When traveling to a country you've never been to before, it is so important that you do thorough research about its culture, customs, rules and regulations, Muslim-friendly accommodation - so on and so forth. So let's run down the list of steps detailing everything you should research prior to traveling. Hopefully, this will ensure that you have a smooth trip-planning process.
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Different countries have different ways of identifying their halal food options. In Singapore, you can find a Halal certificate near the counter if it is a halal establishment. For some, you will need to ask for their halal certification and they are more than happy to show it to you. But what if you cannot find any?
Well, here are some guidelines:
a) Read travel blogs
Professional travelers might have documented the food that they have checked prior to that is safe to consume. This information will be very handy!
b) Consult a travel agent
If you are traveling with a travel agent then food should be a breeze. Muslim travel agents have usually catered to your food needs. They can also help you with the list of Muslim-friendly restaurants that are available in the places that you are going.
c) Consult those who have been to the location before
Know of a person who usually travels to the place you're going? Then this is the perfect opportunity for a catch-up session and to ask for some food tips!
d) Ask the owner/staff politely if they serve halal-friendly poultry
Halal restaurants in some countries do not display their halal certification. However, they do serve Halal poultry. So do ask away what on the menu is okay to be consumed!
e) Ask the owner/staff politely if they are vegetarian friendly
In some countries where Halal food is extremely difficult to reach, you may choose to consume seafood or vegetarian-friendly food. Do check the ingredients thoroughly before consuming!
f) Ask the owner/staff politely if alcohol is present in the cooking
In some countries whereby alcohol is heavily used in cooking, it is important to ask before consuming. Ask politely and don't be surprised at how some of the owners are really mindful of Muslim dietary requirements!
Research the place that you will be visiting if they have any of these spaces that can be used for prayers:
1) Dedicated prayer room - Musholla
2) Quiet room (Usually found in airports)
3) Family room (Usually found in malls/tourist attraction places)
Ensure that you seek permission to use these facilities if it is not open to the mass public.
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When planning for your itinerary, take note of the prayer timings so that you have a better idea of where and how you will be performing it. Planning ahead is essential here. If you know that you will be on the vehicle and might miss the Asr prayers before reaching your destination, then you might want to perform Zuhr and Asr prayers together while on the bus. It is especially tricky when you travel during winter because the days are shorter. So plan wisely to keep you from missing your prayers!
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You need the washroom but the stranger next to you is sleeping. I need to take my ablution and time is running out! How many of us find ourselves in this situation, especially on an airplane? Worry not, this is where your mist bottle comes in handy. Simply spray a considerable amount of water and perform what is obligatory for an ablution. This is also where the knowledge of knowing when and how to perform ablution by wiping overshoes comes in useful.
Learn how to perform prayers in different situations
During travel, it is permissible for us to join and shorten prayers. It is a Sunnah that is performed by our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. You may join Zuhr and Asr, Maghrib, and Isha together, at the time of the earlier or later prayer, depending on what is most convenient for you.
If waiting to get out of the vehicle means missing the prayer, then it is possible to perform your prayers on board a moving vehicle. You are permitted to be in your seat and even if you are not facing the Qiblah. This would only be possible if you are equipped with the right knowledge.
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Before going on that flight, do ensure that all your responsibilities are duly fulfilled till the day you return. If you have an outstanding job in the office, ensure you finish it well or nicely handover to the next person. Students who have assignments, do send them in before the due date so you can fully enjoy your time. Most importantly, if you are going to leave a family behind, do ensure that you leave behind enough financial sustenance. Leave a copy of necessary documents to a trusted one so that they know what to do in case of an emergency.
Before leaving the accommodation, take a few minutes to perform the 2 Raka'ah of Sunnah Prayer. Take this chance to remind ourselves of the sole purpose of the journey. Any journey that we make is for none other than Allah s.w.t and to attain His pleasures. Make a lot of prayers that He keeps you safe and blessed throughout the journey. If the airport is convenient, you may choose to do it there. It is also the perfect time to recite dua for traveling.
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One of the duas that can be read for travelling is: Allaahu 'Akbar, Allaahu 'Akbar, Allaahu 'Akbar, Subhaanal-lathee sakhkhara lanaa haathaa wa maa kunnaa lahu muqrineen. Wa 'innaa 'ilaa Rabbinaa lamunqaliboon. Allaahumma 'innaa nas'aluka fee safarinaa haathal-birrawattaqwaa, waminal-'amalimaa tardhaa, Allaahumma hawwin 'alaynaa safaranaa haathaa watwi 'annaa bu'dahu, Allaahumma 'Antas-saahibu fis-safari, walkhaleefatu fil-'ahli, Allaahumma 'innee 'a'oothu bika min wa'thaa'is-safari, wa ka'aabanl-mandhari, wa soo'il-munqalabi fil-maaliwal'ahli
It is also a sunnah for the traveler to make a prayer for the left behind family members and friends by saying: "Astaudi'ukumul-laahal-lathee laa tadhee'u wdaa'i'uhu" which means "I leave you in the care of Allah, as nothing is lost that is in His care."
After all efforts and measures have been made, leave the rest in His hands. If ever things do not go our way during the travel, we know that it is for the betterment and that His plans is always better than ours. Enjoy, and have Tawakkal.