This article will look at some of the reasons you should travel to non-Muslim friendly countries at least once in your life! These may be countries where Muslims are a minority or even a non-existent entity. Places where halal food and mosques may be in short supply and where you may feel as though you are a stranger. While some Muslims may be put off travelling to such destinations, this article hopes to highlight some of the benefits that may come from visiting non-Muslim friendly countries and inspire you to travel outside your comfort zone ☺️
1. In order to know humanity
The first, and in my opinion, the most important reason to travel to non-Muslim friendly countries is to learn about other people and cultures. This itself is a Quranic injunction, as Allah says,
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (49:13)
As Allah highlights in this verse, there is divine wisdom in the diversity of nations and cultures that constitute humanity. By travelling to strange and foreign lands not only do we learn about our differences, but also about our similarities. In doing so we begin to recognise the fact that we are all part of the same human family ❤️
2. Building character
Travel is not always easy and at times you will feel completely out of your comfort zone, this can be particularly true when travelling to non-Muslim friendly countries where many things we may have taken for granted in our own homes will be missing. For example, it might be difficult to find halal food or prayer spaces may be in short supply and we will have to struggle to maintain aspects of our deen that are easy to fulfil back home.
Credit: Stephan Geyer on Flick
With these struggles however also comes opportunities, as Allah says, “For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” (94:5). Any struggles we go through will, with patience, eventually be followed by ease. Furthermore, it is often through our struggles that we grow as individuals. The reality of this is that not only are we growing as individuals through these struggles, but we are also growing closer to Allah through them. As Allah states, “And those who strive in Our cause, we will surely guide them to Our paths.” (29:69).
3. To break down barriers held against Muslims
A key reason Muslims should travel to non Muslim-friendly lands is to break down stereotypes that other cultures have about Islam.
By travelling to distant lands, Muslims may encounter people who have perceptions about Islam having never engaged with a Muslim in their lives. Through our interactions with non-Muslims we can offer people a different picture of Islam other than the one many are exposed to through the mainstream media. By engaging with real human beings, non-Muslims will inevitably begin to see Muslims as humans, rather than headlines ?
4. To better know other cultures and faiths
An equally important reason, related to the point above, for Muslims to travel to non-Muslim countries is to break down barriers and prejudices we ourselves may have surrounding other cultures, peoples and faith.
As Muslims, we have to be reflective and realise that like other people's views towards Islam, we may have our own prejudices and misconceptions surrounding foreign cultures and religions.
Thus, travelling to countries with large Christian populations for example, can dispel some of the prejudices we ourselves may hold towards people of other faiths and we may in fact come to find that our similarities outweigh our differences. As the Quran says, “and you will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers those who say, "We are Christians." That is because among them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant." (5:82)
5. Spreading Islam
A further motivation for traveling to non-Muslim countries is the potential to engage in Da’wah with people who may have never heard the message of Islam. As Allah commands us in the Qur’an,
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” (16:125)
Simply through your presence in non-Muslim lands can you be an embodiment of the truth many people in this world are still yet to hear and are looking to find.
6. To obtain knowledge
A key reason for travelling to non Muslim-friendly countries is to seek knowledge. This is consistent with a popular Muslim saying, “to seek knowledge even if it be in China”.
During the early period of Islam, China was a centre known for subjects such as medicine, literature and technology. Thus, travelling in search of knowledge here does not refer to seeking religious knowledge, but rather to benefit from the knowledge of other cultures, which may be in a variety of fields. A further principle here is one that highlights the status of seeking knowledge in this deen.
China here is referenced due to its distance, foreignness and apparent strangeness to the early Muslim community. The value of seeking knowledge means Muslims should be willing to travel anywhere in order to seek it, including non Muslim-friendly lands ?
7. To foster gratitude
A consequence of travelling to non-Muslim lands is that you'd come to appreciate what you have. In non Muslim-friendly countries you have to struggle to fulfil basic aspects of your faith.
For example, finding a place to eat halal food or to pray becomes a real struggle. An important consequence of this is that we come to appreciate the things we may take for granted living in Muslim or Muslim-friendly countries. By showing gratitude, we also gain Allah’s favour, as he states in Surah Ibrahim "If you are grateful, I will surely give you more and more" (14:7).
Credit: Muneef Hameed on Flickr
8. Become close to Muslims living in non-Muslim friendly places
As a Muslim who lives in a non-Muslim country, I can testify the extra closeness one feels to other Muslims in such a context. While the major cities in the UK are full of Muslims, such as London and Birmingham, the more remote parts of the UK, such as Cornwall where I live, have very few Muslims within them. The state I live in has one mosque which is a 2-hour drive away and there are no Muslims living in the town I live in apart from me and my wife. What this has taught me is the closeness you feel to other Muslims when you are living apart from them.
When a Muslim comes to visit our town, you can feel the close and immediate connection you have on account of your shared faith. This is a blessing from Allah and one you only come to realise when you find yourself travelling in a land where there are not many of your fellow Muslims around ?
This article has looked at a few of the benefits that can come from travelling to non-Muslim friendly places. It has shown that while you may have to sacrifice Halal meat for a while, there are so many benefits that may come from visiting these countries. Whether it be fostering gratefulness for your own homes and friends, building character or obtaining knowledge, there are many reasons to visit non-Muslim friendly countries ?
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