Q: “Why did you complete your prayer?” [The Shaikh was led in prayer during his journey and the imaam shortened the prayer but the Shaikh did not, so he was asked about that]
“Because my intention is not that I’m on a journey… We left our town only to return in the evening. So the issue, in my understanding, does not depend on crossing a fixed distance as much as it depends on two things, the foundation of which is the intention and the other is leaving town. So if someone intends that he is on a journey and he leaves town, the rulings of journeying are applicable to him and the distance that he crosses is not regarded after that whether long or short. But if the fundamental principle –i.e. the intention– is not present, then this person who left is not someone on a journey even if he crossed a long distance or less or more, because journeying falls under the rulings connected to the this hadeeth, about which some of the scholars of Islaam have said that it is a third of Islaam: ‘Actions are only weighed according to their intentions and every person will get only that which he intended.’ And the truth is that this is one very elaborate issue, something over which the views of the scholars have differed and they did not agree on something completely clear such that it would be possible for someone to say: ‘This is the truth, it is evident, so leave alone the side roads.’ No one can say this, but all that he can say is: ‘I choose such and such.’
So I chose what I understood from the treatise of Ibn Taimiyyah رحمه الله about this issue. He has a special treatise about the rulings of journeying. So he struck a very wonderful example from which the researcher and student of knowledge understand that journeying has nothing to do with crossing a long distance to the exclusion of a short distance. As for it having nothing to do with crossing a short distance, I think this is not an area of debate because it is established from the Messenger ﷺ that he used to leave from Madeenah to al-Baqee` and give them (i.e. the dead) salaam then return. He used to go out to the martyrs in Uhud and give them salaam then return. He did not consider himself as someone on a journey although he left town. And conversely, if he crossed a long distance it does not mean that he became a person on a journey merely because of crossing this distance.
The example that he (i.e. Ibn Taimiyyah) struck is as follows. He was from Damascus like me, and there are well-known towns around Damascus so he struck an example of a city known to this day as Douma. He said that if a man went hunting from Damascus to Douma –a distance of 15 kilometers which no doubt according to our custom would be a journey if the fundamental condition, i.e. the intention to journey, was present– he says that this man is not considered someone on a journey because he left for hunting then to return. But what happened was that he did not find the game he was seeking, so he kept going and going until he reached Aleppo, and there are approximately 400 kilometers between Aleppo and Damascus today by car. He says this man is not someone on a journey –although he had crossed many distances for a person on a journey, not just one distance– because the first condition, i.e. the intention to journey, was not present in this man. Thus, we can say that a driver who leaves early in the morning from Amman for instance to Ma`an then to `Aqabah and returns by evening is not someone on a journey because he, due to his job, does not intend to journey but rather intends to carry out this work to make a living.
Therefore, when it comes to the topic of journeying we must take into consideration the fundamental condition i.e. the intention. And by us taking into consideration this intention, the ruling differs for two people who cross one and the same distance but one of them would be someone on a journey and the other would not considered someone on a journey because of their different intentions. Accordingly, there also occur rulings that pertain to staying somewhere i.e. a stay that is planned for a set time. For example, two men left a city –both on a journey– and landed in another city. The staying of one of them is as someone on a journey but the other one is a resident (i.e. someone not in a state of journeying). Why? Because the latter has another wife there, so he goes from one wife to another wife; and due to there being a wife for him who keeps him chaste, gives him a home and arranges his stay for him, he takes a ruling different from his companion because the situation is different in some aspects.
Hence, we come to a very important conclusion which is that the rulings of journeying despite their being detailed differ from one person to another, so we don’t charge someone with implementing the ruling of someone else and vice versa.”
 Saheeh al-Bukhaari 1
[silsilat ul-hudaa wa nnoor 247/2 / alalbaany.com]