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The Sunnah & Adaab (Etiquettes) of Travelling
Have they not looked at the camel and seen how it was created?
And at the sky, how it was raised?
And at the mountains, how they were placed firmly?
And at the earth, how it was spread out?
[Surah Al-Ghashiyah, v. 17-20]
وسافر ففي الاسفار خمس فوائد تغرب عن الأوطان في طلب العلى
تفرج هم و اكتساب معيشة وعلم وآداب و صحبة ماجد
Journey from your country to seek higher objectives,
And travel, for in travel are five benefits;
Removing stress and earning livelihood
Acquiring knowledge and manners and the company of the righteous.
[Imam Shafi’e, May Allah have mercy on him]
The prophetic teachings encompass every aspect of our life. At home or while on a journey, a believer can gain nearness to Allah and His beloved Prophet ﷺ by adopting the various Sunnah and recommended practices. Likewise, worldly activities can become a source of significant spiritual gain by following the Sunnah.
Muslims travel for various reasons: Hajj, study, business, work, meeting family and relatives, vacation, health, etc. When a person leaves home for travel, a myriad of worries may plague his mind; the welfare of the family left behind, complications and safety of the journey, health, etc. The Prophetic guidance pertaining to travel provides excellent solace and peace of mind for the traveller. These practices, when implemented, will attract the Mercy of Allah and bless the traveller with contentment and patience.
Below I have compiled some Islamic etiquettes on travelling from various sources. This work is in no way comprehensive. For the sake of brevity, I have omitted many prayers and practices.
What Day to Commence Travel
The Beloved Prophet ﷺ preferred to travel on Thursdays. It is recommended to begin the travel in the morning, yet travelling at night, provided it is safe, is also permissible. Distances are covered easily at night.
Sayyiduna Ka’b bin Malik (Allah is pleased with him) used to say: “Rarely did the Messenger of Allah ﷺ set out for a journey on a day other than Thursday.” [Bukhari, #2949]
Ibn Hajar (May Allah have mercy on him) recorded a narration in his monumental commentary on Saheeh Bukhari, that the Beloved Prophet ﷺ said: “My Ummah has been blessed on Thursdays.”
It is possible that due to this Barakah, the Noble Prophet ﷺ preferred to commence his travels on Thursdays.
Sayyiduna Sakhr al-Ghamidi (Allah is pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said: “O Allah, bless my Ummah in their mornings.” So, when he dispatched a detachment or an army, he would dispatch them early in the day. Sakhr was a merchant who would send off his merchandise (his trade caravan) early in the day. Soon after that, he prospered, and his wealth increased.” [Abu Dawud, #2606]
When options exist, one should plan to commence their journey on a Thursday, as this would be closer to the Sunnah. However, travelling any other day is also acceptable.
Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah is pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Travel at night as the earth folds up at night.” [Abu Dawud, #2571]
Day of Departure
- To perform two rak’aah before leaving one’s home. Ideally, this should be done just before exiting and locking the door.
- If a person stops at any town during his travel, it is also a sunnah to perform two rak’aah when resuming his journey. [The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ 3, pg. 224]
- To recite the sunnah prayers for leaving one’s home.
- To meet the nearest one last, e.g. parents, spouse, children, etc.
- To give some sadaqah.
Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Masud (Allah is pleased with him) narrates: “That a person came to the Noble Prophet ﷺ and informed him that he was departing on a business trip to Bahrain. The Beloved Prophet ﷺ instructed him to perform two rak’aah salah (before leaving). [The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ Vol. 3, pg. 194]
Mut’im ibn Miqdam (Allah is pleased with him) reports that the Noble Prophet ﷺ said: “A person cannot leave a better substitute for his family than the two rak’aah of salah he performs before departing.” [Al-Adhkaar, pg. 251; The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ Vol. 3, pg. 195]
Every mature person can perform this Sunnah if the entire family is travelling.
Whenever Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar (Allah is pleased with him) left home for a journey, he would always proceed to the masjid, and perform two rak’aah of salat.” [The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ. Vol. 3, pg. 195]
If it is not feasible to perform the salat in the masjid, it can be done at home.
