Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah was asked about the traveler in the month of Ramadhan who is fasting and is rebuked for doing so. He is called ignorant, and it is said to him that breaking his fast is better.
And what is the distance required in order to shorten (the prayers)? If the day has begun in which one is to travel does he break his fast? Is the fast broken by those who lease out donkeys for hire, merchants, those who lease out camels, the sailor, and those traveling
by sea? And what is the difference between travelling for an act of obedience and traveling for an act of disobedience?
Praise be to Allah: Breaking the fast for one travelling is permissible according to the agreement of the Muslims, whether one is traveling for Hajj, Jihad, trading etc., or other cases of travels that are not disliked by Allah and His Messenger (salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam).
They disputed over traveling for an act of disobedience, like one who travels for highway robbery and the like, for which there are two views, and they also disputed over shortening the prayer.
In the case of the journey for which shortening prayer is allowed, breaking the fast is permissible as long as it is later made up according to the agreement of the Imams. Breaking the fast is allowable for the traveler whether he was able to fast or unable to fast,
whether it was easy for him to fast or not. Even if he was traveling in the shade with provisions and a servant, he is allowed to break his fast.
Whoever alleges that breaking the fast is only allowed for one unable to fast, then such a person is to be asked to repent. He either repents, or he is to be killed. Whoever condemns the traveler who breaks his fast is also sought to repent. Whoever says the traveler who breaks his fast commits a sin, he is also sought to repent.
All of these cases contradict the Book of Allah, and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and they contradict the consensus of the Ummah.
It is also the Sunnah for the traveler to pray the four Rak`ah prayer as two Rak`ahs only. Shortening is better than performance of the normal four Rak`ahs of the prayer according to the four Muslim Imams; Malik, Abu Hanifah, Ahmad and Ash Shafi`i in the most correct of his views.
The Ummah did not dispute over the permissibility of breaking fast for the traveler. They disputed over the permissibility of fasting. A group of the predecessors and the successors consider that the one fasting while traveling is like the one breaking his fast while a resident, and that his fast is not rewarded at all and he must make it up. This is
reported from `Abdur-Rahman bin `Awf, Abi Hurayrah, and others among the predecessors. And this is the Madhhab of the Dhahiriyah.
In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “It is not an act of righteousness to fast while traveling” [Bukhari and Muslim]
But the Madhhab of the four Imams is that it is permissible for the traveler to fast or to break his fast.
As reported in the Two Sahihs on the authority of Anas, may Allah be pleased with him: “We used to travel with the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam); some of us would fast, and some of us would break their fast. Neither the fasting would criticize the one breaking his fast, nor would the one breaking his fast criticize the one fasting.”
Allah, the Almighty said: And whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of fasting days missed must be made up) from other days. Allah intends ease for you, and He does not want to make things difficult for you.
It is recorded in the Musnad that the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Indeed, Allah likes that His permission be adopted, just as He hates that acts of disobedience be committed” [Ahmad bin Hanbal]
It is recorded in the Sahih that a man said to the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “I am a man that fasts often. Am I allowed to fast while traveling?”
He (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“If you break your fast, this is good. And if you fast, there is no harm.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
In another Hadith he (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“The best among you are those who shorten their prayers and do not fast while traveling.” [Abdur-Razzaq]
As for the distance for shortening the prayer and breaking one’s fast: In accordance with the Madhhab of Malik, Ash Shafi`I and Ahmad, it is a journey of two days on foot or by camels. It is sixteen Farsakhs (approx. three miles each), equal to the distance between
Makkah and Usfan, or Makkah and Jeddah.
Abu Hanifah said it is a journey of three days. A group of the predecessors and the successors said that one is permitted to shorten the prayer and break the fast for traveling for less than two days. This is a strong view since it is confirmed that the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform the prayer at `Arafah, Muzdalifah, and
Mina in shortened fashion. Behind him were the inhabitants of Makkah and others following him. He did not command any of them to complete the prayer.
If one travels during a day, it is permissible for him to break his fast? There are two wellknown sayings of the scholars of Fiqh, both of which are reported via two narrations from Ahmad.
The Most apparent one of them is that it is allowed. As confirmed in the Sunan that some of them companions used to break his fast if they initiated their journey during the day, and they mentioned that it was a Sunnah of the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
It is confirmed in the Sahih that the Prophet intended to travel while fasting, then he asked for a water container and broke his fast while the people were watching him. [Bukhari and Muslim]
As for the second day (of the travel), undoubtedly, one breaks his fast, even if his journey is only for two days, according to the majority of the Imams and the Ummah.
But if the traveler returns during the second day, the scholars of Fiqh have different wellknown views about the obligation of breaking his fast. But he has to make it up whether he breaks his fast or not.
Those who regularly travels, breaks his fast when he has a place to resort to. Like the trader who imports food and other commodities, the one who hires out his mounts, the
courier who travels for the Muslim interests and the like. The sailor who has a place on the land where he lives, they all have the same ruling.
As for the one who has his household with him on the ship and permanently travels, he is not permitted either to shorten the prayer nor to break his fast.
The dwellers of the desert, like the Bedouin Arabs, the Kurds, the Turks who spend winter in one place and spend summer in another place – while they are traveling from their winter residence to their summer residence they shorten prayers. When they reach
their winter or summer residences they are not permitted to shorten their prayers nor to break their fast, even if they were moving from one location to another in search of pastures.
And Allah knows best.
(taken from ‘The Nature of Fasting’ published by Darussalam)