Therefore, my advice to my travelling brothers—travelling for studies, etc.—is that they complete their prayers and not to shorten them, and fast the month of Ramaḍān and not to break your fasts unless your stay is for a short period of time, 4 days or less, or an unspecified period of time.
[Q]: Is it correct for the traveller to shorten his prayers as long as he is travelling, even if it extends to years? Is there a specified period of time wherein shortening the prayer ends? What is the ruling on the one who travels outside of his country for studies or work, is it correct for him to shorten his prayers until he returns from his studies or work?
Shaykh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Bāz:
The Sunnah for the traveller is that he shortens his prayer during his travels if the distance is approximately 80 kilometres or more, in emulation of the prophet ﷺ. For example, if an individual travels from Saudi Arabia to America, he shortens his prayers as long as he is on route (to his destination). If an individual travels from Makkah to Egypt or from Egypt to Makkah, he shortens his prayers as long as he is on route.
Similarly, when he reaches his place of destination, he should shorten his prayer if his stay is 4 days or less, just like the Prophet ﷺ did when he arrived at Makkah for the farewell Ḥajj. He arrived in Makkah on the morning of the 4th of Dhu al-Ḥijjah and continued to shorten his prayer until he went to Miná on the 8th of Dhu al-Ḥijjah. If one is travelling for an unspecified period of time and does not know when his travels will come to an end, whether they will be 4 days or more etc., in this case, he shortens his prayer until he fulfills his needs or until he determines how long he will be staying. This is the view held by the majority of the people of knowledge.
If the duration of his stay is determined by an individual to who he is indebted to or if he is in a legal dispute or similar, he should shorten his prayer as long as he resides there because (the duration of) his stay is undetermined and he is unaware when his travels will come to an end. So he is considered a traveler and is able to shorten his prayers and break his fast during Ramaḍān even if his trip extends into years.
As for the individual who resides [at a destination] for a long time due to studies or other than that, or intends to stay for a longer period of time, it becomes incumbent upon him that he complete his prayers (fully without shortening). This is the most correct opinion and it is the view of the majority of the people of knowledge and the four Imāms and others. The principle with regards to the resident is that he complete his prayers. If one intends to stay more than 4 days—due to studies, etc.—it becomes obligatory upon him to complete his prayers [normally].
Ibn ʿAbbās (رضي الله عنهما) was of the viewpoint that if the traveler stays for 19 days or less, then he should shorten his prayer and if he intends to stay for more than 19 days, then it becomes obligatory upon him to complete his prayers. This viewpoint is based upon the Prophet ﷺ staying in Makkah during the conquest of Makkah for 19 days wherein he would shorten his prayer. Nevertheless, that which should be considered is the view that it is permissible to shorten the prayer as long as the stay does not exceed 4 days. This is what the majority are upon. In (this view) lies a precautionary measure for your religion and a distancing from any harms which may affect this tremendous act of worship [i.e. ṣalah] which is from the pillars of Islām.
The response to that which Ibn ʿAbbās (رضي الله عنهما) cited as evidence [for 19 days] is that it has not been confirmed from the Prophet ﷺ that he intended to stay for that amount of time. Rather, he stayed to establish the foundations of Islām in Makkah and to remove the remnants of shirk without having intended to stay for a specific period of time. Likewise, if the traveller does not intend to stay for a specified period of time, then he is able to shorten his prayer even if he remains for a long time.
Therefore, my advice to my traveling brothers—traveling for studies, etc.—is that they complete their prayers and not shorten them, and fast the month of Ramaḍān and not to break your fasts unless your stay is for a short period of time, 4 days or less, or an unspecified period of time.
This is the best of that which has been mentioned regarding this topic. It is similarly, the view of the majority of the people of knowledge, and it is the view that should be upheld due to the precautionary measures—for your religion—which exist within it. Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ said:
“Leave what makes you doubt for what does not make you doubt”
Also, His ﷺ statement:
“He who avoids these doubtful matters certainly clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor”
Source: هل للمسافر قصر الصلاة مهما طالت مدة السفر؟ Translated by: Munīb al-Ṣumālī