What is Religious Tourism?
The large tourism industry encompasses various sectors, one of which is “religious tourism”. All religions around the world have different religious places, works, traditions and rituals that have become one of their major tourist attractions. In the meantime, Islam and Muslims have an important role to play in this branch of tourism. The pilgrimage, pilgrimage to the holy places, and mourning or religious celebrations of Muslims are some of the biggest religious tourism events in the world. If you want to find out more about religious tourism in Iran and around the world, join us.
For many thousands of years, travel has been an integral part of human entertainment. In the past, the concept of travel meant only going elsewhere for fun, but as societies evolved and became travel and the “tourism industry”, the general concepts were replaced by different categories, each providing a specific definition of travel. “Religious tourism” is one of the subdivisions of the tourism industry and is of particular importance. These trips are not exclusively for Muslims, and followers of other religions also go on religious trips based on their religious beliefs and works and remnants of their religion. Religious tourism has also entered into world trade today and is progressing day by day. Due to the importance of religious travel, especially in Iran, we are going to introduce religious tourism in detail.
The concept of religious tourism
Traveling is about acquainting people with different cultures and religions and connecting them in spite of differences. Religious tourism has existed throughout the world for centuries, dating back to the religious culture of all religions. Religious tourism generally refers to trips whose primary purpose is religious experience. Religious tourists may often go to a religious place, and once visiting the place does not prevent them from frequent trips.
First, it should be noted that “religious tourism” cannot be replaced by the word “pilgrimage”. In the pilgrimage you go to the sacred place of your religion for pilgrimage. For example, Shiites go to Mashhad for the purpose of pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Reza. But in religious tourism, a Muslim may travel to another city to visit the historic church. In religious tourism, the purpose of travel is not merely a pilgrimage or religious practice, and includes a wider range of religious travel. For example, attending religious conferences, cultural-religious events, and performing religious music concerts are other than religious tourism.
So there are three types of religious tourism:
One of the pilgrims or those whose purpose of travel is solely for religious purposes and the exact time and length of their stay at the destination does not depend on their leisure time;
And another is a religious tourist who does not travel solely for pilgrimage and may visit non-pilgrimage and recreational places in addition to religious and pilgrimage activities, but their first priority is pilgrimage.
There is another category: those who visit the religious sites of their religion and the second category are those who visit the religious sites of other religions.
Religious sites, including shrines and sacred sites, are tourist attractions of any country. Religious tourism is the only trip that is not affected by climate barriers. In other forms of tourism, the climate has a significant impact on the choice of travel destination, climate change decreases the number of tourists and visits to tourist cities, but religious tourism overcomes these changes. People like to travel because of their beliefs, even in difficult times.
Other things that distinguish religious tourism from other trips are the types of services offered to travelers. Depending on the social, cultural and ideological context of the tourists and the host city, the accommodation and catering facilities have their own characteristics.
Features of Religious Tourism
Religious tourism has its own characteristics, some of which are:
1. Religious places of pilgrimage are places to meet and interact with cultures and religions.
2. Religious trips have less environmental and socio-cultural negative impacts than other trips, perhaps due to the religious teachings and religious schools of tourists. Most religious tourists are quiet, peace-loving, law-abiding people.
3. All people of all walks of life, whether poor or rich, can go on such trips. So religious tourism is not limited to a specific class of society, so in some developing countries religious travel is the only opportunity for some social classes.
4. People who are more inclined to go on religious trips are often in search of spirituality, are not too diversified and prefer simplicity.
5. Most religious trips, such as the pilgrimage or pilgrimage, are organized in groups.
6. There are often markets in the sacred places of worship where old crafts, designs and antiquities of the area are offered.
7. Religious trips are often seasonal and take place at certain times of the year, such as the pilgrimage.
8. Religious tourism has a political aspect as well, which is why religious and sacred places are part of the nation’s national places and are used for national ceremonies and celebrations.
9. Some religious trips are forced or emphasized because tourists have to carry out their religious and religious orders. This makes the followers of that religion go on this journey, even once. A prominent example of such trips is the pilgrimage of the Muslim pilgrimage which obliges the Muslim to afford it.
Classification of types of religious tourism
Religious tourism can be divided into different aspects:
1. Length of stay
Religious tourism is divided into three general categories in terms of length of stay:
- Short-term Religious Tourism: Short-term religious trips are limited in location and occur at short intervals. On this trip, the person goes to a religious, local, regional or trans-regional area of influence or attends a religious celebration, conference or meeting. Such trips are short-term and destinations are close and do not include overnight stays.
- Long-term Religious Tourism: Long-term religious trips are those trips where one visits religious and sacred sites with local, regional, trans-regional, national or international influence or attends religious celebrations, conferences, or meetings. The journey takes several days or weeks.
2. Motivations and goals of the trip
- Pilgrimage and pilgrimage: On such trips one goes to shrines, mosques, churches, temples, monasteries, tombs, shrines, etc. If we look more closely at this from a religious point of view, such trips are divided into two types: the pilgrimage and pilgrimage tours, which include pilgrimages, pilgrimages, shrines and graves of elders. Religion, the womb, visiting the sick, doing good, helping the needy and orphans, etc., and advertising trips in which one promotes religion, and guidance.
- Attending religious conferences and celebrations: On these trips one goes solely to attend such events.
- Visiting Monuments and Architecture Religious Places: Some travel to visit religious monuments. For example, the historic church of St Stepanos is located in the city of Jolfa, and people, whether Muslims or followers of other religions, visit it.
3. How organized the trip is
In the features of religious tourism, we noted that these trips are often organized. This feature is divided into two categories:
- Unorganized forms of religious tourism: Such trips are those trips where one travels alone. According to the teachings of different religions, we rarely see such trips in religious tourism.
- Organized forms of religious tourism: Organized trips are organized according to several characteristics: The first is the number of participants. As we have said, most religious trips are group-based, so it is important for tourists to have the conviction of traveling with their peers. Again, the highlight of the pilgrimage is that people are sent by caravan in groups. The next major issue in organizing these trips is the mode of transportation. Until the middle of the 5th century, pilgrims traveled both on horseback and on foot around the world. They often used animals to move around.Today, however, people go on a pilgrimage on foot. Later, however, other means of transport such as buses, trains and airplanes were added and used by religious tourists today. Seasonal patterns are another factor in organizing trips. Some religious trips must take place at certain times of the year. The last feature of organizing religious trips is the social structure. Officials should pay close attention when organizing social structures such as age, gender, social status, and so on.
Travel and tourism from the perspective of the Holy Quran
Many verses of the Holy Qur’an emphasize travel and urge people to travel. There are verses in the Qur’an that directly invite people to travel, such as verse 1 of Surah Spider, verse 2 of Roman Surah, verse 2 of Surah Nallah, verse 2 of Nimr Surah, verse 1 of Surah Anam, and some of Surah Al-Amr and some of them in Al-Amr Al Indirectly it states such as verse 1 of Sura Yusuf, verse 2 of Roman sura, verse 2 of surat al-Furat, verse 2 of sura Ghafar and verse 2 of sura Muhammad.
The Qur’an encourages people to travel to see and learn from the past, to be grateful for the blessings of God, to know the creatures and blessings of God, to know the mystery of creation, to think about the various issues and conditions of the past. Understand the traditions of the past, travel on commerce and trade, circulate capital and the economy, and transmit culture, science, and civilization to other peoples. However, tourism is very important in the religion of Islam and has been emphasized more than other religions. For this reason, we consider religious tourism among Muslim nations:
Religious tourism in Islamic countries
There are many sacred and religious places around the world that belong to different religions and religions. But according to the teachings of Islam, religious tourism is more prominent among Muslims. Muslims around the world go to Mecca every year from the beginning of Islam to Mecca to observe the pilgrimage, or the Shiites and Ahl al-Bayt travel to Iran, Iraq and Syria for pilgrimage, or to other Islamic countries such as Egypt. And Yemen has mosques dating back to the early days of Islam and attracting many tourists.
Currently, world has 55 Islamic countries, most of which are located in the Middle East and on the African continent. In 2013, the World Tourism Organization ranked Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco as the first countries to attract foreign tourists among the Arab countries of the region. Religious Sites and historical Muslims put the word first in religious tourism around the world.
Religious Tourism in Iran
Iran, dating back thousands of years, holds many historical and religious monuments, and many prophets and religious elders have lived in the country, and today their tombs are a religious and religious destination for people from Iran and other countries around the world. Religion has played a very important role in the formation and development of some Iranian cities such as Mashhad, Qom, Shiraz, Qazvin, Shoush, Ardebil, Gonbad Kavous and others. About 2 prophets have been buried in Iran, including Daniel the Prophet, the Prophet Haqqiq, the Prophet Qaddari, Ishmael, Prophet Joshua, Prophet Khaled bin Sanan Abbas, the Prophet Shia, Prophet Hajji, Prophet Mordecai, Prophet Qadir, Prophet Rubil, Salam, Soheil and Alqaia pointed out.
In addition to the tombs, the tomb of the eighth Shi’ite Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Reza is located in Mashhad, making the city the religious capital of Iran. The shrine of this imam is of global value and every year millions of Muslims from all over the world travel to Mashhad for a variety of worship. The shrine of Hazrat Masoumeh, the dear sister of Imam Reza, also hosts Ahlul-Bayt lovers and is the center of Iranian religious universities and theology.
In addition to the aforementioned, there are some 1,600 Imamzadeh tombs throughout Iran, with Fars province being the number one imamzadeh. The shrine of Hazrat Shah Cheragh in Shiraz is their shining jewel. Mazandaran and Guilan provinces are ranked second and third, respectively. In addition to sacred sites and religious monuments, there are many religious rituals and ceremonies in Iran, each of which can bring a great deal of religious tourists to Iran. For example, the mourning ceremonies of Imam Hussein (AS) during the month of Muharram and Zerah such as chaining, breast-feeding, resurrection or carpet-cleaning in Mashhad Ardal can be included in religious tourists’ travel plans.
Another major religious event taking place in Iran is the Holy Quran Exhibition, coinciding with the holy month of Ramadan. This exhibition can become one of the biggest events in the Islamic world.
Iran’s religious tourism capacity for Muslims is very rich, but there are also well-known non-Islamic shrines in Iran that followers of other religions can count on for religious travel; non-Islamic religious sites include the “Check Czech” shrine in Yazd, Vanak Church In Isfahan, the “Church of the Church” in West Azerbaijan and “The Prophet Shemvil” in Saveh. Jews and adherents of Zoroastrianism can also visit sacred sites in Iran such as the Stromardkhai in Hamedan, the tomb of Cyrus in Pasargadae and temples and Zoroastrian temples in Yazd.