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This Life is But a Journey

“Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler.” (The Prophet Muhammad)

Let’s conjure up an analogy – This way we can better gauge whether or not we are living up to the advice of our beloved messenger.

First, choose the perfect destination. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Make it somewhere that gets you excited, that you would really look forward to being. It could be a beautiful island getaway, ancient ruins rich with history and intrigue, a visit with a deeply missed loved one, anything your heart desires. Now, visualize it!

For this trip, there are no airplanes. It will take a few weeks to finally arrive, maybe even longer. It’s going to be a real journey. Envision what it’s like being a traveler and think about how traveling can be an analogy to living our lives in the best way possible.

Travel Light

When traveling, it’s best to take the bare minimum. In life too, we should not weigh ourselves down with excessive amounts of possessions, material things or even other burdens like debt, or emotional baggage. They will impede our progress, and take away from the potential growth we may achieve through the experiences that await us on our expedition.

Getting rid of unnecessary excesses will help you feel lighter and make the trip more fulfilling.

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Be Prepared

The most important provisions for a trip are money, food, first aid and communication. Regarding the journey of life Allah said:

{And make provision for yourselves; the best provision is taqwa} (Quran 2:197)

Taqwa has been translated as fear of God, piety, righteousness, dutifulness and God-wariness. It’s a state of awareness and consciousness by which we protect ourselves from slipping into evil. This important resource can’t be purchased at any shop. Allah said:

{And those who follow guidance He increases them in guidance and grants them their Taqwa.} (47:17)

Which leads me to the next point:

Don’t Forget Your GPS

You’d be pretty crazy to set out on a long trip without some sort of reliable guidance – right? Thankfully Allah, The Guide, has provided us with direction better than any map or GPS: The Quran.

It lays out the destination and route. It’s responsive and provides solutions for obstacles encountered along the way. It warns of the pitfalls to avoid, while soothing and comforting the soul. It’s like a companion supporting you and urging you on through thick and thin.

Mode of Transportation

I said no airplanes, but you’ve got to choose the right method of transportation for every terrain. You can’t drive over the ocean; you’d need a boat. You can’t ride a bike up a steep mountain; you’ll have to climb. Similarly the sunnah- the methodology of the Prophet Muhammad acts like our vehicle through life, giving us the best possible way to cross every terrain.

Eye on the Prize

Whatever wondrous places you might find, no matter how enchanting, beautiful or fascinating the things you see along the way might be; as a traveler, you avoid lingering. Even on a long journey, you never lose sight of where you are going.

Don’t Get too Attached

You’ll meet people, see amazing things, sleep in comfortable hotels or relax in beautiful scenery. No matter how excellent any stop along the way is, or how much you enjoy the company of a new acquaintance, you will enable yourself to say goodbye. You will move on because you knew at the outset that you were never meant to stay. Your awareness of your true goal facilitates letting go. We have to be aware of the ephemeral nature of every person, place, or thing we encounter in this world.

Avoid Distractions

When traveling, no matter how enticing, you will likely avoid anything that threatens to throw your travels off-track. We know Shaitan will ever be attempting to lure us away from the straight path. Regarding this, Allah said:

{Ever feeble indeed is the plot of Shaytaan} (4:76)

So, seek refuge in Allah and keep walking.

Don’t Tolerate what Brings You Down

Ever begin a regimen of vitamins or take a vaccine before traveling? When you’ve got a long way to go, you’ll take extra precaution against anything that will drag you down.

In the journey of life we should ensure our bodies and minds are in optimal condition – in as much as we are able -and shun anything that will hinder our progress, whether it be the wrong crowd of friends, or an unhealthy lifestyle.

Expect the Unexpected

When you travel you have to be ready for anything. In order to keep going, it’s important to manage the unexpected in a calm, levelheaded way. Being mindful, flexible, adaptive and persevering in the face of setbacks can help build our confidence and patience.

Discomforts are Temporary

As you travel to your final destination, you won’t mind all that much if any given situation is less than ideal, because you know that it is only temporary. How many less-than ideal situations do we find ourselves in life? If we face our discomforts with the same attitude, remembering that it’s all fleeting, our lives will actually become easier and less stressful.

Enhanced Appreciation

Marilyn Tam, author of The Happiness Choice Said:

“Travel expands our capacity for wonder, joy and appreciation of the amazing diversity on our lovely planet.”

Allah stated in the Quran:

{And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.} (30:22)

Let’s marvel and absorb our environments as a traveler would. Open our eyes wider, take a moment to really look at and value the signs around us.

Never Give Up

You’ll feel tired and homesick, but when the going gets tough, giving up is not an option. Prophet Muhammad said:

“If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.” (Ahmad)

If we shouldn’t even give up at the very last moment of life on Earth, then what excuse could we possibly have to give up now? Recuperate and keep going.

Our determination to reach our destination – to be with our Maker, and to find Him pleased with us and ourselves pleased with Him, this determination has to drive us, against all odds to trek through our lives as if we are traveling.

We’ve got to remember frequently that all of this is transitory. Everything that makes us so emotional, every fear that our lives aren’t what we hoped they would be, it’s all minimized when we treat it like we would if we were on a journey. Allah said:

{Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion?} (57:20)

Sometimes we feel as if we are at the center of the universe, but we too will inevitably pass away. What legacies will we leave behind on Earth? Most importantly, what have we contributed to our record of deeds – what have we put forth for ourselves in the hereafter?

May God protect us from being one of the people who realized only when it was too late:

{He will say: ‘Oh, I wish I had sent ahead [some good] for my life.} (89:24)

Most of us understand the concept of living as if we are travelers, but actually doing it is difficult, unless we are deliberate and determined to change the way we live. Next time something upsets you, or you feel extremely attached to someone or something, just remember this.

Do you think it will change the way you feel about and handle events in your life such as loss and love?

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Danielle LoDuca
Danielle LoDuca is a third generation American artist and author. Drawing inspiration from personal life experiences, her writings highlight the familiarity of Islam in a climate that increasingly portrays the Islamic faith as strange. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute and has pursued postgraduate studies in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Foundation for Knowledge and Development. LoDuca’s work has been featured in media publications in the US and abroad and she is currently working on a book that offers a thought-provoking American Muslim perspective, in contrast to the negative narratives regarding Islam and Muslims prevalent in the media today