There are countless reasons why Islam is the perfect religion offering the easiest and the most convenient way of life for all human beings. One of the conveniences it provides is the shortening of the obligatory prayers while we are traveling, known as Qasar Salah.
Allah (SWT) says in Surah 4, Ayah 101:
“And when you travel in the land, there is no sin on you if you shorten your prayer…”
What it means is that while one is traveling and during the time one is a certain distance away from one’s hometown, one is allowed to shorten four rakkah fard prayers (Dohr, Asr, and Isha) to two rakat prayers. It is a blessing of Allah (SWT) for which one must ever be grateful. Once Umar bin al-Khattab (RA) was asked about this favor, and he said the Prophet (PBUH) told him:
“This is a charity that Allah (SWT) has given to you, so accept His charity.” (Sunan Abu Dawud: Vol. 1, 1199).
However, there is no Qasar for Fajr and Maghrib.
When Qasar Salah applies:
Now, how far does a person have to be from his hometown to be eligible for this concession? The answer to this question could be found in the hadith collected by Imam Bukhari in which Ibn Umar (RA) and Ibn Abbas (RA) reported to have offered Qasar Salah in a journey of four Burud, i.e., sixteen Farsakh (one Farsakh = 3 miles).
How many days is a person allowed to shorten prayers while in a voyage? The answer is nineteen days, which was the practice of the Prophet (PBUH) as stated by Ibn Abbas (RA):
“The Prophet (PBUH) once traveled and stayed for nineteen days and offered shortened prayers. So when we traveled (and stayed) for nineteen days, we used to shorten the prayer but if we traveled (and stayed) for a longer period we used to offer the full prayer.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Vol. 2, 1080).
When and where can one return to the full prayer?
The answer to the issue trace back to the hadith collected by Imam Bukhari in which he reported Ali bin ibn Talib’s return to Kufa after leaving the city.
“Once Ali bin abi Talib (RA) left Kufa and started shortening his prayers although the houses (of Kufa) were [still] in sight. On his return he was told, “This is Kufa.” (So that he would no longer shorten the prayer). He said, “No, [I will go on shortening the prayers] till we enter Kufa.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Vol. 2, Book 18, Chapter 5).
Another advantage of the Qasar Salah is the permission to combine two prayers. Ibn Abbas (RA) and Anas bin Malik (RA) reported that the
Prophet (PBUH) combined Dohr and Asr as well as Maghrib and Isha prayers on a journey. (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Vol 2, 1107 and 1108).
In short, Qasar Salah is a great blessing of Allah (SWT). A clear proof among the many proofs that Allah (SWT) does not burden a person beyond his/her capacity. He is the Creator, and He knows our limitations and needs. Qasar Salah is but an expression of His infinite mercy for the Believers. There is no reason why we shouldn’t avail of this concession. There’s every reason to be grateful to Allah (SWT) for this and every other convenience that He has so generously granted us.