Published in  
August 20, 2022

Akhsar al-Mukhtasarat | Book of Salah | Shortening & Combining Salah

Shortening and Combining the Salah – صَلَاةُ اَلْقَصْرِ وَالْجَمْعِ

وَيُسَنُّ قَصْرُ اَلرُّبَاعِيَّةِ فِي سَفَرٍ طَوِيلٍ مُبَاح ٍ
وَيَقْضِي صَلَاةَ سَفَرٍ فِي حَضَرٍ وَعَكْسُهُ تَامَّةً

It is recommended to shorten four prayer cycle prayers during a lawful long journey. A prayer missed during a journey that is made up while being a resident (and the opposite) is made up in its full form. 

There is no relationship between shortening and combining. It is not permissible to shorten the salah EXCEPT for travel. This is a principle that applies across the board. Travelling is the ONLY thing which allows the shortening of salah. It is important to distinguish between shortening and combining the salah as many take the two to go hand in hand. If it’s permissible to shorten then it will also be permissible to combine but not vice versa.

Why can a person shorten the Salah only because of travel and not something more difficult? Because the religion of Allah says so and we have to restrict ourselves to what is proven. Knowing the illah (effective cause) is more important than knowing the hikmah of  a ruling.

Rulings of allowance, prohibition etc are based on and linked to the effective cause (illah) and not the wisdom (hikmah) and the fruits of it. All that is secondary and an added bonus. It is good to know the hikmah behind a ruling, but what is more important is to know the illah behind it.
Ex: Wearing of the Hijab.
Wisdom: Covering the body, modesty, protection, safeguarding the chastity etc.
Illah: The presence of mature woman (who has hit puberty) infront of non mahram men makes the hijab wajib upon her. This is irrespective of there being desire from her or the men’s side or no matter how beautiful, ugly, or whatever she might perceive herself or how she is perceived by others.

Basing rulings on the wisdom gives so much scope that the very ruling can collapse. That is why it is very important to base it on the illah.

It is recommended to shorten (not fardh) the “اَلرُّبَاعِيَّةِ” and this refers to Dhuhr, Asr and Isha only only a long travel which is permissible. There is no shortening for Maghrib and Fajr or the Sunnah prayers. So if one is travelling for doing that which is haram, then the travel itself is sinful and shortening the salah won’t be valid. Here “طَوِيلٍ” meaning a long journey was explained by scholars like Ibn Abbas and Ibn Umar from among the sahaba. Some scholars looked at it in terms of time instead of distance. There is nothing in the Quran or from the Sunnah that explicitly specifies an exact number based on when one should shorten. The 4 madhaib looked at it from the angle of distance and not time. This was to make things easy for the people and these estimates are not just made up. They are backed by proofs and evidences from the Sunnah even though they might not necessary be explicit in nature of their occurrence.

The Mu’tamad of the Hanbali Madhab is a distance of 138 kms. Anyone travelling less than that cannot shorten their prayers.
The second position and of the most famous position is a distance of 80 kms. Majority of the scholars have taken this position. Mufti Taqi Usmani from the Hanafi madhab took this position where his calculation reached approximately 78 kms.
The third position is the one held by Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and Imam Ibn Quddamah al-Maqdisi which states that there is no specific distance but rather the distance of travel goes back to the urf (custom) of the people. They base it so because the Quran and Sunnah didn’t specify a number for this.

Praying salah in full is a pillar and an obligation. We cannot just reduce and shorten it based on how we want it. We are certain that the Prophet combined after 138 kms, so we do so after that. Anything less than that there maybe doubt. It is allowed to take either 138 kms or 80 kms and both are backed by scholars and major fiqh councils.
If  a person is in doubt then they can pray in full for that is allowed even while travelling.


وَمَنْ نَوَى إِقَامَةً مُطْلَقَةً بِمَوْضِعٍ, أَوْ أَكْثَرَ مِنْ أَرْبَعَةِ أَيَّامٍ, أَوْ اِئْتَمَّ بِمُقِيمٍ أَتَمَّ,
وَإِنْ حُبِسَ ظُلْمًا, أَوْ لَمْ يَنْوِ إِقَامَةً قَصَرَ أَبَدً ا  وَيُبَاحُ لَه ُ اَلْجَمْعُ بَيْنَ اَلظُّهْرَيْن ِ والْعِشَائَيْن ِ بِوَقْتِ إِحْدَاهُمَا.

One prays the full form if: one intends to reside in a location categorically [mutlaqan] or for more than four days; or prays behind someone praying the full form. One can shorten prayers indefinitely if they are unjustly imprisoned, or did not plan to reside there. 
It is permissible for one without it being offensive or recommended to combine the Dhuhr and Asr prayers, and the Maghrib and Isha prayers, in the time of each of them.  

