Afalam yasīrū fil-ardhi fatakūna lahum
qulūbun ya‘qilūna aw ādhānun yasma‘ūna bihā
Have they not traveled over the land so that they may have
hearts by which they may apply reason or ears by which they may hear?
(Sūratul Hajj, No.22, Āyat 46)
Traveling has been mentioned often in the Quran and is a way to achieve insight and wisdom. It broadens the horizons of the human mind. It gives a new perspective of life and can help change a person. The earth is a classroom that offers many lessons for those who open the eyes and ears of their hearts. To travel is to progress in many ways.
Islam emphasizes the following types of travel:
1. To learn from the remains of those who have passed away. Despite their arrogance and rejection of God they departed from this world and were placed in a small grave. The ruins of their once glorious power is a sign that nothing remains on this earth, only that which is for Allah. The Quran says: Say, travel over the land and then observe what was the fate of the guilty ones (Q 27:69).
2. To safeguard faith. Sometimes the homeland does not allow for the freedom to practise Islam as necessary. The Quran says: O My servants who believe! surely My earth is vast, therefore Me alone should you serve (Q 29:56).
3. For knowledge and spirituality, sustenance, or relaxation. All these are valid and recommended reasons for traveling. Imam Sadiq (a) narrates that the Holy Prophet (s) told Imam Ali (a): O Ali, it does not befit an intelligent person to travel except for three reasons; for work and sustenance, to gather for the Hereafter, and for enjoyment that is not haram (Wasā’il, v. 8, p. 248, H. 2).
Traveling for Hajj and Ziyārat come under the last category. These travels fulfill the obligations, increase spirituality, and help strengthen faith and attachments to all that is Divine.
Traveling in harmony with others makes the trip pleasant and rewarding. Islam emphasizes good Akhlāq with fellow travelers. Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a) advised his son, Luqmān, on how to behave when traveling with others: When you travel in the company of people, consult with them frequently about each of your affairs, make them smile often, and be generous in sharing your provisions with them. When they call you, answer them, and when they ask for your help, assist them. (Bihār) The Imam also said: The ideal courteousness during a journey entails sharing one’s provisions freely, joking light-heartedly in matters that do not displease Allah, hardly ever disputing with your traveling companions, and never telling tales about them once you have parted company from them. (Sh. Sadūq, Al-Āmālī)
Traveling is very common today. The world has become small and families travel constantly for pleasure as well as for religion. As millions of Shī‘ah Muslims head to Iraq during the fortieth (arba‘īn) of the Shuhadā of Karbala, it would be good to remember this verse when you travel and remind yourself of the importance of opening up your heart to gain insight as you travel. That should be the most important fruit of your travels.
Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr;