Siyaahah (travel and/or tourism) may mean many things, but in modern usage it is limited to a few meanings, which indicate moving about in the land for fun or to look at things, research and find out, and so on; not to earn money, work or settle there.
When discussing tourism from the point of view of Islamic sharee’ah, we must look at the following categories:
The concept of siyaahah in Islam
Islam came to change many of the distorted concepts that are held by imperfect human minds, and to connect them to the most sublime and honourable values and morals. In the minds of earlier nations, siyaahah was connected to the concept of self-punishment and forcing oneself to travel through the land, and exhausting the body as a punishment for it or as a way of shunning this world. Islam abolished this negative concept of siyaahah.
Ibn Haani’ narrated that Ahmad ibn Hanbal was asked: Is a man who travels about dearer to you, or one who stays in his city? He said: Siyaahah has nothing to do with Islam, and it is not the action of the Prophets or the righteous.
Talbees Iblees (340).
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali commented on the words of Imam Ahmad by saying:
Siyaahah in this sense was done by some groups who are known to strive in worship without knowledge; some of them gave up this activity when they realized that it was not right.
Fath al-Baari by Ibn Rajab (1/56).
Islam came to elevate the concept of siyaahah, and to connect it to great and noble aims, such as the following:
1. Connecting siyaahah to worship. So travel – or siyaahah – is enjoined in order to perform one of the pillars of Islam, namely Hajj during certain months, and ‘umrah to the House of Allaah is prescribed throughout the year. When a man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and asked him for permission for siyaahah (in the ancient sense of travelling as an act of asceticism or self-punishment only), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) guided him to something that is more sublime and better than siyaahah. He said to him: “The siyaahah of my ummah is jihad for the sake of Allaah.” Narrated by Abu Dawood (2486); classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood; its isnaad was classed as jayyid by al-‘Iraaqi in Takhreej Ihya’ ‘Uloom al-Deen (2641). Think about how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made a connection between the kind of siyaahah that is encouraged in sharee’ah and a great and noble aim.
2. In the Islamic worldview, siyaahah is also connected to knowledge and learning. The greatest journeys were undertaken at the beginning of Islam with the aim of seeking and spreading knowledge. al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi wrote a famous book called al-Rihlah fi Talab al-Hadeeth (Travelling to seek hadeeth) in which he compiled the names of those who travelled for the sake of a single hadeeth. For example one of the Taabi’een said concerning the verse in which Allaah says:
“(The believers whose lives Allaah has purchased are) those who turn to Allaah in repentance (from polytheism and hypocrisy), who worship (Him), who praise (Him), who fast (or go out in Allaah’s Cause), who bow down (in prayer), who prostrate themselves (in prayer), who enjoin (on people) Al‑Ma‘roof and forbid (people) from Al‑Munkar, and who observe the limits set by Allaah. And give glad tidings to the believers”
‘Ikrimah said: al-saa’ihoon (translated here aswho fast (or go out in Allaah’s Cause)) are the seekers of knowledge.
This was narrated by Ibn Abi Haatim in hisTafseer (7/429). See also Fath al-Qadeer(2/408).
Although the correct meaning according to the majority of the salaf is that what is meant by al-saa’ihoon is those who fast.
3. Another of the aims of siyaahah in Islam is to learn lessons and receive reminders. The command to travel about in the land appears in several places in the Qur’aan. Allaah says:
“Say (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم): Travel in the land and see what was the end of those who rejected truth”
“Say to them (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم): “Travel in the land and see how has been the end of the Mujrimoon (criminals, those who denied Allaah’s Messengers and disobeyed Allaah)”
al-Qaasimi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said they are the ones who go to different places to study the ruins and learn a lesson from them and seek other benefits.
Mahaasin al-Ta’weel (16/225).
4. Maybe the greatest aim of siyaahah in Islam is to call people to Allaah and to convey to mankind the light that was revealed to our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). This is the mission of the Messengers and Prophets and their companions after them (may Allaah be pleased with them). The companions of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) spread throughout the world, teaching the people goodness and calling them to the message of truth. We hope that the concept of siyaahah today will try to achieve the same great aims.
5. Finally, siyaahah in Islam also includes travelling to ponder the wonders of Allaah’s creation and to enjoy the beauty of this great universe, so that it will make the human soul develop strong faith in the oneness of Allaah and will help one to fulfil the obligations of life. Relaxation is essential to enable one to strive hard after that.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Say: Travel in the land and see how (Allaah) originated the creation, and then Allaah will bring forth the creation of the Hereafter (i.e. resurrection after death). Verily, Allaah is Able to do all things”
And Allah knows best.