Travelling is always a transformative experience, which changes us in ways that are difficult to put into words. This is especially true on journeys that impact our souls - where we feel closer to Allah.
This is surely one of the greatest benefits of travelling as it opens our hearts to be able to perceive our Lord, as Allah suggests when saying
"Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts may learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts." [Al-Hajj – 22:46]
We hope this article will encourage you to travel not only externally but also internally, as a way to grow closer to Allah.
Of course, at the top of this list is the City of the Prophet ﷺ. One can never exhaust the reasons for embarking on a journey to visit the Home of Allah, as Allah himself states
"And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Ka’bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence)." [Al-Imran - 3:97]
This is a duty owed to Allah, a pillar of the religion and of the most righteous deeds a Muslim can perform, as Abu Hurayrah narrated: the Prophet ﷺ was asked: "What is the best deed?" He replied: "To have faith in Allah and His Messenger." The enquirer asked: "What next?" He replied, "To perform jihad for the sake of Allah." The enquirer asked: "What next?" He replied, "A valid and accepted Hajj." [Narrated in Al-Bukhari & Muslim].
These narrations offer a taste of the magnitude of embarking on this journey and it is important that we prioritise this journey above all other journeys when travelling to enliven and strengthen the spirit☺️
2. Fez, Morocco
Much like Cairo, Fez is also revered as a historic centre of Islamic knowledge, with the Al-Karaouine Mosque being the world's first University! This city is also known as the ‘city of saints’ due to the many awliya who have left their mark on this great city, many of whom are honoured by Mosques built in their honour.
Credit: James Merhebi on Flickr
Being one of the oldest continually habituated cities in the world, Fez’s old city has been able to preserve many of the structures and systems observed over a millennium. These links to tradition make Fez a city that reminds us of our history.
Credit: James Merhebi on Flickr
Travelling in Fez would expose you to a way of life close to the fitra (the innate being of the human), a mode of living that has long been forgotten by much of the world.
This might be a popular destination for travellers because of its rich culture, but Istanbul is actually a lot more significant than we think! The city served as the intellectual, political and spiritual capital for much of the Ottoman’s history - the longest-serving Caliphates in Islam’s history.
From the grandness of its architecture to the kindness of the people, you'll be constantly offered a reminder of the beauty of this deen when walking through the streets of Istanbul.
Istanbul is also the city in which the East and the West intersect, geographically, and historically, the city has belonged to both the Eastern and Western traditions, to Islam and Christianity. This fusion of cultures, traditions and religions reminds us of how the Islamic tradition was not revealed for a specific people, but to all of humanity!
When Islam is honoured and treated as it deserves to be treated, it is sure to foster the flowering of civilisation.
This destination is purposefully left open-ended as I believe that anyway one finds to enter the Sahara will lead to a transformative experience. Having visited the Sahara in both Morocco and Egypt I can testify to the power of this desert, which vastness offers a reminder of the infinite-ness of Allah and the majesty of His creations.
By venturing into the desert, you will be taken back to a landscape that has been left in a pristine state, unaffected by modernity, leaving you the opportunity to ponder on your own state without the distractions one is normally surrounded by.
Then there is, of course, the desert's gorgeous night sky - camping in the desert is truly a spectacular experience as the vastness of the night sky above reflects the vastness of the desert sand below, serving to remind us of the magnificence of our Creator.
5. The Himalayas and Mt Everest
The Himalayas are a vast mountain range spanning several countries from Pakistan to China! My own experience of the Himalayas was in Nepal on a trek to Everest base camp. This journey takes around 3 weeks and is one that I cannot recommend highly enough.
No doubt, the physical and mental side of this journey is a challenge as you'd have to struggle to complete the more difficult phases of the trek. However, by overcoming these phases, you'd be revitalised by the sense of accomplishment that meets you at the end of each day!
The most important aspect of trekking in the Himalayas is the majestic landscapes and views you'd encounter. The size of many of these great mountains is a humbling experience, reminding us of the greatness of Allah, as Allah states in Surah Qaf
"And the Earth, we spread it out, and cast therein firmly set mountains and We have made to grow therein of all beautiful kinds; to give sight and as a reminder to every servant who turns to Allah." [Surah Qaf 50:7-8]
Al-Quds or better known as Jerusalem is the epicentre of the three Abrahamic traditions and remains as one of the world’s holiest cities. You can't visit this place without being reminded of the shared history of Abrahams lineage, and there's no other place in the world which reflects this better than on Harem el-Sharif - where the holy sites of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are situated?
For Muslims, the significance of visiting Al-Aqsa is laid out clearly in Surah Isra [17:1], which states
"Glorified be He [Allah] Who did take His servant for a journey by night from Al Masjid Al Haram to Al Masjid Al Aqsa, whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of our Signs. Verily He is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing." [Surah Isra 17:1]
Visiting Al-Quds is particularly necessary during this period in history, as many Muslims may be put off making this journey due to the political situation in Palestine. But we shouldn't let that stop us from visiting the holiest city in Islam, apart from Mecca and Medina!
P.S. For more magnificent mosques, head over to 15 beautiful mosques around the world for breathtaking Islamic architecture.
Much like Fez, Cairo is a city steep in history, offering sites and monuments that are spiritually significant for all of humanity. The pyramids here are a visual reminder of the stories of Prophet Musa and Prophet Yusuf, and their dealing with the pharaohs.
Cairo is also arguably one of the most productive centres of learning in the Islamic world, with students coming from all over the globe to obtain knowledge from many of its centres, the foremost of which is Al-Azhar University!
8. Mount Sinai
The Sinai desert is a region full of history and remarkable landscapes, which come together in the town of St Kathrine at the foot of Mount Sinai. This is also believed to be the site Prophet Musa ascended to receive the ten commandments from Allah.
Credit: kmf164 on Flickr
Climbing Mt Sinai is often done overnight by tourists who make the climb in the cool evenings to avoid the day's intense desert heat. At the top of this mountain are a church and a Mosque where you can pray Fajr and then be treated to the most magnificent sunrise peeking out from across the Sinai desert.
Credit: alljengi on Flickr
Mauritania is a place I have personally longed to visit because of its reputation as a centre for learning and also home to many righteous scholars. Visiting this country would take you far off the beaten path of the common traveller routes, however, the rewards that come from taking the path less travelled are numerous!
Credit: jbdodane on Flickr
For the soul of a Muslim, such a journey may be priceless as you'd be granted the opportunity to acquire knowledge within an environment that is dedicated to passing on the tradition in its purest form, from the hearts of teachers who have been enlightened by this Deen?
Credit: jbdodane on Flickr
Located in the Southern half of modern Spain, this region is a reminder of the Islamic presence in Western Europe, which in turn reminds us that Islam has and can spread to all parts of this globe! The many mosques of Andalusia, its beautiful gardens and palaces demonstrate the beauty our religion can instil in a society!
P.S. Find more Islamic influences throughout Spain’s history. Here are 10 places to discover more about Spain’s Islamic past.
Here, we are reminded how Islam is a trust we have been given, and that it can be taken away if we are not up to the challenge of preserving and caring for this deen as it deserves to be cared for. However, if we offer our beloved religion the attention and care it deserves, it will - as it has done for so many regions and peoples before - allow for the flourishing of civilisation, in which Allah’s beauty is manifested in the world.
P.S. Check out our 10D9N Spain itinerary which includes the historical and beautiful Andalusia.
The places in this list might vary, but what each of them has in common is the way they enliven the human heart by reminding us of the magnificence of Allah. By pondering Allah’s signs in this world, the hope is that we strengthen our Imaan and grow closer to our Lord ☺️