If a person has missed a salah as a traveller and then returns home then the person prays that salah in its full. Also the opposite is true where a person missed a salah and then started his travel; he is to pray it in full since that was its due. Imam Malik has a different approach to it. Also if a travelling person is praying behind an Imam who prays full, then he is to also follow and complete the salah in full. Ibn Abbas when asked about this said that this was the Sunnah.

Even if a traveller comes after 2 rakats are missed, he cannot do tasleem with the Imam since a traveller prays only 2. Rather he is to stand up again and completes the salah by making it 4.

Anyone who intends to stay for a long period of time or more than 4 days, then the person prays in full and is not considered to be travelling. The wording found in al-Muntaha and al-Iqna is not 4 days but rather 20 prayers. So if one is staying for 21 prayers or more then one cannot shorten the salah while there. The salah can be shortened on the way to the destination but not after reaching there in this case.
This was followed by senior Taba’in like Saeed Ibn al-Musayyib, the Imams of Ahl Madinah and is the madhab of Imam Malik and Shafi’i. They have slight differences in what constitutes 4 days. It is not about how long you stay but rather how long do you plan to stay at a said place.

If anyone is imprisoned unjustly or he does not intend to stay but just happens to extend his trip again and again, then the person can keep shortening the prayer even if it is more than 4 days. Why? Because there is uncertainty (of being more than 4 days) and the person doesn’t know when they might be able to return. Ibn Balban says that such a person can shorten forever.

An important point to note is that intention of travel needs to be made for the allowances of it to be availed. This is a position strictly held by the Hanabila and the Ahnaf.

An important point and principle to keep in mind as explained by Sheikhul Islam and other scholars is that shortening and combining are not related to each other in terms of dependency at all. It is possible to combine without shortening and vice versa. As a traveller, one can pray each salah at its proper time and still shorten them. Shortening prayers while travelling is an established and stressed Sunnah so much so that many scholars termed it to be wajib. Combining prayers is a matter of difference of opinion. Many scholars don’t even allow combining as we see, Imam al-Hajjawi who says in al-Iqna that it is better to avoid combining. Combining for a traveller is a rukhsa.

It is permissible for a traveller to combine the Dhuhrain (Dhuhr and Asr) and the Isha’ain (Maghrib and Isha) at the time of one of them. This method of referring is a way of giving an extra weight to another in the Arabic language. For the one combining, he should make the intention for it at the start of the first prayers time (jama’a taqdeem) where one prayer is brought back to the time of the other or in the time of the second prayer (jama’a ta’kheer) where the prayer is delayed to the time of the other. Anyone who is permitted to shorten is also permitted to combine. If the conditions of shortening Salah are met then the conditions of combining Salah applies also.

وَلِمَرِيضٍ وَنَحْوِهِ يَلْحَقُهُ بِتَرْكِهِ مَشَقَّة ٌ
وَبَيْنَ الْعِشَائَيْنِ فَقَطْ لِمَطَرٍ وَنَحْوِه ِ يَبُلُّ اَلثَّوْبَ,
وَتُوجَدُ مَعَهُ مَشَقَّةٌ, وَلِوَحْلٍ وَرِيحٍ شَدِيدَةٍ بَارِدَةٍ لَا بَارِدَةٍ فَقَطْ, إِلَّا بِلَيْلَةٍ مُظْلِمَة ٍ

It is permissible to combine only Maghrib and Isha Salah due to heavy rain and the like that wets the garment and involves hardship. It is also permissible due to fierce cold wind, and if just cold wind, then only during a dark night. 

It is permissible to combine for the one who is ill and the ones similar to it. This is for those who if they were to leave combining prayers, they would find themselves in extreme hardship and difficulty. The Madhab of the Hanabila is the most lenient and flexible when it comes to combining the prayers.

