What do you think of when you hear the words ‘Muslim travel’? Do pilgrims clad in white robes and black abayas circling the Holy Kaaba come to mind? Do images of juicy lamb shawarmas and tandoori chicken make your mouth water? Do you picture your favorite hijabi influencer modeling a trendy outfit in the desert for the latest #VisitDubai Instagram ad?
These days, we often equate Muslim travel to one of two extremes: a deep religious obligation to perform Hajj and Umrah, or a surface-level focus on finding halal places to eat and rocking modest fashion in exotic locations.
Spoiler alert: It’s more than that.
The Mainstream Narrative on Muslim Travel is Missing Something Big
Browse the channels of mainstream Muslim travel bloggers, and you’ll see that the majority of content is about:
- How to prepare and save for a religious pilgrimage
- Top halal hotels and restaurant recommendations
- How to slay your vacation wardrobe and style your hijab for different climates
Do you sense a theme?
The current narrative around Muslim travel is overly centered on the planning process showing Muslims how to take care of their physical needs (eating, packing, lodging, dressing, shopping) while abroad. Obviously, this is super useful information because it makes travel more accessible and comfortable for Muslim travelers.
But this narrative is also lacking something crucial.
Muslim travel encompasses more than just Hajj, halal food, and hijabi-friendly outfits — it should also be about traveling purposefully to fulfill our spiritual needs. Ironically, what’s missing from the general conversation about Muslim travel is the Muslim part.
Let’s fix that.
Putting the ‘Muslim’ Back Into Muslim Travel
As a Muslim blogger and avid traveler, I wholeheartedly believe that there is an Islamic way to travel. It involves being more mindful of Allah, our history, and our planet.
1. Remember Allah by Observing His Creation
The first way to put the ‘Muslim’ back into Muslim travel is to take less selfies, in which the destination fades into the backdrop of another #OOTD post, and focus more on spirituality.
In the Quran [29:20], Allah gives us this guidance:
“Say [Oh Muhammad], Travel through the land and observe how He began creation.”
In this verse, we are directed to travel so that we may discover the wonders that Allah has placed in this world. The simple, but powerful, underlying philosophy is that seeing is believing. When you leave the man-made urban jungle and visit places of breathtaking natural beauty — like the islands of the Maldives (see above) — you are left in awe.
When you pause and pay attention to the diversity of life — from the human race to the flora and fauna — you are left fascinated by how it exists in perfect harmony. These things are a reminder that this world did not spring up out of nowhere; it was created by Al-Khaliq, the Creator. We can only appreciate the Artist if we spend time admiring His work.
So, lets travel to marvel at the mastery of our Maker, not solely to model in front of landmarks.
2. Learn About Islamic History
The second way to travel Islamically is to learn about a country’s culture and history so we can be thankful for how far we’ve come and see how we’ve changed the world along the way.
In a hadith narrated by AbudDarda in Sunan Abi Dawud, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
This hadith suggests that the pursuit of knowledge is a path to paradise. Traveling is one of the best ways to learn about our Islamic roots and heritage. If we understand the impact our Muslim brothers and sisters who came before us had on different parts of the world, we can better connect to our past. If we study the struggles previous generations of Muslims faced, we can develop a greater gratitude for their sacrifices. And if we examine the victories and achievements of our Muslims ancestors, we can surely find lessons and inspiration.
For example, did you know that the Grand Mosque of Paris (see above) was built as a token of gratitude for the Muslim warriors who fought against Germany in World War I? During the second world war, this mosque provided shelter and safe passage to European and Algerian Jews to protect them from persecution by German Nazis who had occupied Paris.
Let’s travel to feed our brains, not just stuff our bellies with halal food.
3. Protect the Planet
The third way to travel the Islamic way is to be eco-friendly, making an effort to preserve— not just photograph — the places we visit.
In a hadith narrated by Abu Sa’id Khudri in Sahih Muslim, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
“The world is sweet and green (alluring) and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act.”
There are many Quranic verses and Prophetic sayings that emphasize our responsibility to take care of our planet. Allah has made us stewards and guardians of the good green Earth. Therefore we must travel through it gently, limiting waste and overconsumption, and minimizing our environmental footprint. For instance, the Algarve region of Portugal (see above) is home to some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches. When you travel there, you can support sustainability initiatives by visiting beaches that are accredited with the environmentally-friendly Blue Flag label.
This God-given responsibility of protecting our planet extends to animals too. When you travel, don’t participate in touristy things that perpetuate animal cruelty, like the owl cafes of Japan.
Let’s be examples of ethical, not egotistical, travelers.
Elevating the Conversation Around Muslim Travel
The content around Muslim travel has become ‘itineraries and look-books from Muslims who travel’. We’ve forgotten that traveling is as much a means of deepening our connection to Allah, each other, and the Earth, as it is a vacation from our day-to-day stresses.
I want to elevate the conversation around Muslim travel and inspire you to travel more fully. For me, traveling has become an integral part of strengthening my faith. If you want to join me on this journey, you can follow my adventures at annum-munir.com. I blog about the places I’ve been, what I’ve learned, share tips and reflections from each experience…and I also include info about halal food and some cute outfits too.
But my first and foremost focus is on being a mindful Muslim traveler.