Shortening the obligatory prayers (Qasr-us-Salaat) means to perform two rakats instead of four rakat for the noon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr), the afternoon prayer (salaat-ul-Asr) and the late evening prayer (salaat-ul-lshaa’) l reciting Surat al-Fctcttihah in addition to another surah of the Quran. There is no shortened form of the dawn prayer (salaat-ul-Fajr), which always consists of two rakats, nor of the sunset prayer (salaat-ul-Maghrib), which invariably consists of three rakats.
Al-Qasr has been instituted by Allah’s saying,
“And when you travel throughout the land, there is no blame upon you for shortening the prayer”
Also, when the Prophet (pbuh) was asked about shortening the prayer, he said, “It is a charitable gift that Allah has given you, so accept His charitable gift,” (al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)
Indeed, it was the Prophet’s regular practice to shorten the prayers whenever the need arose. He would do so whenever he travelled and his companions would do the same
It is worth mentioning that when he travelled, he would start his journey in the early morning; he used to like travelling on Thursdays. (al-Bukhaaree) He would also order a group of three or more travelling men to appoint one of them as their ameer (leader) during the journey
When the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions ascended a hill while travelling, they would recite takbeer (saying: Allaahu Akbar – Allah is Supremely Great), and when they went down a valley, they would glorify Allah (saying subhaan-Allaah – Exalted is Allah and far above is He from any imperfection!)
The Distance to shorten the Prayers
An important question regarding qasr is: what is the minimum travelling distance in which the four-rakah prayer may be shortened? In fact, the Prophet (pbuh) did not limit the distance required for shortening the prayers; however, after examining the distances at which the Prophet (pbuh) shortened his prayers, the majority of the companions and leading Muslim scholars after them found that it was approximately forty ‘bard’, totalling approximately forty-eight miles or seventy-seven kilometers.
So, for anyone who travels a minimum of that distance, in other than disobedience to Allah, then it is Sunnah for him to shorten his prayers as explained above: praying the four-rakats prayers – Dhuhr, ‘Asr and Ishaa’ as two. The traveller may shorten his prayers while he is on the road, whether he is outward bound or making the homeward journey. (See Abu Bakr Jaabir Al Jazaa’iree, Mlnhoaj al-Muslim, Vol. 1 , p. 458)
When to Begin and when to End al-Qasr
The traveler begins shortening his prayers once he has passed beyond the boundaries of his own town or village, No matter how far he travels, he continues to shorten his prayers until he returns to his dwelling place. If he enters a town or village along the way and intends to stay there for four or more days, he must perform the prayers in full, since his stay will then be the same as that of a local resident. If he intends to stay there for less than four days, he may shorten his prayers. If he breaks his journey in a town, without knowing when he is going to move on – If he has no specific intention, but says: “I may leave today, or I may leave tomorrow,” he may shorten his prayers – except when he prays behind a resident imaam, in which case he should follow the imaam’s prayer. When he prays by himself, he should shorten his prayers” (Minhaaj al-Muslim, Vol. 1, p. 460)
During the Conquest of Makkah, the obligatory prayers the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) performed were all of two rakats only (al-qasr), but then he said to the inhabitants of the city, “Unlike us, you must perform four rakats of the four-ra/c’oh prayers, for we are travellers.”
On another occasion, when the Prophet (pbuh) spent twenty days at Tabook, he likewise shortened his prayers, as did his companions (May Allah be pleased with them all).
In another report, ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar once stayed for six months in Azerbaijan and the obligatory tour-rakat prayers he performed there were all of two rakats only. This is because he stayed in Azerbaijan without knowing when he was going to move on.
The Voluntary Prayers while Travelling
When a Muslim is on a journey, he may stop praying all the voluntary prayers, except for the two-ra/c’afrs Sunnah before the obligatory Fajr prayer and al-wifr, There is no good in giving them up although they are not obligatory.
He may, however, perform whatever voluntary prayers he likes while travelling, and there is nothing wrong in doing so, for the Prophet (pbuh) prayed salaat-udh-dhuhaa (the forenoon prayer) while he was travelling. He would perform the optional prayers while riding on his mount during his journeys.
This shows that the Prophet (pbuh) did perform the voluntary prayers whenever he had the chance to do so, sometimes even while he was on his mount. Hence the majority of scholars consider offering and leaving these prayers as equally permissible, leaving the matter entirely to the individual. He should perform them as circumstances permit. It is preferable for a traveler who is actually on the move to omit the Sunnah prayers, but when he comes to a halt and is at his ease, then it is preferable to perform them. Generally speaking, it is better for a Muslim to follow the Sunah of the Prophet (pbuh) in every single act of Ibaadah.
The Tremendous Importance of the Salat
Prayers should, therefore, be performed at their stated times. Under no circumstances – except for loss of consciousness – is one excused from performing the obligatory prayers at their proper times, even if one can only perform them sitting, lying down or by motioning with one’s hands and head. Men should pray in congregation if possible; otherwise individually. If it is not possible to face the qiblah, one may keep the direction in which one happens to be facing. One may even pray while seated either on the back of an animal or on a vehicle or in a plane. If actual bowing and prostration are not possible, they may be performed by hand signals.