On the earth are signs for the certain [in faith], and in yourselves.
Then will you not see? (Quran 51:20-21)
As fun and exciting as travelling is, it is not without its own fair share of challenges. Sometimes, challenges might set us back a little – leading us to question if we should really travel. But what I’ve learnt through travelling is something I know I wouldn’t learn from anything else, definitely not from staying put in my own country or home.
For all that travelling has taught and parted to me, I believe that it may not be easy travelling as a Muslim, but it’s worth it. If you’re not travelling for fear of the world, here are some things I’ve learnt which might convince you that the challenges will be worth it – maybe not in that very moment, but perhaps when you’re looking back.
1. You have to conscientiously keep track of time
But planning your travels around prayer timings allow you to make the best of time.
The thought of being able to travel freely without thinking about the time might seem enticing, but believe it or not, without consideration for prayer times, time will pass you without you even realizing it. And at the end of the day, you look back wondering where all your time went. It reminds you of how beautiful it is to have five obligatory prayers a day that are timed so perfectly.
2. You always have to be on the look out for empty rooms or spaces that you can pray at
But you recognize that it is your prayers and your constant remembrance of Him that protect you throughout your journey.
It’s not just during the prayer or after it, but even before. When you find a secluded place to pray at, or an empty room, you realize how He is always giving you a way if you seek it. He is always looking after you and your affairs.
During your prayer, you immerse yourself in the knowledge that He will protect you no matter what comes your way. After your prayer, you feel safe, protected, rejuvenated. And that feeling stays with you throughout the day.
“Not a leaf falls but that He knows it.” (Quran 6:59)
Trust that He knows your every intention, action and feel assured that He will always pave a way for you.
3. You can’t eat anywhere and everywhere
But it makes you even more grateful for such luxuries you took for granted back at home.
You walk past shops which serve delectable pastries, or restaurants which are bustling with people and sometimes it gets to you that such places are not halal. You wish you could enter them and eat freely. I mean, it would be easier if you could. But the inner struggle you have with yourself is, in itself, a blessing.
You are reminded of the abundance of halal food you have back at home, and you will realize that when you choose Him over convenience, you will gain so much more in return.
4. People stare at you
But it puts you in a prime position to show others what Islam truly is, and all that it embodies.
You wish that you could be just like any other person who passes through immigration without getting stopped or questioned more than others, and you wish that you could just blend into the crowd. Instead of looking at it as something negative, you should be proud that you are recognized as a Muslim and that people look to you – a real life person – to know what Islam really is.
It is in these instances that you can show them, simply through your modest dressing or your good manners that Islam is vastly different from the negative images portrayed by the media. That’s your power as a traveller. That’s the power you hold as a Muslim.
5. You face animosity from others
But your faith will be strengthened and you will grow in patience.
People might walk away from you or return your smile with hostility, and you would feel upset. But these only seek to remind you of the small space you occupy in this world. You might be someone who is highly regarded in your home country, and for that, you might feel proud and accomplished.
But when faced with strangers who don’t acknowledge your existence, perhaps it is Allah reminding us:
“Do not walk proudly on the Earth.
You can neither tear the Earth apart, Nor can you rival the mountains in height.” (Quran 17:37)
6. Strangers badger you with questions
But you realize that it’s more about the curiosity than them being offensive.
“Why do you have to wear that cloth over your head? Why do you have to pray?” Such questions are common, especially for those who have never met a Muslim. But you should feel grateful that you’re given the opportunity to help others understand what Islam is, and to clarify the misconceptions that might revolve around Islam.
Turn the questions into an open conversation and perhaps in teaching them, you too will learn more both about yourself and about the religion you hold dear. Your travels will be so worth it when you take it as an opportunity not just to change yourself but to also change those around you.
7. Some friends shun away from you because they think you’re ‘troublesome’
But you will know who your true friends are.
You feel apologetic when your friends have to eat at halal places when you are there, or when your friends have to wait around while you do your prayers. It feels as though you’re troubling them and that they are forced to accommodate to you. But friends who are your true friends will not find this to be a burden.
They will eat with you and not just eat but they will appreciate the halal places you eat at. They will wait for you, even when you tell them not to. And for friends like these, who stick with you through the easy and not-so-easy times, you learn that you can never let these friendships go.
8. You feel daunted when you hear things from the media and people around you
But when you’ve experienced it for yourself, you realize how wrong they were.
People might tell you how dangerous a place is. They might question why you chose to travel to a certain place. Some might even ask you not to wear your headscarf “for your own safety”.
But when you make the brave choice to travel, nonetheless, you will realize how wrong people are and how beautiful both the people and the place are – realizations that you can only gain when you take yourself out from the portrayal of others and experience it for yourself.
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
Aldous Huxley could not have said it better.
Sometimes, we face so many challenges during our travels that we wonder “would it be better if I had just stayed home?” I, for one, faced more challenges that I anticipated during my travels. But the rewards were aplenty, and my travels will always remain as one of the best times in my life 😊