Salat al-Qasr; Shortening the Prayer
The subject of jihad and hijrah were taken up in previous ayaat. Since travel is involved in jihad and hijrah under most conditions, the likelihood of confrontation with the enemy is strong and frequent while making such a trip. Therefore, special mention has been made of some particular leaves and concessions in the performance of Salah in due consideration of travel and its dangers.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala begins this ayah by saying,
وَإِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَقْصُرُواْ مِنَ الصَّلوةِ
“And when you travel on the earth there is no blame upon you that you shorten the prayers…”
Shortening of the prayers here means reducing the units of the prayer (rakah) from four to two. Shortening of Salah is allowed both in battle and travel.
Moving ahead Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala narrates the condition under which it’s permissible to shorten the prayer. He says,
إِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَن يَفْتِنَكُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ
“…if you fear those who disbelieve may harm you….”
In the beginning of Islam, and after the hijrah, Muslims used to experience fear during most of their travels. Rather, they restricted their movements to large or short military expeditions. During that era, most areas were areas of combatant enemies of Islam and its people.
This indicates that the Salah is not forgiven under any situation whether you are at home resting, in a battle or traveling you must perform the Salah. If it is possible to offer the Salah in congregation, it should be offered in congregation; otherwise the soldiers should perform it individually.
Imam Ahmad recorded that Ya`la bin Umayyah said, “I asked Umar bin Al-Khattab about فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَقْصُرُواْ مِنَ الصَّلوةِ إِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَن يَفْتِنَكُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ He replied, ‘Allah granted Muslims safety now’ Then Umar said to me, ‘I wondered about the same thing and asked the Messenger of Allah about it and he said,
صَدَقَــةٌ تَصَدَّقَ اللهُ بِهَا عَلَيْكُمْ فَاقْبَلُوا صَدَقَتَه
“A gift that Allah has bestowed on you, so accept His gift.” [Muslim]
What does this teach us? It’s a gift from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that when you are traveling whether there is a fear of enemy or not, you should pray Qasr. This is an allowance given by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and it should be honored.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then ends this ayah by saying,
إِنَّ الْكَـفِرِينَ كَانُواْ لَكُمْ عَدُوّاً مُّبِيناً
“Indeed, the disbelievers are to you an open enemy.”
The Concessions Given in Travel
In Islamic terminology, safar means journey or travel; qasr refers to the making of one’s Salah short while in that status. Thus, four obligatory rakat of Zuhr, Asr and Isha are reduced in number and confined to two rakahs only.
If, after reaching the destination at the end of the journey, one intends to stay there for less than fifteen days, rules relating to journey will continue to apply to him, that is, the obligatory four rakat of Salah will be reduced to half. This is Qasr. Now, if one intends to stay at one place for fifteen days, or more, it will become his place or country of residence. Here too, Qasr will not be observed as it was not observed in his original home country, that is, full Salah will be performed.
Qasr is done in the fard salah of zuhr, asr and isha only. There is no Qasr in Maghraib and Fajr, nor in Sunnah and witr prayers.
If, there be no fear of possible danger during a journey, Qasr will still be observed in making Salah.
Some people are troubled by apprehensions of sin when making their Salah short (Qasr) in place of the regular full Salah. This is not correct because Qasr is also a rule of the Shariah following which brings no sin. It is wajib because it was the Sunnah of our Rasoolullah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam.