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Travel Advisory - How Far Will You Go? Print

How far will you go?

December is travel time. With the onset of traditional school and business holidays, like migrating birds many a journey gets undertaken by us humans. From local short hops to holiday resorts within ones own country to intercontinental travel locations, pilgrimages or exploring exotic destinations, people are on the move.

Unlike the bygone era of leisurely travel by rail or steamships which expended most of the vacation time getting to your destination, we live in the jet age of high speed travel and communication. All praise is due to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala for giving man the ingenuity by which within hours of beginning a journey he is at his destination in a far-off land.

However, this advancement has not come without a price or drawbacks. In the rush for technological progress, a largely secular world has relegated or ignored the spiritual needs of the Muslim traveller in terms of facilities for ablution, prayer and dietary requirements, all of which are fundamental to the faith. There is also the current trend of long-drawn security checks and specific racial/cultural profiling of travellers which, despite denials by authorities, is a reality that affects Muslims more than anyone else and creates undue hardships and untold frustrations.

Where does that leave the Muslim traveller? What are the alternatives? We are a global Ummah and it is our God-given right to travel the Universe in search of knowledge, for business, recreation and Da’wah.

In consultation with the official travel agent of SANHA, the Marathon Travel group, we have put together a travel advisory based on their experiences over seventeen years in the field of local and international travel. They specialize in Hajj, Umrah and Middle East tours and have associate offices all over the world.

The advisory is in two parts. The first regarding procedure (see below). The second part dealing with food, on board as well as at your destination and other related issues will be published in the next Halaal Bulletin, Insha-Allah.

It is by no means conclusive. We invite readers to contribute to this advisory with their experiences and suggestions.

Happy travelling, May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala make your journey a safe one, Aameen.

Editor

Travel Advisory

Part 1

  1. Advance Planning

    Plan your trip well in advance to take advantage of best routes, fares and accommodation. There is no substitute for knowledge and experience. A reputable travel agent can save you money and unnecessary aggravation as many of them and their staff have undertaken the journey themselves.

    Where choices exist on destinations, a good travel agent can advise you on hotspots of prejudice and crime that can be avoided and recommend alternative destinations that are user-friendly to people of all religions.

    Elders of the community are another source of valuable advice.

  2. Time – friend or foe

    The management of your time and punctuality will determine whether it works in your favour or against you. Be at the airport at least three hours before international flights and at least an hour prior to local flights to facilitate smooth check-in procedures.

    Another element to be factored in are the delays caused by the increase in vehicular traffic on the motorways and at the airports which has a knock-on effect to the check-in process.

  3. Luggage on

    In today’s world of mass manufacture, many of the luggages seen at airport carousels appear to be similar or identical. For easy retrieval personalize your luggage with bold and unique identification markings that can be spotted from a distance. Depending on the airline and your class of ticket, baggage allowance vary from 20kg to 30kg(note that a single piece of luggage may not exceed 32kg). Cabin bags are limited to 7kg and dimensions of no more than 23cm wide, 52cm long and 40cm high.

    Ensure that you adhere to the prescribed limits no matter how difficult or inconvenient it is. Do not indulge in any unislamic actions such as offering a "gift" in exchange of favours on extra weight. Why set a bad example to your family members and discredit Islam with such unsavoury actions? And to think that some of these journeys are at the beginning of a pilgrimage.

  4. Security Checks

    As mentioned earlier, expect these checks to increase in frequency, intensity and in some cases even hostility. Unfortunately, with the present atmosphere of Islamophobia do not expect less. Be absolutely courteous at all times, no matter how trivial or ludicrous the request.

    In one instance a Muslim brother was asked to take a drink from his half filled bottle of water. What were they thinking? Was the brother going to force feed the pilot and crew so that they may experience the urge to make an emergency landing for relief?

    Please appreciate the fact that these officials are underlings and foot soldiers doing their job on instructions of their superiors. The fact that some of them maybe over zealous in their duty, should not distract you from your path of “resolute peace.”

    You should be a shining example of good conduct against the darkness of prejudice. Please request to be present and that a female official conduct body searches if female members of the family are to be searched. Most airports comply with this request. Note the date, time, details and names of officials if you wish to lodge a complaint but this must be done without confrontation and in writing for best results.

  5. Consideration for others

    Whilst the obligation to perform our prayers is not revoked when travelling, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in His infinite mercy, has given us concessions. Please ensure that ablution and prayer is done in a manner that gives due consideration to the rights and comforts of fellow travellers, both Muslims and others. Always seek out a quiet spot or politely request assistance from an official.

    As for ablution, leave the area in a better or at least the same condition than you found it in even if it means mopping up excess water around the basin and floor area. No job was too humble or menial for our Prophet peace be upon him

    Remember that travel exposes one to a world of different cultures, beliefs, values and temperaments. It is our duty to rise above all of this with understanding and tolerance.

