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Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of “Travel” (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 1

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

One of the five main principles upon which Islamic law is based (i.e., the Legal Maxims, or al-Qawāʿid al-Fiqhiyya) is: “Difficulty begets ease” (al-mashaqqa tajlib al-taysīr). This principle is manifested throughout all of the rules of fiqh, and in particular that of travel (safar). A traveler may shorten the prayers (qasr), combine them (jamʿ), and be legally permitted to break the fast of Ramadan (fiṭr).

There are explicit evidences from the Quran, the Sunnah, and unanimous consensus of the scholars of Islam that allow a traveler to shorten his or her prayers.

The Quran says, “And if you travel in the land, there is no sin on you that you shorten your prayers (taqṣurū min al-ṣalāt) if you fear that the unbelievers may harm you.” [Sūra al-Nisāʾ:101].

The verse seems to suggest that ‘fear’ is a necessary condition, along with travel, in order to shorten the prayer. However, even though the verse mentions ‘fear’ as a condition, it is no longer a requirement.  ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb was asked how it was still permissible to shorten prayers even though there was no ‘fear’ remaining. He replied, “I asked the Prophet salla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam the exact same question, and he said, ‘This is a charity that Allah has given to you, so accept His charity’” [Reported by Muslim]. In other words, Allah has graciously lifted the condition mentioned and allowed Muslims to shorten even if there is no fear of impending attack by enemy forces.

It is narrated in numerous traditions that the Prophet salla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam would shorten every four-unit prayer to two-units whenever he was traveling – in fact, he never prayed any four-unit prayer while in a state of travel.[1]

Hence, there is unanimous consensus amongst all the scholars of Islam that a traveler who is undertaking a legitimate journey may shorten the four-unit prayers to two.[2] [Note that the issue of combining (jamʿ) is a separate one, and there is a difference of opinion regarding the permissibility of combining prayers while traveling].

The question that arises, however, is: when does one legally become a ‘traveler’? And for how long may one continue to shorten the prayer?

To answer this question, we will divide this article into two sections. Firstly, we shall discuss the opinions of scholars regarding the distance that constitutes ‘travel’. This will also require us to go into a tangent and convert the distances narrated in the classical and medieval textbooks into modern measurements. Secondly, we shall discuss the opinions of the scholars regarding the time-duration that is required for the status of a traveler to change into a resident once he arrives at some destination.

1. The Distance that Constitutes ‘Travel’

The distance that constitutes ‘travel’ is one of the most highly contested issues amongst the early scholars of Islamic law, so much so that Ibn al-Mundhir (d. 310/922) mentioned close to twenty opinions on this matter. For the purposes of our article, we shall concentrate on the four most famous opinions.

1.1 First Opinion: A three-day journey

What is meant by a ‘three-day journey’ is the distance that a traveler on a camel of average speed would traverse in three complete days.

This is the position of the Companion Ibn Masʿūd, some of the famous scholars of Kufa such as al-Shaʿbī (d. 105/723) and al-Nakhaʿī (d. 96/714), and the standard position of the Ḥanafī school of law.

They based this figure on the famous hadith in which the Prophet salla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam said, “It is not allowed for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day that she travel for a distance of three days without her father, son, husband, brother or any maḥram” [Reported by Muslim]. They reasoned from this hadith that the Prophet called the distance of ‘three days’ a ‘travel’, hence this can be taken as a definition for what constitutes traveling.

Another evidence that they used was the hadith pertaining to wiping over the socks, in which the Prophet “…allowed a traveler to wipe over his socks for a period of three days and nights” [Reported by Muslim]. The Ḥanafīs reasoned that since the Prophet salla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam set a particular time limit in place, this demonstrates that anyone traveling a distance less than a three-day journey would not be allowed to wipe over his socks, which would then imply that he would not be a traveler.

1.2 Second Opinion: A two-day journey

This is the famous opinion of the Ḥanbalīs, Shāfʿīs and Mālikīs (note that even within these schools there are other opinions as well, as shall be pointed out in the next section). This opinion has also been reported from Ibn ʿAbbās, Ibn ʿUmar, Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī (d. 129/746), and others. From amongst the modern scholars, this is the opinion of Ibn Baz (d. 1999) and the fatwa of the Permanent Committee of Scholars of Saudi Arabia. It is claimed that this is the majority opinion of the classical scholars of Islam.

Their evidence is the fact that the Prophet salla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam said, “It is not allowed for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day that she travels for a distance of two days without a maḥram” [Reported by Muslim]. They also used the action of Ibn ʿUmar as an evidence, for it is reported that he would shorten his prayers if he traveled the distance of four barīds (i.e., two days, as we shall discuss later in this article) [Reported by Imam Malik in his Muwaṭṭa].

1.3 Third Opinion: A one-day journey

This was the opinion of Imam al-Bukharī (d. 256/869) which he explicitly mentions in hisṢaḥīḥ. It has also been attributed as a second opinion within the three schools of the last opinion (viz., the Ḥanbalīs, Shāfʿīs and Mālikīs). [It will be explained later why this second opinion for these three schools is not in essence different from their first one].

The famous scholar of Syria, al-Awzāʿī (d. 151/768), said, “This is the opinion of the majority of scholars, and we hold it as well.” Amongst the modern scholars, this is the opinion of our teacher Muḥammad b. Muḥammad al-Mukhtār al-Shanqīṭī.

Their evidence for this is the fact that the Prophet salla Allahu ʿalayhī wa sallam said, “It is not allowed for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day that she travels for a distance of one day without a maḥram” [Reported by al-Bukhārī]. Al-Bukhārī commented on this hadith by saying, “So it is clear that the Prophet called [the traveling of] one day and night a ‘travel.’”

They also use as evidence the statement of Ibn ʿAbbās, when he was asked by a person residing in Makkah, “Should I shorten when I go to Mina or Arafat?” He said, “No! But if you go to Taif, or Jeddah, or travel an entire day’s journey, then do so. But if you travel less than that, then do not shorten.”[3] Therefore, he expressed ‘an entire day’s journey’ as being the minimal limit for shortening the prayers.

1.4 Fourth Opinion: It is not defined by distance but by experience

What is meant by this opinion is that a journey is not defined by how much one has traveled but by what one does and how one prepares for it. According to this opinion, a ‘journey’ is not a particular distance as much as it is a physical and psychological experience.

This is the opinion of Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456/1064) (although he placed a minimum of ‘one mile’), Ibn Qudama (d. 610/1213), Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1327), Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 756/1355), al-Ṣanʿānī (d. 1182/1768), al-Shawkanī (d. 1250/1834), and others. It has been interpreted to be the opinion of Ibn Masʿūd, ʿUthmān b. ʿAffān, and Ibn Sirīn. In fact, there is an explicit statement from Ibn Sirīn which shows that this opinion might have been more prevalent in the past, for he states, “They used to say that a travel in which one may shorten the prayer is a journey in which one takes provisions and baggage.”[4] Amongst the modern scholars, it is the opinion of Ibn ʿUthaymīn (d. 2000) and Ibn Jibrīn (d. 2010).

Their evidence is the lack of any Scriptural evidence that defines ‘travel’, and hence the necessity of resorting to what is culturally understood to be ‘travel’.

Ibn Taymiyya was perhaps the most vocal proponent of this opinion. He disagreed with any specific distance that other scholars sought to derive. According to him, there is no explicit evidence from the Quran, Sunnah, language or custom of that generation that would be binding on later Muslims. He views the distances that the legal schools and other scholars adopted as having been resorted to because these scholars did not find anything more explicit to demarcate the distance required to be considered a ‘traveler’. In fact, all three of the previous opinions use the same basic hadith that prevents women from traveling without a male companion – yet, as is obvious, each hadith uses a different limit. This in itself shows that the intention of the hadith is not to define the distance of what constitutes ‘travel’.

Ibn Taymiyya writes,[5]

So demarcating a specific distance does not have any basis in the Shariah, or in the language, or in the intellect. Most people, in fact, do not know the distance of the earth, so it is not allowed to link something that the average Muslim is in need of (i.e., when to shorten the prayer) with something that he does not know (i.e., how much he has traveled). No one measured the earth during the time of the Prophet, nor did the Prophet himself put limits, neither inmīls nor in farāsikh (units of measurement). And a person might leave his village to go to the desert in order to collect wood, and he leaves for two or three days, and he will be a traveler, even though the distance might be less than a mile! In contrast to this, another person might go [a longer distance] and come back the same day, and he will not be a traveler. This is because the first person will take provision for the journey, and bags [with his necessities], whereas the second person will not. Therefore, even a near distance can be considered a ‘travel’ if someone stays for a period of time, and a longer distance will not be considered a travel if a person stays for a short period. A ‘travel’ is therefore defined by the actions that are required in order for that journey to be called ‘traveling’… and this is a matter that people recognize by their own customs.

Ibn Taymiyya did, however, place a condition that such a travel be considered a travel according to one’s custom, such that a person would prepare for a journey and travel into the wilderness (meaning, an uninhabited area). Hence, if a person visited an outlying district of a city (in Ibn Taymiyya’s explicit example, if a person living in Damascus visited a small population outside of Damascus), even if this distance was considered large, this would not constitute travel, as this is not considered ‘traveling’ for a person in this situation.

Therefore, according to Ibn Taymiyya, a ‘travel’ is not merely a distance but also a frame of mind. Someone who leaves his house, intending to return the same evening, is not a traveler, even if (as in our times) he travels to another country and then returns. Ibn ʿUthaymīn also holds the same position.[6]

Ibn Taymiyya also pointed out that this interpretation was in accordance with the very wordsafar in Arabic, because this word indicates ‘exposure’. Thus, a woman who exposes her face is called sāfira. Therefore, a safar’ would be a journey in which a person ‘exposes’ himself/herself to the wilderness by abandoning the cities and towns and journeying into an uninhabited area.

 

To be continued…

Part Two deals with converting these measurements into modern units.


[1] Ibn Taymiyya, Majmūʾ al-Fatāwā, 24/8.

[2] Ibn Hubayra, al-Ifṣā, 2/55There is some disagreement regarding someone who travels for an impermissible purpose, such as a businessman who travels to engage in an impermissible transaction; that tangent will not be discussed in our article.

[3] ʿAbd al-Razzāq, al-Muṣannaf, # 4296.

[4] Ibn Abī Shaybah, al-Muṣannaf, # 8153. Also see Ibn Taymiyya, Majmūʾ al-Fatāwāʼ,24/86-7.

[5] Majmūʾ al-Fatāwā, 24/15.

[6] Ibn ʿUthaymīn, Majmūʾ Fatāwa, 15/255.

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Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.

73 Comments

73 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Arif Kabir

    July 1, 2011 at 12:11 AM

    JazaakumAllahu Khayran for posting this, ya Ustadhi. I remember we were discussing how there were particular people within my locale who would shorten prayers practically everyday when heading to work. This article definitely helped me to see the various legitimate opinions.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Avatar

    Massoud

    July 1, 2011 at 12:25 AM

    A very-well researched article by the Sheikh. Pleasure to always read your writings!

  3. Avatar

    Michael Scott

    July 1, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    can never get enough of Qadhi.

    Keep writing Sheikh, this is your JIHAD OF THE PEN!

    • Avatar

      A

      July 18, 2011 at 3:17 AM

      this post, and more importantly this comment deserves a thumbs up!

      (bring back the thumbs up/thumbs down button!!!!!!)

  4. Avatar

    Amy

    July 1, 2011 at 1:36 AM

    As-salaamu alaykum

    I’m interested in this subject because I spend a lot of time traveling and really appreciate the ease of Islam when it comes to the prayers of the traveler. Traveling a great distance, even in a short period of time, might mean a drastic change in the times of prayers. Alhamdulillah we have apps that can tell us the qiblah and prayer time even in the desert but without this technology I imagine it might be difficult to keep up with the difference between dhuhr and asr while traveling, or maghrib and isha, or even to know when fajr has come in. Many times traveling leaves us without an adhan, and clouds can compound the problem of finding the time while away from home.

    It’s not that it would be impossible to find the time, but what a mercy to not have to be burdened by it.

    I’d love to know about the scenario of a full day’s travel away from home, with a day’s provision, but returning at night.

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 1, 2011 at 1:23 PM

      Salam

      There is of course a grey area in this. So, for example, I live in Memphis. Suppose I were to travel to Nashville by plane (30 minutes) for a business meeting and I planned to be home for lunch. I would not prepare any luggage, would only be dressed in the very clothes for that meeting, would drive to the airport, and maybe four hours later find myself driving back home. According to the understanding of Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwa (and this is also the explicit fatwa of our Shaykh Ibn Uthaymin), this is not quite a ‘travel’ because even my frame of mind did not consider it a ‘journey’.
      Many other scholars (in fact, the majority) would, of course, disagree with this interpretation.

      Allah knows best…for this one issue (viz., a long journey undertaken in a short period of time) I myself am contemplating both sides of the matter and haven’t as of yet reached a decisive opinion.

      Yasir

  5. Avatar

    salih

    July 1, 2011 at 3:03 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum.

    Thank you for such a beneficial paper. Barakallahu fik.

  6. Avatar

    quadri anwar ahmed

    July 1, 2011 at 6:42 AM

    Their evidence is the lack of any Scriptural evidence that defines ‘travel’, and hence the necessity of resorting to what is culturally understood to be ‘travel’.

  7. Avatar

    Hassan

    July 1, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    Although it is perhaps not the topic of this article, but since all ahadiths that are used is related to woman and traveling, how come modern/contemporary scholars have allowed women to travel far distances? I am not sure if there was any relaxation in first 3 centuries by scholars.

    Does 1 day travel means “time” or 1 day travel means “distance” ? because that changes the whole game perhaps.

  8. Avatar

    M.M.

    July 1, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Assalamu Alaikom Sheikh Yasir,

    Can you clarify what is meant by a ‘legitimate journey’? Especially in Ramadan for example.

    Jazaka Allah Khair

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 1, 2011 at 1:18 PM

      Salam Alaikum

      See footnote [2].

      Any journey that is permissible (regardless of whether it is a religious journey, such as going for Hajj, or a worldly-related matter, such as traveling for job or business) is one in which the prayer may be shortened and combined.

      For some scholars (e.g., the Hanbali school), a journey that is ‘sinful’ is not one in which one may shorten prayers. So, for example, if a businessman is traveling to engage in an impermissible transaction (or a thief is traveling to commit a crime in another village!), according to that school he would not be allowed to shorten the prayer.

      (One wonders if someone who is so unscrupulous as to travel for the sake of haram actually cares what the scholars say about his combining of the prayers – but that is a separate point!!)

      Yasir

      • Avatar

        Khader Ali Khan

        July 1, 2011 at 2:50 PM

        Ya Sheikh, Sometimes I travel to play sports… does that comes into “legitimate journey” category?

        • Avatar

          Yasir Qadhi

          July 1, 2011 at 3:44 PM

          Salam

          Yes.

          Yasir

          • Avatar

            Uz

            July 6, 2011 at 6:42 AM

            I read a very convincing fatwa that it is haraam to travel to non-Muslim lands for the purpose of enjoyment.

            Three main points were:
            •waste of time
            •waste of your own money, and the voluntarily spent money is used to spread false religions and wage war against Islamic countries.
            •Sitting in places where sins are committed (drinking alcohol, gambling, promiscuity) and not condemning those who do that. This is doing a haraam action, funding the haraam action and failing to do an obligatory action.
            •Loss of modesty because the immoral conduct and animalistic behaviour that one sees in those countries.

            Seeing as we are already in these lands, where does this place us? Are we required to leave? I know Muslims close to me who have left Islam. I know non-Muslims close to me who have entered Islam. Is it a wise move to stay in the west when we cannot even guarantee the Islam of the next generation?

      • Avatar

        M.M.

        July 1, 2011 at 4:25 PM

        Jazaka Allah khair Sheikh, what about travelling for a short vacation, i.e. fun? Is it considered to be a legitimate reason to shorten the prayers?

      • Avatar

        Salaf

        July 3, 2011 at 11:57 AM

        As-salamu alaykum,

        Jazakum Allah khair.

        What is the evidence that shortening the prayer in sinful travels is not allowed? I know that Ibn Taymiyah, Ibn Hazm and Abu Hanifah holds a strong opinion that it is obligatory to shorten the prayer in every travel (obligatory, sunnah, mubah and haram travels).

        Jazak Allah khair,

        wlslm

      • Avatar

        Jason

        November 13, 2015 at 8:23 PM

        I’m curious about the Traveller when it is appropriate to jihad and how soon to pray when engaged in a jihad war. What if engaged in a very long period in just interested for general knowledge because a friend ask how it goes for curiosity also and doesn’t it tell when and who a jihad can be against such as other religions. I’m not interested in a debate just an answer! Thank you!

  9. Avatar

    Mahmoud Sabha

    July 1, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    Cant wait for part two…especially since I will be living soon on a small island that isn’t even 15 miles long! It does have many mountains though so it could take hours to get to the other side…

  10. Avatar

    hendersoncnc

    July 1, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    mashallah these are the type of articles I’ve been waiting for.

  11. Avatar

    Mohammad

    July 1, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    Assalamu alaikum. Could you please clarify – traveling for sight seeing is a legitimate journey or not? Jzk.

  12. Avatar

    Kamal

    July 1, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    Salam

    Can you also cover in thwe next article the duration of the time spent outside one’s home. I’ve heard about difference of opinions on loosing one’s traveller’s status if you spend more than 4 days in the place where you go. (Like are you a traveller when you go to another city to teach an al Maghrib class and spend 2 to 3 weeks in that city?)

  13. Avatar

    Ibn Masood

    July 2, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    Finally, Muslimmatters returns.

    BarakAllahu feek Sheikh Yasir for this piece.

    I have a question about an issue we encountered in Saudi Arabia. We traveled regularly on the weekends between Riyadh and Makkah, and would prefer to minimize our stops as much as possible. Sometimes we would stop by a gas station and the adhaan would be called. As per the ahadeeth of responding to the adhaan, should we respond to that adhaan even if we are traveling?

  14. Avatar

    Abez

    July 2, 2011 at 4:06 AM

    JazakAllahuKheitan! I’m really looking forward to the next two installments. My husband and I have held differing views on travelling prayers for a while now, and while we’re content to agree to disagree, I recognise that we both need to learn more about opinions other than our own. :)

  15. Avatar

    Amir Yunas

    July 2, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    A juicy article indeed on a common fiqh issue. I would love to read some fiqh books written by you Sh. Yasir. Because I have noticed that your style in presenting fiqh makes a rather boring topic into one that keeps you on the edge of your seat. At least this is how I feel, but jazzakAllah Khair at any rate, and keep on publishing these juicy fiqh issues.

  16. Avatar

    Abu Ibrahim Ismail

    July 2, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    Jazakallah Khair,

    This very situation came up recently when my wife visited another city that was about 150 miles from where we live. It was very frustrating trying to figure out if we were sinning by allowing her to travel on her on.

    Islamic Learning Materials

  17. Avatar

    Weekly Traveler

    July 3, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum Shaykh Yasir,

    I travel every week for my job, and I was wondering when I can begin to shorten and combine my prayers?

    My travel is such that when I am at the airport dhur is just about to end, and when I land in the new time zone and arrive at my destination Maghrib has started.

    Is it permissible to shorten and combine before I leave for the airport? Or should I only pray and shorten Asr on the plane (praying on the plane, even while sitting, is always a little awkward, which is why I was wondering if I could shorten before I leave so that it is easier to maintain full concentration).

    Jazakallah khair

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 6, 2011 at 4:52 PM

      Salam

      In your case it would be permissible and better to combine the two prayers at the airport and pray standing instead of praying sitting in the plane. However, according to the majority you cannot shorten as you don’t actually begin traveling until you leave the city of your residence.

      You will be combining based on necessity, not because you are traveling.

      Yasir

  18. Avatar

    Zain Ul Islam

    July 3, 2011 at 2:36 AM

    Jazakummullahu Khairan Brother!!

  19. Avatar

    Ayesha

    July 3, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    JazakAllahukhairan for the post…!!

  20. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    July 3, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    another important question: what about business travelers who travel mon-fri, or mon-thurs to different locations? or maybe sometimes the same city for 6months to 2 years? you live out of a hotel during that time, but sometimes you technically spend more time there than at home during a given week

  21. Avatar

    umm.esa

    July 3, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    So glad to read an informative article. wish there could more of these. jazakAllahu khayran sh. yasir qadhi

  22. Avatar

    MuslimNoise

    July 3, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Much needed article which I’m sure will clear up many issues that people may have. I have always inclined to the fourth opinion and have been taught that the definition of ‘travel’ depends on what the custom is. But it’s good to know about the full-scale of the difference of opinion between the classical and contemporary scholars.

  23. Umm Reem

    Umm Reem

    July 4, 2011 at 1:47 AM

    JazakAllah khiar shaikh

    1. Can a person have more than one home? And what would be the criteria for that. Can i consider my mother’s house in Houston as my home and not shorten my prayers there.

    2. What about when a person travels for a prolong period of time, like I am in Egypt for 2 months, though I have an apartment here I do feel like a traveler. (wasn’t it IT who also said that a student traveling to seek knowledge may continue to shorten his/her prayers for as long as he/she is away from home or something along the lines)

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 6, 2011 at 4:56 PM

      Salam

      Yes a person can have more than one place that s/he considers as a ‘residence’.

      The second question will be answered in Part 3.

      Yasir

  24. Avatar

    UmmH

    July 4, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    This is a really important issue, especially for women whose parents live over 49 miles away (or however long 3 days is).

    What I find really surprising is that the fear factor is not taken into account (in relation to women and travelling). I can’t understand that if the Prophet SAW allowed women to travel on their own for three days and three night, when in those times it was pitch black at night, extremely dangerous, in total wilderness, why wouldn’t he permit women in this age to travel 100 miles away from their homes? Travelling has never been safer in many places around the world.

    Also, it would be interesting to know why there was a need to change it from days to distance. Who was the person who converted three days and three nights into miles.

  25. Avatar

    Mu'adh

    July 5, 2011 at 1:50 AM

    Salaam ‘alaykum,

    Awesome article, I love stuff like this, very practical, and well-written so it does not become dry.

    I see I’m not alone, as everyone seems to want to have other issues of travel addressed, and I hate to add to it, but this has much to do with modern travel. I hope Sh. Yasir notices this post.

    How do we deal with traveling across time zones? I know when I fly to Paki across the Atlantic, the day is sped up, I’m not sure what’s going on, isn’t salah by the position of the Sun, etc. etc?

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 6, 2011 at 4:55 PM

      Salam

      You pray according to where you currently are (in your case, where the plane is). Look out the window – when the sun sets, you pray Maghrib, and so forth.

      Yasir

  26. Avatar

    Aaminah Abdiqadir

    July 5, 2011 at 2:35 AM

    Baarakalaahu feek SHeikh Yassir, I’m looking forward to the the second segment.
    Indeed this is most educational and it cleared some fog from our minds

  27. Avatar

    Madeeha

    July 5, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    JazakAllah khiar for this informative article. I have a question. What if one is under circumstances where they cannot perform their shortened prayer on time. However, when they get to a place where they can pray, they are already home. Does one perform the shortened prayer (because the prayer time occurred while the person was travelling) or does he/she perform the normal prayer.

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 6, 2011 at 4:54 PM

      Salam

      If one returns home after a travel and delayed the prayers (e.g., arrives home at 10 PM without praying Maghrib and Isha), there is no sin in this. However, because this traveler has now arrived, s/he must pray the full four units for Isha.

