February 29, 2012 By

Shorten Prayer

shorten prayerI am a nurse working in the surgical unit of a multi-specialty hospital. Owing to a tight schedule and on account of my professional commitments, i am not able to perform prayers duly. A scholar, whom i have approached for a solution, told me to quit my job, since in my case i am not able to combine prayers, an exception granted to travellers and those who are stranded by bad weather like rain. Need i heed his advice?

A: Rules related to shortening prayers came into force during the Madinese phase of Islam. Travel for trade was a common phenomenon at that time and travel came to be adopted as a denominator or condition for shortening prayers. That travel in itself is not the reason for this exception is evident in the fact that ‘rain’ or hardships associated with bad weather was also listed as a condition (sharth). A mercantile socio-economic situation prevailed at the time of compilation and codification of law. That was why in the four schools of law (madhahib), the length and kilometers of travel came to be stipulated.

Literalist scholars thereafter came to stick to these stipulated legal texts. But, those who base their stands on the intention of law (makhasid al-ahkam) say that travel and rain are not the reason (illath-ratio legis) of the rule, but the constraint, hardships and inconvenience. On that count, they say, anything that constraints prayer can be deemed as a reason for combining prayers. This constraint needs only to be tangible and understandable. As per the Jafari school of law, which the Shiites follow, prayer can be combined for no particular reason. They pray five times (wakth) but in three stipulated times (subah; zuhar-asar; maghrib -isha). There are several ahadith which sanction it, of which the oft-quoted two are the following: ‘Ibn Abbas narrates that the Messenger of Allah prayed zuhar and asar and Maghrib and Isha  together, though he was neither in a state of fear nor was there any other cause, e.g. rain. It is related from Waki that he asked Ibn Abbas about the reason. Ibn Abbas said: ‘so that His followers may not experience inconvenience and difficulty.’ This hadith narrated in Saheeh Muslim (volume 1, page 265) and Jami Tirmidhi (page 54) is also reported by Imam Malik in his Muatta. Muslim reports a similar hadith on the same page: ‘Abdulla bin Shaqeeq narrates that one day after Asar,  Ibn Abbas began delivering a sermon which was so long that the sun set and the stars appeared. People began to shout: Salat! Salat! (as it was time for Maghrib prayer). Ibn Abbas paid no heed to them until someone from Bani Tameem stood up and shouted continuously: Salat! Salat! Ibn Abbas responded: Woe unto you! You wish to teach me the Sunnat? He said: I have personally seen the Messenger of Allah pray the Zuhr and Asr prayers together, and likewise, the Maghrib and Isha prayers.

The narrator says: This statement of Ibn Abbas kept disturbing my conscience until I went and asked Abu Huraira about it, and he attested to what Ibn Abbas had said. [Saheeh Muslim, Vol. 1 p. 265]

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