A South African Muslimah's Blog

Constructing Identity: Loud Whispers, Lasting Echoes

Sacred Journeying June 4, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Safiyyah @ 9:36 am

I am a self-confessed traveholic.
I have the travel bug, and don’t want a cure!

I would like to justify my addiction, by presenting the reasons for travel mentioned by Allah in the Quran, and the implications of this, in the hope this leads to an interesting discussion.

1.)Allah says:
Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts.
( سورة الحج , Al-Hajj, Chapter #22, Verse #46)

Right, so the first reason, (in no specific order or hierarchy) for travelling, is to seek wisdom. The world and its inhabitants, are full of different philosophies, and from each and every culture, I believe, there is some good to be learned, be it the simplicity of people living in the far reaches of the world, the sophistication and efficiency of the technologically advanced nations, the overwhelming hospitality of other peoples and the capacity for forgiveness some countries possess, like my own, South Africa.

2.)Say: “travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation; so will Allah produce a later creation: for Allah has power over all things.
( سورة العنكبوت , Al-Ankaboot, Chapter #29, Verse #20)

So, we are commanded to see how creation originated, to witness the perfection and balance of this world, and to ponder on Allahs promise that He in His all powerfulness, can create anything, so we should not be proud, and live as if we are immortal, but be humble, and grateful, for the perfection and beauty He has moulded the human form into.

3.Do they not travel through the earth and see what was the End of those before them? They were even superior to them in strength, and in the traces (they have left) in the land: but Allah did call them to account for their sins, and none had they to defend them against Allah.
( سورة غافر , Ghafir, Chapter #40, Verse #21)

This is the most oft repeated injunction for travelling, it appears 11 times in the Quran. It is a verse which always makes my hair stand on end, for Allah is, quite frankly, telling us, that the people of the past, were better than us in strength and invention, “the traces”, yet they perished, in the blink of an eye.

Almost every popular tourist destination in the world is a testimony of this, primarily amongst them, the great Roman empire, that so called indestructible force, the ancient civilization of Egypt, who were so advanced in geometry and science, that it is only recently the modern world came to fathom how they built their pyramids. The ruins of Petra, those artistically brilliant people who carved the most beautiful homes into the mountains, thinking themselves above admonition.

Sadly, even the great Muslim empires, the Omayyad’s, Abbasid’s,the Moguls and Ottomans, crumbled, when greed, lust and love of this world seeped into their coffers, and today, all that is left of them, are dazzling displays of a bygone era, masjids, palaces and tombs.Isn’t it ironic, that the very Islam, which brought civilization to Europe through Spain, is now at the very bottom of the civilized ladder, with Muslim nations being amongst the poorest and most oppressed people?

When we visit these places, I think, that besides the awe at their beauty and sophistication, trepidation should fill our hearts, that nations have come and gone, and we too, will perish into the dust we came from. This earth function in a cyclic way, people rise to their peak, then are reduced to ashes, and others step in. This should be a sign for us all, not too get too comfortable in this world, as it is not our final destination. Travel is so appealing to me, as it is a reminder, that this very life is a journey.

Introspect and ask yourself, what kind of “trace” do you to leave? A majestic monument which will tell future generations of your failure, or a legacy of virtuous living?

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