Manners of Making a Journey


What is the manners of making a journey in islam? What are the manners of traveling in islam?

“O Allah, bless my people’s work which they started early in the mornings.” (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 78)

Travels are amongst the unavoidable facts of human life. They can be for military, commercial, or scholarly purposes. Also, they can be just for sightseeing or visiting a relative. There can also be other goals for traveling. In so far as that travels should be done for a licit reason and they cannot be against the orders of Allah and His Messenger (pbuh).

The pleasure of Allah and the goals taught by Allah and His Messenger must form the real object of a travel. In the following verses, Allah the Almighty advises His servants to set off on a journey to see and take lessons from the states of earlier people:

“Say: travel through the earth and see what the end of those who rejected truth was.” (al-An’am 6; 11)

“Say: Travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation; so will Allah produce a later creation: For Allah has power over all things.” (al-Ankabut 29; 20)

The Qur’an encourages setting off for a journey with sincere intentions and good goals. Those who make a journey for such purposes are mentioned and praised in the Qur’an with those who turn repentant (to Allah), those who serve (Him), those who praise (Him), those who bow down, those who prostrate (in worship), those who enjoin the right and who forbid the wrong and those who observe the limits (ordained) of Allah. (al-Tawba 9; 112) Beginning with the time of Umar’s caliphate, Muslims seriously started to develop roads and rest areas by the roads possibly as result of the above mentioned verse which encourages travel. For instance, one who began his journey from Cairo could peacefully and safely go to Baghdad without feeling any need to take provisions with him.

Journeys have been a complementary method of special training (Seyr-u suluk) in Sufism. By means of this method, when a person leaves the place where he was born he recognizes that he is actually temporarily in this world. Not to be known by anybody and feeling the strangeness and the unknown which surrounds him helps him to spiritually improve himself. Because travelling cleanses the disciple from worldly ties and spiritual impurities like flowing water cleanses its dirt and impurities.

Islam encourages travelling in order to take lessons and to achieve spiritual goals. Thus adjustments are made in some acts of worship during journeys because of the hardships. For instance, reducing the number of cycles of prayer, the option to postpone fasting during the month of Ramadan, and being able to accept alms are some of these dispensations.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) made several journeys for various reasons, such as migration, military expedition, etc. He paid attention to some manners during his journeys, which have become principles for his ummah to follow.

The Prophet (pbuh) usually set off on his journeys on Thursdays. He would rarely begin a journey on another day. (Bukhari, Jihad, 103; Abu Dawud, Jihad, 77)

Of course there are some reasons for the Prophet’s choice to travel on Thursdays. On that day a servant’s deeds are submitted to Allah the Almighty. (Tirmidhi, Sawm, 43) It is the day on which the gates of Paradise are opened. (Muslim, Birr, 35) Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) wanted his journeys to be presented to Allah the Almighty amongst his other righteous deeds. Therefore, believers should manifest the same sensibility.

It is recommended to set off for a journey early in the morning to benefit from the coolness and freshness of the morning. Indeed, Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) prayed for his follower saying, “O Allah, bless my people’s work which they started early in the mornings.” (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 78) He would send his military expeditions early in the mornings as well.

Beginning early in the morning is an important principle and a means of blessings not only for a journey but also for all kinds of activities, such as acquiring knowledge or doing business. Believers should benefit from this source of blessings. Sahr b. Vadaa al-Ghamidi, a merchant companion, reported that his goods had increased and he had become rich because he began his journeys early in the morning. (Tirmidhi, Buyu’, 6)

When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was beginning a journey, he would sit on his ride, say takbir for three times and recite the verse:

“Glorified be He Who hath subdued these unto us, and we were not capable (of subduing them); And lo! Unto our Lord we are returning.” (al-Zuhruf 43; 13-14) and then he would make the following supplication:

“O Allah, we ask from You in this journey of ours uprightness, piety and such deeds as are pleasing to You. O Allah, make easy for us this journey of ours and make the distant near for us. O Allah, You are our Companion in the journey, and the One Who looks after our family and property in our absence.”

When he returned, he said these words adding:

“Returning, repentant, serving and praising our Lord.” (Muslim, Hajj, 425; Abu Dawud, Jihad, 72)

In this supplication, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) stated the common concern which could be felt by anybody and showed personally how we can pray under such circumstances. When setting off for a journey Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) sometimes recited the following verse:

“So he said: embark you on the Ark, in the name of Allah, whether it move or be at rest for my Lord is, be sure, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Hud 11; 41)

When the Prophet (pbuh) and his armies went up to the hills during their journey, they would say: “Allah is Most Great”; and when they descended, they would say: “Glory be to Allah.” (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 72) and then he would say,

“None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, Alone Who has no partner. All the Kingdom belongs to Him and all the praises are for Him and He is Omnipotent. We are returning with repentance, worshipping, prostrating ourselves and praising our Lord. Allah fulfilled His Promise, granted victory to His slave and He Alone defeated all the clans.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 158; Muslim, Hajj, 428)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would observe moderation in his journeys and suggest his companions to do the same. He would remind them of the Greatness of Allah and to be reverent towards Him. The following incident narrated by Abu Musa Al-Ashari (r.a.) is an exemplary one:

“We were in the company of Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) during a journey. Whenever we went up a high place we used to say: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and Allah is the Greatest,” and our voices used to rise, so the Prophet said, “O people! Be merciful to yourselves (i.e. don’t raise your voice), for you are not calling a deaf or an absent one, but One Who is with you, no doubt He is All-Hearer, ever Near (to all things).” (Bukhari, Jihad, 131; Muslim, Dhikr, 44)

When the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) was travelling and night came on, he would say: “O earth, my Lord and your Lord is Allah; I seek refuge in Allah from your evil, the evil of what you contain, the evil of what has been created in you, and the evil of what creeps upon you; I seek refuge in Allah from lions, from large black snakes, from other snakes, from scorpions, from the evil of jinn which inhabit a settlement, and from a parent and his offspring.” (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 131) He would also suggest taking refuge in Allah for protection from evil saying:

“When anyone lands at a place, and then says:

“I seek refuge in the Perfect Word of Allah from the evil of what He has created;” nothing would harm him until he marches from that stopping place.” (Muslim, Dhikr, 54-55)

One should try not to go on a journey alone. He/she should try to find a nice companion to go on journey with. Going on a journey alone carries many dangers.

