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Praying While Traveling

Praying While Traveling


Asalamualaikum brother, first of all I want to say I love your tumblr, Alhamdulillah for you! I have a question, I am going on a trip out of the country soon and I want to know about prayer. How do I pray, when do I pray, do I pray on the plane, when I land in my destination, etc? Also, I will be at my destination for about two weeks. I am a convert and unfortunately I have to hide the fact that I am Muslim to my family, is it permissible to keep such a thing from your family?

Wa alykum as-salaam,

I have a few questions that have asked about an urgent Salah question, and I hope that this is the right question about Salah, insha Allah.

Thank you for your compliments, I do not deserve them, and I should thank you since it is through your questions that I learn even more about my religion. So I should thank all of you, because I am the one who benefits, alhamdulilah, thank you and Rabina yu’barik feeko, insha Allah.

As far as praying during traveling, it is acceptable to shorten your prayers, to combine your prayers, and to delay your prayer (should you need to).

Before I get into all that, I just want to tell you to relax, because in The Qur’an, God says very simply:

“[God] has laid no hardship on you in [anything that pertains to] religion,” [22:78] Muhammad Asad

So when you read those opinions that try and figure out the exact distance that is acceptable, or whether traveling by the airplane is really the same as the arduous process by camel, or the amount of days that counts. Take a deep breath, and just look at what The Qur’an says:

“And when you go forth [to war] on earth, you will incur no sin by shortening your prayers” [4:101] Muhammad Asad

Now, this commandment has been extended by The Prophet through his Sunnah towards times of peace as well, the reality is that The Qur’an is clear that shortening your prayers out of necessity is not a problem. It is through the Hadith that we get the “fine print,” if you will.

In the Hadith collection of Al-Nisai we get this narration:

“The prayer of the resident was enjoined on the tongue of your Prophet, four (rak’ahs), and the prayer of the traveler is two rak’ahs, and the prayer of fear is one rak’ah.”

Pretty simple, right? So, you shorten your prayers when you are traveling. Now, what defines your state of travel? In all honesty, you should know this, and while the number of 83km is widely touted, I think every Muslim knows what is considered traveling and what isn’t. Why do I doubt the 83km? Because of the Hadith available:

Within the Hadith of Muslim, Anas ibn Malik narrates the following:

“He [Anas] said: When the Messenger of God (may peace be upon him) had covered a distance of three miles or three farsakh he observed two rak’ahs.”

There is debate over the distance mentioned, even between the scholars of Hadith, but, I think the central issue here is that you should know what defines “travel” for you, and that there is a difference between driving around a lot where you live, and traveling to some place. Others argue that it is only during the time in which you are actually traveling, as in, time when you are physically traveling.

How long this “window” of “travel prayer” is, varies from school to school. Some say that it is only when one leaves their city of residence, which means that those who are at home, before they travel, cannot shorten their prayers. Others say that it is four days. The Hanafi Madhab says that it is fifteen days, while other schools say eighteen days.

I think that whenever you are in a state of being away from what is your everyday routine, or you are in a place where you are not settled, i.e. living with a suitcase, I believe you are in a state of travel. I also think that the day of travel is particularly stressful, and thus, shortening your prayers on that day, even before you have begun traveling, would be deemed permissible for you to shorten your prayer. This is simply my opinion, and others may disagree, but this is my view, which I will give evidence for later.

Whatever the case may be, it is left to you to do what you think is correct and what would be the easiest for you, since that is the commandment of God from The Qur’an, and because you must be honest with what constitutes your state of travel and what doesn’t.

As far as combining prayers, again, this is found in the Hadith:

The Prophet’s cousin, Ibn Abbas, narrates the following:

“I observed with the Apostle of God (may peace be upon him) eight (rak’ahs) in combination, and seven rak’ahs in combination. I (one of the narrators) said: O Abd Sha’tha’, I think that he (The Holy Prophet) had delayed the noon prayer and hastened the afternoon prayer, and he delayed the sunset prayer and hastened the ‘Isha’ prayer. He said: I also think so.”

This particular Hadith, is many times associated with delaying one’s prayer, rather than combining them, and while the language of “combination” used by Ibn Abbas suggests otherwise, it is still a matter of debate. Therefore, we use another Hadith, this time one that is found in Muslim, where Anas ibn Malik narrates:

“When the Apostle of God (may peace be upon him) intended to combine two prayers on a journey, he delayed the noon prayer till came the early time of the afternoon prayer, and then combined the two.”

Thus, combining your prayers, while traveling, seems to be pretty clearly permissible. If you must combine your prayers, combine Dhur and ‘Asr and Maghrib and Isha. Where do we get this idea? Again, we go to the Hadith of Muslim:

Narrated by Ibn Abbas: “The Prophet combined between Dhur and ‘Asr, and between Maghrib and Ishaa while still in the city (not traveling) and not due to any fear or rain.”

The people asked, “Why did he do that?” Ibn Abbas said that The Prophet did so in order not to cause any hardship upon his nation.

Thus it is from this Hadith that we see proof that combining or delaying prayer is acceptable within limits, more specifically: if you need to. If you cannot make a prayer, whether traveling or not, that is fine, and you simply make up the prayer when you can. This is why I believe that you can shorten your prayer on “traveling days.”

There is another story of The Prophet, who was praying during a time when he told his followers that one should not pray, and when asked about why he was praying, he said that he was making up prayers he missed because he had a meeting with foreign diplomats.

However, the point is not that you should be combining your prayers because you feel like it, but because you cannot make prayer during the proper time. Further proof of delaying prayer because of various other issues, this time from Bukhari, in which Anas ibn Malik narrates:

“The Prophet used to offer the prayer earlier if it was very cold; and if it was very hot he used to delay the prayer, i.e. the Jumua prayer.”

Granted, this Hadith refers to Jummah prayer, however, the evidence abounds in the various Hadith that you are allowed to (1) shorten your prayers, (2) combine your prayers, and (3) delay your prayers.

Now, as to whether you should pray on the plane, or when you land, I would suggest, out of interest for your safety and so that you do not put yourself in a difficult situation, pray when you are no where near any sort of security apparatus, airplanes, or other settings which would guarantee that you would put you and your family under increased scrutiny.

There is ample evidence that you are able to delay and to combine your prayers, and if that means pushing it even further, I do not think that that would be unacceptable. Praying while on a journey meant that you stopped the caravan or whatever, and prayed right there. You don’t have that option, you have people watching you and thus, I would suggest that you pray when you are not within a difficult situation.

As far as whether you should keep the fact that you are Muslim from your family, there are various opinions from the various Schools of Law. Why do we have such variance? It is not just because there is a verse in The Qur’an [16:106] which refers to denying one’s faith under duress, but also because there was the period of early Muslim history in which Muslims were persecuted, and thus keeping their faith to themselves was acceptable, in that instance. Then there is the time when Muslims were told to proclaim their faith openly, and thus individual scholars figure out different formulas to try and deal with this issue.

My argument, instead of looking at one period, is to take the entire period of Muslim history. There was a progression, and I believe that is the way you should take it with your family, insha Allah. They are your family, and while yes, you are not being persecuted, I can only imagine how difficult it would be to tell your family in the current climate that surrounds Islam and Muslims.

Ultimately, I think it is more important how you tell them, and that has more to do with your particular situation than some sort of general maxim that I can give you. If you would like to ask help on that issue, please contact me and I will try my best, as I am not a con/revert, but I can direct you to resources that can help you with this issue, insha Allah.

I hope that this answers your question, and that I answered the right question about prayer that was requested of me, insha Allah.

Insha Allah, if you or anyone else has a question on this, or any other subject, please do not hesitate to ask me.

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