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A Tale of Two Hijrahs

As the new Hijri year approaches, I can’t help but reflect on what this means.

The New Year is a marker telling us how long ago the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions left Makkah for Madinah.

They left the torture that they faced in Makkah and turned to each other as brothers and sisters in their faith and as partners in building a new society.

And for those of us in the West who have accepted Islam into our lives, it makes us wonder if we should do the same-make hijrah.

Some new Muslims want to escape countries where Muslims are feeling increasingly unwelcome.

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While others say more Muslims should stay in the land of the non-Muslims and be a good representative of Islam as a way to better Islam’s image and make dawah (invite the non-Muslims to Islam).

It is a personal decision many new Muslims grapple with if they even have the means to undertake such a move. For those who wish to make hijrah to the lands where the majority is Muslim, it is best to do so with a bit of wisdom, provision and with the understanding that nowhere on this earth will you find jannah (heaven).

Since converting to Islam myself, I have met many converts who have made the hijrah to a Muslim majority country. Some have found a great place to settle where they feel free to practice their religion and live a good life. While others have returned to their home country because the living conditions and lack of religious freedom in their chosen country of emigration was unbearable.

Two families stick out in my mind who have traveled to majority Muslim countries and found starkly different things. The names of the families have been changed to protect the identities. And the names of the countries have been changed because people’s experiences in these countries are different.

The Smith Family

The Smiths made hijrah to a Muslim country in Asia, with all the vim and vigor one could hope for from those who intend to make hijrah. They had planned their migration for a few months and felt certain that their destination and all its inhabitants would welcome them with open arms and sincere salams.

The Smiths also felt certain that they would be able to find a means for income once they reached their destination and a reasonable standard of living. Once their bags were packed and the plane landed, they knew they were in trouble.

They had planned to live in an affordable property owned by an acquaintance who lived there. When they arrived, they found that the living situation was well below what they expected any human being would find comfortable. The holes in the walls and floor and no running water were enough to send anyone packing, but having a child in tow and one on the way, the circumstance was unacceptable.

Not wanting to give up on their migration destination, The Smiths consulted their friends who lived there and with their help they searched for new digs. They found that anything that would be close to an OK standard of living would be extremely expensive in the particular city they were in.

But the Smiths decided the better standard of living was worth the cost, which led to the question of employment. The new emigrants here had little prospects of employment, but did not lose hope of Allah providing their means of living.

One family member found employment but the pay was not enough to support the entire family. Things weren’t going as planned and then tragedy struck. The high level of pollution was causing a serious and chronic illness for one Smith family member. The living situation had to be reevaluated.

The Smiths were suffering from poverty, disease and feelings of home sickness and still hanging on to hope that this country was going to be a better destination for their faith. That was until the Smiths came to realize that many Muslims here were not religious by any means, and that religious Muslims were looked at with suspicion. In terms of seeking religious betterment throughhijrah, they were not fulfilled.

The Smiths returned to their country of origin.

Better Luck for The Cleavers

However, The Cleavers faired significantly better in the Muslim country they chose.

As new Muslims feeling unwelcome in their country of origin, The Cleavers made the intention to migrate to a Muslim majority country. They researched countries, read statistics and constitutions. As they narrowed down their countries they would pick from, they read ex-pats from their home countries accounts of life in the countries they chose to emigrate to.

Once the list of hijrah destinations was narrowed down to a few, the job search began. The Cleavers applied to jobs in their fields and found that their skills were in demand. Many job offers came in, the most secure position was chosen and the family was making living arrangements and packing their bags.

Upon arrival in their new country, The Cleavers were fairly pleased with the living arrangements, the new job, and the community in which they entered. They felt freer to practice their religion and found many devout Muslims there who were practicing as well. However, they didn’t expect to feel so isolated being away from family and friends. They didn’t know anyone nor had they made any contacts before moving to this African Muslim country.

The Cleavers spent many months feeling isolated and home sick. They had not planned for this, but were willing to make their best efforts to feel more at home in their new country. They decided to be proactive and get involved with their sons’ school and at their neighborhood mosque. While they still missed family and friends back home, they adjusted to life there, knowing that they could always go home for a visit.

The Cleavers continue to live comfortably in their hijrah destination.

Anything can happen when planning to make hijrah, no matter how much you plan and prepare. Allah is the best of planners and may have another path for you. But if you do decide to make hijrah, it is important to be realistic, make the proper preparations and know people in your planned country of immigration.

These preparations will make the transition go smoothly and increase the chances of success God Willing.

About Theresa Corbin
Theresa Corbin is the author of The Islamic, Adult Coloring Book and co-author of The New Muslim’s Field Guide. Corbin is a French-creole American and Muslimah who converted in 2001. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and Washington Post, among other publications. Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discusses the intersection of culture and religion.