Praying in public is often thought of as being intimidating, especially when you’re a traveller far from home. The act of prayer is usually done in discreet, for the quiet is preferred for us to focus on the task at hand. But sometimes, we don’t have access to designated prayer spaces and will have to make do with praying in public. Calm your heart for it doesn’t have to be a scary experience! Here are some tips to help you remain at ease even when praying in public.
Know the prayer timings and plan your day around them
On a busy day shuffling from one tourist attraction to the next, it is easy to overlook the clock and you may end up missing a prayer. Hence, knowing the prayer timings beforehand can help you plan a better itinerary and ensure you make time to pray promptly.
This would also give you a rough idea of where you will be during prayer times so you could look up if your location has designated or suitable areas for you to pray at. Save yourself the trouble of trying to find prayer rooms during the trip itself, and do the research before your trip. It’s best to print or screenshot the timings and locations in case you don’t have data or WiFi while travelling!
Visit the local mosque
This is especially useful if it’s hard to find much information about the place you’re heading to. The mosque is akin to a hub for the community and a great starting point to ask local Muslims on their expertise on where to go, what to eat and other prayer spaces they might know about!
Look out for multi-faith halls
These multi-faith halls can also be called meditation rooms and are used by people of any faith to either carry out their own religious obligations or have a place to rest. So make sure you’re respectful and considerate when sharing the space.
You’ll usually find them in airports or malls – just ask the concierge or information desk if such a space is available and often you’ll be kindly referred to them.
Request to pray in Muslim-owned establishments
If you’re having lunch at a halal eatery or shopping in a Muslim-owned shop, try starting with a Salaam and politely ask the shop owners if they could offer you a small secluded corner for you to do your prayers. They are likely to oblige to your request, knowing the importance of keeping to the prayer schedule themselves.
However, don’t take offense if they do not! It could be space constraints or a busy hour at the shop, and it’s probably not that they don’t want accommodate you but that they cannot.
Changing room hacks
Praying in fitting rooms have been a go-to for many Muslims. Under the guise of trying something on, head to a fitting room and perform your prayers in moderate privacy of a public space.
A quick tip: if the shop is fairly unoccupied, you can consider being upfront with the fitting room attendant that you intend to pray. It would give you a peace of mind knowing you’ve made your intention clear and the attendant would not be knocking on your door, checking if you’re okay while you’re trying to focus on your prayers. Who knows, you might even be given the largest fitting room to accommodate your request!
Another common public space to pray at would be nursing rooms and staircases. If you’re alone, do take care to keep your valuables within view!
Be considerate of areas with heavy human traffic
Sometimes the only option you have is to pray in open spaces like the park or a corner of the amusement theme park. It might seem intimidating to have passers-by peek with curiosity as you pray so publicly but ease your heart – they are probably just curious.
When you do have to pray in an open public space, it’s good to be mindful of other users and not pray in a heavy pedestrian-traffic area. This is also to avoid someone accidentally knocking over you!
Note: There are some places which do not allow public displays of religion so, in these places, you would not be permitted to pray in public at all.
Choose to travel light and conveniently
When you’re out and about, it is best to be prepared and carry your own set of prayer garment and a travel prayer mat. This way, if you do have to pray in an open public space like in point 7, you’ll have something clean to rest your head upon. For ladies, a one-piece telekung is a definite must for its sheer convenience!
Travel prayer mats come in a variety of sizes and materials so there’s definitely one to fit your preference. We recommend going for a waterproof, pocket-sized one that is durable and light which makes for easy packing! Some even come with a compass so figuring out the Qiblat would be much easier.
Remember your intention
After these tips, you might still feel apprehensive or even worried about having to pray in public. But comfort your heart with the knowledge that we pray as an act of worship to God and in this obligation, we seek refuge in Him. When we internalise the importance of our daily prayers, it would feel less daunting to perform it in public.
In fact, we realize that somehow the path to prayer is eased when we have the intention to perform prayer, no matter how difficult it may seem.
Praying in public can create some memorable experiences, whether it’s your first time or in a foreign place. It may feel scary at first but take comfort in knowing that prayers are meant to ease our lives and normalising praying in public could certainly strengthen that faith, insyaAllah!0