Islamic ruling regarding sailing by sea
Fatwa No: 82854

Question

Is there a Hadith that forbids sailing by sea unless we are going to Hajj or Umra or Mujahideen Fi Sabeel Allah. Is it a verified one? Can we sail for travelling or not?

Answer

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.

Dear brother,
Allah has favoured us with the ability of sailing. Allah Says this in many verses. Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {He it is Who enables you to travel through land and sea,}[10:22] Allah also Says: {and the ships which sail through the sea with that which is of use to mankind,}[2:164]. The scholars say that this verse is an evidence that it is lawful to go sailing while travelling or fighting in Jihad or seeking any other benefit. This lawfulness is limited to taking all precautionary measures before going into water. Before starting to sail, one should make sure that the sea at that time is not rough or agitated, that the boat he is using is good for sailing as it is the case of most boats nowadays.
So, if the safety side is more probable according to the general facts of sailing one could go sailing. But if the sea at the expected time of sailing is running high or could be rough according to the experts in the field, it becomes prohibited to embark upon it as this is exposing oneself to great danger. The Prophet said: "Whoever spends his night sleeping on a roof where there is no wall to stop his feet (from letting him fall down while asleep) the result of his act is not rewardable and it may even be blame worthy and whoever goes sailing in the sea while it is agitated the result of his act is not rewardable and it may even be blame worthy". [Ahmad]
Also, if the boat is out of order or not good for sailing, its rule is similar to the rule of the rough sea as in both cases the person endangers his life.
As for the Hadith you mentioned, it is narrated by Abu Dawood and others. But all its narrators mention that it is not sound or that its chain is unknown. So, it is a weak Hadith.
Allah knows best.

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