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Travelling Light

I recently had to pack all my worldly possessions and move to a new country. When I mentioned to family, friends and colleagues that I was migrating, the response I got most often was, “It’s going to be a big change, isn’t it?” Moving from one location to another sounds exciting and adventurous and to some extent, it is. There’s a new place to explore, new people to meet, a new environment to immerse oneself in and of course the proverbial ‘culture shock’ to experience. There is much to learn not just about the surroundings, but also about yourself and your own ability to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings. However, in my journey to The Move, I discovered another lesson that both disturbed and inspired me. I learnt the subtle meaning of the word ‘attachment’ and ‘material value’. It began with the battle I had to initiate with my bags. With an allocation of a few meagre kilograms to carry my life’s worth with me, I was first torn between the essentials and the accessories. What I wanted to take versus what I needed to take. It seemed easy enough at first as two distinct piles grew. Then came the actual packing and after putting in the absolute necessities, I weighed the two suitcases I was to carry with me… That was when things started to look not-so-rosy. I had pruned my clothes, my books, my toiletries down to what I would need for the first few weeks until the rest of my things would be shipped, but it was still too much! I went through the process of unpacking and re-packing five more times, and with each cycle I found one item (or two) that seemed dispensable even though I had been absolutely sure I would not be able to survive without them in the previous round. I did manage to get what I needed within my weight allowance, but it got me thinking about two things: 1. The level of emotional or personal importance I had given to my various possessions. How much of my material wealth was I attached to and how strongly? 2. The time that it takes to prepare for a move that you consider to be longterm or permanent. It took me weeks to decide what I needed to take immediately and what could wait. And then more hours of soul-searching and common sense to narrow down the list even further! In the end, what I did bring with me was actually more than enough and despite the fact that my boxes haven’t arrived, I don’t miss anything. In fact, if it weren’t for the checklist of contents, I would barely be able to recall what is in them! Which also leads me to question how much of the importance I gave to each item is real and how much of it is imagined. At the end of the day, I’m left wondering at the beautiful analogy this has provided for The Biggest Move of all – the one from this dimension to the next. There are so many difficult questions that arise: yy If I am so attached to my belongings that leaving them in a different country for a temporary while affects me, how will I be able to abandon them without a second thought when I have to leave them behind forever? Will this attachment interfere with a smooth transition for me? yy It took a lot of forethought, planning and weighing of priorities to decide what I would really need and what I thought I would need. Do I spend that much time preparing for the inevitable Move that awaits me? If I don’t, then what happens if I end up taking the wrong things with me that I cannot make use of? We may think these queries are farfetched and that when the time comes, we will be overwhelmed with love and loyalty and do the right thing. Sadly, this is not true. When we look at the history of Islam we can find many examples of renunciation of worldly belongings. The historical plight of Imam Husayn(a) – the Prophet Muhammad’s(s) grandson – who was forced to abandon Medina during the month of Muharram with his companions in 680 CE, provides lessons on the human ability to undergo difficulties for something we believe in. But it is not easy. Among his companions there were those who did think about their homes, their families, their wealth and possessions first. And there were those who followed him without a thought for anything else except their duty. The main wealth that all these unique personalities carried with them were hearts filled with love, souls radiating with faith and a loyalty to the Truth that kept them steady and certain even though they had no more than the garments on their backs. Perhaps this is one of the important lessons – understanding the value of being able to travel lightly in possession, but heavy with piety. Because there is no doubt that each and every one of us will have to migrate one day from this life to the next. The manner in which we prepare for that journey is what will determine the quality of life after we cross over. If we put as much effort into making sure we have all that we need, if we ponder on the currency of exchange required and how to collect enough of it, then we will naturally become more aware of the reality of our existence. The automatic reaction to this awareness will be a realisation of how illusionary the material gain we covet is and how it is possible to become attached to something that isn’t even real. I believe that Islam is such a beautiful way of life because its lessons and principles are found in the most common, everyday goings-on. If you feel like you’ve been slightly disconnected from religion and faith, I would highly recommend trying to take a trip on a minimum – and then observe yourself as you get ready for that journey! You might discover aspects of travelling that no tourist guide book will ever mention!

written by Batool Haydar

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