The distance of 48 miles for a musafir.

Q. Can you please state where you got the figure of 48 miles to be considered a Musaafir?

A. With respect to the distance of 48 miles, this is evident from the Athaar and narrations of the pious predecessors. In this regard, Imam Baihaqi has narrated the following:-

Ata bin Abi Rabah narrates that both Abdulllah bin Umar (RA) and Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) used to perform the two rakaats of journey (that is, they used to shorten their Salaah), and they would practice upon the allowance of delaying the fast when they undertook a journey to a distance of four Burd and more. (Baihaqi and Ibn Mundhir have narrated this with a sound Sanad (bi Isnaadin Saheehin). After quoting this Athar (narration) the great Muhaddith, Muhammad bin Ali An-Nimawi writes, ‘Imam Bukhari has mentioned the above as a Ta’leeq and then said, ‘Four Burd is Sixteen Farsakh‘. Further to this Allama Nimawi writes, ’Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani has stated in Al Fath, ‘Fara’a has mentioned that the word Farsakh is Persian and one Farsakh is equal to three miles’. Allama Nimawi then states, ‘Four Burd therefore, equals to forty eight miles’. (Athaarus Sunan pg.261). (4 Burd =16 Farsakh; 1 farsakh =3 miles, :- four Burd = 16 x 3 = 48 miles).

From the above, it is clear that four Burd or sixteen farsakh have been used to determine the distance for one to be considered a traveler (in order to practice upon the allowance which the Shariah has given). It is also evident that 16 farsakh equals to forty eight miles. This is the amount that most of the scholars of Fiqh have accepted. (see Ma’arifus Sunnah, Sharh Al Muhazzab).

The distance of four Burd is also evident from the following narrations:-

1) Ata bin Abi Rabah narrates that Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) was asked, ‘Do you shorten Salaah when you travel to Arafah?’ He said, ‘No’. However, I do it when I travel to Asfaan, Jeddah and Ta’if. (Athaarus Sunan pg. 262; Hafiz Ibn Hajar has quoted this in At Talkhees and has stated that the sanad is sound. Imam Malik has also quoted the above and stated, ‘All these places are at a distance of four Burd’. Athaarus Sunan Pg.262).

2) Salim bin Abdullah bin Umar (RA) narrated that when his father (Abdullah bin Umar undertook a journey to ‘Reem’ he would shorten his Salaah. (Imam Malik has narrated this with a sound Sanad). Having narrated this, Imam Malik says, ‘Reem is at a distance of four Burd from Madina’. (Atharus Sunan pg. 262).

3) Salim bin Abdullah bin Umar has narrated that his father (Abdullah bin Umar) rode to Zaatun Nasb, and he shortened his Salaah. (Recorded by Malik with a sound Sanad).

After quoting this Imam Malik states that between Zaatun Nasb and Madina, there is a distance of four Burd. (Atharus Sunan pg. 262).

In addition to this, there are other narrations which show that a specific distance needs to be covered on a journey in order for one to be deemed a ‘traveller’ (Musafir) in the Shariah. The following traditions bear ample evidence to this:-

1) Ali bin Rabi’a Al Walibi states, ’I asked Abdulllah bin Umar (RA), ‘To what distance should one cover in order to shorten his Salaah (on journey). Ibn Umar said, ‘Do you know where As Suwaida is?’ I said, ‘No, however, I have heard about it’. Ibn Umar then said, ‘it is three night’s journey. When we go out to such distance, we shorten our Salaah (for journey)’. (Muhammad bin Hasan has recorded it with a sound Sanad in Al Athaar).

2) Ibraheem bin Abdullah stated, ‘I heard Suwaid bin Ghafla saying, ‘when you travel for three nights, then shorten your Salaah’. (Muhammad bin Hasan has recorded it with a sound Sanad in Al Hujaj).

3) Umar (RA) is reported to have said, ‘Salaah (on a journey) shall be shortened when one undertakes a journey for three nights’. (Kanzul Ummaal).

Many scholars have adopted the above saying that when one sets out on a journey in which he will cover a distance that can be covered in three nights, then he will be deemed as ‘a traveller’ in the Shariah, and will then be allowed to shorten his Salaah. As recorded by Allama Aini in his commentary of Sahih Al Bukhari, this is the position adopted by Uthman (RA), Abdullah bin Masood (RA), Suwaid bin Ghafla, Aamir Ash Shabi, An Nakhi, Ath Thauri, Abu Qilaba, Shuraik bin Abdullah, Saeed bin Jubair, Muhammad bin Sireen and Abdullah bin Umar. These are some of the greatest Scholars from the Tabi’een period along with the Sahabahs (RA).

Based on this explanation, we see that some scholars have adopted the distance of four Burd and others have adopted the distance of three night’s journey. Imam Abu Hanifa has adopted the distance of three night’s journey as evident from the sound Athaar (narrations) and Imam Malik, Shafi and Ahmad have adopted the distance of four Burd which is equal to forty eight (48) miles.

While explaining these positions, many great scholars have stated that there is no opposition between the two ‘distances’ which are evident from the great Sahabahs. In reality, forty eight miles (four Burd) was the distance which used to be (normally) covered in three night’s time. This can be clearly understood, seeing that the Sahabahs would normally travel on camels and would frequently halt on their journey for the performance of Salaah, taking meals and taking rest during the day and at night. Hence, in this type of travel, a distant of four Burd (forty eight miles) used to be covered during the course of three nights. This is clearly highlighted by Allama Ibn Al Humam in his renowned and accepted book, Fathul Qadeer.

On this topic, there is another opinion that states that there is no stipulated distance for a journey. As mentioned by the scholars this is the opinion of Dawood Dhahiri and his followers of the literalist group. (Ma’arif Vol. 4 pg. 473). This has not been the position of the Sahabahs and the Tabieen Scholars.

While commenting on this, the great Muhadith and author of Fathul Mulhim (commentary of Sahih Muslim) writes, ‘The statements of the Salaf (Pious Predecessors) indicate that they are not pleased with the general allowance given by the literalists, But instead, they are all unanimous on the point that a limit must be fixed for ‘a journey’. (Fathul Mulhim Vol. 2 pg. 253).

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan