The four cycles (individual standings ‘rakahs’) in a prayer are shortened to two when traveling whether [the one undertaking the journey] is in [a state of] fear, or, safety, or not, as per the consensus of the Muslim community. The ruling is unanimous. The Almighty Allah (S.W.T.) says:
"When you travel on earth there is no blame on you if you shorten your prayer if you are scared that those who disbelieve will trouble you" (4:101).
On the authority of Ya'la b. Umayya: He said: "I said to `Umar b. al-Khattab: ‘There is no blame on you if you shorten the prayer if you fear that those who disbelieve will trouble you, but the people are [now] safe.' He (Umar) said: ‘I was wondering about that just as you are wondering so I asked the Prophet of God (S) about it. He (S) said: `It is a charity which Allah (S.W.T.) has granted you so accept it.'" Muslim has reported [the hadith] in his Sahih.
From Ibn `Umar (this has also been reported by Muslim in his Sahih): He said: "I accompanied the Prophet of God (S) on a journey. He did not pray more than two cycles until Allah took him away (death). And, I accompanied Abu Bakr and he did not pray more than two cycles until Allah took him away (death). And, I accompanied `Umar and he did not pray more than two cycles until Allah took him away (death). Then, I accompanied `Uthman, and he did not pray more than two cycles until Allah took him away (death)." The Almighty God has said:
"Indeed, there is an exemplary model for you in the [figure] of the Prophet of God." (33:21)
From Anas b. Malik, according to what the two Shaykhs have reported in their Sahihs, he said: "We travelled from Medina to Mecca with the Prophet (S). He used to offer two cycles until we returned to Medina."
From Ibn `Abbas, according to what al-Bukhari has reported in his Sahih, he said: "The Prophet (S) stayed in Mecca for 19 [days] and he used to shorten [the prayer]." I say: He used to shorten even though he stayed for 19 days as he had not made the intention to stay [for more than 10 days].
It has been proven from the Prophet of God (S) that he used to lead the people of Mecca in prayer after the emigration. In the prayer of four cycles, he would offer the greetings after finishing the first two cycles. He would tell the people to complete their four cycle prayer [alone], he excused himself, and those who had come with him since they were travelers.
Ibn Abi Shayba has narrated with a chain of authority from the Prophet of God (S) that he said: "The best of my community are those who bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Prophet of God and those who, when good is done to them, they rejoice and when evil is done to them they forgive, and when they travel they shorten [their prayers]."
From Anas: According to what Muslim has reported from two sources in his Sahih: He said: "I prayed the zuhr in four cycles in Medina with the Prophet of God (S), then I prayed two cycles of the `asr with him at Dhu'l-Hulayfa as a traveller." Many authentic traditions clearly indicate that Allah, the most Mighty and Glorious, has legislated the taqsir when traveling.
There is no dispute that Allah, the Almighty and Glorious, legislated the iftar in the month of Ramadhan for anyone who travels [a distance] for which he had to shorten the prayer. This much the Muslim community has agreed upon (across the board of different schools of jurisprudence). The book (Holy Quran), and the ‘sunnah’ (modus operandi of Prophet A.S.) have established it clearly. The Almighty Allah (S.W.T.) says:
"The month of Ramadhan is the one in which the Qur'an has been revealed as a guide for the people, and an explanation of guidance, and the furqan (criterion); whoever amongst you who witnesses it (at home) should observe the fast. One who is sick or on a journey then [he will fast] a number of other days, Allah wishes ease for you, he does not wish difficulty, so complete the prescribed days." (2:185)
When the Prophet of God (S) travelled in the month of Ramadhan he would break the fast, and would tell the people of his ‘iftar’. He would deem observing the fast when travelling to be a sin. He emphasized this by saying: "It is not virtuous that you fast when traveling," you will read all of that by his (S) words.
It is reported in the hadith of Abu Qalaba, and this is in the Sihah, that the Prophet (S) told a man from the Banu `Amir: "The Almighty Allah (S.W.T.) has lifted the [burden of] fasting from the traveler, and [the difficulty of] separating the prayers."
One who studies the Sunan, and the sayings of the Imams about the prayer, and fast of a traveler will find documented sources, religious edicts and the consensus of the community [maintaining that], that the shortening of the prayer, and iftar when traveling have been legislated by Allah, the Almighty, in the religion of Islam. When traveling, what is required to be performed for one of the two (prayer and fast) is necessarily required for the other, without doubt.
