Is it true that it is disliked to travel during the night? I have been told that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade travelling at night.
No, it is not forbidden or disliked to travel during the night. The Shari’ah does not specify any particular time of the day or night for travelling or desisting from travelling. One may choose to travel at any given time of the day or night as long as it is safe and there is no other external factor prohibiting travel such as the time of prayer is about to end and one has not yet performed it.
In fact, there is a Hadith in which there is encouragement to travel at night. Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “You should travel during the night (dulja’), because the land is rolled up at night [i.e. the land is travelled faster at night than it is during the day].” (Sunan Abi Dawud, no: 2564)
Mulla Ali al-Qari (may Allah have mercy on him) states in his renowned commentary of Mishkat al-Masabih titled Mirqat al-Mafatih that the term “Dulja” in this Hadith refers to either travelling during the early part of the night or travelling during any part of the night. He states that the latter meaning is more suitable, hence the encouragement is for travelling during any part of the night. He further explains that the meaning of the Hadith is that one should not suffice with travelling during the day, but rather one should travel during the night as well, because it is easier and one is able to travel faster. (See: Mirqat al-Mafatih 7/333)
Having said the above, if travelling at night is unsafe and one fears harm unto oneself because of weakness or the journey-route not being safe, or one fears being tempted and mislead by Shaytan into committing a sin, then it is disliked (makruh) to travel at night, especially when alone. It is in this context the following Hadith has been mentioned:
Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “If people knew what I know about being alone, no rider would travel at night alone.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 2836 and Sunan al-Tirmidhi, no: 1673)
Imam Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) records this Hadith under the chapter-heading “Travelling alone” and Imam Tirmidhi (may Allah have mercy on him) under the heading “The dislike (karaha) of one travelling alone” demonstrating that this Hadith is more about travelling alone than travelling at night.
In his commentary of this Hadith, Imam Teebi (may Allah have mercy on him) explains that the apparent wording of the Hadith should have been “… no one would travel alone” but the night was mentioned because darkness poses more danger to the traveller and it is normally more difficult to avoid harm unto oneself during the night than the day. (See: Tuhfat al-Ahwazi bi Sharh jami’ al-Tirmidhi 5/313)
As such, in conclusion, there is nothing wrong with travelling at night rather encouraged if it is more convenient. However, if it is unsafe to travel – such as travelling alone in empty and remote areas – or one fears committing a sin, then it is disliked (makruh). As for well-travelled routes where there are likely to be helpers, it is not Makruh. Travelling during the night on planes, trains, ships and buses is also fine, as long as it is safe, because the one who travels by these means is not considered to be alone and is generally safe.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK