I work in a prison and because of security and other reasons I am not able to perform Sala’h during the course of the workday. Is it permissible to make up the missed prayers upon arrival at my home at the end of the day? The facility where I work is 50+miles from my home so I know that I would normally be allowed to shorten the prayers to two rak`ahs… does this apply to prayers that are missed upon my return home also? Or do I have to make up the prayers performing all the necessary rak`ahs for each prayer missed?
Before answering your specific question, I would first like to mention some of the important directives of the Shari`ah regarding the issue of prayer timings. The first directive of the Shari`ah in this regard is that under normal circumstances, it is obligatory for a Muslim to offer prayers at their respective timings. In case a Muslim is in a state of journey the Shari`ah has given two allowances. Firstly, he may combine the Zuhr and the `Asr prayers and the Maghrib and the `ishaa’ prayers, respectively. Secondly, he may in such a state, reduce the Zuhr, `Asr and `ishaa’ prayers to two rak`ahs from their original four rak`ahs.
It may be noted that the particular distance that qualifies for a “journey” is not stipulated in the Shari`ah. The Muslim jurists have basically judged it in later times. Such a judgment of the Muslim jurists, obviously, is not a standard for all times to come. A couple of hundred years back, covering a fifty mile distance might have meant traveling for two or even more days. But today this distance may be covered in half an hour. Such developments have definitely effected the state of mind of a person covering a fifty-mile distance now, as compared to the one doing so a couple of hundred years back. Thus, in my opinion, for this particular purpose, it is not actually the distance but the state of mind of an individual that places him in the category of a wayfarer or a person on a journey. In other words, it is actually the external surroundings and the internal conditions of an individual that would qualify him for taking advantage of the specified allowance.
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, the first thing that you should strive for is to request the prison administration to allow you a brief five to seven minute break for offering your prayers. In case that is not possible, you may reduce the rak`ahs of the Zuhr and the `Asr prayers to two each and try to convince the administration of an even shorter break for each of these prayers. In case even that is not possible, you may request the administration to grant you a single break somewhere between the Zuhr and the `Asr time, and in that break you may combine the Zuhr and the `Asr prayers, while you may offer your Maghrib prayers on your return home, combining it with the `ishaa’ prayers. In case this break too is not granted, then I think you would be left with no other option but to offer all the prayers (that fall during your working hours) on your return home.
As far as the question whether you should offer all the prayers, on your return home, completing the number of rak`ahs or would you be allowed to reduce the number of rak`ahs, is concerned, in my opinion, any one of the two options may be followed. You may take advantage of the allowance granted by the Shari`ah or, if you feel up to it, you may offer the prayers completing the number of rak`ahs and may not take advantage of the allowance.
18th June 1999