Ending Prayer Before the Imam and Intending a Different Prayer to His

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalamu alaykum.

[1] Is it permissible to pray only two units of prayer (rakats) because you are a traveler, with the Imam praying four rakats because he is not a traveler?

Does saying your salams and ending before the Imam break the prayer?

[2] Is it permissible to pray a different prayer (I.e. dhur) with an Imam praying asr? Or praying a fard with the Imam praying sunnah?

Is the ruling different after the congregation prayer is over and you want to pray fard while the Imam is praying sunnah by himself?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

I pray that this finds you in the best of health and spirits, insha’Allah.

The basis in following an imam is that you must follow do so completely. Stopping the prayer early or praying a different prayer to his negate the meaning of ‘following’ or being a follower.

[1] No, you cannot end your prayer [as a traveler behind a resident] before the imam by saying the salams after two units (rak`ats). This would invalidate your prayer.

[2] No, it is not permissible to follow the imam by [a] intending a different prayer to his, for example, intending to pray `Asr behind an imam praying Zuhr, or [b] intending a stronger prayer than his, such as intending an obligatory prayer behind someone praying a voluntary or sunna prayer. Both of these would not be considered a valid prayer.
[`Ala’ al-Din `Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-`Ala’iyya]

And Allah alone gives success.


Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

The Traveler’s Prayer, Mixing Madhabs, and Maliki Reference Works

Answered by Shaykh Rami Nsour

Question: Assalamu ‘aleikum. I have a few Maliki fiqh questions.

1. I currently live in one city and study in another city that is 163 km away from my city of residence. I travel there by train and it takes approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes. Can I consider myself a traveler while being in the city where I study and may I join prayers if there is a practical need to do so?

2. Is it obligatory or recommended for the traveler to shorten the prayers?

3.  Is it generally permissible to follow the opinion of another madhab when there are real difficulties involved in not doing so? 

4. Every madhab has some book which is considered a reference work, a book to turn to for reference when it comes to detailed or complicated issues. For the Shafi’is I think Imam al-Nawawis al-Majmu’ would be considered one such work, and for the Hanbalis al-Mughni of Ibn Qudama. Would Al-Kharshis explanation of Mukhtasar Khalil be considered such a work in the Maliki madhab, which has been printed with a hashiya of shaykh al-‘Adawi, or is al-Sharh al-kabir with the hashiya of al-Dasuqi a stronger reference?


1. The distance that you mentioned is sufficient to be considered a traveller and shorten your prayers. For the Maliki ruling on joining prayers, it would only be while you are en route during your journey. In the situation where you described about studying, you could pray maghrib and isha when you return to your home. While you are on campus, since you are a traveller, you can also join dhuhr and asr. It would be preferred for you to dealy Dhuhr to pray with Asr.

2. The shortening of prayers is a strong sunna according to the Maliki school.

3. Following the opinion of another school of the four schools of thought is valid and permissible, as long as one does the whole act of worship (or interaction) according to that opinion. If for example, one will follow a Shafi’i opinion on wudu, they should also make their prayer valid according to the Shafi’i school. To join between multiple opinions is called talfeeq and is not permissible.

When choosing to follow the opinion of another school there must be a need. This is called a dispensation (rukhsa) and is permissible. What is not permissible is constant following of dispensations (it-tiba’ al rukhas). This has been mentioned by the scholars such as Imam Nawawi in the Maqasid.

4. The two commentaries on the Mukhtasar that you mentioned are relied upon works and may be referenced when needed. In general, the Mukhtasar and its commentaries are difficult to navigate unless one has studied them with a teacher.

I would also suggest that you begin reading and referring to a more basic work, such as Ibn Ashir or Risala. Both have translations in English available on the internet.

The Basic Rulings of Travel

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: My university is some 95 miles from my home address and I stay there five nights a week and return home for two. When not at university, I attend an unpaid placement some 200 miles from my home address and approximately 125 miles from the university. I usually stay here between 14 and 28 days at a time.

According to the Hanafi school of thought, do I qualify for the conditions of travel (safar) whilst at university and on placement and how do I correctly fulfill these?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

According to the Hanafi school, the conditions of being deemed a traveler are to:

(a) go to a place at least (roughly) 48mi (77km) from one’s home, and

(b) stay there for less than 15 days.

Hence, you do meet the conditions of travel when you are at university. You also meet those conditions when you are on placement as long as you stay there for less than 15 days at a time. If you stay there for 15 days or longer, you are legally a resident there.

When one is a traveler, it is mandatory (wajib) to shorten the obligatory four-rakat prayers (zuhr, asr and isha) to two rakats. One still prays the sunna prayers though, unless in the midst of a journey and in the rush of travel.

If one is a traveler during the month of Ramadan, then fasting is optional, although it is superior to do so if it does not pose undue hardship. Of course if one does not fast, it is obligatory to make up the missed days.

This is merely a quick summary; for more details on the rulings related to travel, it would be strongly advised to take a basic course such as:

Absolute Essentials of Islam: Beliefs & Worship

[Shurunbulali, Ascent to Felicity; Maraqi Falah]

And Allah knows best.
Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Related Answers:

When Is a Person Considered a Traveler Who Can Shorten Their Prayers?

Shortening Prayers when Traveling for Leisure?

A Real Life Case Study of When to Shorten Prayers and Refrain from Fasting When Traveling

Should I Feel Bad for Not Fasting When I Had to Travel?

Are We Supposed to Pray Sunna and Witr Prayers When Traveling?