|Dedicated to the mountain traveller|
"The deen is easy. Anyone who makes the deen too hard on himself will find it becomes too much for him. So aim for what is right, follow a middle path, accept the good news of the reward for right action, and seek help [to reach your goal by being constant in worshipping] in the morning, evening and some of the night."[al-Bukhari]
I was talking to someone who was telling me about a road trip they went on to Wales. They climbed Mount Snowdon and prayed on the snowy mountain. We got on to the conversation of prayer and how a traveller who has travelled a certain distance should shorten and combine his prayers (except fajr). I remembered when I went to a relatives house in Kent which was more than 80km so my family and I shortened our prayers to pray just 2 rakat fard instead of 4. [for more info on the travellers prayer please see the link in the references below]
I wondered why we shortened it because it was not like we were travelling in any harsh conditions and the place we were at we could pray the prayer in full, but I was told that it's what the prophet pbuh did and that is what we need to do. But I still kept insisting that it was easy for me to pray it in full, if I can do it why shouldn't I? Again I was told that it's what the prophet pbuh and his companions did and that even if you found a mosque on your travels you would still be required to shorten your prayer. The thing I was failing to understand was that if that's what he (pbuh) did then that is exactly what we must do, and not try to do more. I was asked if the prophet pbuh & his companions did this will doing extra make you more pious? Answer is no it wont, in fact it'll make me less as I am not following the prophet's (pbuh) teachings, instead trying to do something I think is better.
It was narrated that ‘Aasim ibn ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab said: “I accompanied Ibn ‘Umar on the way to Makkah. He led us in praying two rak’ahs of Zuhr prayer, then he left and we left with him until he came to where his luggage was. He sat down and we sat with him, then he looked towards the place where we had prayed, and he saw some people standing and he asked, ‘What are these people doing?’ I said, ‘They are praying voluntary prayers.’ He said, ‘If I wanted to pray (naafil or Sunnah prayers) after the fard prayer I would have completed my prayer (i.e., not shortened it).’ O son of my brother, I accompanied the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) whilst travelling and he did not add anything to these two rak’ahs until Allaah took him (in death); and I accompanied Abu Bakr and he did not add anything to these two rak’ahs until Allaah took him (in death); and I accompanied ‘Umar and he did not add anything to these two rak’ahs until Allaah took him (in death); and I accompanied ‘Uthmaan and he did not add anything to these two rak’ahs until Allaah took him (in death).
And Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
‘Indeed in the Messenger of Allaah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow’[al-Ahzaab 33:21].”
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This demonstrates his understanding, may Allaah be pleased with him. For Allaah has reduced the four-rak’ah prayers for the traveller by half. If it were prescribed to pray the two rak’ahs (of Sunnah prayer) before and after, it would be more appropriate to pray the fard prayer in full.
Another factor which indicates that it is prescribed to omit the regular Sunnah prayers whilst travelling is the saheeh report from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) combined Maghrib and ‘Isha prayer in Jam’ (i.e., Muzdalifah), reciting the iqaamah for each of them, and he did not pray Sunnah in between or after either of them.”Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1673.
I was then related a story of a man who was in constant worship and was told that he needs to be more moderate in his worship as his body had rights over him...
Abu Juhayfa Wahb ibn 'Abdullah said, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, joined Salman and Abu'd-Darda' together in brotherhood. Salman visited Abu'd-Darda' and saw Umm ad-Darda' poorly dressed and said to her, 'What's the matter with you?' She said, 'Your brother Abu'd-Darda' has no need of this world.' Abu'd-Darda' came and made some food for him. Salman said, 'Eat.' He said, 'I am fasting.' Salman said, 'I will not eat unless you eat.'" He said, "He ate. In the night, Abu'd-Darda' went to stand in prayer and Salman said to him, 'Sleep!' and he slept. Then he got up again and Salman said, 'Sleep!' At the end of the night, Salman said, 'Now get up and we will pray.' Salman said to him, 'Your Lord has rights over you and your self has rights over you, so give those with rights their due.' Abu'd-Darda' came to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and mentioned this to him and the Prophet said, 'Salman spoke the truth.'" [al-Bukhari]Companions of the prophet also wanted to please Allah so much that they were willing to do things excessively....
Anas RA said, "Three people came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, to ask about how the Prophet worshipped. When they were told, it was as if they thought it was little and said, 'Where are we in relation to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who has been forgiven his past and future wrong actions?'" He said, "One of them said, 'I will pray all of every night.' Another said, 'I will fast all the time and not break the fast.' The other said, "I will withdraw from women and never marry.' The Messenger of Allah came to them and said, 'Are you the ones who said such-and-such? By Allah, I am the one among you with the most fear and awareness of Allah, but I fast and break the fast, I pray and I sleep, and I marry women. Whoever disdains my sunna is not with me.'" [agreed upon]
And I think that's where many problems and bidah arise, people want to do things to please Allah swt and show their love for the prophet pbuh but fail to realise that the Prophet pbuh was the best of men, the most God fearing, the one who please Allah the most and if he (pbuh) didn't do such acts of worship then what makes us feel like we know better? Why do we innovate ways to get closer to Allah when the Prophet pbuh already showed us? The companions of the Prophet pbuh loved him the most, if they didn't do certain acts (like celebrating his birthday) then what makes us feel like we are more pious or righteous than them?
So I know many people try to do things that they think will make them closer to Allah or show love for the prophet more but the fact is if the prophet pbuh didn't do something then we shouldn't do it either, because if you think about it, doing something extra is going against his (pbuh) teachings.....when we carry out such acts of ibaadah we need to ask ourselves...is this something the prophet pbuh did or commanded us to do? If the answer is no then we need to stay away from it. There are so many ways the prophet pbuh taught us to do to come closer to Allah and that is what we need to stick to, inventing our own ways or going against something he did because we think it's better really just shows arrogance. If we keep doing things not in the Quran and Sunnah (which is the middle path) what's to stop us from straying off the path completely?
May Allah swt forgive and guide us all. Ameen.
Any good I have said comes from Allah and any shortcomings are from myself and shaytaan.
And Allah knows best.