This year I wanted to spend Ramadhan in Pakistan. I thought that it would be nice to go to a Muslim-majority country, where adhan can be heard from the mosque instead of a mobile phone and where all meat is halal. I presumed that staying among Muslims would automatically make it easier for me to be a better Muslim. But then, surprisingly, I didn’t have an automatic increase in my iman (faith) or ibadah (acts of worship) once I arrived; I was not as punctual with my prayer as I had been in the UK, and I took an unplanned break from reading the lectures of Islamic Online University. I realised that my iman was decreasing instead of increasing, as expected, and I had to act to get it back on the right track!
The large part of being a good Muslim is developing and keeping good habits. Acts of worship, such as salah, recitation of the Qur’an and making du’a, become integral parts of our daily routines. Travelling is one thing that is sure to disrupt this routine. And while it is the break from daily monotony that we often seek when choosing to travel abroad, the change of environment and schedule could lead to our feeling out of balance and low in iman. So is there anything that can be done to prevent it? The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said: “Faith wears out in the heart of any one of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your hearts.” (Mustadrak al-Haakim) Du’a, then, is the most powerful remedy against decrease in faith, but there is more we can do. Planning is key, and it doesn’t matter whether our destination is a Muslim-majority country or not. Here are some tips on how to stay high on iman while travelling abroad.
Learn some du’as for travelling
Make it a part of the preparation for the journey and practice reciting whenever you are on the move. There are many different supplications: the ones for mounting a ride or boarding a vehicle, the ones for journey by the sea or climbing the mountains, for journey by night and for entering strange towns. There are du’as for departure and for a pleasant return. You can find many of them in literature and on the Internet. The website I found particularly useful is www.searchtruth.com. Also, remember that the du’as of the traveller are readily accepted, so prepare a list of personal pleas to Allah (SWT).
Review local prayer times in advance
This is especially important if you travel to a non-Muslim majority country. Print out the local prayer timetable from the Internet or set the adhan software on your mobile to a new location. Knowing the current salah times as soon as possible could also help you get over jetlag quicker, because it will set a new healthy routine.
Plan your activities and meals around prayer times
Spending short breaks abroad sometimes puts us in a kind of frenzy as we want to see and explore as much as possible in very little time. A busy holiday schedule could leave us exhausted and with no energy to perform salah properly. Holidays are meant to be relaxing, so we should not overburden ourselves with sightseeing, and it is always essential to find time for obligatory prayer. If you are going to a Muslim-majority country, you could plan visiting attractions with this in mind, and make trips to some beautiful and interesting mosques around the time of the prayer. While staying abroad in a non-Muslim majority state, you could plan your meals jointly with the salah: having a lunch break at the time for Dhuhr and so on.
Find out about halal food places if travelling to a non-Muslim majority country
Even if you might enjoy local vegetarian specialities for a few days, your family might demand some ‘proper food’, so to avoid unnecessary frustration it is a good idea to get to know where you can buy halal burgers and such beforehand. Also, in some countries, the halal meals might be really hard to get, so you may want to scope out some Kosher places as well.
Pack a prayer mat and a compass.
Our bags are often overfilled with a number of items that are not really necessary, but packed ‘just in case’. A small prayer mat that can be folded easily is a real ‘must-have’ and a compass could help us establish the direction of the Qibla wherever we are. Establishing the prayer timings and direction on the journey could be a great pretext to teaching children some geography. Also, learn with your family about conditions of prayer on a journey (when can you perform only two rakat) and how and when to perform dry ablution.
Get good reading materials
I once came across a German saying meaning: ‘Holiday without a book is like a beach without the sea’. A good book could help us survive long hours in a plane and also motivate us to keep our faith strong. And it does not necessarily have to be a scholarly publication to do so! There is lots of Islam-based literature – novels, non-fiction, memoirs and magazines – that will be light to read but heavy with goodness. Of course, you should pack a vintage copy of SISTERS magazine to stimulate your iman wherever you go!
Choose your destination wisely
If you are lucky enough to live in a Muslim-majority country, you are often saved from explaining some difficult issues to your children. But if you travel to a non-Muslim majority land and your child witnesses customs and behaviour contrary to what you’ve been teaching them, you should have some answers ready. Also, when choosing a holiday destination think twice before you get tempted to book a full-inclusive in a holiday resort oriented towards non-Muslim tourists; part of the hijab is also ‘lowering the gaze’ and it is always better not to expose ourselves to wrong attitudes. Besides, choosing a Muslim-majority country for a holiday destination could sometimes boost our iman if we make the right intention of learning more about the Ummah and local traditions of Muslims living in different countries. At the same time, it will be helping our brothers and sisters earning their wages through serving the tourists.
Before setting off make the right intention
We travel for different reasons: to visit relatives, for work, dawah, study, or pleasure. In the Qur’an it says: “Travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation” (Al-Ankabut:20) and also: “Travel through the earth and see what was the end of those who rejected Truth.” (Al-An’am:11). Travel then could be a means to deepen our knowledge and understanding. If we intend to make a journey to see our family, we should keep in mind that this is our obligation as Muslims and so make the right intention. If we travel overseas for work, we could make an intention of seeking halal livelihood in foreign land and thus fulfilling our duties, such as zakat or sadaqa. If we keep the right intention in mind and strive to re-establish the good habits in a new place, then our iman should remain unshaken, insha Allah.
Klaudia Khan has chosen Islam when she was 21. She originally comes from Poland, but now lives mostly in the UK.