Islamic Law of Travel

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By  Maulana Fahim Husain


As the world rapidly turns into a global village, the bewildering modes of transport and the number of people who travel is increasing on a scale never witnessed before.

Nowadays many Muslims are travelling all over the world for various reasons. Out of His infinite mercy, Allah Ta`ala has granted certain concessions to those who are Musafir (travellers) and He desires that those concessions must be appreciated - Hadith. As such, it is very important for Muslims to know the basic rules of Safar (travel) in order to appreciate these concessions and to comply with the Islamic laws of travel - Ahkam al-Safar.

In order to fulfil this vital need of providing basic knowledge on this subject, my dear friend, Mawlana Hafiz Fahim Husain has compiled this booklet, which I have studied carefully and found to be very beneficial. The masa'il are authentic and fairly comprehensive and the size of the booklet makes it a very useful 'companion' to have handy on journeys. The book has appropriately been named 'Anisul-Musafir'. It will make an appropriate gift for family or friends who intend to travel. May Allah accept his effort and reward him befittingly and make this first publication a launching pad on a long journey of authorship that will produce many useful works for the 'Ummah. Amin. Wa al-Salam

Mufti Zubair Bayat,
South Africa

The Laws and Method of Tayammum:

In the absence of water, for wudu or ghusl, or in the case where its use is injurious to one's health the Shari`ah has ordained Tayammum as the alternative. The following masa'il apply to Tayammum in the absence of water – a situation that may be encountered by the musafir.

1. When water for wudu or ghusl is not available within a radius of 1.9 km then Tayammum can be made.

2. If there is strong indication that water is available within this distance then it has to be searched for.

3. Similarly if there is so little water that it is insufficient for the four fara'id of wudu (viz. washing the face, hands and feet once and wiping a quarter of the head then Tayammum will be permissible.

4. If the water available is required for drinking, due to there being a fear of thirst that may result in illness or death, then Tayammum can be made.

5. If water is available for sale and the price is reasonable then it will be necessary to purchase that water and make wudu. If the price is unreasonably high or the person does not have sufficient money to purchase that water then he can make Tayammum.

6. If there is hope of obtaining water then it is recommended (mustah¥ab) to delay the Salah till the end of the recommended (mustah¥ab) time. i.e. before the makruh time.

7. If Salah is offered with Tayammum and thereafter water is found then there is no need to repeat the Salah.

Tayammum can be made on all substances that are of the earth even if they have no sand or dust on them. This includes sand, stone, clay, bricks and all substances that do not melt nor burn and turn to ash.

The Method of Tayamum:

Firstly the intention (niyyah) of Tayammum to attain purity (taharah) must be made.

  • Then strike both the palms on the substance upon which Tayammum is being made and dust or blow off the excess dust.

  • Then wipe both hands over the entire face ensuring that no part of the face is omitted.

  • Strike both the palms again in the same manner and wipe the right forearm as follows:

a) Begin by placing the four fingers of the left hand under the fingertips of the right hand.

b) Thereafter wipe the right hand by pulling these four fingers towards the elbow of the right hand.

c) Then, beginning from the elbow, wipe the inner of the right hand moving the left hand towards the palm - resulting in the inner part of the left thumb passing over the outer part of the right thumb.

  • Do the same for the left hand.

  • This is followed by interlacing (khilal) of the fingers and the beard.

FAQID AL-TAHURAYN refers to the person who cannot find water, for wudu or ghusl, nor sand for Tayammum. (This may occur in an aeroplane.) The law for such a person is that when the Salah time is about to expire he must act out the postures of Salah without reciting any Qira'ah. When water or sand is later found the salah must be repeated.

Wiping (Masah) over Socks (Khuffayn):

Definition of Khuffayn:

Khuffayn refer to a special type of socks that fulfil the following conditions:

1. They are waterproof.

2. Walking in them for three miles without the socks tearing is possible.

3. They remain in position, covering the feet, without being tied. Socks which have elastic sewn into them (to keep them in position) will be regarded as being tied.

>> Socks that fulfil these conditions are recognized as khuffayn in the Shari`ah. Hence cotton, woollen and nylon socks are not khuffayn and masah cannot be made on them. They must be removed and the feet must be washed.

>>It is not permissible to make masah on a khuff that is torn to such an extent that an area equal to the size of three small toes is exposed. It is permissible to make masah on the sock if it is torn less than this.

Laws regarding Masah on the Khuffayn:

1. Masahwill be valid on the khuffayn if they are worn after having attained complete taharah i.e. in the condition of wudu.

2. Masahis permissible for a musafir for a period of 72 hours. The period for a muqim is 24 hours.

3. This period is calculated from the first time the wudu breaks after having worn the Khuffayn.

4. Upon expiry of the period the masah breaks. If the person wearing them was in a condition of wudu prior to that he must simply remove the khuffayn and wash his feet. It is not necessary to repeat the entire wudu.

5. The period is lengthened from 24 hours to 72 hours for a muqim who begins a journey before the expiry of 24 hours.

6. Similarly the period is reduced from 72 hours to 24 hours for a musafir who becomes a muqim.

The Method of making Masah:


  • Draw the fingers of the hand on the upper surface of the khuff starting from the toes and ending above the ankle.

  • The right hand is used for the right khuff and the left hand for the left khuff.

  • Masah is done once on each sock.

  • It is Fard (Compulsory) to make masah on each sock to the extent of the full surface area of three fingers.

Factors that Nullify the Masah:

The following factors nullify the masah:

1. All factors that nullify wudu. In this case the masah must be renewed when the wudu is renewed.

2. Removing both the khuffs or one of them.

If the khuff is lowered to the extent that most of the foot is exposed then it will be regarded as if the entire khuff was removed and the masah will be nullified.

3. Water entering the khuff and wetting more than half the foot.

4. Ghusl becoming obligatory.

5. Expiry of the valid masahperiod as stipulated above. (See Page 10)

In the last 4 cases (i.e. 2,3,4 and 5) the khuffs must be removed and the feet must be washed.

The times of Salah:

Salah must be offered in its appropriate time even whilst on a journey. It is not permissible to intentionally miss or postpone any Salah till after its prescribed time.

Combining of two Salahs in one time is not allowed in the Hanafi School.* If the need arises two salahs can be combined by offering the first in its latest time and the second in its earliest. Thus an 'apparent combining' (Al-Jam` Al-Suri) is achieved.

[* The exception to this rule is the combining of the Zuhr and ‛Asr Salah behind the Imam of Hajj in ‛Arafat in the state of Ihram and the combining of the Maghrib and ‛Isha Salah in Muzdalifah. In the latter case offering Salah behind the Imam of Hajj is not a prerequisite for combining the two Salahs.]

1. The Time of Fajr Salah

At the approach of dawn whiteness is first noticed along the length of the eastern horizon and thereafter across its breadth. This second whiteness (known as Al-Subh Al-Sadiq or True Dawn) begins to spread rapidly until it becomes fairly bright. The time of Fajr Salah commences when this second, broad whiteness becomes visible and it remains until sunrise. The moment the tip of the sun appears the time of Fajr Salah ends.

2. The Time of Zuhr Salah

The time of Zuhr commences after midday. The method of determining midday is that as the sun rises the shadows of objects begin to decrease in length. Exactly at the time this decreasing stops is midday or noon. Thereafter, when the length of shadows begins to increase noon declines and the time of Z࿝uhr begins. The time remains until the shadow of any object becomes twice its length plus the length of its shadow at midday.

Another method of determining midday is to divide the number of daylight hours by two and add the result to the time of sunrise.

Daylight hours /2 + Sunrise
= (Sunset – Sunrise)/2 + Sunrise
= (17h30 – 6h30) /2 + 6h30
= 11hrs /2 + 6h30
= 5½ hrs + 6h30
= 12h00 is Midday

3. The Time of `Asr Salah

`Asr time commences when Zuhr time ends and remains until sunset. However, it is abominable (makruh) to offer `Asr Salah when the colour of the sun changes and its rays appear yellow. If due to some reason one gets delayed then `Asr Salah has to be offered even in this makruh time. However it is not permissible to offer any other Salah in this time.

4. The Time of Maghrib Salah

Once the sun sets Maghrib time commences and remains as long as the redness on the western horizon is visible. However, Maghrib Salah should not be delayed to the time when many stars begin to appear. (This occurs about 35 minutes after sunset.)

5. The Time of `Isha' Salah

When the redness on the western horizon disappears (about 1 hour and 20 minutes after sunset) `Isha' time commences and remains until dawn. However, it is makruh to offer `Isha' Salah after midnight. *

[* On flights extra care should be taken that salah is offered in its correct time as time zones change quickly when flying in an Easterly direction.]

Rules relating to facing the Qiblah:

1. If the direction of the Qiblah is not known, nor is there any knowledgeable person who could be asked, then the musalli must use his discretion and offer Salah in the direction that seems correct to him. This is known as Taharri. If he offers Salah after doing this his Salah is valid even if he later learns that the direction towards which he had faced was incorrect.

2. If he offers Salah without exerting his utmost in deducing the Qiblah direction, his Salah will not be valid. However, in this case, if he later learns that the direction towards which he had faced was correct then his Salah will be valid.

3. If there was a person present whom he could have asked but he did not do so then his Salah will not be valid.

4. If a person is offering Salah facing the wrong direction and during the Salah he learns of the correct Qiblah direction he should immediately turn towards the Qiblah in this very Salah. If after learning of the correct direction he does not turn towards the Qiblah his Salah will not be valid.

5. If the Qiblah direction is not known and Salah is being offered in congregation then the Imam and each of those following him must act according to their own discretion. If the conclusion of any follower (muqtadi) regarding the Qiblah direction is contrary to that of the Imam he cannot offer Salah behind that Imam. In this case, he must offer Salah on his own.

The Method of determining the Qiblah:

Scientific instruments, like compasses, can be used for determining the direction of the Qiblah. In the absence of these a person can use his reasoning. The following methods can be used to determine North in the Southern Hemisphere. The direction of Qiblah can then be estimated in relation to North. In South Africa, Qiblah (which is North-East) will be slightly towards the right of North.

1. Face the number 12 of a watch towards the sun. To avoid looking directly into the sun hold a match erect above the 12 and turn the watch so that the shadow of the match falls upon the 12 and points towards the 6. Halfway between the 12 and the hour hand is North.

2. Another method of roughly determining North is to regard the shadow of a person at midday to be facing South. North is in the opposite direction.

Rules relating to a Musafir:

Who is a Musafir?

1. The person who sets out with the intention of eventually travelling three manzils (approx. 77 km) * is regarded as a musafir in the Shari`ah.

[* This is the Fatwa of Mufti Mahmud Gangohi (r.a.) as mentioned, in detail, in Masa'il-e-Safar of Mawlana Raf‛at Qasmi p 43 and briefly in Fatawa Mahmudiyya h v 2 p 269 and v 2 p 274. Mufti Rashid Ahmad has also given Fatwa on 77km in Ahsan al Fatawa v4 p105]

2. The moment he comes out of the boundaries of his town or city he becomes a musafir. Within the boundaries of his town or city, he will not be a musafir.

If the airport is within the boundaries of the city (in the sense that the buildings of the city are linked to it without a considerable break in between) it will fall under the rule of the city and the person will not be considered a musafir when he reaches it. If it is outside the boundaries, then upon reaching it, the person will be regarded as a musafir.

PRINCIPLE: A person will not become a musafir until he firmly intends to travel 77 km from the place he is in.

Thus a person who travels from place to place, intending to travel less than 77km each time, will not become a musafir – even if he travels the entire world in this way!

The (Qasr) Salah of a Musafir:

1. When a person qualifies as a musafir according to the Shari`ah he is required to offer two rak`ahs for the Fard of Zuhr, `Asr and `Isha' Salah. The other Salahs remain as normal.

2. More than two rak`ahs should not be offered for the Fard of Zuhr, `Asr and `Isha' Salah. If a person mistakenly offered four raka`at for these Salahs, and he had sat down for Tashahhud (al-Tahiyyat) in the second rak`ah, then the first two rak`ahs will be regarded as Fard and the other two rak`ahs as nafl.

3. In the above case he will have to make sajdah al-sahw. If he did not make sajdah al-sahw then he must repeat the Salah if its time still remains.

4. If he did not sit in the second rak`ah then all four raka`at will become nafl and he will have to repeat his Fard Salah.

Becoming a Muqim:

1. A person will remain a musafir and will continue offering two rak`ahs for the four-raka`at Salahs until he makes the definite intention of staying at a place for fifteen days or more.

2. The place where he makes this intention is known as his Watan al-Iqamah. He must offer four raka`at Salah here.

3. If he makes the intention of staying for 15 days whilst in Salah then he must offer this very Salah as a muqim i.e. 4 raka`at.

PRINCIPLE: A musafir will not become a muqim until he firmly intends to stay at a place for a period of fifteen days from the time he makes this intention.

Based on the above principle consider the following two cases:

a) A person stops at a place intending to stay for two or three days. Due to circumstances every day he makes the intention of leaving the following day but he still does not leave. In this way fifteen days, twenty days, a month or even more passes, but he did not, at any point, make the firm intention of staying there for fifteen days. In this case he will remain a musafir irrespective of how many days he stays at that place.

b) A person intends to stay at a place for ten days but after seven days he decides to extend his stay by an additional ten days (which will make his total stay twenty days.) In this case he will remain a musafir. This is because after he had decided to stay ten more days there were thirteen days of his total stay remaining. Hence at no point did he make the intention to stay for fifteen days. In other words, 'fifteen days' is considered from the time he changed his intention and not from the beginning of his stay.

4. The intention of staying fifteen days has to be for staying the full fifteen days at one place. If he makes an intention of staying for 15 days at two different places, and the distance between the two places is such that the adhan of one place cannot be heard at the other, then he will be a musafir in both those places.

e.g. If a person intends staying for 10 days in Makkah and 5 days in Mina he will be a musafir both in Makkah and Mina.

Thus a Haji who arrives in Makkah less than fifteen full days before the morning of the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah will be a musafir.

If he arrives in Makkah fifteen days or more before the 8th then he will be a muqim both in Makkah and Mina.

5. If in the above case (i.e. Law 4) he intends spending all the fifteen nights at one place then he will be a muqim in that place.

6. If both places are so close that each other's adhan can be heard, then both places will be regarded as one place. He will become a muqim in both places by intending to stay there for 15 days.

7. After becoming a muqim (by firmly intending to stay at a place for fifteen days) if he changes his intention and decides to leave before fifteen days then he will not become a musafir.

8. When he leaves with the intention of eventually travelling to another place that is at a distance of 77 kilometres or more then only will he become a musafir. If that place is less than 77 kilometres away, he will not become a musafir.

Other Salah on a Journey:

1. Sunnah Salah should not be unduly missed during the journey. However if the musafir is in a hurry then, apart from the Sunnah of Fajr, it will be permissible for him to omit the other Sunnah Salahs. If he is not in a hurry nor does he fear his companions leaving him behind then he should offer all the Sunnah Salahs.

2. There is no reduction in the number of raka`at of Sunnah Salah.

3. Sunnah and Nafl Salah can be offered whilst seated in a moving vehicle if it is outside the town. The salah must be commenced facing the Qiblah. Thereafer, if the vehicle turns, resulting in the Qiblah direction changing, the musalli does not have to turn towards the Qiblah.

4. Witr Salah is wajib. Hence it must be offered whilst on a journey as well. If it is missed then qada' must be made.

5. Qada' of Salahs missed whilst on a journey will be two rak`ahs for Zuhr, `Asr and `Isha. This applies even when the qada' is being made at home or as a muqim in any other place.

6. If any Salah, such as Zuhr, is missed before embarking on a journey then qada' of it whilst on the journey must be made in full i.e. four raka`at.

The principle in laws 5 and 6 above is that the condition of a person, whether musafir or muqim, is considered in the final moments of that Salah. Accordingly the status of the Qada' Salah (i.e. whether it is two or four raka`at) will be determined.

The Hometown (Al-Watn Al-Asli):

A person's hometown is the place where he resides with his family and belongings without having a definite intention of relocating.

1. Immediately upon entering his hometown the musafir will become a muqim whether he intends staying for fifteen days or not.

2. This also applies when a musafir, during the course of his journey, passes through his hometown i.e. he will immediately become a muqim. If he merely bypasses his hometown but doesn't enter its boundaries then he will remain a musafir.

3. If a person moves to another town and settles there permanently then this second town becomes his hometown and the first town is no longer his hometown.

Rules relating to women:

1. If a woman begins a journey whilst she is in the the state of haid (menstruation) then the distance she covers in that state is not considered as part of the Safar distance. Hence, if the haid continues until she reaches her destination she will not be a musafir.

However if, during the course of the journey, she attains purity from her haid and there is still a distance of 77 km or more to her destination, then she will become a musafir.

2. If when she leaves home she was pure and her haid begins during the course of the journey then she will be a musafir.

3. The hometown of a woman who begins living with her husband after her marriage will become that of her husband's. Her original hometown (i.e. the place where she was residing with her parents) will no longer remain her hometown.

4. It is a major sin for a woman to travel 77 kilometres or more without her husband or a mature (baligh) male mahram. She should not even travel less than 77 kilometres without her husband or mahram.

This law also applies to women travelling for Hajj or `Umrah. A woman must have her husband or a mahram accompanying her in these journeys as well.

5. It is also not permissible for a woman to travel with a mahram who does not fear Allah Ta`ala and does not abide by the laws of Shari`ah.

6. The Wali (male person accompanying the woman) must be able to fulfil the role of a competent Wali in guarding the chastity and honour of the woman.

Rules relating to Salan on an Aircarft, Train, Ship etc.:

1. Fard Salah has to be offered in a standing posture in a moving ship, train or aircraft.

2. If a person feels dizzy by offering Salah standing or fears that he will fall then he is allowed to sit and offer Salah.

3. The musalli must face the Qiblah whilst offering Salah in a moving vehicle.

4. If the vehicle turns and the direction of the Qiblah changes then he will also have to turn in his Fard Salah towards the Qiblah.*

5. If a person is offering Salah and the vehicle, which has his belongings or family, is about to leave then it will be permissible for him to break his Salah. The Salah must then be offered later.

Salah with Jamah:

1. As far as possible Salah should be offered in jama`ah whilst on a journey.

2. A muqim (i.e. a resident or non-musafir) can follow an imam who is a musafir whether it is an ada' Salah (i.e. a Salah in its time) or a qada' Salah.

3. In the above case, when the musafir imam completes his Salah of 2 rak`ahs and makes salam, the muqim follower (muqtadi) should stand up without making salam and complete his Salah. He must not recite any Qira'ah in the 2 rak`ahs he is completing. He should merely remain silent for the duration of Surah al-Fatihah.

4. When the musafir imam makes salam, it is preferable (mustah࿔ab) for him to inform his followers that he is a musafir. It is preferable that he also informs them before commencing the Salah.

5. A musafir can also follow an imam who is a muqim as long as it is within the time of that Salah. If the time has expired then he can follow him for the Fajr and Maghrib Salahs and not for the Z࿝uhr, `As࿖r, and `Isha Salahs.

Fasting of a Musafir:

1. A musafir is permitted to abstain from the fast of Ramadan although it is meritorious for him to fast if it isn't difficult. The qada' of the fasts missed will have to be made.

2. If a musafir who was not fasting in Ramadan becomes a muqim, either by returning home or by intending to stay at a place for fifteen days, then he has to compulsorily abstain from eating etc. for the rest of the day. However he still has to make qada' of that day.

3. If he did not eat anything since sehri time then he can make the intention of fasting if it's before Al-Dahwah Al-Kubra (approximately an hour before zawal.) In this case the fast will be valid and no qada' is necessary. After this time (i.e. al-dahwah al-kubra) he cannot make the intention to fast but he still has to abstain from eating for the remainder of the day and qada' of that day is necessary.

4. If a muqim who is fasting begins a journey then he must complete that fast. He cannot break the fast.

Miscellaneous Masa'il:

1. If a person leaves his home with the intention of travelling 77 kilometres but after travelling a distance less than 77km, he changes his mind and decides to return home then from the moment he makes the intention of returning, he will no longer remain a musafir.*

[*Al-Durr al-Mukhtar v 2 p 134]

2. It is preferable (mustahab) to give adhan and sunnah to say the iqamah whilst on a journey.

3. If a person makes sajdah on something made out of straw or cotton wool he must press his head down firmly such that he cannot press any further. If he does not press it down firmly, but merely places his head lightly, his sajdah will not be valid. The same applies to sajdah on grass.

4. During Salah it is makruh to gather one's clothes to prevent them from becoming soiled.

5. Whilst on a journey after reading Surah al-Fatihah, in Salah, any other Surah can be recited. The Sunnah Qira'ah for the various Salah does not have to be adhered to.

6. Jumu`ah, `Id and Qurbani are not compulsory upon a traveller. However there is still more reward if these actions are fulfilled even whilst on a journey.

Etiquette (Adab) of Travelling:

1. Before embarking on a journey the musafir should consult with those learned and sincere people in whom he has confidence.

2. Istikharah should also be made as to whether he should proceed on this journey or not. The method of Istikharah can be found in many books on Salah.

3. In the case of Fard Hajj he must make Istikharah regarding when to leave and which route to take rather than Istikharah whether to undertake the journey or not. This applies to all journeys undertaken to fulfil a Shar`i obligation.

4. When he has firmly decided to embark on the journey he should arrange all his affairs at home. Debts and other duties pertaining to Huquq Allah (i.e. Rights of Allah) or Huquq al-`ibad (Rights of Others) should be fulfilled.

5. All trusts and borrowed items should be returned to their rightful owners. Alternatively, arrangements should be made for their safekeeping in his absence.

6. Suitable arrangements must be made for the maintenance of all those for whom the musafir is responsible (viz. his wife, children and other dependants) until the time of his return.

7. Full preparation for the journey should be made. This includes physical and spiritual preparation.

8. All travel documents and luggage should be checked. The musafir should also have his Traveller's Will complete and up-to-date.

9. The general masa'il of travelling and the relevant masa'il specific to his journey (e.g. the masa'il of Hajj, business etc.) must be learnt. It is advisable that small booklets containing these masa'il be taken along.

10. The preferable days of beginning a journey are Thursday and Monday.

11. It is permissible to begin a journey on all other days as well. However on Friday it is best to begin the journey after the Jumu`ah Salah. After the Jumu`ah adhan it is haram to begin a journey if there is fear of missing the Jumu`ah Salah.

12. It is best to begin a journey in the early part of the day.

13. It is preferable (mustah࿝ab) to offer two rak`ahs of Salah before departing. After this du`a' should me made for protection and ease during the journey and for a safe return home.

14. When bidding farewell to relatives and friends their du`as and forgiveness for any shortcomings in fulfilling their rights should be sought. The relevant du`a's to be recited at this time are mentioned later in this booklet. (See Pages 44 and 45)

15. Something should be given in charity before departure as sadaqah wards off calamities. Sadaqah should also be given regularly throughout the journey.

16. It is best to travel in a group and pious companions should be selected for this purpose. They will be a source of encouragement and guidance.

17. A righteous and intelligent amir (leader) should be appointed whose decision must be obeyed. The amir, in turn, should carry out his responsibility conscientiously, seeing to the needs of his companions at all times.

18. Due consideration must be given to fellow travellers - especially when using public facilities like toilets etc. Their rights must not be violated and they are not to be inconvenienced in any way. (e.g. smoking etc.)

19. If there is no danger it is advisable that a major portion of the night be used for travelling whilst resting during the day. The journey becomes shorter during the night. (H࿛adith)

20. Every spare minute is to be valued. Long journeys are an ideal opportunity to recite the Qur'an, make Dhikr and offer Nafl Salah. The time should not be wasted by casting the gaze around recklessly or by watching the videos usually shown on flights.

21. The du`a's of a musafir are accepted. Hence he should use any available opportunity to supplicate to Allah Ta`ala.

22. As soon as the object of the journey is realized he should return home.

23. The family should be informed of his time of return. He should not appear suddenly.

24. Two rak`ahs of Salah should be offered in the masjid before entering the home.

Article taken (with Thanks) from Draul- Ihsan Research & Education centre


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This page was last updated on June 14, 2003 .