      Yasir

      • Avatar

        Rayhana

        January 19, 2016 at 2:03 PM

        Salaam ‘alaykum,

        I travel 5 days a week 51km to 55Km one way to work and it’s on the highway. The highways I take (401 hyw in Canada/Toronto) is always jam packed and it takes my more then an hour an a half to two hours depending on the traffic to get home. My dilemma is that I often miss my prayers because I finish work at 4 and Asar starts. In summer time I usually don’t miss any prayers due to my travelling but in winter I miss Asar. I have been praying salatain at work and I hope its accepted by Allah.

        Also Can I pray safer salaat when I am at work since I am traveling 100km both ways.

        Please get back to me.

        Thank you.

  28. Avatar

    Sabeen H

    July 5, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    Asalam ALekum
    Question asked by Br, Hassan(July 1st) is very interesting.
    Today Muslim women travel almost everywhere alone,are we doing something prohibited in Islam?
    waiting for the answer.
    JAK

    • Avatar

      Yasir Qadhi

      July 6, 2011 at 4:54 PM

      Salam

      I’m afraid this is an altogether different talk and not the scope of this article – perhaps one day I’ll write an article on that issue!

      Yasir

  29. Avatar

    Abdullah

    July 6, 2011 at 5:34 AM

    Shaykh, If you have heard of Bayyinah’s Dream program, do you think that students coming from afar should shorten their prayers when not praying in the masajid?

  30. Avatar

    Abu Ayyoob

    July 6, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    As Salaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatahu ya Shaykh

    What would the ruling be on the prayer of a traveller who travels a short distance from home yet packs for a day or two(for stay at an inn/guesthouse)? By short distance I mean less than or around 100 km.

  31. Avatar

    'Uthmaan

    July 7, 2011 at 5:24 AM

    Great article! JazakAllah Khayr. The question of what exactly consitutes travel is something I’ve been precisely wondering about for a while now. I look forward to the future parts.

    Btw any plans to finish the series of articles on salvific exclusivity? And what about the article you said you were going to write on the obligation or otherwise of Hijrah from Non-Muslim lands and other related issues?

  32. Avatar

    'Uthmaan

    July 7, 2011 at 5:34 AM

    Also:

    1. You mentioned that the legal maxims is one of the five main principles upon which Islamic Law is based. Could you please briefly just list what the other four are? I know it’s not entirely relevant but I’m really curious.

    2. May I know which position from the ones mentioned in the article, that you personally take, if any?

    3. How do we renconile the meaning of the hadeeths which prevent women from travelling without a male companion, when they appear so contradictory? All three of them mention different periods of time! How does such a contradiction arise?

  33. Avatar

    Student

    July 7, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    AsSalaamu ‘Alaykum Sh Yasir,

    JazakAllahu khayr for the article, I always appreciated your articles that dealt with issues like this and academic approaches to various issues.

    I’ve heard and some groups even practice, that the Hanafii Fiqh actually has the travel time of two weeks, yet here you listed their opinion is only of 3 days? What’s their reasoning behind two weeks then? I do remember some brothers who practiced the two week opinion at the first IlmSummit as well, I’m a bit confused about this?

    Secondly, I’ve read another opinion that if you pray 20 fard salah or less in your destination, it constitutes travel. Meaning if you arrive somewhere by Maghrib, and leave before Maghrib 4 days later, you are traveling, but if after, then its considered not, which makes sense one the 4 days opinion. Do you know the proofs behind this and reasoning? I assume its a legit opinion because of where its found…

    JazakAllahu Khayr

  34. Avatar

    Abu Ibrahim

    July 7, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    Assalam Alaykum Shaykh,
    If you move to a different state for the practice of studying for university, with intent to go back when school is over, should one shorten their prayers if one does this or are they considered a an inhabitant of that land?

  35. Pingback: Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of ‘Travel’ (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 2 | MuslimMatters.org

  36. Pingback: Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of ‘Travel’ (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 3 | MuslimMatters.org

  37. Pingback: Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of ‘Travel’ (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 3 | ISLAMIC SPOTLIGHT: ISLAMIC NEWS, STORIES, HADITH, DOCUMENTARIES, LECTURES, NASHEED AND MORE DEEN RELATED ARTICLES

  38. Avatar

    AbdulAleem Khan

    September 10, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    Therefore, according to Ibn Taymiyya, a ‘travel’ is not merely a distance but also a frame of mind. Someone who leaves his house, intending to return the same evening, is not a traveler, even if (as in our times) he travels to another country and then returns. Ibn ʿUthaymīn also holds the same position.

    so if a person leaves home in the morning for a business trip to a place atleast 600 miles from home and returns the same day (by air of course), is he not a traveller?

  39. Pingback: MM Treasures | Yasir Qadhi | The Definition of “Travel” (safar) According to Islamic Law | Part 3 - MuslimMatters.org

  40. Avatar

    Talha

    March 5, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    Asalamu alaykom ya Sheikh,

    Masha’Allah tabaruk’Allah beautifull written wallah…. So nicely explained… I am most definately far too late expecting a reply but nevertheless i shall try bithnillah…. Me a seeker of knowledge i firmly believe the opinion you follow seems to be th strongest, but as a weak individual practically i feel my nafs will affect me when i need to distinguist i enter the frame of a mind of a traveller, so is it permissible for me to follow the safer opinion of 48miles?

    Jazak’Allah Khayr

    Talha

  41. Avatar

    Dawud

    March 7, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    Assalam alaikum. I have a bit of a problem. I moved away from my old city because I hate living in big cities, I like small towns it is so much more peaceful. So I have moved far away from Auckland (15 hours drive) to a town of about 30,000 people. I have been here 3 weeks now, since then I have tried to find the room for juma on friday. There are some egyptians here and I have tried to contact them but they seldom get back to me. I finnaly found the prayer room yesterday, so I went their today for juma and was waiting about half an hour and nobody showed up! What do I do in this situation as I do not want to go back to Auckland (at this stage, but I intend to later on in the year inshALLAH)? Not only that but I have just paid 5000 dollars for studies and If I walk out I will not get my money back. Also I have other problems too. When I was living in Auckland many of the brothers treated me like crap (im a revert) and I used to feel very lonely most of the time, and people hardley spoke to me. As soon as Ieave auckland about 1 week later one of the brothers at the masjid calls me and starts speaking to me as if he is suspicious of me and pretty much told me in a nice way that if I dont come back to live in the city then I am like a munafiq. My question is, is islam only for people who live in the city??? Because ever since I have left brothers are now backbiting against me and accusing me of even worse things which they have no right to. Not only that but I do not want to ask the sheik up their about any fatwas on this issue because if their are many halal options he will pretty much just pick one of them (he will pick the most difficult option) and make it wajib on me. I feel as though people do not trust me, when I talk to brothers up there now they respond to me in strange ways. I am really sick of it and it is making me not want to go back to auckland at all now. I do not see why we cannot be muslim anywhere we go, why do they treat me like an apostate just because I am living in a town with few muslims, I mean at least I show up for juma, I go to the masjid hoping that brothers will be there but sofar none have showed up, so it is not as if I am trying to avoid my obligations. Also I have missed 3 jumas so far (although I intended to b there. the first 2 I missed because I was trying to find muslims in the town(I even followed one muslim family in a car for a while but the traffic was heavy and I lost them so did not get the chance to speak to them) and the other juma I missed was today I showed up but nobody was there! I heard a fatwa that if you miss 3 juma in a row you are kufar or munafic. The thing is I am still praying 5 times, i am still reading quran and hadiths and I still feel like a muslim but yet according to some people I am kufar???? Even though I am a believer and I intend to remain a beleiver??? Can you please give me some wisdom here sheik because I cannot understand why people are acting like this towards me???

    • Avatar

      Abdullah

      July 10, 2016 at 8:37 AM

      Ah, :( so sorry to hear that,I know its been years since u wrote that comment,hopefully everything is fine by now.May Allah help u in ur problems

  42. Avatar

    ibnukheir

    March 13, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Assalam Alaikum Sheikh.My question is i am a seaman how long do i have to shorten my prayers?

