A poem by the legendary Imam Al-Shâfiʿi states thus:
Leave your country in search of loftiness
And travel! For in travel there are 5 benefits:
Relief of adversity and earning of livelihood
And knowledge and etiquette and noble companionship
If it is said that travelling brings humiliation and difficulty
And long journeys across deserts and toil and trouble,
Then death is better for a person than him remaining
In a humiliating land between traitors and enviers.
Travelling in Arabic is called “safar.” Its root is “s-f-r”. This root in general means: showing, uncovering, revealing. A person who keeps smiling is called “musfir”, because he is showing his teeth. A woman showing her face is called “sâfira.” It is thought that “safar” (travelling) was so-called because it reveals the true nature of the person whom you are travelling with.
Since the very day our parents Âdam and Ḥawâ’ set their feet on earth we have been in constant motion, traveling with the curiosity within us, discovering new lands and exploring the wondrous creations of Allah.
Each and every one of us needs to take a break from the daily routine that we are so wound up in and take a few days for ourselves to reconnect with ourselves and more importantly with our Creator. Traveling has a profound impact on the ability to respect differences and empathize with other cultures. Travelling has always been an integral part of Islamic history. From Adam, to Ibrahim, to Musa, to our very own Prophet. Scholars have and continue to travel to countries to learn and spread the Dîn. We have Ibn Baṭṭûṭa who travelled for 30 years after setting off for the Hajj in 1325, aged only 21.
Choosing an Amir
Abu Saʿîd Al-Khudri relates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
If three of you set out on a journey, you should appoint one of you as the amîr (leader). (Abû Dâwûd)
This is a forgotten Sunnah, especially amongst the youth nowadays. We are so engrossed in the excitement of the upcoming trip that we forget these nuggets of wisdom given to us. There is so much wisdom behind this single act. Firstly there will be order in the group, planning will become easy, disagreements can be put to rest easily. I mean, come on, fights on where to eat are the last thing you want to have on the trip.
Once a group has an appointed leader, the group’s decision-making is much stronger in case of an emergency, should one arise. The leader of the group is helpful in making those decisions and keeping the group together; an absence of this leader results in every individual of the group making their own decisions; this may result in panic and disharmony among the group.
Adab of Travel
Jâbir ibn ʿAbdullâh said he was travelling with the Prophet ﷺ and:
When he climbed [in an] upward [direction], he would say the takbîr (Allâhu Akbar), and when he descended [downward direction], he would say subḥânAllah. (Bukhâri)
Shaykh Ibn Uthaymîn said regarding this,
During his journeys, when the Prophet ﷺ climbed up a hill he would say takbîr, and when he went down into a valley he would say tasbîḥ. That is because the one who is above a thing may feel proud and think that he is great, so it is appropriate for him to proclaim the greatness of Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, by saying: Allâhu Akbar. And when he descends, he is going down to a lower level, so it is appropriate for him to glorify Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, when going down. This is the context of saying takbîr and tasbîḥ.
Such is the beauty and blessings of manners in our religion.
The Du‘a’ of a Traveler
Abû Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
Three supplications are answered without doubt. The supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveler, and the supplication of the parent for his son. (Tirmidhi)
What is better than to make use of all the free time we have during travel to ask of Allah whatever we need! Personally I prefer making a short list so I can remember. It is only when you reflect that it strikes you that while flying in a plane up high amongst the clouds, it is the closest you can be to Allah – physically. Just the realization of that makes the du‘a’ all the more enjoyable and from the heart.
Our religion is a religion of ease and moderation. No matter what we do or where we go, we do not forget the very purpose of why we are here – To worship Allah. Allah, the All Wise knows the difficulties we face and hence has legislated ease in our prayers.
Our mother Aisha narrated:
The first time the Salah was enjoined it was two rakʿahs, and it remained as such when traveling, but the Salah while resident was made complete. (Al-Nasâ’i)
Ibn ʿUmar said:
I accompanied the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and he did not do more than two rakʿahs whilst travelling, and the same applies to Abû Bakr, ʿUmar and ʿUthmân. (Bukhâri)
The scholars are unanimously agreed that shortening the prayers is better for the traveler than offering them in full, because the Prophet ﷺ shortened prayers during all his journeys, and there is no authentic report that he offered the prayers in full whilst travelling. Even if we cannot find water wherever we are, Allah has allowed us to do dry ablution (tayammum). So much ease for us shows nothing but the mercy and love that Allah has for his slaves.
1. One of the biggest things that we need to manage at times –more than our finances– is time. At the end of the trip we feel guilty that we could not optimize the usage of our time and have more fun.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
O Allah! Bless my people in the early part of the day [morning] (Tirmidhi).
There is baraka in the early hours. Trips are not made for sleeping. We can go back home and do all the sleeping we want. Now is the time to get up early and explore. Try not going to sleep after Fajr prayers and see how much time you save up. Not just that, but the calmness and the scenic beauty right after Fajr is worth staying up for.
2. Another travel hack we were taught was this. Anasquoted the Messenger of Allah ﷺ as saying:
Keep to travelling by night because the earth is folded [traversed more easily] during the night. (Abû Dâwûd)
Wallâhi, this is so true! I remember we covered a nearly five hour road journey in just about three hours. Just make sure the driver is well rested and the ‘shotgun’ beside him has enough sugar inside him to keep the driver awake.