Ibn Abbas narrated that: the Prophet ﷺ said:
مَنْ جَمَعَ بَيْنَ الصَّلاَتَيْنِ مِنْ غَيْرِ عُذْرٍ فَقَدْ أَتَى بَابًا مِنْ أَبْوَابِ الْكَبَائِرِ
“Whoever combines two prayers without any excuse then he has committed something from the major sins.” [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi] This has been reported on the authority of Suffian at-Thawri and other Imams. This narration shows that combining prayers with a valid excuse is permissible and combining without a valid reason is a major sin.
What is a valid excuse? This depends from person to person as the faqeeh doesn’t define illness. If a person was to not to combine the prayers, then they would undergo severe harm and difficulty. People should fear Allah with regards to the prayer and act accordingly.
Ibn Abbas said: “Allah’s Messenger ﷺ combined the Dhuhr and Asr (prayers), and the Maghrib and Isha (prayers) in Al-Madinah, without being in a state of fear, nor due to rain.” [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi] When Ibn Abbas was asked about this, he said the Prophet did this because he did not want to cause hardship upon his Ummah.
The apparent meaning of this narration might seem problematic in light of the previous narration. Imam Tirmidhi himself writes in his Sunan that every hadith that he has compiled in it has been acted upon by the scholars of Fiqh, except for two. One is the hadith of drinking alcohol and the other is that of combining which has been mentioned above.
A major principle in understanding the Shariah is that whenever we have a daleel that is qati’ (clear cut) and another daleel that is dhanni (ambiguous or that which could be interpreted in more than one way), then we go for the daleel that is qati’ by default. We understand and explain the dhanni daleel in the light of the qati’ daleel.
In this case we have a daleel that is qati’ which is a clear ayah of the Quran which states:
فَإِذَا قَضَيْتُمُ الصَّلَاةَ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىٰ جُنُوبِكُمْ فَإِذَا اطْمَأْنَنتُمْ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ كَانَتْ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ كِتَابًا مَّوْقُوتًا
And when you have completed the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting, or [lying] on your sides. But when you become secure, re-establish [regular] prayer. Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times. [Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 103]
So when we get a hadith like that of Ibn Abbas, then we don’t disregard a clear ayah, multiple other ahadith and ijma on the matter. The root of innovation is that people ignore that which is clear and go towards that which are questionable and have multiple interpretations. Allah has criticized in Surah Aal Imran people who ignore the clear and follow the unclear.
A person can combine while travelling and there and no conditions attached to it irrespective of hardship. On the other hand, when it comes to illness and similar, there is a condition that needs to be met. The condition is that of severe difficulty and hardship (مَشَقَّة). The hardship is measured by the mature person. A person shouldn’t make this a habit and do it only in need.
Similarly it is permissible to combine between al-Isha’ain. The Hanabila restrict the ruling of combining only to Maghrib and Isha. This is the Mashhur opinion of the Madhab. Other scholars opine that if the conditions are met, then it should be permissible to combine for Dhuhr and Asr also.
Rain and similar to rain which wets the clothes and involves a hardship also permits combining prayers. In situations such as these, it is a collective decision of the congregation to combine the salah or not. Some people might not face the hardships while others might. A person in the car is not necessarily suffering as compared as to the one walking but the entire scenario in heavy rain etc is one of hardship.
What if the masjid is combining for other than heavy rain? The European Fiqh Council opines that Maghrib and Isha can be combined if the time of Isha is very late. If a person wishes to combine they can combine and they can pray it completely as well. Rain might have stopped, but a condition of hardship still exists because of muddy conditions. A person can combine in this scenario as well. Strong cold winds allow a person to combine even if a person is used to such winds. This is a general ruling that encompasses all. What if it is cold but not extremely strong? One cannot combine unless it is in the night. The darkness of the night adds another layer of hardship.
Mashhur of the Madhab: Intend to combine at the start of the time of Dhuhr and Maghrib. This is because Dhuhr and Asr is taken as one and likewise with Maghrib and Isha, hence necessitating making an intention before the first one. Makruh to combine salah at home without a dharurah. The Hanbalis allow combining at home because it is a general hardship that encompasses everyone.

وَالْأَفْضَلُ فِعْلُ اَلْأَرْفَقِ مِنْ تَقْدِيمٍ أَوْ تَأْخِيرٍ
أَوْ تَأْخِيرٍ, وَكُرِهَ فِعْلُهُ فِي بَيْتِهِ وَنَحْوِهِ بِلَا ضَرُورَة ٍ
وَيَبْطُلُ جَمْعُ تَقْدِيم ٍ بِرَاتِبَةٍ بَيْنَهُمَا, وَتَفْرِيقٍ بِأَكْثَرَ مِنْ وُضُوءٍ خَفِيفٍ وَإِقَامَة ٍ

It is better to do whichever is most convenient: praying both in the first time or delaying to the second one.
It is offensive to combine inside one’s own house without necessity. Praying in the first time is invalidated if a voluntary prayer associated with the obligatory prayer [raatibah] is prayed between the obligatory prayers; and if they are separated by more than the time needed to make a brief ablution and the call to start the prayer.

Taqdeem is to pray Maghrib and Isha in Maghrib time and ta’kheer is to Maghrib and Isha in Isha time. A person needs to make an intention to delay the salah if it is being delayed for ta’kheer. Neglect is not tolerated just because combining is allowed. As per the Mashhur of the Madhab a person needs to have an intention to even combine at the start of the time in taqdeem. Other scholars have differed in this matter. The second opinion in the madhab and that which is widely taken is that as long as there is not too much of a delay, one can combine without making another intention.

