Travel through the Earth and See…!

Imam Murtadha Gusau

Imam Murtadha Gusau

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Peace and blessing be upon whom Allah sent as a mercy to the Worlds, upon his Family, his Companions and his Brothers till the Day of Resurrection.
Respected brothers and sisters! If you were to travel around the world, you will come across many different people and cultures. You will see many young and old faces each different and unique in their special way having endured different scars in their life. You will come across people with different skin colour and different educational backgrounds. You will see wealthy and poor people along the way interacting with each other. You may come across famous and powerful leaders whom you may not even recognise. You may meet people at various marketplaces trying to sell you their favourite food or tools that they have made with their own hands. You may even run into a painter who spends most of his time brushing his emotions on a piece of paper and exchanging his work for little money. In this short journey, you will temporarily be part of different cultures and traditions.
Throughout this journey, you will see a lot of things but will experience very little. It will be like waking up from a night full of dreams only remembering certain things and assigning to them special feelings and emotions. In this journey, you will remember most of the events that were closest to you. You will remember situations that you may have felt most alive. Maybe you felt vulnerable and unwanted. Maybe you felt strange and insecure. Maybe you felt loved. These are the events that will be part of you in this journey. The rest of the journey will be a character building experience that will be part of your memory for ever.
Dear brothers and sisters! No matter where you go, and no matter who you interact with, you will always be you. Your DNA will not change because you go to a different location. You will always have a special lens that you see the world through. Your feelings and emotions, and your attitude will accompany you everywhere you go. If you are taught that poor people are dangerous and unhappy, that is what you will expect. If you are taught that a certain culture is backwards and oppressive towards women, you will look for those qualities to match to your expectations. But the good thing is, you will only be exposed to your own ignorance and will be enlightened. Your lens will become enlarged, and the details will become clearer.
One of the greatest things about experiencing different cultures around the world is you will be exposed to new experiences. You will learn new things about the world around you and yourself. You will see first hand what motivates people who have different opportunities in life. Your knowledge of the world, people, and different cultures will increase. You will see people live and behave differently. You will have first hand experience of societal structures and discover new social norms and lifestyles. This journey will change your perspective and reshape your personality. It will make you thankful for everything you have and humble you. It will remind you that in the grand scheme of things, you are a tiny spot in the universe almost undetected compared to the other many spots, yet important.
My beloved people! Traveling to a different country and experiencing a new culture gives you a new perspective about the world around you. You no longer are the center of the world, but you are part of a bigger world which you knew not. How you see yourself changes. Things that you once considered important for your future may no longer be considered necessary for your happiness. Being exposed to different cultures where electricity is not always available, or is always available, and where there is no functioning plumbing or lack of Internet and transportation, humbles you. You get to witness with your very own eyes how children who lack resources use their imagination to create toys from whatever resources they have at their disposal. All of a sudden you realise that happiness is not in things we have, but the attitude we have with the things we lack.
Traveling the world allows you to become a more social person. You become open minded about people and cultures who view the world differently from you. Your exposure to different cultures allows you to have better relationships with people who do not see the world the same as you. You learn to understand better people’s motivation and respect their differences. You become more open minded, and informed. Exposure to many cultures arms us with better judgement in dealing with propaganda, hate, and ignorance which the media shoves in our faces daily.
Dear brothers and sisters! We were not created to hate each other. We were not created to disrespect and belittle those different from us. Allah created us so that we may know each others differences and find friendship, love, and help in each other. In the noble Qur’an Allah specifically says:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [Qur’an, 49:13]
From the above verse, we learn that Allah created all of us differently with unique skills and abilities. Each person has been blessed with something unique to contribute to the world. Everyone has been numbered and has been assigned a purpose. In each person, there is a skill or ability that is not defined by their skin colour or race, but by their creators fingerprints whom we all share. With all our physical and cultural differences, Allah has made it very clear that our created differences are His choice, but our actions are our choice, and determine our righteousness. Therefore, it is very important that we become travelers of the world and recognise everyone’s differences and our own uniqueness. If all of us took the initiative to learn about the world around us, we will no longer put much importance into political issues that divide us. We will no longer allow the media to feed us with incomplete and prepackaged information to influence us. We will be equipped with experience and knowledge to break social and cultural stereotypes that deprive us of love and happiness.
– The noble Qur’an calls us to travel
Allah the Most High says:
“Say: Travel in the land and see how (Allah) originated creation, and then Allah will bring forth (resurrect) the creation of the Hereafter (i.e. resurrection after death). Verily, Allah is Able to do all things.” [Qur’an, 29:20]
And He the Almighty says:
“Say: Travel through the earth and see what was the end of those who rejected Truth.” [Qur’an, 6:11]
And the famous Muslim traveler, Ibn Batutah says:
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
Dear brothers and sisters! Throughout the Qur’an life is described as a journey, and knowledge and ignorance as light and darkness on its way (e.g. Qur’an 6:122, 13:16, 24:35, 24:40, 27:86, 35:19-20, 37:5, 40:61 and 84:18-20).
However, besides numerous references to this spiritual journey, special emphasis is also laid on physical travel.
The word ‘sayr’ – which means travel or move (e.g. a planet is ‘sayyarah’) – with all its variations, appears in the Qur’an total 27 times. Many of its usages are in the formulation of ‘Do travel’, ‘Tell them to travel’, or ‘Do they not travel?’
The Qur’an promotes travel as a potential pilgrimage, since during travel one passes by numerous ‘ayah’ or divine messages (Qur’an 31:31, 12:105, 22:46; 45:3 and 10:6). Also, man’s ability to travel is described as a special honour endowed to man as part of man’s exalted status above all natural Forces (Qur’an 17:61, 66, 70).
Travel, tour and navigation demand geographical and astronomical information as well as nautical, aeronautical and astronautical knowledge. Because scientific data about natural objects (explored messages of nature) give man orientation and power, they are described in the Qur’an as directions of paths, like landmarks and guiding stars. Allah the Almighty says:
“And it is He (Allah) who has set for you the stars that you may guide yourselves by them in the darkness of the land and the sea. We have detailed Our messages for a people who possess knowledge.” [Qur’an, 6:97]
“And it is He (Allah) who has made the sea subservient… And He has placed firm mountains on Earth, lest it sway with you, and rivers and paths, so that you might find your way, And landmarks; and by the stars they are guided.” [Qur’an, 16:14-16]
“It is He who has made the Earth a cradle for you, and has traced out for you ways therein.” [Qur’an, 20:53]
While thus encouraging travel in general, the Qur’an also strongly recommends travel when it has a specific, positive purpose: travel to trade, search, explore, visit, migrate, enjoy, learn, study, spiritual and so on.
* Travel to read divine messages
The Qur’an promotes travel as a potential pilgrimage since during travel one passes by numerous ‘ayah’ or divine messages that declare Allah’s oneness and greatness. Allah the Most High says:
“Have you not seen the ships speeding through the sea, carrying Allah’s provisions, so that He might show you some of His wonders? Herein, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are patient, grateful.” [Qur’an, 31:31]
“And how many a Message in the Heavens and the Earth which they pass by, yet they turn away from it!” [Qur’an, 12:105]
There is a call for travel in order to read these messages by searching new information and experience-based knowledge and thereby to acquire wisdom. Allah the Almighty says:
“Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear? For surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the minds which are in the foremost.” [Qur’an, 22:46]
Translated here as ‘minds’, the word ‘qulub’ signifies ‘sites of intellect or understanding’ (as defined in Qur’an, 6:25), whereas the word ‘sadr’, translated here as ‘foremost’, has a metaphoric connotation, and – since in Arabic it has the connotation of chest, top, foremost or upper part of anything – indicates brain as well.
* Travel for trade and commerce
The Qur’an encourages travel for trade and commerce – which generates mutual profit and benefit through exchange of commodities and export-import – while depicting it as a great way to get some of the divine blessings. Allah the Most High says:
“Your Sustainer is He who causes the ships to move on for you through the sea so that you may go about in quest of some of His bounty: verily Most Merciful is He towards you.” [Qur’an, 17:66]
“And in the ships that speed through the sea with what benefits man…there are messages for a people reasoning.” [Qur’an, 2:164]
“Then, once the contact prayer is ended, disperse through the Earth and go in quest of some of divine Bounty, and remember Allah frequently, so that you may succeed.” [Qur’an, 62:10]
* Travel to explore new horizons
Another emphasised purport of travel is searching and exploring new lands and areas, new possibilities, potential resources and richness of various cultures. Allah says:
“And on that one sees ships ploughing through the waves, so that you might go forth in quest of some of His bounty, and thus have cause to be grateful.” [Qur’an, 16:14]
“And you see the ships cleave through it that you may seek of His Bounty and that you may be thankful.” [Qur’an, 35:12]
“It is Allah who has subjected to you the sea that the ships may run thereon by His command, that you may seek of his Bounty, and that you may be thankful.” [Qur’an, 45:12]
* Travel for recreation
Travel even for simple pleasure, in the form of recreational tourism, is also encouraged. Allah the Most High says:
“It is He who enables you to travel by land and sea; until when you are in the ships, and they sail on with them in a pleasant breeze, and they rejoice.” [Qur’an, 10:22]
“Lawful for you is all water-game, and all the catch of the sea, as enjoyment for you and for those who travel.” [Qur’an, 5:96]
“And among His signs is that He sends the winds with glad tidings, and to give you a taste of His grace, and so that the ships might sail by His command, and that you might go about in quest of some of His Bounties, that you may be thankful.” [Qur’an, 30:46]
* Travel to learn from visiting new places
The Qur’an encourages travel that aims to visit new places as a means of learning. Allah the Almighty says:
“Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear?” [Qur’an, 22:46]
“Have you not seen the ships speeding through the sea, carrying Allah’s provisions, so that He might show you some of His wonders? Herein, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are patient, grateful.” [Qur’an, 31:31]
