Question: Is it permissible to perform salat in a moving vehicle?
It is not permissible for a healthy person to perform fard salats sitting on board a ship, train, plane, or bus. It is permissible only when the excuses rendering tayammum permissible are present. (Halabi, Radd-ul-Mukhtar)
These excuses are as follows:
Hazard to one’s belongings, life, or animal; likelihood that one’s animal or one’s belongings that one is keeping on one’s animal or on oneself may be stolen in case one dismounts the animal; perils such as wild animals and enemy attacks; inconveniences such as mud on the ground and heavy rain; illness that may worsen or linger on account of the physical toil of dismounting and remounting the animal; an exposed position wherein one will be left by one’s companions in case they should not wait for one, and an apprehension of inability to remount the animal without a helping hand if one should dismount it.
It is permissible to perform salat sitting by gestures (ishaarah) in a vehicle if there is one of the abovementioned excuses. Salat is performed by sitting on the vehicle's floor or on its seat, with the direction being that of the qibla.
If there is not one of the abovementioned excuses, it is not permissible to perform salat sitting in a moving vehicle. Instead of it, one may perform salat when one gets out of a, for example, bus during a break. Or one should request the driver to stop the bus for salat. If it is not possible either, one should get off the bus, perform salat, and continue one's journey by another vehicle. When buying a ticket, one must stipulate a condition that the driver should stop the bus when the time for a salat comes. If it is not possible either, then one should combine two salats by following the ruling of the other three madhhabs.
According to Imam-i Abu Yusuf and Imam-i Muhammad, it is not permissible to perform fard salats by sitting on board a sailing ship without an excuse. Dizziness is an excuse.
A ship anchored out in the sea is considered a sailing ship if it is rolling badly with the wind. If it is rolling slightly, or if it is alongside the shore, it is not permissible to perform fard salats sitting.
When beginning a fard salat on a sailing ship, it is necessary to stand toward the qibla and, as the ship turns, to turn toward the qibla during the salat.
A safari traveling on a ship or train must begin a fard salat standing toward the qibla and put a compass somewhere near the place he/she will prostrate. He/she must turn toward the qibla as the ship or train changes direction. Or someone else should make him/her turn to that direction. (Se'adet-i Ebediyye)
If his/her chest deviates from the qibla when performing the salat, his/her salat becomes nullified because a ship or a train is like one’s own home, not like an animal.
If one is unable to face the qibla in a bus, in a train, or on a ship on wavy sea, one's fard salats will not be valid. Such a person may combine two salats by following the ruling of the Maliki Madhhab, Shafi'i Madhhab, or Hanbali Madhhab during travel.
Question: We will go on a tour as a group of students. Maybe I will have to perform salat in my car. What should I do?
Do not perform salat in your car unless there is extreme necessity. Instead of it, combine two salats at a convenient place. If it is not possible and if you have to perform salat in your car, you must perform it cross-legged or by kneeling on your seat, with your shoes taken off. Perform it by gestures toward the qibla direction.
Question: If it is not possible for me to get off the bus, how can I perform Salat al-Fajr toward the qibla direction in a moving bus?
Roads are not crooked from the beginning to the end, and you have to perform only two rak'ats. To that end, perform it when you are traveling on a straight road. Turn the qibla direction and recite the shortest surahs.
If it is not possible for you to perform Salat az-Zuhr on the moving bus, then combine it with Salat al-Asr in the time of the latter when you depart from the vehicle. If you want to combine two salats during travel, then you must follow the ruling of the Shafi'i Madhhab, Maliki Madhhab, or Hanbali Madhhab. If a need arises to combine two salats when you are a muqim (resident), then you must combine them by following the ruling of the Hanbali Madhhab.
Question: What should I do if the time for a fard salat is about to end during my flight?
Salat can be performed on the plane. If it is not possible to perform salat on the plane and if the time for it is about to end, you must perform two salats by combining them in the time of the former or the latter by following any of the other three madhhabs. Salat al-Fajr cannot be combined with another salat. If you get on the plane when the time for Salat al-Fajr starts and if the sun rises before you get out of the plane, you must perform salat standing in the rear part of the plane because it is haram to miss a salat. If it is not possible to perform it standing, you must perform it sitting. Do sajdas by putting your head on the floor. If it is not possible to do sajda on the floor either, only then will it be permissible to perform salat by gestures (ishaarah).
Question: I will go to the USA by plane. I will have left Istanbul before the time for Salat az-Zuhr starts. How should I perform Salat az-Zuhr?
There are two alternatives for it:
1. You may perform it standing in the rear of the plane. You will offer only two rak'ats.
2. If it is not possible to perform it standing on the plane, you should decide to combine it with Salat al-Asr when you get off the plane. When you depart from the plane, you should follow the ruling of the Maliki Madhhab and offer two rak'ats for Salat az-Zuhr and two rak'ats for Salat al-Asr without performing sunnat salats in between.
If it is not possible to perform salat standing on the plane and if you cannot reach your destination during the time for Salat al-Asr either, you should perform salat by gestures on the plane by sitting cross-legged or by kneeling on your seat. In fact, you will perform salat in this way when returning because the time for salats will pass during your flight.
Question: If I have to perform salat on my seat in a bus, must the bus be stationary?
If it is possible, perform salat when it is stationary. If it is not possible, you can perform it while it is moving.
Question: Is it essential to face the qibla while traveling on a ship or train?
Yes, it is essential. During travel, four-rak'at fard salats are shortened to two rak'ats. Normally, the direction of the train does not change in a time period in which one can perform two rak'ats. That is, it does not take a curve many times. If it moves twisting curves, you must perform salat standing towards the qibla and put a compass somewhere near the place you will prostrate. You must turn toward the qibla as the ship or train changes direction. Or someone else should make you turn to that direction. If your chest deviates from the qibla while performing the salat, your salat becomes nullified because a ship or a train is like one’s own home. On these means of transport, one's fard salats will not be valid if one is unable to face the qibla. As long as one is considered a safari (traveler) on the way and at one's destination, one may follow the ruling of any of the other three madhhabs and combine two salats. If one is a traveler on the way and is unable to perform salats, one may follow the ruling of the Hanbali Madhhab and combine salats if one becomes a muqim at one's destination.
Question: If one traveled on a plane flying faster than the rotation of the Earth on its axis and made one trip around the Earth in 30 minutes, how would one perform the five fard salats?
Time is a condition for salat. Salat becomes fard (obligatory) when the time for it comes. If one set off in a northerly or southerly direction, it would not affect salats because one would be flying on the same meridian then. If one made a trip around the Earth in an easterly or westerly direction in 30 minutes, the time for Salat al-Fajr, Salat az-Zuhr, Salat al-Asr, Salat al-Maghrib, and Salat al-Isha would come and end one after the other in 30 minutes. In this case, the time for a salat might end before one completes it, so it would be proper to combine two salats. If one missed salats because of the speed of the plane, one would not be sinful. One would have to make up the missed salats upon departing from the plane.
Question: How should one perform salat on a plane, ship, train, and bus?
The ruling does not affect all means of transport equally. For example, if the time for a fard salat is about to end, one cannot get out of a plane or ship for salat. However, one can depart from a train at a station. It is easier as far as a bus is concerned.
No matter by which means one travels, one should organize one's time at travel in such a way that one will not miss any salat. Let me give an example for each means of transport:
On a plane: If one's flight is domestic and continues one or two hours, there is no need to perform salat while sitting on one's seat. It is possible to combine two salats when one departs from the plane. If one gets on the plane when the time for Salat al-Fajr starts and if the sun rises before one gets off the plane, one, as it is haram to miss a salat, must perform salat standing in the rear part of it. If it is not possible to perform salat standing, then one must perform it sitting and put one's head on the floor for sajda. If it is not possible to put the head on the floor, only then will it be permissible to perform salat by gestures.
One must face the qibla when performing salat even on a plane. The direction does not change much because the plane does not fly in a series of zigzags. Even if it deviates from the qibla direction by 10-20 degrees, it does not affect salat negatively. One who is traveling abroad can perform salat on the plane by turning to the qibla direction.
On a ship: One must turn to the qibla direction when performing salat on a sailing ship, just as it is the case with a plane. If one is unable to perform it standing, then one can perform it sitting. One is not allowed to perform salat by gestures on a ship.
On a train: One must perform salats standing when the train stops at stations. If one has to perform salat in a moving train and is unable to perform it standing, then one must perform it sitting. If it is not possible to perform it sitting either, then one must combine two salats upon getting out of the train.
In a bus: The case with a bus is different from the case with a plane, ship, or train. One may lay down a condition before getting on it. For example, one may say, "If you stop the bus when the time for a salat starts, I will buy the ticket from your company." If the driver does not stop the bus though he promised, one must get off the bus and perform the salat at a convenient place. Then one should get on another bus and continue one's journey. If it is not possible to depart from the bus because one has an ill person with one, one should combine two salats upon getting out of the vehicle. If it is not possible to combine two salats, one must, compulsorily, perform the salat in the moving bus by sitting on the corridor. If it is not possible either, one must perform salat on one's seat with one's feet under one's hips. One must turn to the qibla direction as much as one can.
Hadrat Ibn Abidin states: According to Imam-i A'zam, it is permissible for a healthy person to perform fard salats sitting on board a moving ship, train, plane, or bus. However, it is not permissible if there is not a good excuse according to Imam-i Muhammad and Imam-i Abu Yusuf. The fatwa was given based on the latter. (Se'adet-i Ebediyye)
In conclusion, it is permissible to perform salat on one's seat in a moving vehicle if there is a good excuse. If there is not, one is not allowed to perform salat on one's seat in a moving vehicle.