3. Another travel hack that we learn from our predecessors is that they used to make an intention that their travel was for the sake of Allah. Now no matter what they were doing, as long as they were travelling, they were getting rewarded for it.
Falling in Love with Allah
One of the great benefits of travel that always struck me was the opportunity to make sujûd at a host of different places, each of which would serve as a witness for us on the Day of Resurrection. Just imagine how awesome that would be. One of the many blessings which Allah has bestowed upon the Muslim Ummah is the making of the earth pure and making it a Masjid. You get to give charity in a different place, help build something with your small contribution and for years to come: You can have a stake in the ḥasanât derived from each of those places.
Speaking about Masjids, Masjid architecture has always fascinated me since I was a child. It is just something about the way they are built, the minarets, the lights around it that just make you want to stay there. Travelling to other countries gives you the chance to see numerous mosques, and not just that, but the universality of Islam in full blossom. What makes you fall in love is how encompassing Islam is. There are no set rules for a masjid design. We get to see so many masâjid of various types, each with a unique blend of the local tradition, culture, as well as the famous masjid designs of the domes and minarets.
Walk inside the Masjid and it is like you have found a new family. You see people you have never set eyes upon, and they turn to helping you –as if you were an actual brother. They give all the local tips and advices which are highly valuable in the long run, which keeps you safe from being ripped off as a traveler. Some of the people in a masjid on our recent trip were good enough to even hook us up for a BBQ at a restaurant at midnight. Strength of Brotherhood in Islam just makes you fall in love with it all over again.
Do they not look into the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all things that Allah has created, and that it may be that the end of their lives is near. In what message after this will they then believe? [Sûrat Al Aʿrâf, 7:185]
Traveling makes the familiar unfamiliar to us, and in doing so we come to better appreciate Allah’s creation. We become strangers and this makes us more dependent on Allah and we appreciate his plans more than ever. It is only then that we realize how the birds leave their nests looking for food and come back with a full stomach. Throughout the Quran, Allah tells us to reflect on what has been created on earth and in the heavens.
Travel gives you that window to look out of your daily routine; it takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to ask questions about who you are, why you are and what you are. So many myths and beliefs are shattered when you set out and see the world with your own eyes. Media is not what you would like to believe it is. Experiencing things on your own has its own charm.
You not only see with your eyes but feel it deep down, how lucky you are. When you are away from your family, you realize the importance of family, the constant care and love of our mothers and the guidance from our fathers. We get to see the living conditions of other people — we should thank Allah that He has given us such blessings and not tested us with things as he has tested some of our brothers.
Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and [who] think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying]: “Our Lord! You have not created [all] this without purpose! Glory to You! [Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners!] Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire. [Sûrat Âl ʿImrân, 3:190-191]
Its only when you get out of those closed-in four walls and get back into nature that you are fully hit by the immense beauty of the creation of Allah. Sitting beside a waterfall, seeing the coral reefs and the aquatic life up close will make you lose count of the colors on a pallet. Hike up a mountain, and lying at the very top, gaze below seeing the mightiness of the mountain you have just conquered. But then you raise your gaze up high and you are lost amongst the millions of stars shining down on you and you realize just how insignificant you and your worries are. Despite ALL this, the Creator of ALL has taken time to listen to us and made us the best of his creation. It is at times like these that we truly fall in love with Our Rabb, Allah—again.
Pitfalls while Travelling
1. Women travelling alone.
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet said:
It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel for one day and night except with a mahram. (Bukhâri)
However, emergencies are generally considered a valid excuse for travel alone.
2. Taking Salah lightly. It happens many a time that we are so caught up in exploring and enjoying the place that we tend to forget to pray on time. Allah has eased it for us to shorten and at times to even combine our prayers, so we really shouldn’t have any excuses for missing our primary prayers.
3. When people travel, away from the supervision of their elders, they tend to forget that even if no one is watching them, Allah is watching them–as well as watching over Let us not fall into the trap of Shayṭân in traversing a domain prohibited to us by Allah, knowing that prohibitions are for our very own benefit.
4. Seeing all the bounties and the wonders of the creations of Allah, yet not thanking him for his blessings. We need to be thankful for the blessings that we have and not to use these very blessings to disobey Our Creator.
5. Another important thing that we generally overlook is not looking into the customs (aʿrâf “sing: ʿurf”) of the places we travel to. Reading a bit about the place and the customary practices of its people goes a long way in making the trip more enjoyable and hassle-free.
6. Plan the trip. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Last minute plans, though being interesting and giving an adrenaline rush, however, at times could also cause losses in terms of time, money and even life.
As our beloved Prophet ﷺ taught us, we should first tie our camel and then place our complete trust in Allah.
Travel now before old age, responsibilities, and money weigh you down. Money and responsibilities will come and go, but youth will not come back again. Embrace the experience of having an open mind and the desire to explore; and you will never be bored.
Yâ Allâh, grant us the ability to marvel at your creation with the marvel which it deserves.
Yâ Raḥmân, make us not of those whom you dismissed as …They have eyes with which they do not see…