  43. Avatar

    Naveed khan

    June 30, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Dear Sheikh Asalam u aliakum
    Please may I know how long is qasar prayers applicable. I will be away from home for more than a month visiting relatives.
    Jazakallah
    Naveed

  44. Avatar

    salmaanpar

    October 14, 2014 at 5:33 AM

    Excellent article! Keep them coming

  45. Avatar

    Binta

    August 15, 2015 at 8:17 PM

    Please send me news letter for free

  46. Avatar

    Saba

    September 12, 2015 at 1:20 PM

    As-Salam u alikum Brother,

    I was researching about the rulers of travel prayers and found your article. It is helpful but what I am looking for is what shortening of prayers is constituted for ?
    1. Do we only shorten the faraz or sunat as well?
    2. If we are traveling ex. In a car and not yet reached our destination, do we just only pray two rakat faraz and once we have reached our destination do we pray a full four rakat sunnat and two rakat faraz?
    I am looking for reference which can back up my above two questions.

    JazakAllah.

  47. Avatar

    Mohammed Bakir

    July 1, 2016 at 11:51 PM

    Good article, but my question pertaining to Ibn Taymiyyah’s view is that if one visits a small population outside Damascus and intends to spend more than one night, is that person a traveller? So for one to be considered a travel, they must go to a place outside their city and intend to spend more than one night there?

    Also, if one travels to an area outside but close to New York City (where that person lives) and spends more than one night there, is that person a traveller?

  48. Avatar

    Hocine temmar

    October 5, 2016 at 8:55 PM

    Salam aleykoum,

    When we are travelling ans once we have reached destination. Are we still allowed to combine prayer ? Sometimes I visit my family in Paris and I don’t always pray at the mosque and also combine when I find difficulty to pray on time (not that many mosque in Paris unfortunately).
    I have read that as long as we are traveling, even if we are at destination, we have the right to combine prayers though it is preferable to pray in congregation unless if we hear the adhan. Is this opinion right ?
    Am I committing any sin while visiting my family and combining Salah instead of praying every Salah at the mosque ?

    Barakallah oufik

  49. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    October 18, 2016 at 2:27 AM

    This is very good Article.

  50. Avatar

    Nasir Memon

    November 8, 2016 at 3:35 AM

    Nice to see an Article about Definition of Travel Safar.

  51. Avatar

    Sajna

    December 2, 2016 at 10:09 AM

    Can I pray jam and qasr while I travel to jeddah from Makkah? ( I stay in Makkah)

  52. Avatar

    Richard

    July 31, 2018 at 9:53 AM

    Islam is a religion of progressive revelation. Therefore why is not the date of the hadith taken into account. This makes it much simpler

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#Culture

Messiah, A Fitnaflix Production

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Netflix released Season 1 of a new thriller series called “Messiah”. The series imagines the emergence of a character claiming to be sent by God, the Messiah, or Al-masih (messiah in Arabic) as he is referred to in the television series. 

This so-called Al-masih first emerges in Damascus at a time when ISIS is about to storm the city. He then appears in Palestine, Jordan and ultimately America. Along the way, he performs miracles and dumbfounds the Israeli and American intelligence officers charged with tracking him and figuring out who is enabling him. The season ends with a suggestion that he is truly a divine man, with the ultimate miracle of reviving the dead.

The entertainment value here is quite limited. Some stretches of the series are just flat or straight out boring, and the acting is not all that great. However, the series does create an opportunity for discussion about Muslim eschatology (the knowledge of the end of times), response to fitnah (faith testing tribulations) and Muslims portrayal in and consumption of entertainment media. 

The series shows some sophistication in the portrayal of Muslim characters relative to what people have been accustomed to with Hollywood. Characters that are situated in the Middle East are performed by actors from that region who speak authentic regional Arabic (including Levantine and North African dialects). The scenes appear authentic. While this is progress, it is limited, and the series falls into oversimplification and caters to typical stereotypes. While several Muslim characters draw the viewers’ empathy, they are not used to provide context or nuance for issues that the series touches on: ISIS, refugees, the Israeli occupation and suicide bombings. The two American Muslim characters are never really developed. In fact, all Muslim characters tend to be “flat” and one dimensional. This is in contrast, for example, to American and Israeli characters which appear multi-dimensional and complex, often dealing with personal challenges that a Western audience is likely to identify with (caring for an aging parent, mourning the loss of a spouse, balancing career and life, dealing with family separation, abortion, etc.). While Muslim characters are shown as hapless refugees, terrorists, religious followers, political activists, a university professor and student, their stories are never developed.

The show repeatedly refers to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There is also consistent normalization of Israeli occupation and glorification of the occupying forces.  

Islamic eschatology 

Orthodox Muslims affirm a belief in “the signs of the End of Times, including the appearance of the Antichrist, and the Descent of Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) the son of Mary 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), from the celestial realm. We also believe in the sun’s rising from the west and the appearance of the “Beast of the Earth from its appointed place” [1]. Dr. Omar Al-Ashqar gives a detailed review of the authentic narrations regarding the signs of the end of times in his book Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra [2]. When it comes to actual figures who will emerge in the end of times, Sunni scholars generally affirm the following:

  • Imam Mahdi, who is a just ruler who will share the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) name. 
  • The False Messiah (Antichrist), or Al-Masjih Al-Dajjal, who will be the greatest fitna to ever to afflict this Ummah. 
  • The True Messiah, Isa ibn Maryam, who returns in the end of days, kills the Antichrist and rules for 40 years and establishes justice and prosperity – close to the time of the day of judgement. 

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned that the fitna of Al-Dajjal will be the most severe ever. In a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah and others, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is reported to have said, “Oh people, there has not been a fitna on the face of the earth, since God dispersed the progeny of Adam, greater than the fitna of Al-Dajjal. Every prophet of God warned his people from Al-Dajjal. I am the last prophet. You are the last Ummah. He will appear amongst you no doubt!”

Al-Dajjal comes after a period of famine and drought. He will be one-eyed and will claim to be God. Believers will recognized a mark or word of disbelief on his forehead. He will perform many miracles. He will endow those who follow him with material prosperity and luxury, and those who deny him will be inflicted with deprivation and suffering. He will travel at high speeds, and  roam the whole world, except Makkah and Madinah, which he will not be able to enter. He will create a heaven and hell, command rain, the earth, animals, and resurrect the dead – all supernatural occurrences that he has been afforded as a trial and test for others. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went as far as encouraging us to flee from confronting him, because it will be a test of faith like no other.

Reflections on the series and lessons to be learned

The Prophets and the righteous are not tricksters and riddlers.

The Netflix series portrays the character ‘al-masih’ as someone who speaks cryptically; it is never clear what he is teaching and why. He leads his followers on long physical journeys without telling them where they are going or why. He speaks in riddles and tortures his followers with mental gymnastics and rhetorical questions.

On the other hand, a true prophet of God offers real guidance and brings clear teachings and instructions – the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) spoke clearly to his followers, he taught them how to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone, to be just, to uphold the ties of kinship, to look after one’s neighbour, and so on. He did not abandon them in a state of confusion to fend for themselves. Moreover, “al-masih” deceives his followers by concealing his true name (“Payam Golshiri”) and background – something a righteous person would never do, let alone a prophet.

What Netflix got right and what it got wrong

The Al-masih character initially emerges in Damascus (and the Islamic tradition mentions Isa ibn Mariam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend in Damascus). However, the character is eventually revealed to hail from Iran. A number of ahadith refer to Al-Dajjal first appearing in Khurasan, which is part of modern-day Iran. He poses as a righteous person, but it is revealed that he doesn’t pray at all. He quotes religious scripture, but only to service his cryptic speeches. That Al-Dajjal would pose as a religious person would not surprise Muslims, since some hadith mention he will emerge from the remnants of the Khawarij, a heterodox group known for overzealousness and fanaticism [3]. Al-Dajjal travels the world at fast speeds, disappearing from one land and appearing in another, just as the character in the series does. 

messiah

photo credit: IMDb

However, numerous features of Dajjal would make his identity obvious to believers, not the least of which is that the word ‘disbeliever’ will be written – whether literally or metaphorically (scholars differ) – on his forehead in such a manner which even those unlettered would be able to read. Physically, Dajjal is a short man, with a deformity of his legs, and one of his eyes is likened to a “floating grape”, sightless, and “green like glass”. The Prophet is said to have focused on these physical features because they are so manifest and eliminate any confusion.

Al-Dajjal’s time overlaps with that of two other eschatological figures – Imam Mahdi and Esa ibn Maryam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Imam Mahdi is prophesized to fill the world with justice and rule for seven years, after which Dajjal will emerge. While the Muslims following al-Mahdi are taking shelter in Damascus, Prophet Esa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend and eventually slay the Dajjal. Therefore, according to the Islamic eschatological tradition, things will get better before they get worse before they get better again – Imam Mahdi precedes Dajjal and Dajjal precedes Prophet Esa [2].

Safeguarding against tribulations

The best safeguard is to have sound knowledge of theology and law, and to have our iman rooted in revelation and reason. For example, the most basic understanding of Islamic theology would lead us to reject any man who claims to be God, as Al-Dajjal will claim. With basic Islamic knowledge and reasoning, we would know that Allah does not manifest in human-like form, much less one that is deformed, as Allah is the all Powerful and Perfect. Could it be that at the end of times even such essential Islamic knowledge is lacking? 

walking on water

Al-Dajjal deceives people by his miracles and supernatural abilities. Our iman should not be swayed by supernatural events and miracles. We should measure people and ideas according to their standing with the Shari’ah. We must keep our heads level and not be manipulated because we cannot explain an occurrence. 

Al-Dajjal also lures people by his miracles and by his ability to give them material prosperity, comfort and luxury. We must tie our happiness and sense of satisfaction to eternal spiritual truths, not to the comforts of this life, and be willing to give up what we have for what we believe. We should live simply and not follow into the path of excessive consumerism and materialism.  

Another important consideration is not to base our connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) on another human being (except the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Scholars, celebrity preachers, imams and teachers are all prone to error and sin. We must use the Shariah and the Prophet Muhamamd’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) character and teaching as the filter by which we evaluate them, not the other way around. Despite his obvious deformities, the Antichrist will be a mesmerizing blinding celebrity, but whose falsehood will be uncovered by believers who make judgements based on loyalty to principle, not personality. 

Is it time to live on a remote mountain?

The clearest indication of the nearness of the Day of Judgement is the prophethood of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The Prophet likened the difference between his time and the Day of Judgement as the difference in length between the index and middle fingers. However, before we sell everything and move to a remote mountain, let’s exercise care in projecting Islamic eschatology on the political events of our times. The reality is that no one knows when these things will happen. Explaining the current phase in our history away by end of times theories or conspiracy theories, are simpleton intellectual copouts that lead our Ummah away from actively working towards its destiny. Anyone who has claimed that this event (remember Y2K) or that event is a major sign of the Day of Judgement has been wrong, so far. There were scholarly guesses in the early centuries of Muslims that expected the Hour 500 years after the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) death. Yet, here we are. No one knows.

The best you can do is stay calm and make salat!

Muslims and the entertainment media

This increased sophistication and the apparent familiarity with Islamic sources exhibited by Messiah producers should lead us to value the importance of producing accurate, authentic and polished material and content about Islam and Muslims and our community’s role as a source of information. 

It is also important for Muslims to produce works for the mass media and entertainment industries. This is no longer the era of the sole MSA Da’wah table. Sophisticated, entertaining and authentic media production is an imperative for modern Muslims.  When we don’t tell the story, someone else will. 

Make it a Netflix Night?

We may refer to it as Fitnaflix, but let’s all admit that we cannot avoid television and the entertainment industry, for better or for worse. We can however moderate, guide and channel its use. Start breaking the isolation in which many of our children and young adults consume media. Families should watch TV together and use it as an opportunity to model how we select appropriate material and to create teaching and discussion moments. Parents should know what is influencing their kids even if they don’t like it. 

Some parts of the series Messiah, despite its flaws (and an explicit sexual scene in episode 9, not to mention profanity), could be used as a teaching moment about trials and tribulations, the end of times and the importance of Muslims engaging in the entertainment industry in a principled and professional manner. 

Ed’s note: Much of the series’ content is R-rated. Besides depictions of terrorism and other mayhem, sexual activity and brief rear nudity are shown. Mature themes include abortion, adultery, infertility and alcoholism.

Works Cited

[1] T. C. o. I. Al-Tahawi, Hamza Yusuf (trans), Zaytuna Institute, 2007. 
[2] O. Al-Ashqar, Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra, Dar Al-Nafa’is, 1991. 
[3] [Online]. Available: https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2014/06/23/dajjal-emerges-khawarij/.

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#Islam

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf And The Question of Rebellion In The Islamic Tradition

Sepoy rebellion, Shaykh Hamza
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In recent years, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, a notable Islamic scholar from North America, has gained global prominence by supporting efforts by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to deal with the fallout of the Arab revolutions. The UAE is a Middle Eastern autocracy that has been the chief strategist behind quelling the Arab revolutionary aspiration for accountable government in the region. Shaykh Hamza views himself as helping prevent the region from falling into chaos by supporting one of its influential autocratic states.

However, more recently, he has become embroiled in another controversy because of comments he made regarding the Syrian revolution in 2016 that surfaced online earlier this week and for which he has since apologised. I will not discuss these comments directly in this article, but the present piece does have a bearing on the issue of revolution as it addresses the question of how Islamic scholars have traditionally responded to tyranny.

Thus, in what follows, I somewhat narrowly focus on another recent recording of Shaykh Hamza that has been published by a third party in the past couple of weeks entitled: “Hamza Yusuf’s response to the criticism for working with Trump administration”. While it was published online at the end of August 2019, the short clip may, in fact, predate the Trump controversy, as it only addresses the more general charge that Shaykh Hamza is supportive of tyrannical governments.

Thus, despite its title, the primary focus of the recording is what the Islamic tradition purportedly says about the duty of Muslims to render virtually unconditional obedience to even the most tyrannical of rulers. In what follows, I argue that Shaykh Hamza’s contention that the Islamic tradition has uniformly called for rendering obedience to tyrannical rule—a contention that he has been repeating for many years—is inaccurate. Indeed, it is so demonstrably inaccurate that one wonders how a scholar as learned as Shaykh Hamza can portray it as the mainstream interpretation of the Islamic tradition rather than as representing a particularly selective reading of fourteen hundred years of scholarship. Rather than rest on this claim, I will attempt to demonstrate this in what follows. (Note: this article was sent to Shaykh Hamza for comment at the beginning of this month, but he has not replied in time for publication.)

Opposing all government vs opposing a government

Shaykh Hamza argues that “the Islamic tradition” demands that one render virtually absolute obedience to one’s rulers. He bases this assertion on a number of grounds, each of which I will address in turn. Firstly, he argues that Islam requires government, because the opposite of having a government would be a state of chaos. This is, however, to mischaracterise the arguments of the majority of mainstream scholars in Islamic history down to the present who, following explicit Qur’anic and Prophetic teachings, opposed supporting tyrannical rulers. None of these scholars ever advocated the removal of government altogether. They only opposed tyranny. For some reason that is difficult to account for, Shaykh Hamza does not, in addressing the arguments of his interlocutors, make the straightforward distinction between opposing tyranny, and opposing the existence of any government at all.

A complex tradition

Rather than support these tyrannical governments, the Islamic tradition provides a variety of responses to how one should oppose such governments, ranging from the more quietist—opposing them only in one’s heart—to the more activist—opposing them through armed rebellion. The majority of later scholars, including masters such as al-Ghazzali (d. 505/1111), Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795/1393), and Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449) appear to have fallen somewhere between these two poles, advocating rebellion only in limited circumstances, and mostly advising a vocally critical posture towards tyranny. Of course, some early scholars, such as the sanctified member of the Prophetic Household, Sayyiduna Husayn (d. 61/680) had engaged in armed opposition to the tyranny of the Umayyads resulting in his martyrdom. Similarly, the Companion ‘Abdullah b. Zubayr (d. 73/692), grandson of Abu Bakr (d. 13/634), and son of al-Zubayr b. al-‘Awwam (d. 36/656), two of the Ten Companions Promised Paradise, had established a Caliphate based in Makkah that militarily tried to unseat the Umayyad Caliphal counter-claimant.

