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Travel and tourism (siyaahah) in Islam – rulings and types

I hope that you can provide me with important and comprehensive information about Islamic tourism (siyaahah), or what is tourism in Islam, or what are the guidelines on tourism in Islam, or how we may develop Islamic tourism, or how we can develop a centre for Islamic tourism, or what would constitute Islamic tourism projects?.

Praise be to Allaah.  

Siyaahah (travel and/or tourism) may mean many things, but in modern usage it is limited to a few meanings, which indicate moving about in the land for fun or to look at things, research and find out, and so on; not to earn money, work or settle there. 

See: al-Mu’jam al-Waseet (469). 

When discussing tourism from the point of view of Islamic sharee’ah, we must look at the following categories: 

Firstly: 

The concept of siyaahah in Islam 

Islam came to change many of the distorted concepts that are held by imperfect human minds, and to connect them to the most sublime and honourable values and morals. In the minds of earlier nations, siyaahah was connected to the concept of self-punishment and forcing oneself to travel through the land, and exhausting the body as a punishment for it or as a way of shunning this world. Islam abolished this negative concept of siyaahah. 

Ibn Haani’ narrated that Ahmad ibn Hanbal was asked: Is a man who travels about dearer to you, or one who stays in his city? He said: Siyaahah has nothing to do with Islam, and it is not the action of the Prophets or the righteous. 

Talbees Iblees (340). 

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali commented on the words of Imam Ahmad by saying: 

Siyaahah in this sense was done by some groups who are known to strive in worship without knowledge; some of them gave up this activity when they realized that it was not right. 

Fath al-Baari by Ibn Rajab (1/56). 

Islam came to elevate the concept of siyaahah, and to connect it to great and noble aims, such as the following: 

1.     Connecting siyaahah to worship. So travel – or siyaahah – is enjoined in order to perform one of the pillars of Islam, namely Hajj during certain months, and ‘umrah to the House of Allaah is prescribed throughout the year. When a man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and asked him for permission for siyaahah (in the ancient sense of travelling as an act of asceticism or self-punishment only), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) guided him to something that is more sublime and better than siyaahah. He said to him: “The siyaahah of my ummah is jihad for the sake of Allaah.” Narrated by Abu Dawood (2486); classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood; its isnaad was classed as jayyid by al-‘Iraaqi in Takhreej Ihya’ ‘Uloom al-Deen (2641). Think about how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made a connection between the kind of siyaahah that is encouraged in sharee’ah and a great and noble aim.   

2.     In the Islamic worldview, siyaahah is also connected to knowledge and learning. The greatest journeys were undertaken at the beginning of Islam with the aim of seeking and spreading knowledge. al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi wrote a famous book called al-Rihlah fi Talab al-Hadeeth (Travelling to seek hadeeth) in which he compiled the names of those who travelled for the sake of a single hadeeth. For example one of the Taabi’een said concerning the verse in which Allaah says: 

“(The believers whose lives Allaah has purchased are) those who turn to Allaah in repentance (from polytheism and hypocrisy), who worship (Him), who praise (Him), who fast (or go out in Allaah’s Cause), who bow down (in prayer), who prostrate themselves (in prayer), who enjoin (on people) Al‑Ma‘roof and forbid (people) from Al‑Munkar, and who observe the limits set by Allaah. And give glad tidings to the believers”

[al-Tawbah 9:112] 

‘Ikrimah said: al-saa’ihoon (translated here as who fast (or go out in Allaah’s Cause)) are the seekers of knowledge. 

This was narrated by Ibn Abi Haatim in his Tafseer (7/429). See also Fath al-Qadeer (2/408). 

Although the correct meaning according to the majority of the salaf is that what is meant by al-saa’ihoon is those who fast. 

3.     Another of the aims of siyaahah in Islam is to learn lessons and receive reminders. The command to travel about in the land appears in several places in the Qur’aan. Allaah says: 

“Say (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم): Travel in the land and see what was the end of those who rejected truth”

[al-An’aam 6:11] 

“Say to them (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم): “Travel in the land and see how has been the end of the Mujrimoon (criminals, those who denied Allaah’s Messengers and disobeyed Allaah)”

[al-Naml 27:69] 

al-Qaasimi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said they are the ones who go to different places to study the ruins and learn a lesson from them and seek other benefits. 

Mahaasin al-Ta’weel (16/225). 

4.     Maybe the greatest aim of siyaahah in Islam is to call people to Allaah and to convey to mankind the light that was revealed to our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). This is the mission of the Messengers and Prophets and their companions after them (may Allaah be pleased with them). The companions of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) spread throughout the world, teaching the people goodness and calling them to the message of truth. We hope that the concept of siyaahah today will try to achieve the same great aims.  

