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The ruling of shortening the prayer (qasr)

The Imams 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 traveller, this is the view of the Imamis 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 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, this is the view of some of the companions of al-Shafi'i. Amongst them are those who have said that the qasr is a highly recommended [act], this is the view of Malik according to the most famous reports from him. Amongst them are those who see the qasr as a rukhsa (dispensation) and that the complete [prayer] is better. This is what al-Shafi'i ruled according to the most famous reports narrated from him. This is reflected in his companions. The Hanbalis have permitted the qasr, it is better than the itmam although offering the full prayers is not detested.

Our proofs

The Imamis 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 ahl al-bayt, 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 travellers and shortening it - from Ibn 'Abbas from two chains of transmission. He said: "Allah has fixed the prayer through the tongue of your Prophet, [when] in town at four cycles and when travelling at two [cycles]." This clearly shows that the traveller has been commanded to offer the zuhr, 'asr and 'isha' at two cycles. Similarly, one who is in his home town has been commanded to offer them at four cycles. Therefore, it is not proper for a traveller 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 (S.A.W.)."

He answered categorically that it was two cycles and that [it was] a sunna of Abu'l-Qasim, this is clear in fixing the mode of the qasr, it is evident for the masses.

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 travelling 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 travelling?' 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 travelling remained at the previous rate."

I say: It is clear that if this is true, then it is not correct for a traveller to offer the four [cycles] since the lawgiver (al-Shari') has not commanded him to do so. From the beginning, He has told him to offer it at two [cycles], and Allah has fixed it at that. If a traveller offers four cycles, he has innovated 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, what has been correctly reported from Zurara b. A'yan and Muhammad b. Muslim when they asked Imam Abu Ja'far al-Baqir (A.S.). They said: "What do you say regarding the prayer of a traveller? 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 travelling 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', 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 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.A.W.) 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 traveller 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.A.W.) that he said: 'The obligation of a traveller 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 travelling is fixed, it is not a dispensation, nothing apart from it is allowed." (He said): From 'Umar b. al-Khattab: "The prayer of a traveller is at two cycles, it is complete, not shortened, according to the tongue of your Prophet."

Adapted from the book: "Questions on Jurisprudence" by: "Abdul Hussein Shareefaldin Al-Musawi"

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