Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher
According to Umdat As-Salik, it is Haram for those who are required to perform Friday prayer to travel on Friday after fajr unless there is a masjid on the way. However, there is no evidence whatsoever that the travel has to be before Dawn. The hadiths report that travelers are exempted from the Friday prayer and that the Prophet (saw) never performed Friday prayer while traveling. Nothing mentioned that it has to be initiated before Fajr.
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
What I have learned from everyone whose knowledge and piety I respect is: “man qallada aaliman laqiya’llaha saaliman”, meaning, “Whoever follows a scholar will meet Allah with safety.”
I don’t know the evidence that the Shafiis use for their position in this case. However, I do know that there is some very strong evidence behind it. I don’t believe for a moment that Imam Nawawi could have mentioned this in his Minhaj al-Talibin, or that scholars of knowledge and piety such as Muhammad al-Ramli, al-Khatib al-Shirbini, or Ibn Hajar al-Haytami would have concurred with this in their commentaries on the Minhaj unless the position had a basis in the Shariah, or that the countless Shafiis who came before Imam Nawawi would have mentioned this in their books purely because it agreed with their lusts and in order to shunt aside the Qur’an and Sunna.
To say, “I don’t agree with the position of the Shafii school and I find the position of the Hanafi school more in line with the hadiths,” is something acceptable (although of no consequence unless one is a mujtahid); to say “there is no evidence for the position of the Shafii school” is to accuse a millennium of top-notch scholarship of fraud and deception (at worst) or ignorance (at best). I would never believe this for a second. Nor would any Muslim with any respect for the heirs of the prophets who are the channels through whom Prophetic guidance has reached us today.
And Allah knows best.