وَأَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةٌ
And Allah’s earth is vast
(Sūratuz Zumar, No.39, Āyat 10)
The Holy Quran has many verses that talk about the Earth. The Earth is a carpet for mankind (Q 2:22), a resting place to live on (Q 27:61), it is smooth and subservient (Q 67:15) and has many signs for people (Q 20:51). These are just a few among the many verses that discuss the Earth and its blessings for the human being.
The verse above tells human beings that the Earth is very wide. No-one should complain on the Day of Judgment that their abode on Earth did not allow them to worship and obey Allah. In another place the Quran tells us about such people, warning us that their excuse will not be accepted: Surely those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their souls, they shall say: In what state were you? They shall say: We were weak in the earth. Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (from evil)? (Q 4: 97). The Earth is wide and spacious enough for people to move to different parts and live life as they choose, not ignoring the man-made restrictions. Movement from one part of the Earth to another has been instrumental in keeping religion alive, in spreading it to others, and in enhancing and strengthening lifestyles of believers.
It is interesting to note that migration in Islam is not always a physical migration. There is also a spiritual form of migration, for instance coming from evil to good. This could mean not imitating the lifestyles of those whom we share the land with. It is to choose to follow the path of those who may be in a different corner of the Earth but who share our beliefs and values. This is the true essence of migration, something often overlooked when discussing the concept of migration. Migration is essentially a movement from darkness to light (Cf. Q 2:257), from disbelief to belief, from evil to good. Imam Ali (a) says: A man might say he migrated but he did not really migrate. The true migrants are those who migrate from evil and do not commit it. (Nūruth Thaqalayn, 1: 541 quoted in Tafsīr- Namune). Such a migration can be done, in fact is essential, even when a person stays in the same city he has always lived in.
The spaciousness of the Earth is a reminder to broaden the horizons and not confine yourself to only that which is around you. Find out about other places on earth, how people live there, their practices and lifestyles . . . etc. Being beguiled by the glitter of the Western societies around us we overlook the vast number of societies and communities in different corners of the Earth who may lead different lifestyles. There is a rich mine of humanity that has much to offer us. It strengthens and comforts the believer to know that people physically far away are close in sharing life goals.
Let us recite this verse to remind ourselves of the need to avoid succumbing to values and beliefs of those around you. The Earth is very spacious. Migrate physically or spiritually to ensure you have your own identity and are able to practice what you choose to practice, not what you are pressured to practice.
Source: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne;