What the Emigration Demands of Us
Starting from a narrow family-tribal environment Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) underwent 13 years of hardship and torment in Meccan society; with the immigration (Hijra) to Medina, a new stage began. This stage, if one takes into consideration the time that it took all religions to spread, is the starting point of one of the fastest religious developments in recorded history. In this sense, when one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar; one is speaking of a new start for humanity.
The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities.
The Hijra, as is expressed in a variety of verses, was extrication from a difficult and stressful situation with the aim to widen the belief and the ideals, and a search for new possibilities and new places. From this aspect, the Hijra is not something that was realized as part of a certain process or a completed historical event in the life of Muslims. The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities. Thus, the Hijra, which includes certain preconditions, is a moral duty and responsibility for every individual.
Prophet Muhammad placed the Hijra in the minds and hearts of the Islamic community with a hadith (Prophetic tradition) that expresses two basic interconnected matters.
The first is a general principle which, in particular, is considered to be one of the reference points in the evaluation of laws for Islamic jurists. This principle is connected to intentions in behavioral values, as it is the intention that gives behavior direction. As we know the Hijrawas the first and most important social movement of the young Islamic society.
As is to be expected with all social movements, it is only natural that there were people who had different intentions when participating in the emigration led by Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad drew attention to this situation and stated that those who performed the same action received different responses, each according to their intention. The matter expressed in the hadiths is concerned with a Meccan Muslim who had joined the emigration and come to Medina to marry the woman he loved. The ruling that Prophet Muhammad gave concerning this person can be considered to be a universal principle compulsory for all Muslims to take into account when performing an action.
Prophet Muhammad said: “Actions are according to intentions, whoever emigrates to Allah and His Prophet, that emigration is to Allah and His Prophet, whoever emigrates to marry a woman, his emigration is to marry a woman...” The idea of actions and behavior being judged according to intention is the clearest and most immutable rule that stands against those who desire to hide their personal or prosaic intents behind ideals and virtues.
The most important principle to learn from the Hijra is the constant observation of intention. In particular, Sufis consider the constant observation and control of intent to be a basic principle for attaining ikhlas (sincerity). From this aspect, Sufism can be considered to be a total investigation and interrogation of intention.
In other words, the thing that determines the value of a person’s action is the intention, and nothing else. In this direction, the most important principle to learn from the Hijra is the constant observation of intention. In particular, Sufis consider the constant observation and control of intent to be a basic principle for attaining ikhlas (sincerity). From this aspect, Sufism can be considered to be a total investigation and interrogation of intention.
There is another dimension to the hadiths; in particular, this aspect is widely interpreted by the Sufis. In the above hadith, Prophet Muhammad said “Whoever emigrates to Allah and the Prophet.” The Sufis carefully emphasize the phrase “Emigration to Allah and His Prophet.” What does emigration to Allah mean? Here, while speaking the emigration to Medina, the direction is changed and the Prophet speaks of “emigration to Allah and His Prophet”. This approach alone gives the possibility that the Hijra is something that every Muslim can repeat over and over again. While the emigration to Medina was a historical event, emigration to Allah and His Prophet is not limited by history or location, and thus is always possible.
In this sense Hijra gains a meaning that is parallel to the Sufi term of tawba, adding a wider interpretation to the Hijra. The general meaning of tawba (repentance) means “to repent of a sin and to decide not to repeat the sin.” The Sufis have added a special meaning to this general definition; tawba has come to mean “turning” and is thought of as an action. But, what are people turning to? To find the answer to this question we need to contemplate the question of where do people go when they sin and why they are considered to have left somewhere. When people sin, they distance themselves from Allah and they are left with their nafs. Sufis see the nafs and its desires as something that straitens people and limits them. In contrast to this, repentance turns people back to Allah; that is, it turns them to the wide expanse of the divine after the straits of the nafs and its desires. In this situation tawba and hijra take on the same meaning. Thus, for Sufis, the Hijra is the action that every person constantly experiences, internally and externally. People emigrate from bad actions and evil morals to virtues and good behavior. In this situation the emigration is towards Allah, and in response Allah turns to us.
Thus, there are two important principles or duties that the Hijra demands of us.
The first is to constantly control our intentions; we must establish our “personal place and stance”. Everyone is responsible only for their own intentions and actions, and it is these same intentions and actions that will save them.
The second principle is to remove the connection of the Hijra with actual places and times. Hijra is a turning and a change in the mind, belief, action or morals; everybody can do this at any time and in any place.