The Imams (leader of congregational prayer) of the Muslim community have different views on the ruling of shortening the prayer when on a journey. Amongst them are those who see the qasr to be a fixed obligation on a traveler, this is the view of the ‘Imamis’ (Shi’i) in following their Imams. Abu Hanifa, and his companions, and all the Kufans have ruled likewise. Amongst them are those who rule that the ‘qasr’ (shortened prayers) and ‘itmam’ (offering the full prayers) are both obligatory when on a journey although the traveler has a choice between the two like the choice in paying an obligatory expiation. Such is the view of some of the companions of [School of] al-Shafi`i.
Amongst them are those who have said that the ‘qasr’ is a highly recommended [act], this is the view of [School of] Malik according to the most famous reports from him. Amongst them are those who see the ‘qasr’ as a ‘rukhsa’ (deviation) and that the complete [prayer] is better. This is what [School of] al-Shafi`i ruled according to the most famous reports narrated from him. This is reflected in his companions. The [School of] Hanbalis have permitted the ‘qasr’ [prayers], it is better than the ‘itmam’ although offering the full prayers is not detested.
The Imamis (Shi’i) have argued that the ‘qasr’ is obligatory based on the ‘Sihah’ (authentic traditions) which have been related by the masses and [based on] proven texts from the Imams of guidance from the ‘Ahlul Bayt’ (Holy household of Prophet A.S.), peace be upon them.
Amongst the ‘Sihah’ of the masses is what Muslim has reported in his ‘Sahih’ in the book of the prayer of the travelers and shortening it, [reported] from Ibn `Abbas from two chains of transmission. He said: "Allah (S.w.T.) has fixed the prayer through the tongue of your Prophet (S), [when] in town at four cycles [‘rakahs’ –standings], and when traveling at two [cycles]."
This clearly shows that the traveler has been commanded to offer the ‘zuhr’, ‘asr’ and ‘isha’ at two cycles [‘fajr’ (dawn) prayer and ‘magrib’ (sunset) prayer unaltered]. Similarly, one who is in his home town has been commanded to offer them at four cycles.
Therefore, it is not proper for a traveler that he should offer anything; but, two cycles according to what has been prescribed for him, just as it not proper for one living at his home town to offer anything; but, four cycles according to what has been fixed for him since the true [form of] worship is to follow what has been prescribed.
Similarly, it is reported in the ‘Sahih’ of Muslim narrating from Musa b. Salama al-Hadhli. He said: "I asked Ibn `Abbas: ‘How do I pray in Mecca when travelling?'" He said: "Two cycles is the sunna of Abu'l-Qasim [Prophet Muhammad] (S)."
He answered categorically that it was two cycles, and that [it was] a sunnah of Abu'l-Qasim (S), this is clear in fixing the mode of the ‘qasr’, it is evident for the masses.
[Sahih] Muslim has also narrated in his ‘Sahih’ reporting from al-Zuhri from `Urwa from `A'isha: "The prayer was initially fixed at two cycles. The prayer of traveling remained [where it was], the prayer at home was fixed at tamam." Al-Zuhri said: "I said to `Urwa: `What has happened to `A'isha that she offers the complete prayer when traveling?' He said: `She interpreted it (the matter) as `Uthman did.'"
Muslim has reported in his ‘Sahih’ from `A'isha from another chain of transmission. She said: "When Allah fixed the prayer He did so at two [cycles], then He prescribed the prayer at home at the complete rate (four cycles) whereas the prayer of traveling remained at the previous rate."
I say: It is clear that if this is true, then it is not correct for a traveler to offer the four [cycles] since the lawgiver (al-Shari') has not commanded him to do so. From the beginning, He [Allah S.W.T.] has told him to offer it at two [cycles], and Allah (S.W.T.) has fixed it at that. If a traveler offers four cycles, he has innovated [‘bid’a’] just as if he were to offer four cycles in the morning prayers, or, if one praying at home offers his four cycles at the rate of two a piece.
From the reports of the Imams of guidance (Ahl-al-bayt, progeny of Prophet), that has been correctly reported from Zurara b. A`yan and Muhammad b. Muslim when they asked Imam Abu Ja'far al-Baqir (as). They said: "What do you say regarding the prayer of a traveler? How is it offered, and how many cycles?" He said: "The Almighty Allah says: `When you travel on the earth there is no blame on you if you shorten your prayer.' so the ‘qasr’ is obligatory when traveling just as the tamam is obligatory at home."
They said: "We said to him: `He (God) said: `There is no blame on you if you shorten the prayer', He did not say `shorten the prayer' [not an order, but a choice is the point], so how can He make it compulsory just as He made the tamam compulsory?' He said: `Did the Almighty not say regarding the Safa and Marwa, one who performs the pilgrimage, or, the ‘umra’ there is no blame on him that he should walk between them,' don't you see that walking between them is obligatory, legislated, because Allah the Almighty has mentioned it in His book and His Prophet performed it?
Similarly, the shortening [of prayers] on a journey is something which the Prophet of God (S) performed, and Allah has mentioned it in the book.'" They said: "One who offers four cycles when travelling, does he repeat the prayer, or, not?" He said: "If the verse of ‘taqsir’ has been recited and explained to him and he [still] offers four cycles then he repeats it. If it has not been recited to him and he does not know of it then he does not have to repeat the prayer." (He, peace be upon him, said): "Every obligatory prayer on a journey is of two cycles except the ‘maghrib’ for it has three cycles, there is no shortening of it, the Prophet (S) left it at three cycles [whether] on a journey or at home."
Imam al-Tabarsi says after he mentioned this report: "In this there is proof to show that the obligation of a traveler is different from one who is at home." (He said): "The group has agreed on that, and has also agreed that there is no ‘qasr’. It has been reported from the Prophet (S) that he said: `The obligation of a traveler is two cycles, not shortened.'"
In al-Kashshaf, on the verse of shortening the prayer, the author writes: "Abu Hanifa says that the ‘qasr’ when traveling is fixed, it is not a dispensation, nothing apart from it is allowed." (He said): From `Umar b. al-Khattab: "The prayer of a traveler is at two cycles, it is complete, not shortened, according to the tongue of your Prophet."
They have argued by several ways; the first one being the apparent [meaning] of the Almighty's words: "There is no blame on you if you shorten the prayer." In itself, blameworthiness (which is a sin) indicates permissibility, not an obligation [to perform the ‘qasr’].
You know the answer by the report of Imam Abu Ja'far al-Baqir (as), peace be upon him. Apparently the people at the time [of the Prophet (S)] were inclined towards [offering] the complete [prayer] and they were, as indicated by al-Zamakhshari in his al-Kashshaf, expecting to pray full. It appeared to them that they were at fault by praying the ‘qasr’. The blame [for offering the ‘qasr’] was removed from them so that they could feel good about their [offering] the ‘qasr’ and they could be contented by it.
Secondly: `Uthman and `A'isha used to complete the prayer when traveling:
The answer is that they wrongly interpreted the proofs for [performing] the ‘qasr’. Some of the scholars of masses have explained this interpretation of theirs by claiming that `Uthman was the Commander of the faithful, and that `A'isha was their (the faithfuls') mother. Even in their journey they were continuously at home since wherever they were traveling they were with the people at home and in their land. This thinking is strange; we see the reason for it being strange by seeing the Prophet of God's (S) absence from the world of the believers. Did they not see him perform the ‘qasr’ whilst traveling? Similarly, on this basis Abu Bakr, Umar and Ali (as), were all strangers to them.
Thirdly: Famous traditions clearly reported by Muslim in his ‘Sahih’ that when the companions would travel with the Prophet of God (S) some of them would perform the ‘qasr’, some would do the ‘tamam’, some would fast in the month of Ramadhan, and others would not, they would not find fault with each other.
The answer is that these traditions do not prove anything based on our chain of transmission since they contradict our ‘sahih’ traditions reported from our Imams who are the second half of the book; furthermore, they contradict each other too, one who examines them knows it as you will read soon, God willing.
There is no doubt that the traditions of the trustees from the family of Muhammad (S) are to be given preference when there is a contradiction, especially after they are supported by a group of the Sihah [traditions] of the masses.
The Muslim jurists have differed on the ruling of ‘iftar’ whilst traveling. The masses have stated that it (fasting) is allowed, and that if a traveler fasts then his fast is valid, and he will be rewarded. They have deemed it permissible basing their proofs on traditions which Muslim has reported in his ‘Sahih’.
Amongst them is what is reported from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri who said: "We went on an expedition with the Prophet of God (S) when sixteen days of the month of Ramadhan had elapsed. There were those amongst us who fasted, others who broke their fasts. Those who fasted did not taunt those who did not, nor, did those who broke their fasts find fault with those who had fasted."
On his authority from another chain, he said: "We used to travel with the Prophet of God (S) in Ramadhan. The one who fasted would not be taunted for his fast, nor, was one who did the ‘iftar’ [blamed] for his ‘iftar’."
The answer is that these traditions, assuming they are authentic, are abrogated without doubt by the ‘sahih’ [traditions] reported by the masses, by other authentic traditions reported by our chains of authority from the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt, peace be upon them.
I present to you what has been authentically reported on this topic by others. Jabir b. `Abd Allah said, as stated in Muslim's Sahih, that "the Prophet of God (S) went in the year of the conquest to Mecca in Ramadhan, and he fasted until he reached Kira' al-Ghamim, and the people [also] fasted. Then he asked for a glass of water, and he raised it until the people saw it then he drank it. After that it was said to him: `Some of the people have fasted'; he (S) said: `They are sinners, they are sinners.'"
It has also been reported from Jabir: He said: "The Prophet of God (S) was on a journey and he saw the people had gathered around a man, and had cast a shadow over him. He said: ‘What is the matter with him?' They said: `He has fasted.' He said: ‘It is not virtuous that you fast on a journey.'"
We said that these ‘sunnah’ abrogated those [reported before] as they were, by the admission of the masses, issued later. That is proven by what has been reported in the ‘Sahih’ of Muslim and by others from `Ubayd Allah b. `Abd Allah b. `Utba from Ibn `Abbas that he informed him that the Prophet of God (S) went out in the year of the conquest and he fasted until he reached al-Kadid then he broke his fast. He said: "The companions of the Prophet of God (S) used to follow the most recent of his commands."
On the authority of al-Zuhri, as reported in the ‘Sahih’ of Muslim and other sources, by the same ‘isnad’: "The [ruling] of breaking the fast was the later of the [two] commands, the later commands of the Prophet of God are to be followed."
A look at the similar narration on the authority of Ibn Shihab, as reported in the ‘Sahih’ of Muslim, and in other sources with the same ‘isnad’: Ibn Shihab said: "They used to follow the latest of his commands and would see it as an abrogating and a fixed [command]." In short, if it is assumed that it was correct for some of the companions to fast when traveling with him, that was before the imposition of [the ruling of] breaking the fast, and before his (S) saying: "It is not virtuous that you fast when you are traveling," and before his (S) saying about those fasting: "They are sinners, they are sinners."
As for the Imamis (Shi’i), they are agreed that ‘iftar’ when traveling is compulsory, this is [also] the edict of Dawud b. `Ali al-Isfahani and his companions. Many companions like `Umar b. al-Khattab and his son `Abd Allah and `Abd Allah b. `Abbas, `Abd al-Rahman b. `Awf, Abu Hurayra and `Urwa b. al-Zubayr have followed [this ruling].
This has also been successively transmitted from the Imams of guidance, from the pure family of Prophet Muhammad (S). It has been narrated that `Umar b. al-Khattab commanded a man who had fasted when traveling to repeat his fast, just as is our ruling and the ruling of Dawud. Yusuf b. al-Hakam has narrated saying: "I asked Ibn `Umar on fasting when travelling."
He said: "How would you feel if you give a person [something] in charity then he returned it to you, wouldn't you be angry? This is a ‘sadaqa’ (charity) from Allah (S.W.T.) which He has granted you, so do not reject it." `Abd al-Rahman b. `Awf reported saying: "The Prophet of God (S) said: `One who fasts on a journey is like one who has broken his fast when staying at his home town.'"
On the authority of Ibn 'Abbas [who said]: "Iftar when traveling is compulsory." On the authority of Abu 'Abd Allah al-Sadiq (S) who said: "The one who fasts in the month of Ramadhan whilst traveling is like one who has broken his fast whilst at home." And [it is reported] from him (S) also: "If a man who is fasting on a journey dies then I would not pray over him." And, [it is reported] from him (S) also: "One who travels must break his fast and shorten the prayers unless his journey is a sin against Allah the Almighty, the most Glorious."
Al-`Ayyashi has reported with a chain of transmission connected to Muhammad b. Muslim from Abu `Abd Allah al-Sadiq (S) who said: "This verse ‘Whoever of you is sick or on a journey' was revealed at Kira'a al-Ghamim at the prayer [time] of the midday heat. The Prophet of God asked for a glass which contained water and he drank it and he commanded the people to break their fasts. The people said: `The noon [time] has passed, if only we were to complete this day's [fast].' The Prophet of God (S) called them sinners and they were called sinners up to the time when the Prophet of God (S) passed away [died]."
Our argument for the obligation of breaking the fast when traveling is sufficiently proved by the saying of the Almighty, most Glorious: "Those of you who witness the month of Ramadhan (at home) should fast, those who are sick, or, on a journey should fast a number of other days, God wishes ease for you, he does not wish difficulty." The verse contains proofs for the obligation to break the fast due to several reasons:
1) The command to fast in the verse is directed at those at home, not at those traveling. The words are as you see them: "Those of you who witness the month - that is when they are at home in the month, let them fast." Therefore, the traveler is not commanded, so his fast is [tantamount to] inserting in religion what is not a part of it, it is a burden and an innovation [‘bid’a’].
