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Traveling the World as a New Muslim

Avid travelers who suddenly find they have embraced Islam tend to view the world in a new light.

Al-Bukhari relays in a hadith that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said:

Be in the world as a traveler or stranger”, reminding Muslims that although the world is a temporary abode, the appreciation of beauty still falls as an obligation upon every Muslim: to seek the world in contentment and to appreciate the bounty of God in all things big and small.

Traveling is also an important Sunnah in Islam as the Prophet encouraged his followers to seek knowledge even as far away as China, indicating that knowledge is borderless and traveling is a good way to expand the horizons of knowledge and experience.

Traveling like this can also be for leisure, as long as the underlying intention is a good one, like to recuperate before going back to work, to appreciate a new culture or country, or to spend time with family.

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In Islamic history, Arab traders were ardent travelers, crossing into multi-nations for business purposes. This was soon followed by Prophet Muhammad and the first Muslims who migrated to different countries on different occasions and later worked hard in spreading dawah to different communities.

Even members of the companions were widely known to cross borders for the sake of Islam. They came as far as Abyssinia, Persia, amongst others, in order to seek knowledge from Prophet Muhammad and later crossed oceans to spread their love for Islam.

Traveling as a Muslim is not different as compared to traveling before becoming a Muslim, as long as certain guidelines are adhered to. Tourists, Muslim or not, are required to be respectful of their place of travels, to represent themselves and their own country in a positive light. For new Muslims, there is now a bigger obligation to represent Islam as a religion of knowledge and beauty.

Daily Worship as a Traveling Muslim

As a new Muslim, researching the fundamentals of worship when it comes to traveling is important. Islam provides ease and flexibility for Muslims to travel in comfort, especially with regards to prayers. The prayers of Dhuhr and Asr can be shortened and combined within their stipulated time frame, and so can the prayers of Maghrib and Isha.

Having said that, it would be wise to check in on prayer times of the given destination as this would also help plan daily activities around such prayer times.

Searching for a masjid (mosque) or a Muslim community will also ease the travel for a new Muslim. At the very least, there will be a proper place for prayers.

A Muslim’s Intention of Travel

A Muslim’s intention as part and parcel of his or her travels is also important. Muslims are required to please God in whatever they do, whether it is in business, for leisure, during educational trips or family vacations.

Thus, visits need to be planned with good intentions: to search for better living, to learn something new, to spend quality time with loved ones or just to enjoy God’s blessings in His world, through tourism.

After all, in order for a person to travel, God has provided wealth to facilitate the journey, making it important that the same person uses the given resources with good intentions.

It has been narrated that:

There are four types of people: one is a man whom Allah has given knowledge and wealth. He acts with respect to his wealth based on his knowledge. Another person says that if Allah had given him similar to what He gave the first man, he would have acted in the same fashion. The reward for both of them will be the same. A third person is one, whom Allah gives wealth but He does not give knowledge.

Therefore, he spends money according to his desire. Another man says that if Allah had given him what He had given that person, he would have acted in the same manner. These two will have the same burden upon them. (Ibn Majah)

In light of this, Muslims need to refrain from anything that could compromise their faith, like visiting night clubs, pubs, other places where alcohol is rampant, engaging in activities such as gambling and spending time in places where there is free intermingling of genders.

These activities could very well compromise the intention to serve God as a believing Muslim. There are plenty of activities that Muslims can engage in that are fun, educational and healthy, without venturing into those that are specifically forbidden.

Dealing with other Concerns about Traveling as a Muslim

Looking for halal dining facilities, knowing the direction for prayer, searching for prayer facilities and Muslim-friendly activities can also be challenging for the Muslim traveler.

Consulting Muslim travel agencies is a good place to start.

Many service providers have a suite of travel packages for traveling Muslims, including airline services that will accommodate halal meals; Muslim-oriented sight-seeing trips that include breaks for prayer times and visits to local masjids; halal dining throughout the stay and other activities that are Muslim-friendly. This would be helpful if travelling to a non-Muslim country for the first time.

Otherwise, researching a place of destination on one’s own is also possible. Islamic Finder is a great website as a starting point, pooling Muslim communities, their masjids (mosque), and places of interests for the Muslim traveler. Getting to know local Muslims before hitting the roads is a good way to begin one’s travels.

Zabihah is also another website that has been proven useful for the mobile Muslim. It lists out halal dining facilities around the world, complete with recommendations and reviews by other Muslims.

Another site, Crescent Rating, pools Muslim-friendly accommodation, halal-dining facilities, masjids, du’as for traveling Muslims, airports with prayer facilities, Muslim-friendly activities in various countries, amongst others.

With the worldwide Muslim population growing rapidly, it is safe to say that Muslim travel is becoming easier, especially with the widespread of information with respects to unique Muslim needs.

Share Your Experience with other Muslims

Sharing traveling adventures with others is part and parcel of being a member of a progressive Muslim community. Sharing a traveling experience will help promote Muslim service providers, Muslim-friendly service providers and add to the ease of travel of fellow Muslims.

Traveling the world in the Islamic style is a good way to revive the important Sunnah of learning of other cultures, spreading a good image of Islam or simply enjoying the world from the lens of a Muslim, being reminded that diversity is indeed the will of God.

As a new Muslim, there are many ways one can enjoy being a tourist as long as one refrains from engaging in activities that are frowned upon. Most importantly, a believing Muslim will find blessings in a trip if he or she wishes to please God and will really experience the essence of being a mere stranger or tourist.

(From Reading Islam’s archive.)