Friday reflection: In search of sanctuary: The enduring quest for refuge

Friday reflection: In search of sanctuary: The enduring quest for refuge

By Muneeb Nasir

The migration (hijrah) of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his companions from Mecca to Medina stands as one of the most significant events in Islamic history. Faced with persecution, these early believers were compelled to leave their homes behind.

The hijrah holds significant historical and spiritual importance in Islam. It symbolizes the believers' courage to leave their homes in the face of adversity and seek a new start in a land where they could freely practice their faith.

The hijrah was the objective reality for these first believers who were not free to practice Islam and had to make a new start for what they believed in – “But was God’s earth not spacious enough for you to migrate to some other place?” as God puts it (Qur’an, 4:97).

The Qur’an praises the determination of these early believers: “As for those who emigrated in God’s cause after being wronged, We shall give them a good home in this world, but the reward of the Hereafter will be far greater, if they only knew it.Lord. They are the ones who are steadfast and put their trust in their Lord.” (Qur'an, 16:41-42).

However, the concept of hijrah in Islam extends beyond physical migration. It encompasses a moral and spiritual dimension, urging every Muslim to become an "emigrant" by leaving behind what displeases their Lord and abstaining from forbidden deeds. It emphasizes the continuous journey of personal transformation from bad to good, from evil to righteousness, and from a lower level of belief to a higher one.

A man once asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Which emigration (hijrah) is best?” The Prophet, peace be upon him,  replied: “To leave what your Lord  dislikes.”

In another Prophetic tradition he said,“The emigrant is the one who abstains from that which Allah has prohibited.”

Hijrah: Embracing compassion and protection for refugees in light of Islamic teachings

Today, the world is facing an unprecedented refugee crisis, with millions of people forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution, and other forms of violence. These displaced persons, seeking safety and a chance for a better life, represent one of the most pressing humanitarian challenges of our time. The refugee crisis demands our attention, compassion, and collective action to address the urgent needs and rights of those affected.

In the context of refugees and asylum seekers, the lessons from the Prophet’s hijrah and the Islamic teachings are crucial to today’s refugee crisis. Islamic teachings emphasize the rights of the oppressed and vulnerable to seek protection and asylum in safer lands. The early believers themselves sought refuge in Medina, where they were welcomed and granted protection by the people of that city.

Islam's stance on refugees is all-encompassing, transcending religious boundaries. The Qur’an explicitly commands believers to grant protection to disbelievers who seek asylum, allowing them to hear the word of God and ensuring their safety.

“If any one of the idolaters should seek your protection [Prophet], grant it to him so that he may hear the word of God, then take him to a place safe for him, for they are people with no knowledge [of it].“ (Qur’an, 9:6).

The Qur’anic verses demonstrate that migration can become a necessity for anyone facing danger or threats to their life and beliefs.

Islam's position on refugees is inclusive and extends to people of all races, nationalities, and ethnicities.

Importantly, Islam obliges host societies to offer a generous reception to asylum seekers, highlighting the compassion and rewards associated with this act.

Islam advocates for measures to meet the needs of refugees, preventing their vulnerability to persecution and injustice. The rights of migrants are to be safeguarded, and the same protection must be extended to refugees, including women and children, as it is offered to others in the host country.

In light of the hijrah and the Quranic teachings, it is incumbent upon us to uphold compassion, protection, and inclusivity for refugees in our midst. By embracing the lessons from the hijrah, we can create a world where those seeking refuge are provided with the dignity, safety, and support they deserve.

But importantly, as Muslims, if we were to undergo the process of uprooting ourselves and relocating, we are reminded to remain steadfast in our adherence to the universal principles of Islam. This entails embracing the positive aspects of our new environment and adapting our faith to be relevant and impactful.