By: Dr. Mubarak Ali
3.24 SHORTENING THE PRAYER
Under certain conditions, it is allowed and even recommended to shorten the prayer. The prayer of a traveler is therefore shortened based on the general principle of half the obligatory prayers and the omission of the optional prayers. Thus, all the obligatory prayers with the two exception of Salat ul-Fajr and Salat ul-Maghrib are halved. In other words, all the four rak’at fard in each case are each reduced to two rak’at only (As-Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqh us-Sunnah: Supererogatory Prayer). Moreover, for a traveler, all the voluntary prayers are completely exempted, although it is allowed to perform them if one so desires (Al- Bukhari and Muslim).
The length of distance and duration of stay are important factors to qualify one as a traveler. With regard to distance travelled, a minimum of one mile qualifies a person as a traveler. (Narrated by Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri in Sa’id ibn Mansur and Al-Hafiz ibn Hajr, and cited in As-Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqh us-Sunnah: Supererogatory Prayer). In another instance, three miles were noted (Yahya ibn Zaid in Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and Al-Baihaqi).
It is important, though, to consider the differences in the modes of transportation and conditions of the roadways during the time of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Thus modern means of transportation may have a definite impact on the distance as a basis for determining whether the prayer should be shortened or not in today’s modern and advanced world.
With respect to the duration of the travel, it is noted that one is allowed to shorten the prayer even if the travel lasts only for a day (Imam Abu-Qasim Al-Kharqi, Al-Mughni, cited in As-Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqh us-Sunnah: Supererogatory Prayer). Moreover, the maximum number of days is not fixed. As long as one is considered to be a traveler and does not intend to stay permanently at the place to which he has travelled, he is allowed to shorten his prayers (As-Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqh us-Sunnah: Supererogatory Prayer).
The prayer can also be shortened in times of danger or fear of and impending enemy attack (Al-Quraan, Surah An-Nisa’, 4:101). Indeed, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) instructed believers to shorten the prayers even if the traveler is not in danger. He said:
This is a charity that Allah, the Exalted, has bestowed upon you, so accept His Charity (Ya’la ibn Umaiyyah in Ahmad, Al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud, Muslim, and Ibn Majah).
Having understood the requirements of prayer, the next chapter is devoted to illustrate how to perform salat proper step by step.
(To be continued)