I have heard that the fards of daily prayers consisted of two rak'ahs and that it is sunnah to perform them as four rak'ahs. Will you give information regarding the issue?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Hz. Aisha narrates:

"Allah enjoined the prayer as two rak`ahs only. Then, He increased it to four for residents. Prayers for travelers remained the same as two rak’ahs." [Bukhari, Salah 1, Taqsirus-Salah 5, Manaqibul-Ansar 47; Muslim, Salatul-Musafirin 2, (685); Muwatta, Qasrus-Salah 8, (1, 146); Abu Dawud, Salah 270, (1198); Nasai, Salah 3, (1, 225).]


1. When prayer was rendered fard, all daily prayers were rendered fard as two rak'ahs. The evening prayer is stated to be an exception as three rak'ahs in a narration by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.

In another narration included in Bukhari, it is stated that prayers were increased to four rak'ahs after the Migration. Hz. Aisha clarifies the issue as follows in a narration by Ibn Huzayma, Bayhaqi and Ibn Hibban:

"Prayers were rendered fard as two rak'ahs for both residents and travelers in Miraj (Ascension). When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) settled in Madinah, two more rak’ahs were added to the prayers for residents. Only the morning prayer was left as two rak'ahs since qira’ah in it is long. The evening prayer was left as three rak'ahs as it was because it is the witr of daytime."

After the fard prayers were increased to four rak’ahs, the following verse was sent down:

"When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear the Unbelievers May attack you..." (an-Nisa, 4/101)

According to what Ibnul-Athir writes in Sharhul-Musnad, prayers were shortened for travelers in the fourth year of the Migration. However, it is also stated that the verse in question was sent down in the second year of the Migration.

2. Acting upon the hadith reported by Hz. Aisha above, Hanafis regard shortening prayers while travelling as azimah (strict rule), not rukhsah (permission). Those who oppose it and Shafiis regard shortening prayer (as two rak'ahs) as rukhsah for travelers acting upon the verse above. 

(Prof. Dr. İbrahim Canan, Kütüb-i Sitte)

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