Question: What is the ruling on tourism and traveling abroad recreationally, such as touring Europe with friends? What is the ruling from a spiritual perspective for one who studies Islam and feels it is wasteful, extravagant, and contrary to the Sunnah?
Answer: Assalamu alaykum brother,
Thank you for your question. I believe that you have answered the question yourself.
No prayer dispensation for leisure
Here is a glimpse from the Reliance of the Traveller about the ruling of one’s prayer when traveling for leisure: (A: Purely recreational trips whose purpose is not disobedience are permissible, but there are no travel dispensations in them, though if undertaken in order to gain religious knowledge, to visit a fellow Muslim, or visit the grave of a righteous or learned Muslim (dis: g5.8), these and similar purposes are legitimate and permit the dispensations) [Reliance of the Traveller, 190-191].
Not recommended by scholars
My teachers in Jordan mention that it is inappropriate for students of Sacred Knowledge to embark on recreational trips or sightseeing when they are studying for spiritual refinement or purification of the soul. This has been a tradition across the board for generations. For example, some students studying in Egypt never visited the pyramids, while some students in Jordan never saw Petra.
Wasteful or harmful?
As for waste, many would agree that this kind of money can be used more wisely. But more importantly, it is customarily the environment that one encounters that is more damaging. Cruises, beaches, and non-Muslim countries contain plenty-a-sights that no one wants to see, and making oneself and one’s family desensitized to be around the haram (unlawful) is not good for the soul.
Finally, such decisions are best left to each family to make on their own. They should consider their finances, the destination, the purpose, (one might mix a religious intention with a recreational intention), and consider family bonding time. Pray istikhara always about such trips.
I know one family that only vacations to Muslim countries because they don’t want to deal with searching for halal (permissible) food. This would bring many other benefits to it. Please see the links below for more information.
May Allah give us all well-being in this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied Aqidah, Fiqh, tajweed, Tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.