Published On:20 January 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Islamists and “Halal” Tourism

By Mohsen Haredy

Tourism is a major market and a key pillar in the economy of some Muslim countries.
For over one billion of world’s population, Islam is a practical religion and a complete way of life that should be embraced in every Muslim’s sayings and actions. Islam teaches Muslims to give due attention to religious matters but at the same time Muslims should not forget their share in the worldly life provided that moderation is maintained. We read in the Glorious Qur’an,

{Seek instead, by means of what God has granted you, [the good of] the life to come, without forget­ting, withal, your own [rightful] share in this world; and do good [unto others] as God has done good unto you; and seek not to spread corruption on earth: for, verily, God does not love the spreaders of corruption!} (Al-Qasas 28: 77)

Throughout much of the Islamic history we read about people who undertook long journeys to explore the world. First and foremost is Ibn Battutah (1304-1368) who, over a period of thirty years, visited most of the Islamic world.

Travelling for tourism, as far as Islam is concerned, is a purposeful activity.

Therefore, the idea of travelling and tourism is deeply rooted in the Islamic tradition. Allah the Almighty urges the believers to go all over the earth to reflect on His creation: For example, we read in the Qur’an,

{Say: “Go all over the earth and behold how [wondrously] He has created [man] in the first in­stance: and thus, too, will God bring into being your second life for, verily, God has the power to will anything!} (Al-`Ankabut 29: 20)

{Have they, then, never journeyed about the earth, letting their hearts gain wisdom, and causing their ears to hear? Yet, verily, it is not their eyes that have become blind - but blind have become the hearts that are in their breasts!} (Al-Hajj 22: 46)

Travelling for tourism, as far as Islam is concerned, is a purposeful activity. When a Muslim travels, he or she wants to achieve spiritual, social, and physical goals. The spiritual goal helps the Muslim to serve God in the best way. By travelling, for example, to visit relatives, a Muslim strengthens the social bonds. The physical goal lets the Muslim lead a life free of stress and become healthy.

Therefore, traveling and tourism help Muslims to reflect on the beauty of God’s creation and its marvelous manifestations. Tourism raises one’s awareness and helps him know much about different cultures and traditions. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that there is nothing wrong with tourism in Islam. This is the original ruling pertaining to everything unless there is a religious text that prohibits it.

Rise of Islamists and Tourism

The rise of Islamists, whether salafis or ikhwan, in parliamentary elections in Tunisia and Egypt has aroused fears among liberal trends that Islamists could impose and enact laws that may harm the tourism industry.

In fact, tourism is a major market and a key pillar in the economy of some Muslim countries like Egypt, Malaysia, and Turkey. The fears of the liberalists proved unfounded. We have not heard about any official statement by any Islamist trend that they plan to block the tourism industry.

It is wrong to limit tourism to drinking alcohol and skimpy beachwear. The concept of tourism is much wider.

What is saddening is that, in most talk shows, strong emphasis is placed on distorting the image of Islamic movements or Islamists so that they look frightening. Whenever there is a guest form an Islamic group or party, the presenter puts him under pressure to define the group’s or the party’s stance on a wide range of controversial issues like hijab or niqab, the application of hudud (Shari`ah fixed penalties), the tourism industry, etc. No member of an Islamic group or party is asked about their political, cultural, or social program.

It is wrong to limit tourism to drinking alcohol and skimpy beachwear. The concept of tourism is much wider. People travel to another country for recreation, receiving medical treatment, attending conferences and workshops, shopping, sports, adventures, etc. All this can be practiced without breaking the cultural or religious traditions of the countries they are visiting.
Tourists do not come to Muslim countries to drink alcohol because it is prohibited in their countries or to date because their culture condemns this practice. It is the culture and traditions that set the framework for such practices.

If there are some who still think that tourism should be ended, they are surely mistaken. Tourism is a good opportunity for introducing Islam to people of other faith communities. After the Arab Spring revolutions, those interested in Da`wah activities started to use tourist attractions and present Islam to tourists. In front of the Citadel in Egypt, you will find now a stand which has some books about Islam and Muslims. The organizers of this Discover Islam campaign say that they distribute over 400 books a day. This is how people know about the religion of Islam.

When it comes to historical statues or temples of previous nations, a large number of scholars argue that as long as such statues are not worshipped besides God, they should not be destroyed because they are part of the history of the country in question. This is what happened when`Amr ibn al-`As, the great Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, came to Egypt. He did not destroy the statues because the Egyptian Christians did not worship them and they did not threaten the Muslims’ beliefs. When Muslims entered Afghanistan and India, they did not destroy the statues there.

At the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) the people of Quraysh worshipped statues. Therefore, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not enter Makkah before destroying the statues. So, the ruling differs from one situation to another.

Respecting Cultures and Ethics

Tourists should respect the culture of Muslim countries. I am sure if the tourists are introduced to tourism in Muslim countries through a good marketing, they will respect the norms and traditions and they will not violate them. Tourism companies should provide information and tips on their websites and promotion materials about the teachings of Islam. Tourists should know that Islam prohibits alcohol and nudity, so they will avoid such things in public.

The British Queen wore hijab when she visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi in 2007 out of respect for the traditions in UAE. This is because the one who escorted her told her about the Islamic etiquette of entering mosques.
Islamists’ Promotion of Tourism

Islamic parties have good programs for boosting the tourism industry.

When you are in authority, there is a responsibility and accountability. A spokesman of Al-Nour, the Egyptian salafi political party, told a gathering in the ancient city of Aswan: “We are not going to close temples. We are not going to order the tourists to cover up or put restrictions on their freedoms.” (Washington Times) Essam El-Erian, deputy head of the Freedom and Justice Party of Egypt said: "No citizen who makes a living from tourism should be worried."

One wonders why there is always a call for doing things the wrong way. Tourism does not have to be unethical so that the income will increase. Ethics and values should be fostered. Islamic parties have good programs for boosting the tourism industry but they do not have the chance of presenting such programs in a proper way. They are busy all the time with defining their position pertaining to tourism. Islamic movements should work on ethical and cultural tourism and products to support this important market.

[Mohsen Haredy is a contributing writer and counselor of Reading Islam. He graduated from Al-Azhar University and earned his MA in Hadith literature from Leiden University, the Netherlands. Currently, he is an overseas PhD student at Leiden University.]

(Courtesy: OnIslam.net)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on January 20, 2012. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on January 20, 2012. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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