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Reflections of a Traveler

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Travel is that outlandish midway separating here from there. It is an in between state of being, of which depending on its purpose can result in either stress or enjoyment. One thing to be certain of is that it will assuredly test your self discipline and patience.

After Ramadan my family and I embarked on a road trip extending a total of forty four hours of driving. After remaining in such a constant and seemingly endless position, reflections began to come forth in my mind as each mile marker passed by.  Please note that such reflections will most likely occur if you spend forty four hours doing almost anything. :)

The unusual fact about travel is that it somehow allows your mind think in ways different from what you are accustomed to. You can observe something you had seen just as clearly in your town of residence, but something about being outside your bubble of normality allows your mind to process it in an alternative manner. For example, you could be driving home from work, pass by a corn field and think, “Oh look, a corn field.” Whereas, during travel if you happen to witness a similar corn field you think, “What is the purpose of corn? Where did the first corn seed sprout forth in growth?”and so on and so forth.

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Among sociologists there are those that claim travelling is an essential habit of effective thinking. It is not about relaxation, vacation, or sipping a smoothie on an unsoiled tropical beach, but it is the tedious act itself. It is the mere feat of putting miles between home and what will become your destination.

Yet, why does this expansion of the mind occur? The reality is when you escape the place in which the majority of your time is spent, your mind suddenly becomes aware of all of those wandering ideas that had lain dormant and suppressed. Obscure possibilities begin to arise! Solutions to your life problems…scratch that…the world’s problems suddenly seem so simple and attainable!

It comes as no surprise that the revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara became the major figure he was after traveling the roads of Latin America and witnessing its endemic poverty. What he observed and that which he experienced during this trip led him to believe that the worlds inequalities could only be resolved by world revolution. He found in his heart an obliteration of racism and narrow mindedness. Would these same ideas have appeared and shaped his entire being had he not set forth on this travel? As history tells us, they would not.

And now to explore travel in its Islamic element…

Observing the creation of Allah can only increase you in faith and certainty. This degree of observation is more often than not only possible when one is in a state of travel. You suddenly realize that life is indeed not all about you, but in fact, around you lies the canvas we call “The bigger picture,” and you are a part of it. You finally connect with Allah’s spoken references to the dawn, the night, situations of utter darkness, swift lightning, towering mountains, and provisions from the sky. These analogies to earth are such that you would never comprehend them while gazing out your window to into the concrete jungle. You give thought to the heavens and the earth and declare: “Our Lord! You have not created all of this aimlessly! Exalted are you! Then protect us from the punishment of the fire!” (3:191) You say it and you mean it.

For the exact reasons of the mind opening and the heart contemplating, Allah asks humans to do this precise thing, travel!

“So have they not traveled through the earth, and have hearts by which to reason, and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not the eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breast.” (22:46)

In this ayah, Allah tells us to travel not only in a physical sense, but to use our minds while we do so. It teaches us to take lesson from our faculties of hearing and sight. We learn that the true blind person is not a human whose eyes cannot see, but rather one who’s physical eyes are sound, yet they cannot take lesson from them.

Although volumes can be written on reflections of travel, the last I will mention is the analogy of travel to the reality of death. Abdullah Ibn Omar tells us, “Allah’s Messenger took hold of my shoulder and said, “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler.” (Bukhari)

When a person travels, they take only the essentials along with them, leaving behind extra baggage that would slow down their journey. Similarly in life, we should live within our means, according to our needs, and abandon that which restrains progression. When a Muslim plans to go for Hajj or to take an extended trip, it is expected to receive an email from them. This email will likely ask everyone they know for forgiveness, to be reminded of any debt they may owe, and other matters of that sort. Simply put, they set their earthly affairs in order. Every Muslim who wishes to be as ready as possible for the extraction of their soul would be wise to become ready in this manner.

Travel is never a smooth ride. There will always be a complication here or there, an unfortunate speeding ticket, a dingy motel, an overheated engine, a road block, a semi-truck that nearly kills you while attempting to cut you off…The point is that life is not a breeze. Trials and obstacles are to be expected, you could bet your money on it! (If betting were halal) Yet just as how rest is found at your destination, such can be the case at the end of life. If obstacles are managed properly with patience and endurance, our final destination can be one of relief, comfort, and perfection. The end of our travel can be Jannah.

So travel! Travel physically away from your home, travel mentally away from the limits restricting your mind, and all the while remember that we are all simultaneously travelling to our life’s conclusions, and that the GPS lies in our hands.

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Nadya Aweinat is a Batman loving tajweed geek who spends her days hiking, learning and teaching Qur'an, and enjoying the year round superb weather of Southern California. By the mercy of Allah, she recently completed her memorization of the Qur'an and is working on completing a degree in Speech Pathology.

18 Comments

18 Comments

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  2. Samar Hadrous

    October 21, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    masha’Allah! What a beautifully constructed reminder!
    Jazaki Allahu alf khair habibti :)

    I just got off the phone with my mom an hour ago… she was urging my husband and I to take a vacation so we can open up our minds. She’s gunna love you more when she reads this insha’Allah =)

    I love your writing man! I’m looking forward to reading your future articles!