* Travel to immigrate
We are asked to fight or flight. Fight against oppression or, if this is not an option, flight to seek refuge elsewhere. When we fail to freely express our opinions or practise our decent values in a particular country or place, we should try to emigrate to another which is more suitable for the purpose. Thus travel with intent of immigration, whenever essential, is prescribed, while apathy and self-harm are condemned. Allah says:
“Was Allah’s Earth not spacious enough that you could emigrate in it?” [Qur’an, 4:97]
“Those who have emigrated for Allah because they were oppressed, We will grant them good in this world, and the reward of the End will be greater, if they knew.” [Qur’an, 16:41]
* Travel to study evolutionary science, palaeontology and anthropology
One of the highlighted purposes of travel is searching, exploring and learning about origin and evolution of Universe, life and man. Allah the Most High says:
“Do they not see how Allah originates creation, then reproduces it: surely that is easy for Allah. Say: Travel through the Earth and deeply observe HOW Allah did originate the creation; then Allah produces the next creation; surely Allah has power over all things.” [Qur’an, 29:19-20]
* Travel to study archaeology and history
Over and over again the Qur’an emphasises the importance of travel with a purpose to study archaeology and the history of nations and humankind in general, including causes of rise and fall of previous peoples and civilisations. Allah the Almighty says:
“Do they not travel through the Earth, and deeply observe what was the End of those before them?” [Qur’an, 47:10]
“Have they not travelled through the Earth and deeply observed the consequences for those who were before them?” [Qur’an, 40:82]
Please refer to similar statements in Qur’an 35:44 and 40:21.
* Travel to learn from the past
Then we are invited to ‘travel through the Earth’ so that we can learn lessons from the past. What happened to all those great powers and civilisations of the past? One needs to travel, both physically and conceptually, to search and explore the history and the driving forces behind it. Allah the Most High says:
“Say: Travel through the Earth and deeply observe how was the end of the rejecters.” [Qur’an, 6:11]
“Ways of life have passed away before you. So do but travel through the Earth and deeply observe how was the end of the rejecters.” [Qur’an, 3:137]
Similar verses are e.g. Qur’an 16:36 and 27:69.
The Qur’an asserts that the cause of the causes of the decline and fall of a civilisation is people’s rejection of the divine oneness – expressed as their denial of the unity of nature and the unity of humanity. This denial leads to the rejection of human’s ultimate responsibility for his conscious actions, and this, in turn, leads to cognitive and moral bankruptcy – i.e., unscientific attitude to nature and life, and subsequent socioeconomic and political chaos – and so to the downfall of communities and civilisations. Allah says:
“Corruption has appeared on land and sea because of what men’s hands have earned, and so He will give them a taste of some of their deeds, in order that they may turn back. Say: Travel through the Earth and deeply observe what happened in the end to those before you: Most of them worshipped others besides Allah. Set then your face steadfastly towards the system which is straight.” [Qur’an, 30:41-43]
Here the growing pollution and destruction of our natural and social environment (‘Corruption has appeared on land and sea’), so seriously demonstrated in our time, is predicted as a consequence of man’s self-destructive – because utterly materialistic – inventiveness and frenzied activities (‘because of what men’s hands have earned’) which now threaten the human existence itself with previously unimaginable ecological and socioeconomic disasters: an outcome of man’s oblivion of Allah and, hence, of moral values, and his delusion that ‘material progress’ is the only thing that matters.
We are asked to learn lessons from history of the extinct civilisations who likewise worshipped material comfort, ego and power, as well as worshipped various false idols like messengers, avatars and other sanctified creatures (‘Most of them worshipped others besides Allah’). They thus lost harmony with natural laws and moral values – which are based on the unity of nature and the unity of humanity and which have their ultimate foundation on Allah’s oneness – and, as a consequence, destroyed themselves.
* A call of cheer for the traveller
However, the Qur’an also positively reminds the traveller, who is wandering through the pages of history, that – as rain vivifies a barren land – man’s conscious effort can as easily create a civilisation out of ruins. Allah the Almighty says:
“Was it not a lesson for them, how many generations We annihilated before them, in whose dwellings now they do walk about? Certainly there are messages in this: Will they not then hear? Do they not see that We drive the water to the barren land, then We bring forth thereby crops of which their livestock and they themselves eat; will they not then see?” [Qur’an, 32:26-27]
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, the Ever-Living, Who does not die, and Peace and Blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his family and Companions.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today Friday, Rajab 15th, 1440 AH (March 22, 2019), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: or +2348038289761.

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