First of all, every individual is a traveller and therefore, in some sense, an emigrant. His journeying starts in the world of spirits and continues through the stations of his mother's womb, childhood, youth, old age and his grave, and from there to a completely new world. Although he is among millions of people, each individual is born alone, lives his own life, endures his own death, and will be resurrected alone. Likewise, each of those men of high stature who throughout history have guided mankind, started his sacred mission from his single self, then disseminating light from the torch he carried and illumining the minds and hearts of others, inculcating hope and faith in his followers and transforming the lands once submerged in darkness into pools of light. And each one of these guides had to emigrate from one place to another for the sake of his cause.
Belief, emigration and holy struggle are the three pillars of a single, sacred truth. They are the three 'taps' of a fountain from which the water of life flows for the 'holy ones' to drink from so that they may convey their message without being wearied, and, when the opposition is too formidable to overcome, set out for a new land without regard for their home, property or family.
However sacred the cause, however useful and original the thoughts or brilliant the message, those who hear it for the first time are naturally bound to question and oppose it. For this reason, the one who wants to arouse the people to new sentiments, new faith, new love and new ideas must either persist in his mission in his homeland in the face of all kinds of resistance, or set out for new minds and hearts to pour out his inspirations and offer his message to.
Every new idea or message has always been resisted where it has appeared, and those who have offered it have usually been welcomed in new places where their pasts were unknown. It is for this reason that the fate of the 'holy ones' is almost the same: they begin with belief and love, followed by struggle against the deviation and error of the masses, and then comes the turn of emigration for the sake of the well-being of mankind, even at the cost of sacrificing their own homes and families.
In every movement of revival, prior to emigration, two stages are of great importance. In the first stage, a man with a cause develops his character, overflows with belief and is inflamed with love, and surpassing his own self, grows into a passionate slave of truth. He struggles, in this stage, against the temptations of his carnal self to build his authentic, spiritual character. This is called 'the major or greater struggle' – al-jihad al-akbar. Then he rises, in the second stage, to radiate the lights of belief to the world around him. This stage is, in fact, the door to emigration.
Emigration should not, of course, be understood only in the material sense. Rather, a man experiences emigration throughout his life in the spiritual sense. Each inner intellectual or spiritual transformation, from indolence to action, from decay to self-renewal, from suffocation in the atmosphere of sinfulness to exaltation in the realm of spirit, may be regarded as an emigration. It is my conviction that only those who have been able to actualize these inner emigrations can find in themselves the strength and resolution to leave their homes and families for the sake of a sublime ideal. It is almost impossible for those who have not succeeded in 'emigrating' from the carnal self to the realm of spirit, from the pomp and luxury of the world to the riches of intellect and spirit, and from the pleasures of selfhood to an altruistic life, to emigrate for the good and welfare of humanity.
Emigration with its two dimensions, spiritual and material, was first represented by the great Prophets, Abraham, Lot, Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace, who shone like suns on the horizon of humanity, and in its most comprehensive meaning and function, was realized by the greatest of them, namely the Prophet Muhammad, who is the pride of mankind, upon him be peace and blessings. The door to emigration has since been open to all those who would walk in his footsteps.
Emigration in the way of truth and for its sake is so sanctified that the community of holy ones around the Last Prophet, who sacrificed their possessions and souls for the sake of the cause they believed in, and of the matchless representative of that cause, were praised by God as (and have since been called) 'the Emigrants'. We can see its importance in the fact that the beginning of the sacred era of this holy community was marked, not by the birth of the Prophet or by the first revelation or such victories as Badr or the conquest of Makka, but by the emigration to Madina.
Every individual who has emigrated for the sake of a sublime ideal will always deeply feel the pressure of the ideal which urged him to emigrate and design his life according to that ideal. Secondly, he will be freed from the criticism regarding some faults he might have made in childhood or youth. Whereas, in his own land, he is probably remembered and criticized for past faults, and has little influence upon people because, besides the factors mentioned, he is already familiar to them; in the land he has emigrated to, he will be known for his spiritual brilliance, unadulterated ideas, pure intentions and extraordinary sacrifices. For these and other reasons, it has almost always been emigrants who changed the flow of history and started new eras in the life of humanity.
Toynbee, the renowned British historian, mentions twentyseven civilizations founded by nomadic or migrant peoples. This is because no one can overcome such dynamic people. They are not habituated to ease and comfort, are ready to sacrifice everything worldly, used to every kind of hardships, and always ready to march wherever their cause requires them to go.
The 'holy ones' around the Last Prophet, who were elevated from the darkness of ignorance and savagery to become the founders of the most brilliant civilization in human history and the first teachers of a universal religion, which is still the hope of mankind for a happy future, set the best example in this matter for those coming after them. Those who later walked in their footsteps found ease and serenity in fighting with difficulties, and found vigour and life in despising death and everything worldly, and eternity in constant renewal in thought, spirit and action. They migrated from land to land to convey knowledge, morality and civilization everywhere that they settled.
It is incumbent upon us to save the young generation from indulgence and attachment to the comfort of life, and in doing so to equip them with lofty ideals so that they know how to suffer with the pains and sorrows of mankind. It is only when this is accomplished to a significant degree that our old world will be able to witness an overall felicity. Oct 1985, Vol 7, Issue 81