“Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler” –translated saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
There are many lessons to be drawn from travel. The traveler tends to seek out a sense of home wherever they may be and must often consider where or what is home in its reality. Is it a place? A feeling? A presence? The traveler has to consider what to bring for their travel. What is essential for one’s daily functioning? The traveler tends to think as a utilitarian and evaluates what essentials are needed. The traveler is wary of accumulating excess because of how it will hinder their journey. The traveler tends to be open to the possibilities of what each new day holds because they know that no two days are the same, even in the same place. The traveler tries to embrace the challenges of the day, realizing that there might be an unexpected good in the outcome. Maybe that “wrong” turn took you to the presence of one you would not have found otherwise. Maybe that missed flight gave you a few more precious hours to spend with someone you love. The traveler tends to consider wisely how their time is spent because they know that they will not be in any given place for too long.
Even if we do not consider ourselves “travelers”, what lessons can we learn from their life? We are all on a common journey, which is our very lives, so how can we apply the mentality of the traveler to how we live? Maybe we can become more aware of how we expend the jewels of our time and the wealth of our energy. Maybe we can appreciate those around us and treat those we encounter in the best way, not knowing know how long they or we will remain. Maybe we can avoid accumulating excess in our lives materially and immaterially. Excess food makes one feel sluggish and ungrateful. Excess sleep makes one feel lethargic and unproductive. Excess activity preoccupies one from their priorities and what matters most. Does the “bag” that we carry in this life have room for such excess? How can we benefit from reexamining, reassessing, and removing excess from our lives? The more that we carry, the more we must give account for: this is true for declaring possessions in customs and the same principle holds true in Islamic cosmology. “To whom much is given, much is expected” is a common adage and how true it is. What we don’t have in wealth, we may have in youthful energy, free time, intellect, gifts, talents, etc. We all have something to give and share with the world around us. The Bestower of Gifts will call us to account for how we expended our gifts in this life and the bag we take with us to the journey beyond this life is the benefit or harm that our intentions, actions, and reactions earned for us. On that Day of Reckoning, a sound heart (qalbu-saleem) will be the most prized possession and worth more than all the riches the earth contains.
What have you prepared for the journey ahead?