Q: I have a problem regarding offering Salah (prayer) on foreign aircrafts while travelling to a remote areas, as the journey may last for ten hours, which makes a person unable to delay the Salah till one disembarks from the plane, for it may take off at the time of Zhuhr (Noon) Prayer and land after Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer. How should we offer Salah in this case? Should we offer it on the plane according to ability or inability of standing, and also with respect to facing the Qiblah (direction faced for Prayer towards the Ka’bah) if we are unable to locate its direction or find one who can guide us to it.
We hope that your Eminence would elaborately clarify what we should do regarding offering the Salah on the plane in case the distance is short and long, and whether the due time extends until the plane lands or not, May Allah reward you and guide your steps.
A: If the reality is as mentioned, when the time of Salah becomes due while the plane is still flying and this Salah is one that cannot be combined with the next-in-time Salah such as Fajr (Dawn), ’Asr (Afternoon), or ‘Isha’ (Night) Prayer, and you are afraid that the time expires if you delay it until the plane lands and you become able to leave it, it is not permissible for you to delay the Salah until its prescribed time expires; rather, you should offer it on time on the plane before the due time expires as much as you can, either by standing, offering Ruku’(bowing) and Sujud (prostration) at your seat or by offering it in any other place on the plane. This is obligatory on you. However, if you cannot stand and it is difficult for you to do so, you may offer the Salah while sitting and make a gesture for Ruku’ and Sujud,while making the Sujud lower than Ruku’, for Allah (Exalted be He) says: <<So keep your duty to Allah and fear Him as much as you can>> Also, it is authentically reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: << Offer Salah standing if you cannot, then sitting; if you cannot, then lying on your side.”>> [Related by Al-Bukhari and Al-Nasa’i]
As for facing the Qiblah during the Faridah (obligatory Salah), you should face it in all Salahs as much as you can, such that if the plane for instance deviates away from the Qiblah during the Salah, you should turn towards it whenever it deviates, because facing the Qiblah is a condition for the validity of Salah; but,if you are unable to face the Qiblah, in this case,there is no blame on you, and your Salah will be valid In sha’a-Allah (If Allah wills), for Allah (Exalted be He) says: <<And to Allah belong the east and the west, so wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allah (and He is High above,over His Throne.>> Moreover, you can identify the Qiblah by asking the pilot or his crew, for they have instruments which clarify this, but if you fail to identify it, you should try hard to detect it and offer your Salah in accordance with your surmise.
The same applies if the Salah can be combined with the next-in-time Salah, but you will not be able to offer it when you leave the plane at the last of the prescribed time of the next Salah, because the journey extends until the time of the next Salah expires, in this case you should offer both the Salahs on the plane by shortening them as previously clarified. It is also permissible for you to combine them at the due time of any of them.
However,it is impermissible to delay both Salahs until the time of the next one expires, but if the Salah is combinative with the next one such as Maghrib and ‘Isha’, or Zhuhr and ‘Asr, and can be offered at the last time of the second one after leaving the plane, it is better to delay it until you offer it on the ground, because in this case of the second Salah is also valid for the first; this discharges the obligation of offering the Salah according to its perfect description. Furthermore, if the journey is a short one such that you can offer the Salah on time after arriving at your destination, it is better to delay it until the last of its prescribed time in order to offer it on ground. Yet, if you offer the Salah whose time becomes due while you are on board of the plane at the first of its prescribed time, performing it according to ability, this will be permissible and will count as sufficient for you.
May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.
Source: Fatwas of the Permanent Committee, vol. 6 | Part no.6; Page no. 458-460 | www.alifta.net