During a journey one may face unexpected hardships in addition to the natural ones. One may need help for various reasons. Some may face problems with their children’s health; some may lose their provisions; some may have problems with their rides; and so forth. Because

اَلسَّفَرُ قِطْعَةٌ مِنَ السَّقَرِ “Travel is part from Saqar (Hell)” (Interestingly there is only one dot difference between the spellings of “travel” and “Hell” in Arabic )

Indeed Ali (r.a.) wanted to express the magnitude of hardship by saying:

“If the Prophet (pbuh) had not said “al-safar qit’atun min al-adhab – travel is part from torture,” (Bukhari, Umra, 19) I would have said “al-saqar qit’atun min al-safar – torture of Hell is a part from travel.”

Therefore, a Muslim should always help the people that he/she is with on a journey. This is also among the manners of making a journey in Islam. Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (r.a.) narrated:

“When I was with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), a man on his camel came. (Asking for help) he began to look around. Upon this Allahs Messenger (pbuh) said:

“Those who have an extra ride should give one to those who do not have any; those who have extra provisions should give some to those who do not have any.” and he counted so many sorts of goods that we thought that none of us had the right to keep anything extra with us.” (Muslim, Luqata, 18)

According to the narration of Jabir (r.a.), once the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) intended to go on an expedition. He (pbuh) said:

“O group of the emigrants (Muhajirun) and the helpers (Ansar), among your brethren there are people who have neither property nor family. So one of you should take with him two or three persons; with me. I also rode on my camel by turns like one of them.” Indeed we had one camel which we rode in turns. I took two (or three) people with me to take turns on my ride and I had the right to ride it only as much as one of them.” (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 34)

Again Jabir ibn Abdullah (r.a.) stated that when he was on a journey the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) used to come from the back in order to be able to help the weak. He would take someone up behind him and make supplication for them all. (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 94) In a group everyone should act according to the strength of the weakest one of the group; for the strength of a group is measured in accordance with the strength of the weakest link.

The Arabic word safar for travel also means to open and to reveal something. If we think about it from this point, we can say that journeys are important moments where one’s inner world and character reveals itself. Indeed the following incident clearly states this fact:

“Someone praised another person in front of Umar (r.a.). Umar (r.a.) asked him:

“Have you had any transaction with that person?” He said: “No” Umar (r.a.) asked:

“Have you ever been his neighbor?” Again the man replied negatively. Umar (r.a.) asked again:

“Have you ever been on a journey with him?” When the man responded negatively, Umar (r.a.) said:

“Then you are talking about a person whom you know nothing about.”

This can be clearly seen especially during the tiring and arduous journey of major pilgrimage (hajj). In the journey of hajj, people usually fight and hurt each other’s feelings over the littlest things. This is the result of the weaknesses of human being which brings forth their inner negativities. Whereas, in such a sacred journey people are supposed to be polite, patient, and forbearing; they are supposed to stay away from nasty talks, arguing, and all kinds of sins.

After achieving the object of the journey one should not linger around and should go back immediately. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) stated that making a journey consisted of all kinds of hardships’ it disturbs a person’s eating and sleeping habits. Then he (pbuh) said that,

“When one of you has accomplished his purpose, he should hasten his return to his family.” (Bukhari, Umrah, 19; Muslim, Imarah, 179)

This is because a person has rights upon himself, his children, and his family. When a believer is organizing his/her life, he/she should be able to keep the balance amongst his/her responsibilities. This can only be achieved by giving everybody their rights.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) prohibited believers, who were away from their family for a long time, to return to their family at night unexpectedly. (Bukhari, Nikah, 130; Muslim, Imara, 183)

It has been narrated on the authority of Anas b. Malik (r.a.) that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would not go back to his family by night. He would go to them in the morning or in the evening. (Muslim, Imarah, 180)

Of course this consists of various wisdom, individual and familial benefits. This has been true especially when people have limited or no means of communication. In this way family members will be able to find the opportunity to prepare themselves spiritually and materially; complete their deficiencies, and tidy up the house. If the family is informed, then it will not be a surprise and a problem. If there is no chance to inform the family, one should make his plans to return his home in the morning.

According to Qa’b b. Malik’s (r.a.) report, whenever Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) returned from a journey, he would first visit the Mosque and offer a two-rak’at prayer therein. (Bukhari, Maghazi, 79)

Such behavior has many benefits. First of all, this is a statement of gratitude and thankfulness to Allah for His bestowal of a healthy return to one’s family and home. Second, ablution and prayer cleanses a person from spiritual and material impurities and gives physical and spiritual vigor. Making a travel, even if it is for a very short distance, tires a person. Performing an ablution and two rak’ah prayer refreshes the body and soul; thus it enables a person to go to his/her family vigorously, happily, and peacefully. It is also a nice thing to find some time to get ready spiritually if, by chance, there is catastrophic news, which could devastate a person.

Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

The Human Reality