Taking the option which is easier for the people should be taken. This is the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and not a lack of taqwa or weakness as many people misunderstand.
Narrated Aisha:

مَا خُيِّرَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم بَيْنَ أَمْرَيْنِ قَطُّ إِلاَّ أَخَذَ أَيْسَرَهُمَا، مَا لَمْ يَكُنْ إِثْمًا، فَإِنْ كَانَ إِثْمًا كَانَ أَبْعَدَ النَّاسِ مِنْهُ، وَمَا انْتَقَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم لِنَفْسِهِ فِي شَىْءٍ قَطُّ، إِلاَّ أَنْ تُنْتَهَكَ حُرْمَةُ اللَّهِ، فَيَنْتَقِمَ  بِهَا لِلَّهِ‏.

“Whenever Allah’s Messenger ﷺ was given the choice of one of two matters he would choose the easier of the two as long as it was not sinful to do so, but if it was sinful, he would not approach it. Allah’s Apostle never took revenge over anybody for his own sake but (he did) only when Allah’s legal bindings were outraged, in which case he would take revenge for Allah’s sake.”. [Bukhari]

 Technically إِثْمًا refers to something that has been explicitly prohibited by Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. The prohibition of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is the prohibition of Allah. For things that are not too clear cut, we should not be too critical of the layperson acting upon it or even the Mufti who ruled in its favour. If it’s not a clear prohibition, then the fact that some scholars made it haram is not binding upon all to follow. If someone wants to stay away from it because it is doubtful then that is fine, but to enforce it upon the people to follow as an absolute prohibition requires more evidence. Imam Ahmad interpreted the mutashabihat as the matters which the scholars have differed over with a strong difference of opinion.

The strength of the difference of opinion and the Imam who is being followed is very important to be taken into account. Not every case is the same. Unlike other madhaib, there is more flexibility in the Hanbali school and it is explicitly said that one doesn’t need to strictly follow a madhab. Strong research and studies also matter. A beginner on the other hand needs to focus, stick to a particular order, and structure of study so that they don’t jump from one opinion to another. Organized study is very important. It is as though your neighbor is Imam Ibn Quddamah or Imam Majd Ibn Taymiyyah. Why would you go around asking others? Take from the Imam and continue learning till you can distinguish better.

It is makruh to combine in a person’s own house if there is no necessity. Rather, it is haram to combine without a valid excuse. The strong cold wind, muddy conditions etc all apply to allow combining only when a person is leaving to go pray outside. Interestingly, the Hanabilah allow combining at home because of the difficulty encompassing all as a widespread ruling. From the qawaid of the madhab, it is better to go out of the difference of opinion. Based on this, it is better to take the position of it being makruh to combine at home instead of being permissible. Why? Because the rukhsa is not clear cut from the Prophet ﷺ and it is better to be on the safer side. Rukhsa from the ijtihad of the ulema is a condition which should be treated with caution.

As per the Hanabilah, the salah being combined is invalidated if sunnah or nawafil salah is prayed in between or the delay is too long. A short duration is like a short iqamah or time to make wudhu which is just a few minutes.

وَتَجُوزُ صَلَاةُ اَلْخَوْفِ بِأَيِّ صِفَةٍ صَحَّتْ عَنْ اَلنَّبِيِّ ﷺ وَصَحَّتْ عَنْ سِتَّةِ أَوْجُه ٍ وَسُنَّ فِيهَا حَمْلُ سِلَاحٍ غَيْرِ مُثْقِلٍ.

It is permissible to pray the Prayer of Peril in any way that is authentically transmitted from the Prophet ﷺ. Six manners are authentic. It is recommended to carry light weapons during the Prayer of Peril. 

Salatul Khawf is the Prayer of Fear generally during the time of war and battle. Salatul Khawf can be prayed in any of the authentic manners recorded. It is a principle from Imam Ahmad that anything authentically reported from the Prophet can be acted upon. One can be better than the other but any of the other authentic methods can also be acted upon.  We go for the one recommended by Imam Ahmad as the one being better because of his immense knowledge regarding the narrations and their understanding.

The Salah and number of rakat remain the same but there are slight variations in how it is done and they are explained in a few different narrations. One such method is that the Imam stands with the first row and as they go down in prostration, the second row remains standing facing the danger. As the first row stands up, the second row goes down into prostration.



Based on the Hanbali primer, Akhsar Al-Mukhtasarat authored by Ibn Balban al-Hanbali as taught by Sheikh Zahed Fettah حفظه الله

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