By Tharik Hussain
Travel trends come and go like the passing of the seasons, but some occasionally offer the wanderer a truly special experience. Here, we’ve picked five travel trends that will speak to the heart and soul of every Muslim traveller.
1) FAITH THROUGH NATURE (SHAHADAH)
Travelling to admire nature is nothing new, but for many Muslims, this is the travel trend that reaffirms their faith more than any other. Natural wonders like Halong Bay in Vietnam, where you can drift through azure waters past tall, jungle-covered limestone islands, or the forests of Northern California’s national parks, where wanderers are dwarfed by mighty redwoods, are a true reminder of our humbleness and God’s awe-inspiring creation. Nature like this leaves you uttering the Shahadah again and again.
2) EXOTIC PROSTRATIONS (SALAH)
One of my earliest travel memories is standing high upon a mountain, overlooking the city of Taif in Saudi Arabia, and suddenly feeling so overwhelmed that I fell to my knees in prostration. I have since prayed in the most beautiful and bizarre of locations on my travels.
This includes deep in the heart of an Anatolian forest, surrounded by waterfalls, and high upon a sand dune, engulfed by the silence of an Arabian desert. Praying in exotic places is a truly magical experience, and a growing number of Muslim travellers are seeking out the perfect spots to perform the second pillar of Islam on the road.
3) HOMELESS TOURS (ZAKAT)
The third pillar of Islam is about giving to the needy from our own wealth, and there is nothing more dignified for a recipient of charity than to feel like they have earned that handout. Edinburgh and Athens are amongst the growing number of cities where a new travel trend has taken hold: homeless people offering ‘alternative’ tours of their city.
This can include visiting shelters and seeing how the city’s poorest residents live or simply the sights most tourists crave. Join one and your holiday money will end up in the hands of someone who needs it but has also earned it in a dignified manner. And that, surely, is the essence of zakat.
4) MOONGAZING (RAMADAN)
It’s not just at the start of Ramadan that Muslims around the world like to seek out the moon. There is a growing trend to revive the tradition that marks the start of every calendar month, with moongazing events taking off in major cities like London.
For example, The New Crescent Society, a community organisation, organises regular meetups in places like the Greenwich Observatory to look for celestial bodies. Their biggest event is, of course, the Ramadan moon sighting, when the great and the good of the Muslim world join them for a late-night festival. Time your trip right and you too could be part of this revival movement.
5) SPIRITUAL JOURNEYS (PILGRIMAGE)
There is only one Haj, and it can only be performed in one place, during one prescribed period on the calendar. However, like the fifth pillar of Islam, Muslims have always loved a spiritual journey.
The desire to travel with a sense of meaning, when both the journey and the destination offer a source of spiritual and intellectual nourishment, like pilgrimages across the globe, is a fast-developing trend within Muslim travel. More and more agents are offering tours that range from Ramadan nights spent in Masjid al Aqsa in Jerusalem to learning the history behind the palatial ruins of the Umayyads outside Cordoba, Spain.
Tharik Hussain. Tharik is a freelance British Muslim travel writer, journalist and broadcaster. All his work can be viewed at www.tharikhussain.co.uk)