2) What is understood from the saying of the Almighty: "Those of you who witness the month of fasting should observe the fast" means that one who is not at home in the month it is not obligatory for him to fast. That which is [ordinarily] understood from a conditional statement is binding as has been established in ‘usul al-fiqh’ (principles of jurisprudence). Therefore, the verse indicates that it is not obligatory to fast when traveling by the literal, and implied meaning of the text.
3) The saying of the most Glorious, Almighty: "Those of you who are sick, or, travelling then [they should fast] a number of other days." This implies they should fast a number of other days. This applies if you recite the verse with the words "a number" in the nominative case. If you recite it in the accusative then it would [also] mean let him fast a number of other days. In both cases, the verse indicates the obligation to fast on other days and this requires the obligation to break the fast when traveling since there is no one who says it is necessary to keep both, the fast and recompense for the kept fast. Moreover combining [the two acts of keeping the fast while traveling and keeping and extra fast on another day] refutes the ease indicated in the verse.
4) The saying of the most High: "Allah wishes ease for you, He does not wish hardship." Ease here means ‘iftar’ just as hardship here means nothing else but to fast. Therefore the meaning of the verse is that God wishes you to break the fast, He does not wish you to fast.
The amount of traveling which necessitates the shortening of the prayer and breaking of the fast:
The Imams of the Muslims have differed regarding its (traveling) duration. Abu Hanifa and his Kufan companions have stated: "The minimum for which the prayers have to be shortened and the fast to be broken is the journey of three days, and that the ‘qasr’ and ‘iftar’ are only for those who travel from a horizon to [a different] horizon."
[School of] Al-Shafi'i, Malik and Ahmad and many other people have stated: "The prayer is shortened, and the fast is broken in the month of Ramadhan by traveling a distance of 16 farsakhs whilst going [away from home] only."
The people who depend on the apparent meaning of the Qur'an (ahl al-zahir) say: "The ‘qasr’ and ‘iftar’ are [obligatory] for every journey even if it be a short one." Ibn Rushd said in "On the prayer of traveling from the beginning and the end": "The reason for their differences is due to the difference between the meaning which is rationally understood from ‘al-taqsir’ and ‘al-iftar’ on a journey and the narrations [reported] on this topic. That is because what is [rationally] understood by the affects of a journey which necessitates the observation of ‘qasr’ and ‘iftar’ are the difficulties [involved] in it (the traveling).
If that is the matter, then they (‘taqsir’ and ‘iftar’) apply wherever there is any difficulty. For [School of] Abu Hanifa, there is no difficulty encountered except after having crossed three stations. For [School of] al-Shafi`i, Malik and Ahmad, it will be after traveling 16 farsakh." He said: "As for those who pay attention to the letter only like the Zahiris, they said: "The Prophet (S) said that Allah has removed the fasting and separating the prayer from the traveler. For whoever can be called a traveller it is permissible for him to observe the ‘qasr’ and ‘iftar’." He (Ibn Rushd) said: "They are supported by what Muslim has narrated from `Umar b. al-Khattab that the Prophet (S) would shorten the prayer when he reached about 17 miles."
Based on this, the Imams of the four schools of law [Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’I, and Hanbali], when defining the distance, did not depend on what has been narrated from the Prophet, or, on his acts (S). They depended on a philosophy to which they applied the term "what is rationally understood." That is not something which would please the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt. Nor, would the Imami’s (Shi’i) be contented with it in the derivation of juridical principles.
The people of Mecca, in the times of the Prophet (S) and Abu Bakr and `Umar, when they traveled from Mecca to Arafa would shorten the prayer at Arafa, al-Muzdalifa, and Mina. This is proven without doubt.
The two Shaykhs have reported in their Sahihs that the Prophet (S), when he would leave Mecca to go to Arafa, would shorten the prayer, and that Abu Bakr and `Umar did likewise after him. [They also report] that Uthman also shortened his prayer. Then he performed the complete prayer after six years had passed of his Caliphate. The people objected to it.
This is what Imam Malik [School of Maliki] depended upon in his ruling that the ‘taqsir’ of the pilgrims in these places is highly recommended whether they are the people of Mecca, or, distant places, so refer to the [School of] Maliki jurisprudence. This is what we depend on in shortening the prayer when traveling, the distance of 8 ‘farsakhs’ whether it be prolonged in one direction, or, joined by four (farsakh) going and four coming back like the distance between Mecca and `Arafa. This is the minimum distance at which the Prophet of God (S) would shorten the prayer, and this is the decisive proof, thanks be to God.