    • Nadya

      October 24, 2010 at 2:27 AM

      I actually ran into your mom tonight :)

      If you do decide to travel, why not come to SoCal pay us a visit inshaAllah.

  3. Nida

    October 21, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    Very nice!

    If you cannot see the beauty around you and connect it to what Allah says in the Quran – then that person is truly lost.

  4. Mariam

    October 21, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    ROAAADD TRRRRIIIIPPP

  5. Aideh

    October 21, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    rabbanaa maa khalaqta haadhaa baatilaa! SubhanAllah! so true, wallah, traveling is so beautiful for all the reasons you mentioned and more.

    I think about how vast the Earth is and how much of its wonders the majority of humankind have yet to see. If we can not even know our own world fully, let alone leave the outskirts of our own cities, then what about the other worlds that lay before us, even more unattainable–Jupiter, Saturn. The size of Jupiter is like I dont know how many Earths!! Man that always gets me. How small we are in “the big picture” of life and yet how much Allah has honored us by creating us as humans and Musilmeen. Alhamdulillah.

    You really have caused me to reflect so much more on travel and put into words my own feelings and yearnings to travel the world. Jazakillah kheira ya Nadya! BarakAllahu feeki! Love the post and I encourage you to continue to publish these beautiful pieces.

  6. Aideh

    October 21, 2010 at 10:05 PM

    PS the longest roadtrip I’ve been on thus far WITHOUT STOPPING except for gas was 24 hours partly due to getting lost. May Allah forgive and bless the driver, ameen! not me Alhamdulillah!

    maybe one day ill beat your record ;)

    • Nadya

      October 24, 2010 at 2:22 AM

      Yeah alhamduLillah the trip was 22 hours each way so, alhamduLillah not in one shot!

  7. sara

    October 21, 2010 at 11:00 PM

    what a great article!
    mash’Allah you have an amazing talent

    subhan’Allah, i always used to hate traveling but now i will be able to look at it in a different perspection!

    Jazaki Allahu Khairun

  8. Yaser Birjas

    October 21, 2010 at 11:59 PM

    Jazakillahu khayran, a nice reminder for a frequent traveler like myself.

  9. Bushra

    October 22, 2010 at 5:39 AM

    Masha’Allah, a very nice article. And i guess what this sort of traveling does is remind us of how we Muslims are travelers in the Dunya and our destination being Jannah Insha’allah.

  10. Ify Okoye

    October 22, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    Nadya, this is one of the reasons I love to travel especially for sessions of ilm. It’s such a iman boost and helps me reflect deeply and take myself to account. My time away from home, from my normal things and routines and scenery helps me appreciate the blessings I have and to renew my intentions. It is often very humbling.

  11. Elyas

    October 22, 2010 at 9:01 PM

    Follow me as I make my hajj..at…http://myhajj.blogspot.com/

  12. tara

    October 23, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    Great article Nadya!

  13. Arif Kabir

    October 23, 2010 at 11:32 PM

    This was a very enjoyable read. I once went on a trip to Houston and back (50 hours in total) and I can understand on the different perspectives that come as a result – I think it’s especially due to the fact that you do not have as many distractions as you do when you’re at home – just you and your thoughts :)

    • Nadya

      October 24, 2010 at 2:30 AM

      Indeed, no distractions. You are simply sitting doing nothing for hours so it’s sort of inevitable to think a bit.

  14. Khadijah

    October 27, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    subhanAllah I was just telling my sister how much I miss traveling… even though I’m currently not in Houston ;)
    I realllllllllly miss it and I realized it’s not just for the sake of being in a new place, it really opens up my mind and exposes me to other ideas, other people, other cultures… and of course other creation that we are not so used to! We really just seem to notice a lot more when we come out of our own little box. It’s almost the like the toddler who stays inside the room of a house vs a toddler who’s able to go play outside at the park, at the swimming pool, at the masjid, etc… it really opens up so much thinking space. Your thoughts seem to hit the lid when you’re in your box!

  15. shereen

    October 27, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    This article is good. I think I am a different person because I was lucky to be given the ability by Allah SWT to travel widely with a student group for seven years. Working in the Peace Corps is a good opportunity. Taking the seven day Trans Siberian railway was cheap and saw the earth in all its splendor. Travel across Europe in euro-rail. Visit relatives & friends in foreign lands. Pay for room & board to them or house exchange with them. It is very educational for the children- especially in developed countries who assume that “they are the best”.. It is good for them to know there are many good things elsewhere on earth in every country.
    Iran, Morocco, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Mideast … are all full of rich culture, good food & people. We visited friends or family in these countries… offered them to visit us and use our home & share food with us. It does not have to be costly. But make sure they want it too!! Be gentle & kind to your host/visitor and THANKFUL
    for their company.

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