Muslims performing ‘Asr prayer in Hyde Park, London
Being a Muslim is both a blessing and a challenge. Despite the rising Islamophobia in Europe, the European people are generally warm and welcoming to the Muslims. The most important challenges for Muslims in Europe are praying and getting halal food.
London Central Mosque
Although France has the highest percentage of Muslims in Western Europe, the UK provides more freedom to the Muslims. Thus, it’s very exciting and inspiring to be a Muslim traveler in the UK.
You can pray in the airport waiting area, in the park, in the corner of a building – no one judges you. You are simply practicing your religion. There are lots of mosques throughout the UK. London Central Mosque for example, can hold more than 5000 worshippers at a time. It also has a bookshop and halal cafe (cheap and nice foods) in its premises. It is well guarded by security officers.
Elsewhere in Europe, you can find mosques too, although not as big as London Central Mosque. Big cities usually have a few mosques. Malaysian Muslim travelers usually plan to save money on accommodation by sleeping in the mosque. Sometimes they are lucky, but most of the times it is forbidden. European mosques are usually closed after Isha’ – nobody is allowed to sleep in mosques unless permitted by the mosque administrations.
Inside London Central Mosque
Praying – a good Muslim traveler would have memorized the prayer times. Winter has short daylights, thus shortening the time for Zuhr, Asr and Maghrib prayers. But as travelers, the rule of combining and shortening the prayers may apply. Some say the ruling applies only for three days, some say five, some say 18 days. The ruling for wiping socks can be applied too. There’s also the issue of not knowing the direction of the Qiblah and praying on a transport. Refer Travel Fatwa and Wiping Socks.
Halal food – it’s not hard to find halal food in big cities of Europe. In the UK, the Pakistanis open a lot of halal cafes. In France, it’s the Arabs and North Africans. In Germany and Austria, it’s the Turks. Their food is usually the cheapest in town and their meats are quite nice too. If you have friends in your destination, it’s easier to get nicer halal foods at a cheaper price. Malaysian Students Department in London has a cafe in the basement, it’s not cheap, but it’s something Malaysian 😉
Visiting churches – Churches are abundant in Europe, there’s nothing wrong with visiting them, admiring their architecture and artistic works. If your faith is strong enough, visiting a church is going to be another enjoyable trip.
Maksiat! – lots of maksiats in Europe, best way to avoid them is to not travel at all. Running away from the problem won’t solve the problem. Good Muslims travel to Europe not because they should stop the maksiats, but they should learn to understand the European people and culture despite the maksiats and learn some lessons. Refer al-Hujurat, verse 13; al-An’am, verse 6; ar-Rum, verse 42.
Bonding – being a Muslim is more than just praying and eating halal food. Bonding with the local Muslims can give a great spiritual effect. Talk to them about being Muslims in Russia and in Malaysia and ask them about being a Muslim in Europe. Exchanging stories can be fun when meeting new people. Just don’t fall into anything extreme or radical!