However, the model of outright military rebellion adopted by these illustrious scholars was generally relinquished in later centuries in favour of other forms of resisting tyranny. This notwithstanding, I will try to show that the principle of vocally resisting tyranny has always remained at the heart of the Islamic tradition contrary to the contentions of Shaykh Hamza. Indeed, I argue that the suggestion that Shaykh Hamza’s work with the UAE, an especially oppressive regime in the Arab world, is somehow backed by the Islamic tradition can only be read as a mischaracterisation of this tradition. He only explicitly cites two scholars from Islamic history to support his contention, namely Shaykhs Ahmad Zarruq (d. 899/1493) and Abu Bakr al-Turtushi (d. 520/1126), both of whom were notable Maliki scholars from the Islamic West. Two scholars of the same legal school, from roughly the same relatively peripheral geographic region, living roughly four hundred years apart, cannot fairly be used to represent the swathe of Islamic views to be found over fourteen hundred years in lands as far-flung as India to the east, Russia to the north, and southern Africa to the south.

What does the tradition actually say?

Let me briefly illustrate the diversity of opinion on this issue within the Islamic tradition by citing several more prominent and more influential figures from the same tradition alongside their very different stances on the issue of how one ought to respond to tyrannical rulers. Most of the Four Imams are in fact reported to have supported rebellion (khuruj) which is, by definition, armed. A good summary of their positions is found in the excellent study in Arabic by Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Dumayji, who is himself opposed to rebellion, but who notes that outright rebellion against tyrannical rule was in fact encouraged by Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767) and Malik (d. 179/795), and is narrated as one of the legal positions adopted by al-Shafi‘i (d. 204/820) and Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855). As these scholars’ legal ideas developed and matured into schools of thought, many later adherents also maintained similar positions to those attributed to the founders of these schools. To avoid suggesting that armed rebellion against tyrants was the dominant position of the later Islamic tradition, let me preface this section with a note from Holberg Prize-winning Islamic historian, Michael Cook, who notes in his magisterial study of the doctrine of commanding right and forbidding wrong that “in the face of the delinquency of the ruler, there is a clear mainstream position [in the Islamic tradition]: rebuke is endorsed while [armed] rebellion is rejected.”

But there were also clearly plenty of outliers, or more qualified endorsements of rebellion against tyrants, as well as the frequent disavowal of the obligation to render them any obedience. Thus for the Malikis, one can find Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi (d. 543/1148) who asserts that advocating rebellion against tyrants is the main position of the madhhab; similarly among later Hanafis, one finds Qadi Abu Bakr al-Jassas (d. 370/981); for the Hanbalis, one may cite the positions of the prolific scholars Imam Ibn ‘Aqil (d. 513/1119), Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597/1201), and in a more qualified sense, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali. Among later Shafi‘is, I have found less explicit discussions of rebellion in my limited search, but a prominent Shafi‘i like the influential exegete and theologian al-Fakhr al-Razi (d. 606/1210) makes explicit, contrary to Shaykh Hamza’s claims, that not only is obeying rulers not an obligation, in fact “most of the time it is prohibited, since they command to nothing but tyranny.” This is similar in ways to the stance of other great Shafi‘is such as al-hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani who notes concerning tyrannical rulers (umara’ al-jawr) that the ulama state that “if it is possible to depose them without fitna and oppression, it is an obligation to do so. Otherwise, it is obligatory to be patient.” It is worth noting that the normative influence of such a statement cited by Ibn Hajar transcends the Shafi‘i school given that it is made in his influential commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari. Once again, contrary to the assertions of Shaykh Hamza, there is nothing to suggest that any of the illustrious scholars who supported rebellion against tyrannical rulers was advocating the anarchist removal of all government. Rather they were explicitly advocating the replacement of a tyrant with a just ruler where this was possible.

Al-Ghazzali on confronting tyrants

A final example may be taken from the writing of Imam al-Ghazzali, an exceptionally influential scholar in the Islamic tradition who Shaykh Hamza particularly admires. On al-Ghazzali, who is generally opposed to rebellion but not other forms of opposition to tyranny, I would like to once again cite the historian Michael Cook. In his previously cited work, after an extensive discussion of al-Ghazzali’s articulation of the doctrine of commanding right and forbidding wrong, Cook concludes (p. 456):

As we have seen, his views on this subject are marked by a certain flirtation with radicalism. In this Ghazzālī may have owed something to his teacher Juwaynī, and he may also have been reacting to the Ḥanafī chauvinism of the Seljūq rulers of his day. The duty, of course, extends to everyone, not just rulers and scholars. More remarkably, he is prepared to allow individual subjects to have recourse to weapons where necessary, and even to sanction the formation of armed bands to implement the duty without the permission of the ruler. And while there is no question of countenancing rebellion, Ghazzālī is no accommodationist: he displays great enthusiasm for men who take their lives in their hands and rebuke unjust rulers in harsh and uncompromising language.

Most of the material Cook bases his discussion upon is taken from al-Ghazzali’s magnum opus, The Revival of the Religious Sciences. Such works once again demonstrate that the Islamic tradition, or great Sufi masters and their masterworks, cannot be the basis for the supportive attitude towards tyrannical rule on the part of a minority of modern scholars.

Modern discontinuities and their high stakes

But modern times give rise to certain changes that also merit our attention. In modern times, new technologies of governance, such as democracy, have gone some way to dealing with challenges such as the management of the transition of power without social breakdown and the loss of life, as well as other forms of accountability that are not possible in absolute autocracies. For their part, absolute autocracies have had their tyrannical dimensions amplified with Orwellian technologies that invade private spaces and facilitate barbaric forms of torture and inhumane degradation on a scale that was likely unimaginable to premodern scholars. The stakes of a scholar’s decision of whether to support autocracy or democracy could not be higher.

Modern scholars like Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b. 1345/1926), someone who Shaykh Hamza’s own mentor, Shaykh Abdullah b. Bayyah (b. 1353f./1935) considered a teacher until fairly recently, has advocated for an Islamic conception of democracy as a possible means to deal with the problem of tyranny that plagues much of the Muslim world. He is hardly the only scholar to do so. And in contrast with some of the scholars of the past who advocated armed rebellion in response to tyranny, most contemporary scholars supporting the Arab revolutions have argued for peaceful political change wherever possible. They have advocated for peaceful protest in opposition to tyranny. Where this devolved into violence in places like Libya, Syria, and Yemen, this was generally because of the disproportionately violent responses of regimes to peaceful protests.

Shaykh Hamza on the nature of government

For Shaykh Hamza, the fault here appears to lie with the peaceful protestors for provoking these governments to crush them. Such a conception of the dynamics of protest appears to assume that the autocratic governmental response to this is a natural law akin to cause and effect. The logic would seem to be: if one peacefully calls for reform and one is murdered in cold blood by a tyrannical government, then one has only oneself to blame. Governments, according to this viewpoint, have no choice but to be murderous and tyrannical. But in an age in which nearly half of the world’s governments are democracies, however flawed at times, why not aspire to greater accountability and less violent forms of governance than outright military dictatorship?

Rather than ask this question, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf appears to be willing to defend autocracy no matter what they do on the grounds that government, in principle, is what is at stake. Indeed, in defending government as necessary and a blessing, he rhetorically challenges his critics to “ask the people of Libya whether government is a blessing; ask the people of Yemen whether government is a blessing; ask the people of Syria whether government is a blessing?” The tragic irony of such statements is that these countries have, in part, been destroyed because of the interventions of a government, one for which Shaykh Hamza serves as an official, namely the UAE. This government has one of the most aggressive foreign policies in the region and has been instrumental in the failure of representative governments and the survival of tyrannical regimes throughout the Middle East.

Where do we go from here?

In summary, Shaykh Hamza’s critics are not concerned that he is “supporting governments,” rather they are concerned that for the last few years, he has found himself supporting bad government and effectively opposing the potential for good government in a region that is desperately in need of it. And while he may view himself as, in fact, supporting stability in the region by supporting the UAE, such a view is difficult if not impossible to reconcile with the evidence. Given his working relationship with the UAE government, perhaps Shaykh Hamza could use his position to remind the UAE of the blessing of government in an effort to stop them from destroying the governments in the region through proxy wars that result in death on an epic scale. If he is unable to do this, then the most honourable thing to do under such circumstances would be to withdraw from such political affiliations and use all of his influence and abilities to call for genuine accountability in the region in the same way that he is currently using his influence and abilities to provide cover, even if unwittingly, for the UAE’s oppression.

And Allah knows best.

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Can Women Attend The Burial Of The Deceased?

A short survey on what leading scholars and the four schools of law (madhhabs) have to say on the issue

Quran at graveyard, woman attend burial
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A few weeks ago, my brother passed away, may Allah have mercy on his soul. By Allah’s grace, his funeral was well-attended by many friends, relatives, and students of his, including a number of women. In this context, someone asked me about the Sharia’s guidance regarding women attending the burial of the deceased, and in what follows I consider what leading scholars and the four schools of law (madhhabs) have to say on the issue. The short survey below is by no means exhaustive, something that will need to be left for a much longer piece, but I hope it can be considered representative for the purposes of a general readership. 

This is not a fatwa, but rather a brief outline of what past scholars have argued to be the case with some suggestions as to how this might be understood in modern times. Finally, I should note that this is a discussion about accompanying the deceased to their final resting place (ittiba‘/tashyi‘ al-jinaza) after the conducting of funeral prayers (salat al-janaza). Accompanying the deceased on the part of women is considered more contentious than simply attending the funeral prayer, so in general, jurists who permit such accompaniment would allow for attending the prayer, while jurists who do not permit accompaniment of the deceased may be more reluctant to permit prayer. Whatever the specific cases may be, I do not go into this discussion below.

Key positions and evidence

In brief, I have been able to discern three general positions regarding women accompanying the deceased until they are buried: 1. A clear majority of scholars indicate that women are permitted to attend the burial of the deceased, but it is generally discouraged (makruh). 2. Some scholars permitted elderly women’s attendance of the burial unconditionally. 3. Others prohibited all women’s attendance unconditionally.

Overall, it is clear that most schools have permitted women’s attendance of burial, with most of these scholars discouraging it for reasons we shall consider below. The notion that women should not attend the burial of the deceased will thus clearly be shown to be a minority position in the tradition, past and present. Being a minority position does not mean it cannot be practiced, as we will consider in due course. The evidence from the Sunnah is the main legal basis for the ruling, and I shall now consider the most authentic hadiths on the matter.

The general rule for legal commands is that they apply to both genders equally. Accordingly, in a hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) strongly encouraged attending the burial of the deceased. That the ruling for women would be one of discouragement (karaha) rather than of encouragement (istihbab) would thus necessarily arise from countervailing evidence. This may be found in another hadith narrated by both of the earlier authorities. This short hadith is worth quoting in full: 

(‏متفق عليه‏) قالت أم عطية: نهينا عن اتباع الجنائز، ولم يعزم علينا

In translation, this reads: Umm ‘Atiyya said, “We were prohibited from following the funeral procession, but it was not insisted upon.”

Interpreting the evidence

The Sharia’s ruling on this matter hinges on how this hadith is understood. On this point, scholars of various schools have adopted a range of positions as outlined earlier. But on the specifics of how the wording of the hadith should be understood, it is worth considering the reading of one of the towering figures of hadith studies, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449). In his authoritative commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari entitled Fath al-Bari, he glosses the phrase in the aforementioned hadith “but it was not insisted upon” as meaning, “the prohibition was not insisted upon.” He adds: “It is as though she is saying: ‘it was discouraged for us to follow the funeral procession, without it being prohibited.’”

The hadith has, however, been interpreted in various ways by the schools of law. A useful summary of these interpretations may be found in encyclopedic works of fiqh written in recent decades. In his al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillatuhu, the prolific Syrian scholar Wahba al-Zuhayli (d. 1436/2015) notes (on p. 518) that the majority of jurists consider women’s joining the funeral procession to be mildly discouraged (makruh tanzihi) on the basis of the aforementioned hadith of Umm ‘Atiyya. However, he adds, the Hanafis have historically considered it prohibitively discouraged (makruh tahrimi) on the basis of another hadith in which the Prophet reportedly told a group of women who were awaiting a funeral procession, “Return with sins and without reward.”

Al-Zuhayli inclines towards this ruling despite noting in a footnote that the hadith he has just mentioned is weak (da‘if) in its attribution to the Prophet. However, he also adds that the Malikis permitted elderly women to attend the burial of the deceased unconditionally, and also young women from whom no fitna was feared. What constitutes fitna is not generally specified in these discussions and perhaps needs further study, but one contemporary Hanafi defines it as “intermingling with the opposite sex,” and thus suggests that where there is no such intermingling between members of the opposite sex, it is permissible for young women to attend funerals and burials.

Another valuable encyclopedic source for learning about the juristic rulings of various schools and individual scholars is the important 45-volume al-Mawsu‘a al-Fiqhiyya compiled by a team of scholars and published by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowments a quarter of a century ago. In its section on this issue, it notes that the Hanafis prohibitively discourage women’s attendance of the funeral procession, the Shafi‘is mildly discourage it, the Malikis permit it where there is no fear of fitna, and the Hanbalis mildly discourage it. The reasoning behind these positions may be found in the Arabic original, and ought to be made available in English by Muslims in the West investing in translating such voluminous works into English. 

From the above, we may gather that of the four schools, only the pre-modern Hanafis prohibit women’s attendance of funeral processions. I have already indicated one example of a modern Hanafi who moves closer to the position of the less restrictive schools in this issue, but it is worth highlighting another. Shaykh Nur al-Din ‘Itr (b. 1355/1937), one of the greatest Hanafi hadith experts alive today, in his commentary on the hadith of Umm ‘Atiyya writes that the report indicates that women’s attending a funeral procession is only mildly discouraged (makruh tanzihi). Additionally, in a footnote, he criticises a contemporary who interprets the hadith as indicating prohibition and then proceeds to cite the less restrictive Maliki position with apparent approval.

The fiqh of modernity

In none of the above am I necessarily arguing that one of these positions is stronger than the other. I present these so that people may be familiar with the range of opinions on the matter in the Islamic tradition. However, this range also indicates the existence of legitimate difference of opinion that should prevent holders of one position from criticising those who follow one of the legitimate alternatives with the unfounded charge that they are not following the Qur’an and Sunna.

Furthermore, there are often interesting assumptions embedded in the premodern juristic tradition which modern Muslims find themselves out of step with, such as the assumption that women should generally stay at home. This is clearly an expectation in some of the fiqh literature, and in modern times, we sometimes find that this results in incoherent legal positions being advocated in Muslim communities. We find, for example, that in much of the premodern fiqh literature, Hanafis prohibit women from attending the mosque for fear of fitna, while we live in times in which women frequently work outside the home. As one of my teachers in fiqh, the Oxford-based Hanafi jurist Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, once remarked in class, is it not absurd for a scholar to prohibit women from attending the mosque for fear of fitna while none of these scholars would prohibit a woman from going to a mall/shopping centre?

This underlines the need for balanced fiqh that is suited to our times, one that allows both men and women to participate in spiritually elevated activities, such as going to the mosque and attending funerals while observing the appropriate Islamic decorum, so that the rest of their lives may be inspired by such actions. The answer to modernity’s generalised spiritual malaise is not the shutting out of opportunities for spiritual growth, but rather its opposite. This will only come about when Muslims, individually and communally, invest more of their energy in reflecting on how they can faithfully live according to the Qur’an and Sunna in contexts very different to those in which the ulama of past centuries resided.

And God knows best.

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