  6. Luggage off

    It is a fact of the jet age that despite all the modernisation and embracing of technology, a percentage of luggage gets damaged or lost. It is the most depressing feeling to arrive at your destination only to find your luggage has not. Anger and frustration is totally understandable in the circumstances but what is unforgivable, is the venting of rage on a helpless baggage claims clerk. Remember he or she did not play in any part in having your luggage going astray or being damaged. Please exercise patience and follow up your claim diligently. Always keep checked baggage receipts safely which is required to submit claims for lost/damaged luggage. Most airlines deliver the lost luggage to your holiday address within 24 to 36 hours. Always remember to pack some basic toiletries and a change of clothes in your hand luggage just in case.

    The second part of this advisory will follow in our next bulletin, Insha-Allah. Editorial - How far will you go?

    The adage 'when in Rome do' as the Romans do might have been politically correct when citizens of the then vast Empire visited their capital, but it certainly cannot supersede or be juxtaposed with Islamic laws.

    Islam embraces and adopts that which is good and serves the Cause, whilst it rejects outright anything that goes against Islamic laws and is detrimental to the community. Its the application of this principle that gives rise to inner conflicts leading to compromise and double standards. This seems to be more prevalent during travel.

    Matters come to a head when travellers are away from their creature comforts at home which they have grown accustomed to and encounter difficulties. It is during these crucial times that thirsty, hungry and fatigued travellers allow their guard to slip with little compromises which they justify with their own interpretation.

    This is the time when notions like it is “kosher” to eat food of the people of the book, or a superficial check of a restaurant menu for the family’s meal, or glibly accepting the word of a person serving the food because he has a Muslim sounding name and looks of a middle eastern origin or the fact that you are in a hotel in an “Islamic country” becomes suddenly appealing.

    Nothing comes without sacrifice and at a price. Travel certainly broadens the mind and the experiences teach us to appreciate the diversity of mankind. However, it has its own inherent pitfalls which can be avoided by your firm resolve and heeding the advisory that we have prepared for you.

    This is the second and final part of the advisory, and is a continuation of the one published on 1/12/2006. It draws benefit from the experience of the long established Marathon Travel Group. We pray that you have a safe and successful journey.

    Fi Amanillah and Was Salaam.

  7. Editor

    Travel Advisory (Part 2)

    • FOOD AT AIRPORTS

      Be vigilant about the food outlets where you purchase your meal. In particular, non-Muslim owned places, with Haraam food or alcohol on their menus cannot be patronised. Remember that there is a high risk of contamination and Haraam ingredients could also be lurking in a host of foods such as sauces, breads, soups, etc.

    • FOOD ON BOARD

      The SANHA experience over the years has demonstrated major flaws in the checks and balances of several airline catering kitchens despite the designation of meals as Muslim meal, Asian, vegetarian, seafood etc. Many airlines too do not fully comprehend the true meaning and requirements of Halaal and rely on their concept which is, “no wine-no pork equals Halaal.”

      For local short haul flights the safest and most nutritious is a fruit platter ordered in advance. For long haul flights this can be supplemented with your own supply of a variety of snack type foods such as nuts, biscuits, dried fruit, confectionary etc. Health store shelves also have many interesting wholesome snack variations. Ensure that you retain the original packing as this helps through the security checks and also retains freshness. What may not be accepted is prepared and certain processed foods. Your delicious home cooked meals run the risk of being confiscated and so too does fresh fruit and vegetables.

    • FOOD AT YOUR DESTINATION

      Different standards apply in different countries. Whilst locals in some places may find it acceptable to partake of meals in restaurants that serve alcohol and some of these restaurants could even hold a Halaal certificate of some unscrupulous local body, remember that this is taboo in terms of the Shari’ah. Do not abandon your usual high standards on any occasion. Contact the SANHA helpline for the details of a reputable local Halaal authority to assist you in making your journey spiritually safer. Also avoid the temptation of indulging in “street” or any other food on which you have no information. Ask, ask, ask and if in doubt, leave it out.

      Did you know that the "Cricket-lick-it lollipop" from Texas contains a real cricket? In Japan if you were served "hachi-no-ko" and "inago", you would be eating boiled wasp larvae and fried rice-field grasshopper. The "red jelly candy cubes" sold extensively all over Vietnam is in reality made from the blood of pigs, poultry and other animals. "Chitterling" in France are the intestines of young pigs and in China anything that moves is considered fair game.

      Outside South Africa, extensive use of lard and tallow is made as a shortening agent in breads, rolls and cakes. The fish burger that you have assumed as safe could contain Haraam meat livestock or pig fat.

      Stick to bottled water and avoid tap water. Peel your own fruit after washing it with your bottled water. Pre-peeled fruit from street vendors would be risky.

    • MEDICATION

      Ensure that all medication is carried in its original sealed packaging, e.g. Aspirin. Prescription medicine must be accompanied by a doctor’s prescription and as additional security, a letter from your doctor will help. Medication and personal hygiene items such as cough medicine, deodorants, etc. in liquid form are not permitted.
 
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