Lessons of a Traveler – Temporariness


By Ammar M. Ali

“Leave your country in search of loftiness and travel! For in travel there are five benefits: Relief of adversity, earning of livelihood, knowledge, etiquettes, and noble companionship.” – Imam As-Shafi

I was born and raised in a small suburb of Houston, Texas called Sugar Land, where I spent the first nineteen years of my life. In September 2009, immediately after high school, my younger brother and I left for Medical School to a relatively remote island in the West Indies called St. Kitts. Now, after almost two years, as my last semester comes to an end and these bittersweet feelings run through my head, I can’t help but reflect on a realization I’ve come to.

Moving out of a home and land that you dwelled in for the first nineteen years of your life, and into a land that is completely unknown, can, and will, change a person. As human beings, we get so comfortable in these little niches that we form, and get so accustomed to the way things are, that we begin to abhor the concept of change. We can’t tolerate the harsh truth that we are going to have to “start all over”; a new home, new friends, and new memories.

However, after initial hesitation — and often, active resistance — we begin to inescapably move on. It’s funny though, and even a little scary, how quickly we get so comfortable with our new lives in our new homes, and with our new friends in our new communities, and we begin to realize that all the things we had once longed for and were afraid to lose, were awfully temporary.

We begin to understand the ephemeral nature of pain, sorrow, happiness, and pleasure, and, on a larger scale, of life itself. I lived in my city with my parents and my siblings in a house of nine. I formed, what I thought to be, everlasting bonds. I knew the land as if it were my own, and felt proud to call myself a Texan. But now, as poignant as it is, I’m happy here in St. Kitts. I began to realize, very early on, that the sadness I felt when I was leaving home was transient. I began to realize that all the material possessions I had amassed and thought I couldn’t live without were impermanent. And I began to realize that all these people I called my friends and my foes, were short-lived.

I couldn’t help but think to myself that perhaps Allah subhanahu wa ta`la (exalted is He) plans out these brief phases in our lives, so that He may paint for us a bigger picture. So He may elucidate to us a truth: that just like all these brief phases, emotions, and acquaintances come and go, so too we came, and so too we will go. So that He may show us that we are on a train on which one ticket stub has been torn off in the womb, another when we came into this world, but the third and final stub awaits until we enter either paradise or the fire of hell, may Allah swt protect us all. Maybe Allah swt wanted to make us realize that we have no real reason to be sad, or that we cannot hope to find pure happiness in things belonging to this world because eventually, inevitably, “everything will perish” (Qur’an, 55:26).

“Oh men who take pleasure in this world, falling in love with a fading shadow is pure stupidity”. - `Ali radi Allahu ‘anhu (may Allah be pleased with him).

It is high time that we stop putting our ultimate and deepest trust, happiness, and love in people, places, and objects, because we will be disappointed. These friends that we once confided in, and thought we couldn’t live without, will be replaced as we move from place to place, and our families will eventually pass. We are eventually going to have to move out of these homes in which we spend our whole lives, cultivate attachments and resentments, and create everlasting memories. It’s time we get a grasp on the truer reality, and realize that the only things that are permanent are those things that are connected to Allah swt.

When you trust in Allah, and place all your affairs in His hands, you will never be let down. When you truly understand the meaning of Allah is closer to you than your jugular vein” (Qur’an, 50:16), and form a pure and true relationship with Him, you come to know that it’s an everlasting and mutual relationship. When you find your truest happiness and tranquility with Allah, you will realize it’s permanent. For “only in the remembrance of Allah will man find true comfort, tranquility, and peace” (Qur’an, 13:28). It is then, and only then, that we will be able to truly please Allah swt, and enter into our permanent home. For “that is the ultimate, supreme achievement” (Qur’an, 4:13).

“What is this world but a dream that a sleeper sees – he delights in it for a few moments, and then wakes up to face reality”. – Hasan Al-Basri

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29 Comments

  1. Sid says:

    SubhanAllah, this article was so moving and got me in tears. Indeed you have spoken the truth brother. Very well articulated with a very deep message. May Allah (swt) grant you with the highest level in Jannah and continue to bless your writing skills with even more wisdom so you can continue to spread the truth. