more than four days, the ruling on travel no longer applies to him and he must offer the prayers in full.
  • The view of al-Shafi’i and Maalik is that if he intends to stay for four days or more, then he must offer the prayers in full, but the day of arrival and the day of departure are not included in that. Based on that, the total number of days during which one may shorten prayers is six days: the day of arrival, the day of departure, and the four days in between.
  • The view of Abu Haneefah is that if he intends to stay for more than fifteen days he should offer the prayers in full, and if he intends to stay for a shorter time then he may shorten his prayers. (Al-Sharh al-Mumti’)

The fatwa of the Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) says that the traveler is allowed the dispensation of shortening and combining his prayers… so long as he is still considered to be a traveler because of the general meaning of the texts. This was also the view of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah before him. But the majority of scholars say that the traveler may only avail himself of the dispensations attached to travel so long as he does not intend to stay for four days or more. This is more on the safe side, and this was the fatwa of Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him). (Shaykh ‘Abd al-Kareem al-Khudayr) (Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid)

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.

Wassalaam