It is recommended to recite Surah Al-Kafiroon in the first rak’aah and Suran Al-Ikhlas in the second rak’aah or Surah Al-Falaq in the first and Suran An-Naas in the second. [Al-Adhkaar, pg. 251]
After Salaam, it is recommended to recite Aayatul-Kursi. Imam Nawawi (May Allah have mercy on him) has written that whoever reads Aayatul-Kursi before departing will be saved from every unpleasant thing until he returns. [Al-Adhkaar, pg. 251]
It is a Sunnah to meet the nearest one last when departing. This can be done by meeting, embracing and shaking hands with this particular individual after saying farewell to others who are present.
When the Beloved Prophet ﷺ was leaving for any journey, he would meet Sayyidah Fatimah (Allah is pleased with her) last, and upon arrival, he would meet her first. [The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ. Vol. 3, pg. 228]
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was very fond of Sayyidah Fatimah (Allah is pleased with her). Therefore, he would meet her last when departing and first upon arrival. Moreover, the home of Sayyidah Fatimah (Allah is pleased with her) was nearest to the home of Sayyidah Aishah (Allah is pleased with her); hence it was also convenient for the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. This Sunnah can be implemented if the married daughter resides in the same city.
Masnoon Prayers for the Journey
- Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah is pleased with him) reports that the Prophet ﷺ said: “When a person exits his home and says:
بِاسْمِ اللهِ ، تَوَكَّلْتُ عَلَى اللهِ ، لَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا باِللهِ
the following will be said to him at that time: ‘You are guided, defended and protected.’ The devils will go far from him, and another devil will say: ‘How can you deal with a man who has been guided, defended and protected?’” [Abu Dawud, #5095]
Trans. of dua: In the name of Allah, I trust in Allah; there is no might and no power but in Allah.
2) Sayyidah Umm Salamah (Allah is pleased with her) narrates; “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ never went out of my house without raising his eye to the sky and saying:
اللَّهُمَّ أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أَضِلَّ أَوْ أُضَلَّ، أَوْ أَزِلَّ أَوْ أُزَلَّ، أَوْ أَظْلِمَ أَوْ أُظْلَمَ، أَوْ أَجْهَلَ أَوْ يُجْهَلَ عَلَيَّ
Trans of dua: O Allah! I seek refuge in You that I go astray or be led astray, or slip or made to slip, or cause injustice, or suffer injustice, or do wrong, or have wrong done to me. [Abu Dawud, #5095]
3) When boarding any mode of transport, recite بِاسْمِ اللهِ (In the name of Allah). Once seated, recite اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّه (All praise is for Allah). Then the following dua is recited:
سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي سَخَّرَ لَنَا هَذَا وَمَا كُنَّا لَهُ مُقْرِنِينَ وَإِنَّا إِلَى رَبِّنَا لَمُنْقَلِبُونَ
Trans: Pure is Allah, Who has placed this at our service whereas we would never have been able to control it, and our return shall undoubtedly be to our Rabb.
Then, recite اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّه (All praise is for Allah) three times, followed by اَللهُ أَكْبَرُ (Allah is the Greatest) three times. After, the Beloved Prophet ﷺ would also recite the following dua:
سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي، فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ
Trans: Glory be to You! I have wronged myself, so forgive me, for no one forgives sins but You!
After reciting the above dua, he would smile. The narrator of this hadith, Sayyiduna Ali (Allah is pleased with him), asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ: “What has made you smile, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied: “Your Lord surely is pleased with His servant when he says: ‘My Lord, forgive me my sins, knowing that no one but He forgives sins!’” [Ash-Shamaa’il al-Muhammadiyyah, #232]
4) The following dua has also been reported from the Prophet ﷺ:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَسْأَلُكَ فِي سَفَرِنَا هَذَا الْبِرَّ وَالتَّقْوَى وَمِنَ الْعَمَلِ مَا تَرْضَى اللَّهُمَّ هَوِّنْ عَلَيْنَا سَفَرَنَا هَذَا وَاطْوِ عَنَّا بُعْدَهُ اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ الصَّاحِبُ فِي السَّفَرِ وَالْخَلِيفَةُ فِي الأَهْلِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ وَعْثَاءِ السَّفَرِ وَكَآبَةِ الْمَنْظَرِ وَسُوءِ الْمُنْقَلَبِ فِي الْمَالِ وَالأَهْلِ
Trans: O Allah, we seek virtue and piety from You in this journey of ours and the ability to carry out deeds You are pleased with. O Allah, lighten this journey of ours and shorten its distance for us. O Allah, You are the companion during the journey, and successor of the family. O Allah, I seek refuge with You from the hazards of the journey, a terrible sight, and an unpleasant return to wealth and family.
