For Muslims around the world, it’s that time of the year once again. The time for spiritual reflection, renewal, and fasting. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which falls during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar is an annual occurrence that begins with the sighting of the moon.
The practice of dedicating a month to fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. From sun-up to sun-down, practicing Muslims abstain from food, drink and marital relations in order to focus on spiritual rejuvenation. Past sunset, the fast is broken by iftar (a small sunset meal to end the fast) followed by suhoor (a pre-dawn meal) at around 5am before the next fasting day begins. Ramadan is also a time for generosity and charity.
Although many are familiar with fasting in their home country, what is Ramadan like for Muslims that somehow find themselves having to deal with travel plans that have been scheduled for the month of Ramadan? What will they have to look out for, especially if visiting non-Muslim majority countries?
Here are some tips on how to be better prepared for your trip as a practicing Muslim during the time of Ramadan.
Planning makes things easier
There is always the chance that the area you’re visiting may not have many establishments that provide Halal food. In these types of cases, it’s always a good idea to keep an emergency iftar kit with you at all times during your travels. Try to keep a small packet of dates or a few protein bars as well as a bottle of water in case of any unforeseen circumstances that may arise at the moment you need to break your fast. A lot of things can go wrong during a trip, from dealing with delayed flights to getting stuck in traffic or losing your baggage. As long as you have some emergency rations, breaking your fast shouldn’t be a problem.
Be sure to also stock up on food for suhoor. Before reaching the hotel or place of accommodation, look for a shop nearby where you can get simple items of food if necessary. This will ensure that you’ve got enough energy to last the whole day while you scout around for nearby restaurants that serve Halal food for your next iftar.
Don’t forget to bring along prayer supplies when travelling to non-Muslim countries so you can perform your prayers with ease. Muslims do not require too much in order to perform their prayers. A clean area or a prayer mat and water for wudhu (ablutions) as well as knowing the direction to Mecca are more than sufficient as long as you are adequately dressed. Today, you can get portable prayer kits such as this one. You may also be able to find a kit that has a portable spray or water source for wudhu.
Get smart with Ramadan apps
We live in an era of incredible connectivity and innovation. Why not make use of technology in order to fulfil your religious obligations? There are plenty of apps online available for download that can help you keep track of prayer times, locate mosques for prayers and find Halal restaurants. iOS and Android users can try Muslim Pro, which offers an entire copy of the Qu’ran, among other goodies. For more inspiration, browse through this list of apps for Muslim travellers.
Seek out mosques and Muslim communities
Before your trip, try getting in touch with local mosques and Muslim communities around the location you’ll be visiting. By doing this, not only will it be possible for you to have friendly faces waiting to greet you at the end of your flight, you may also be able to get help from local Muslims that already know the ins and outs of the country. Additionally, you will be able to experience the diversity that Islam has to offer during Ramadan.
Be prepared for suhoor and iftar
Sometimes you may be tempted to skip suhoor due to the fatigue of travelling. It’s advised that you wake up and eat at least a little, as it is the most important meal of the day for Muslims that are fasting. It’s an important source of energy, especially for travellers that need all the energy they can get while travelling. The Prophet also said: Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing.
Travelling to other Muslim countries should generally be less challenging as finding places to break your fast may not be a problem. In any case, pack some food for suhoor and make sure you find some good sources of energy, opting for healthier options whenever possible. Bread, yogurt or power bars from the grocery store may be good purchases for your late night meal (granted you read the ingredients beforehand).
You may be travelling and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan but you can still enjoy special concessions that are granted to Muslim travellers even on normal days. These concessions include performing jam’ qasr or shortening and combining your prayers and can make things much easier for Muslims that are travelling.
An important note to remember is that it is only permissible to combine Dhuhr with Asr, and Maghrib with Isha. No other combination of prayers will be accepted. While Dhuhr, Asr and Isha prayers may be shortened to two rakaahs instead of four, reducing the number of rakaats for Maghrib and Fajr is not allowed.