5.     Finally, siyaahah in Islam also includes travelling to ponder the wonders of Allaah’s creation and to enjoy the beauty of this great universe, so that it will make the human soul develop strong faith in the oneness of Allaah and will help one to fulfil the obligations of life. Relaxation is essential to enable one to strive hard after that. 

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): 

“Say: Travel in the land and see how (Allaah) originated the creation, and then Allaah will bring forth the creation of the Hereafter (i.e. resurrection after death). Verily, Allaah is Able to do all things”

[al-‘Ankaboot 29:20] 

Secondly: 

Guidelines on the type of siyaahah (tourism) that is acceptable in Islam. 

Islamic sharee’ah has brought a number of rulings that regulate siyaahah so that it will achieve the aims mentioned above and will not overstep the mark or become a source of evil and harm in society. These rulings include the following: 

1.     It is haraam to travel for the purpose of venerating a specific place, except the three mosques. 

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “No journey should be undertaken to visit any mosque but three: al-Masjid al-Haraam, the Mosque of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the Mosque of al-Aqsa.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1132) and Muslim (1397). 

This hadeeth indicates that it is haraam to undertake “religious journeys”, as they are called, to any mosque other than these three, such as those who call for travelling to visit graves or mashhads (shrines) or tombs or mausoleums, especially those tombs that are venerated by people and from which they seek blessing, and they commit all kinds of shirk and haraam actions there. There is nothing in sharee’ah to suggest that places are sacred and that acts of worship should be done in them apart from these three mosques.  

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: I went out to al-Toor (Sinai) where I met Ka’b al-Ahbaar and sat with him … He mentioned a lengthy hadeeth then he said: Then I met Basrah ibn Abi Basrah al-Ghifaari who said: From where have you come? I said: From Sinai. He said: If I had met you before you went out, you would not have gone to that place. I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “Mounts are not to be ridden except to three mosques: al-Masjid al-Haraam, this mosque of mine and the mosque of Eeliya’ or Bayt al-Maqdis [Jerusalem].” 

Narrated by Maalik in al-Muwatta’ (108) and al-Nasaa’i (1430). Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasaa’i

So it is not permissible to travel with the aim of visiting any holy place except these three. This does not mean that it is haraam to visit mosques in Muslim lands, because visiting them is prescribed and is mustahabb. Rather what is forbidden is setting out with that aim. If a person has another reason for travelling, and he happens to visit the mosque too, there is nothing wrong with that, rather he is obliged to pray Jumu’ah and prayers in congregation. 

It is even more haraam to travel to visit places that are regarded as holy in other religions, such as those who go to visit the Vatican or Buddhist idols and so on. 

2.     The evidence also indicates that it is haraam for the Muslim to travel in kaafir lands in general, because of the evils that will affect the Muslim’s religious commitment and attitude as the result of mixing with those nations who pay no attention to religion and morals, especially when there is no need for him to travel for medical treatment or business and so on, rather it is just for leisure and for fun. Allaah has made the Muslim lands spacious, praise be to Allaah, and He has placed therein wonders of creation so that there is no need to visit the kaafirs in their lands. 

Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan (may Allaah preserve him) said:  

Travelling to kaafir lands is not permissible, because there are many dangers posed to one’s beliefs and morals by mixing with the kuffaar and staying among them. But if there is a valid need and a sound purpose for travelling, such as travelling for medical treatment that is not available in a Muslim country, or travelling to study something that is not available in a Muslim country, or travelling for business purposes, these are valid purposes for which it is permissible to travel to kaafir countries, provided that one adheres to the rituals of Islam and is able to carry out his religious duties in that country, but that (travel) should be done only as much as is necessary, then one should return to the Muslim world. 

As for travelling for tourism, that is not permissible, because the Muslim has no need of that and it does not serve any interest that matches or outweighs the harm and danger to his religious commitment and beliefs that it involves. 

Al-Muntaqa min Fataawa al-Shaykh al-Fawzaan (2/question no. 221) 

We have already discussed this question in detail and at length on our site. Please see the answers to question no. 52845, 8919 and 13342

3.     There can be no doubt that sharee’ah forbids tourism in places of corruption, where alcohol is drunk and immoral actions take place and sins are committed, such as beaches and parties and immoral places, or travelling to hold celebrations on innovated festivals. The Muslim is enjoined to keep away from sin so he should not commit sin or sit with those who are committing sin. 

The scholars of the Standing Committee said: 

It is not permissible to go to places of corruption for the sake of tourism, because of the danger that poses to one’s religious commitment and morals. Islam came to block the means that lead to evil. 

Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (26/332). 

So how about tourism that encourages sin and immorality, and is organized in order to promote it and spread it? 

The scholars of the Standing Committee also said: 

If this tourism involves making it easy to commit sin and evils, and promotes them, then it is not permissible for the Muslim who believes in Allaah and the Last Day to help others to disobey Allaah and go against His commands. If a person gives up something for the sake of Allaah, Allaah will compensate him with something better than it. 

Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (26/224). 

4.     With regard to visiting the ruins and places of former nations, if they are places of punishment where they were swallowed up by the earth, transformed or destroyed because of their disbelief in Allaah, then it is not permissible to take those places as sites for tourism and recreation. 

The scholars of the Standing Committee were asked: 

In the city of al-Bada’, near Tabook, there is an area where there are ancient ruins and houses carved out of the mountains, and some people say that these were the dwellings of the people of Shu’ayb (peace be upon him). My question is: Has it been proven that these were the dwellings of the people of Shu’ayb (peace be upon him) or not? What is the ruling on visiting these ruins for one whose aim is to have a look at them, and the one whose aim is to ponder and learn a lesson? 

They replied: 

It is well known among the scholars that the houses of Madyan to whom the Prophet of Allaah Shu’ayb (peace be upon him) was sent were in the north-west of the Arabian Peninsula, which is now known as al-Bada’ and its environs.  

Allaah knows best what is really true. If this is correct, then it is not permissible to visit those places for the purpose of having a look at them, because when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) passed though al-Hijr – which was where the houses of Thamood were – he said: “Do not enter the dwellings of those who wronged themselves unless you are weeping, lest there befall you something like that which befell them.” Then he covered his head and urged his mount to move on quickly until he left the place behind.

Narrated by al-Bukhaari (3200) and Muslim (2980). 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, whilst listing the lessons and rulings learned from the campaign to Tabook: 

One who passes by the places of those who were subjected to divine wrath or who were punished should not enter them or stay among them, rather he should hasten to move on and should cover his head with his garment until he has passed them, and he should not enter upon them unless he is weeping and willing to learn a lesson. An example of this is when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) hastened to move on in the valley of Muhsir, between Mina and Muzdalifah, because it was the place where Allaah destroyed the elephant and its companions. 

Zaad al-Ma’aad (3/560). 

Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, commenting on the hadeeth quoted above: 

This applies to the dwellings of Thamood and others like them, though the reason was given concerning them. 

Fath al-Baari (6/380). 

See: Majmoo’at Abhaath Hay’at Kibaar al-‘Ulama’ fi’l-Mamlakat al-‘Arabiyyah al-Sa’oodiyyah, vol. 3, essay entitled Hukm Ihya’ Diyaar Thamood

See also the answer to question no. 20894

5 – It is also not permissible for a woman to travel without a mahram. The scholars have stated that it is haraam for a woman to travel without a mahram for Hajj or ‘umrah, so how about if the travel is for the purpose of tourism which involves a lot of carelessness and haraam mixing?! 

See the answers to questions no. 3098, 69337, 45917 and 4523

6 – As for organizing trips for kuffaar in Muslim countries, the basic principle is that it is permissible. If a kaafir tourist is granted permission by a Muslim state to enter, then he is granted safety until he leaves. But during his stay in the Muslim country he should be required to show respect for the Islamic religion and the morals and culture of the Muslims; he should not call people to his religion or claim that Islam is false, and he should only go out in clothes that are appropriate for a Muslim country, not as they are accustomed to dress in their country, semi naked and decadent. He should not be a helper or spy for his people. And finally the kuffaar should not be allowed to visit the two Holy Sanctuaries in Makkah and Madeenah al-Munawwarah. 

Thirdly: 

It is obvious to everyone that tourism (siyaahah) nowadays mostly involves sin, immoral deeds and transgression of the sacred limits, such as deliberate wanton display and nakedness, permissive mixing, drinking of alcohol, promotion of corruption, imitation of the kuffaar and introduction of their customs and ways, and even their diseases, let alone a waste of money, time and effort. All of that happens in the name of tourism. We remind everyone who is concerned about his religion, morals and ummah not to help to promote this evil kind of tourism; rather he should fight it and fight against the culture that it promotes; he should be proud of his religion, culture and morals, for they will protect him against all evils, and give him an alternative in the conservative Muslim lands.  

And Allaah knows best.

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