On the return trip home, the Noble Prophet ﷺ would recite the above dua and add to it
آيِبُونَ تَائِبُونَ عَابِدُونَ لِرَبِّنَا حَامِدُونَ
Trans: We are returning, repentant, worshipping our Lord. and praising Him. [Muslim, #1342]
5. Sayyiduna Jubayr ibn Mut’im (Allah is pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to him: ‘O Jubayr! When you go on a journey, do you love to be in a better condition than your companions and with more provisions than them?’ I said, ‘Yes indeed.’ He said: ‘Recite these five surahs, Surah Kafiroon, Surah Nasr, Surah Ikhlaas, Surah Falaq and Surah Naas. Commence each surah by reciting bismillah before it and once at the end of your recitation (of the five surahs).’ Sayyiduna Jubayr (Allah is pleased with him) says: ‘I continued to practice this until I became the best of my travelling companions in appearance and provisions.’
The Scholars of Hadith have classified this hadith as weak but not fabricated and therefore suitable for practice.
The method would be:
- Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, Surah Kafirun
- Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, Surah Nasr
- Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, Surah Ikhlas
- Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, Surah Falaq
- Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, Surah Nas
- Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim.
[The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ Vol. 3, pg. 252, 253; Majma’ al-Zawaid #17112]
6. It has been narrated from Sayyidah Khawlah bint Hakim that the Prophet ﷺ said: “If anyone of you, stops (breaks the journey) to camp, and says:
أَعُوذُ بِكَلِمَاتِ اللهِ التَّامَّةِ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا خَلَقَ
Trans: I seek refuge in the Perfect Words of Allah from the evil of that which He has created.
then nothing will harm him in that place until he continues on.” [Ibn Majah, hadith 3547]
This dua can be recited when breaking the journey to spend the night.
7. When entering a town wherein, you intend to stay for some time, recite the following dua thrice:
اَللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِيْه
Trans: O Allah, grant us barakah in this place.
The recite the following:
اَللَّهُمَّ ارْزُقْنَا جَنَاهَا وَ حَبِّبْنَا إِلَى أَهْلِهَا وَ حَبِّبْ صَالِحِىْ أَهْلِهَا إِلَيْنَا
Trans: O Allah, give us of its produce, make us beloved to its people and make the pious of its people beloved to us. [Majma’ al-Zawaid #17115]
The above duas can be recited when commencing a journey (religious or otherwise), whether for a day outing or overnight trip.
After Returning from a Journey
Sayyiduna Jabir ibn Abdullah (Allah is pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ upon returning to Madinah he would slaughter a camel or a cow.” [Bukhari, #3089]
Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar (Allah is pleased with him) would frequently fast at home and not on a journey. After returning from a trip, he would abstain from fasting to have meals with those who came to visit him. [Bukhari, Chp. Taking Meals on Arrival]
Sayyiduna Jafar ibn Abi Talib (Allah is pleased with him) narrates that when he returned from Abyssinia, the Prophet ﷺ met him and embraced him. [Mishkah, hadith #4686]
When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would return home from a journey, he would meet the children. Once, he picked up Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Jafar (Allah is pleased with him) and seated him behind him, then he picked up one of the sons of Sayyidah Fatimah (Allah is pleased with her) and seated him in front of him. In this manner, the Noble Prophet ﷺ entered Madinah Munawwarah while the three of them were seated on the camel. [Mishkah, hadith #3899]
Misc. Sunnah & Recommended Practices
- To take some food for the journey
- To appoint someone from the group of travellers as an Ameer.
- To engage in the remembrance of Allah throughout the journey
- Avoid actions that will attract the company of the devils
- To return home with gifts for the family.
- To seek the advice and duas of the pious prior to departure.
- The duas of a traveller are accepted; therefore, whenever the opportunity arises, the traveller should beseech to Allah, eg. after the five daily salats, before bed, etc.
