The world is your oyster- and your prayer mat!
There’s no doubt that traveling can sometimes make it extremely hard to pray all 5 of our prayers at the right time, especially for those of us living in or traveling to non-Muslim countries. We may find ourselves in situations where we don’t have space or environment to perform our prayers.
Islam encourages us to learn and travel as much as we can, so it is not restrictive in how much we can travel. Let’s not use our prayers as an excuse to not travel, but rather, we need to find ways, like with most things in this modern world we are living in, to integrate our prayers into our travels.
So when we are in cities or places that are not particularly prayer friendly, what can we do to make sure that we are still able to pray whilst traveling?
Now l don’t want to go into the details of when it is permissible to delay, combine, or shorten your prayers, but instead, I want to give you some top tips on how to ensure you can pray whilst also having a great time traveling and exploring.
1. Carry a compact prayer mat
We live in a world where, alhumdulilah, most things are readily available to us and this includes compact prayer mats! I always make sure to carry one inside my bag, along with a compass – yes a REAL compass! Apps are great but sometimes the calibration on the apps can be off. So, I always find having an actual compass to be a great backup plan.
And it goes without saying that you perform wudhu (ablution) before you leave your accommodation. Even if you may feel like you are not going to get a chance to pray, you never know which empty street or a quiet room you might stumble upon whilst exploring!
2. Plan your day around prayers
Really the best way to ensure you can perform your prayers is by planning your day around it. This includes checking a local prayer timetable and making sure that you are in a prayer-friendly place during prayer times. Also, make sure to check online where any nearby mosques may be, as well as halal restaurants, which may also have a prayer room available.
Additionally, I always check online to see if the places I am visiting have a prayer/ contemplation room. Almost all airports nowadays have a prayer room- even if they’re not obviously advertised, they will usually be listed under services/facilities on the airport’s website.
Although most of the large shopping centers also have prayer rooms, if they don’t, changing rooms are always available! Personally, I have also found that many museums and public libraries (at least in the UK) have prayer rooms too.
3. It is OK to ask for accommodation
Part of that planning also includes contacting any places I may be visiting to ask for some space to pray. Almost every site and attraction that I have contacted has been able to give me a quiet prayer room.
It may be surprising just how accommodating places can be, even in the Western world. All it requires is dropping an email beforehand, asking for a clean, quiet space for a few minutes; most places do not see this as an issue.
Many places have been able to provide me with a quiet room to pray because I have contacted them a few days beforehand, including theatres, galleries, concert venues (still gotta get that prayer in before the show!) and even the Harry Potter Studios in London!
4. Earth is your prayer mat
Sometimes regardless of your efforts, it may be that there is still nowhere for you to pray- scratch that- nowhere COMFORTABLE for you to pray, which is when it’s time to whip out the prayer mat on the street and welcome the weird stares. Having said this, most people seem to be to busy in their own day to care.
But at the end of the day, we aren’t here to fit in with what the locals expect or what society wants (of course we want to integrate and peacefully coexist), but when it comes to prayer, I can think of no better reason to be rewarded than for persevering and prioritizing prayers.
Don’t feel embarrassed to pray in public. Who knows, your prayers may even inspire someone else to pray! But even if not, by putting your prayer first, even when traveling, know that you are starting your journey in this life, and the next, in the best way possible insha’Allah.