“Be in this world as though you were a stranger or a wayfarer.” (Hadith 40)
We are all on this continuous journey, moving towards the gardens of Jannah in our hearts and in the heavens. This hadith conveys a strong notion of detachment. The Prophet (SallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) once said: “What is the dunya for me. An example of me and the dunya is that of a traveller who naps under the shade of a tree, then departs and leaves it.” [Reported by Ahmad and Al-Tirmidhi].
Travelling acts as a reminder. This idea of being able to be detached from this dunya and not allowing it to become home – is essential to all Muslims. It subtly reminds you, living in this world should be a constant state of transit.
As we travel in the literal sense, be it plane, boat or foot, we automatically travel on a metaphysical and spiritual level. Travelling reminds us of our purpose on this earth and where we are ultimately striving to. Travelling through the world is symbolic of yourself. Your whole life is a process of journeying, whilst truly never arriving at a destination. Our existence “is a constant quest for mizan (balance) and harmony”, (Shaykh Fadhlalla). And as we inwardly travel for our spiritual growth, it is equally important we outwardly travel for the same purpose.
Travelling is perspective, which at times can only be achieved through the departure of our everyday surroundings. Travelling can, however, be a privileged experience. With an increasingly bordered world, geographically and socially constructed, it can at times feel inaccessible. I’m not saying book yourself flights to the furthest place across the ocean but go somewhere, maybe a different city or town and perhaps just for a few days, explore the you, away from the everyday 9-5 living.
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As cliché as it may be when saying, “through travel you find yourself”, it holds truth. We often become a creature of habit and who we really are becomes somewhat lost. So venture the real you in different surroundings, where boundaries are pushed and routines escaped. At first, you may find yourself nervous, but eventually, you will become a little bit braver and a little less inhibited. Not trying to romanticize travelling, but it can provide you with renewed senses, like a child you want to taste, smell, touch and see everything. To smile and hold a conversation with everyone you meet. It becomes more of a rediscovery of yourself than a discovery of anywhere new.
Travelling is humbling and helps us practice humility. Often it provides you with that much needed spiritual renewal. When work, errands and surviving becomes your entire being, it becomes easy to miss the Divine beauty and lose touch and sight of His creation. When you travel you actively seek it all. You want to visit every mountain, forest, desert and sea; all emblematic of God’s vastness, Al-Wasi. And nothing is more humbling than when you realise how little humans occupy in comparison to the natural wonders of the world.
Rumi reminds us;
“Witness His wonders, lose yourself in awe,
When one beholds the wonders of God
abandoning pride and the claims of the ego
contemplating His work, you find your true station
and fall into the silence concerning the Maker.
Then you will say from the depths of your soul,
“I cannot praise you enough”.
This spiritual journey that opens for you when you travel is unlike any other. When you come across places of new heights or tranquillity, the world almost stops – just for you to say SubhanAllah. Through travel, you are continuously invited to have moments of remembrance and reflection of our connection with our Lord.
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Travelling is ummah. The word ummah in loose definition means community. And I have never really felt the depth of the word until I travelled. From the moment you enter the airport and you see your fellow Muslims who are also waiting to be “randomly” checked. Or when you wait in the airport prayer rooms and exchange pleasantries with sisters from all over the world in broken languages and unifying smiles. From when you are sick and the Muslim aunties of the world, hug you, care for you and rub your stomach till you are better. Or the uncles who will drive you from A to Z, proudly showing off their motherland whilst passing on life advice as you sit in the back of their car, taxi, rickshaw. Imam as-Shafi echoes this when he states; “Leave your country in search of loftiness and travel! For in travel there are five benefits: Relief of adversity, earning of livelihood, knowledge, etiquette, and noble companionship.” (Imam as-Shafi)
And indeed through travels, you will find noble companionship; strangers who will restore your faith in humanity; with their unconditional kindness and generosity
Travelling is the gift we give each other. For me, the most revolutionary form of dawah lies in you, your presence and your mannerism. Travel to places where Islam is limited or unknown. In times when Islam is overly represented for all the wrong reasons, it is crucial that we share its truest and purest form. Engage with street vendors or your Airbnb host, show and converse the beauty of your religion. Sharing and feeling the presence of Islam wherever you go, even in the most unexpected places becomes a blessing.
My parting words to you; let this year be the year of your travels. Venture to new places, engage with fellow wayfarers of life. Enjoy what the world has to offer and let there be infinite journeys of remembrance, reflection and re-discovery as you strive towards your final destination.