Sayyiduna Abu Sa’eed (Allah is pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said: “When three are on a journey, they should appoint one of them as their Ameer.” [Abu Dawud, hadith 2608]
Sayyiduna Jabir bin Abdullah (Allah is pleased with him) narrates: “The Prophet ﷺ sent us, a group of three hundred, and we were carrying our provision on our mounts.” [Muslim, #1935]
Sayyidah Asmaa (Allah is pleased with her) reports: “I prepared food for the Prophet ﷺ and Abu Bakr when they decided to depart for Madinah.” [Bukhari, #3907]
Sayyiduna Uqbah ibn Aamir (Allah is pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said: “If a person engages in the Dhikr of Allah during his journey, the angels travel with him during that journey, and if he participates in singing poems, lyrics, (unislamic content) the devil remains his companion.” [The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ. Vol. 3, pg. 232]
Sayyidah Aisha (Allah is pleased with her) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said: “When you return from a journey, bring back some gifts for your family members.” [The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ. Vol. 3, pg. 222]
Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah (Allah is pleased with him) narrates that a man said: “O Messenger of Allah ﷺ, I intend to travel, so advise me.” He said, “Adopt Taqwa and Takbir (say Allah Akbar) upon every elevated place. So, when the man turned away, he said: ‘O Allah shorten the distance for him, and ease for him the journey.’” [Tirmidhi, hadith 3445]
Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah (Allah is pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Three supplications are answered, there being no doubt about them; supplication of a father, supplication of a traveller and the supplication of the oppressed.” [Abu Dawud, hadith 1536]
Sayyiduna Jabir bin Abdullah (Allah is pleased with him) narrates: “Whenever we went ascended a place, we would say Takbir (Allah Akbar), and whenever we descended, we would say Tasbeeh (SubhaanAllah).” [Bukhari, hadith 2993]
The Sunnah of reciting Allah Akbar when ascending and Subhaanallah, when descending can be applied in many scenarios:
- when the plane is gaining altitude or descending to land
- hiking up an incline or coming down
- when driving uphill or downhill
Sayyiduna Umar (Allah is pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Mounted on the back of every animal is a devil, so when you mount it, say: بِاسْمِ اللهِ (In the name of Allah).” [Amal al-Yowm wa al-Laylah, #497]
Bismillah can be said when mounting any animal for a ride, eg. horse, camel, elephant, pony, etc.
Dua for Boarding a Ship
This narration is not authentic but suitable for practice.
“Protection for my ummah from drowning is when boarding a ship, they recite:
وَمَا قَدَرُوا اللهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ وَالْأَرْضُ جَمِيعًا قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
“They have not revered Allah as He deserves to be revered. On the Day of Qiyaamah, the entire earth will be in His grasp, and the skies will be folded in His right hand. He is Pure and Exalted above all that they ascribe as partners to Him.” [Surah Az-Zumar, V.67]
بِسْمِ اللهِ مَجْرَاهَا وَمُرْسَاهَا إِنَّ رَبِّي لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“He said, ‘Embark on it! With the name of Allah shall it travel and anchor. Surely my Rabb is the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.’” [Surah Hud, V.41]
[Al-Adhkaar, pg. 2516, #549; Majma’ al-Zawaid #17101]
The above can be recited when boarding any mode of water transport eg. ferry, boat, canoe, row boat, etc.
Sayyiduna Ali (Allah is pleased with him) is reported to have said that three things are to be done while on a journey:
- Spend one’s provisions on those who are poor
- Adorn oneself with good character
- Maintain a light-hearted and humourous attitude with fellow travellers, ensuring this does not constitute a sin.
[The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ. Vol. 3, pg. 232]
Abu Tahir ibn Jahshawi states that I intended to travel but was fearful, so I approached the great Shafi jurist of Qazwin, Sheikh Abul-Hasan (May Allah have mercy on him), for dua. He told me: “Whoever wants to travel and fears an enemy or loneliness should recite Li-ilafi Quraysh (Surah Al-Quraysh), for it is a security from all evil.” [Al-Adhkaar, pg. 251]
- The Holy Qur’an
- Saheeh Bukhari
- Saheeh Muslim
- Jami’ Tirmidhi
- Sunan Abu Dawud
- Sunan Ibn Majah
- Ash-Shamaa’il al-Muhammadiyyah
- Mishkat al-Masabih
- Majma’ al-Zawaid Vol. 10
- Amal al-Yowm wa al-Laylah
- The Sublime Conduct of Nabi ﷺ 3
- Dewan Imam Shafi’e
Prepared by Mawlana Mushtaq Shaikh,
Imam & Khatib, Masjid Bilal, Toronto, Canada