Travelling is an Islamic endeavour, backed by Quranic verses such as ‘Say, [Oh Muhammad, PBUH], “Travel through the land and observe how He began creation.”’ (29:20, Quran)”. The Thomson Reuters report estimates that Muslim populations globally spending have reached a total of $151 billion on travel in 2015 (excluding Hajj and Umrah). This is a growth of 4.9 percent from the previous year, and is higher than the 3 percent increase in the global market. This report also estimates the revenues derived from Muslim Friendly Travel services to be worth $24 billion in 2015.
A report entitled Tourism and the Halal Industry: A Global Shariah Perspective, authored by Professor Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali, founding CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia stated,
“Upon first glance, Islamic tourism seems only to cater for the needs of millions of Muslims around the globe who are performing ḥajj or umrah, visiting Mecca and Medina, or the shrines of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq. In several ways Islamic tourism is lagging behind more conventional forms of international tourism and has yet to achieve its full capacity”
A variable integral to viewing the halal travel industry from a global sharia perspective is regarding Muslim dietary rules. These rules have also assumed new significance in the travel industry because such rules as many Muslims are demonstrating, conform to the findings of scientific research on healthy food. Halāl certification procedures ensure such attributes as attractiveness, quality, cleanliness, and clean operations in ḥalāl food chains and storage provided at tourist spots. Even from a macro perspective, the absence of unified standards in Halal tourism affects the confidence of consumers as “Halal” or “Muslim-friendly” have varying levels of compliance.
From a fiqh perspective, the question of halal and haram is dictated by Quran and Sunnah, and any lacunas or obscurities in those sources is complemented by other sources such as ijma’, ijtihad and the opinions and methods of interpretation of prominent schools of thoughts such as Hanafi, Shafi’I, Maliki, and Hanbali. It is at times affected by the culture and customs of a specific community too. As quoted from Tourism and the Halal Industry: A Global Shariah Perspective by Professor Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali:
“The Ḥanafī Muslims of Pakistan, for example, do not take prawns, notwithstanding the clear ḥadīth text to the effect that “the sea is clean, its water is clean and so is the dead of the sea.”49 It is also true that not all sea creatures are perceived to be equally clean and ḥalāl for public consumption. Horse meat and camel meat are also lawful to eat, yet customary practice in many Asian countries has not encouraged their consumption. People’s living conditions and natural environment play a role as well in determining of their customary practices and choices of food.”
All of this affects the halal tourism industry and the ability for suppliers to adapt to the customs and ensure that they are compliant with halal standards is important to access the market. It involves matters such as ensuring that alcoholic substances do not end up being mixed with halal products at hotel accommodations. The providing of prayer places is also an important matter to consider, something that is universal across all halal travel sectors.
Challenges still abound, the next step is for countries from the OIC and other nations looking to access the halal travel sector, need to set a more standard criteria of halal certification for more broad-ranging services. The fiqh of halal travel often shows encouragement for a Muslim to be able to experience other parts of the world, but it is the duty of all players to provide the most Shariah-compliant means to do so.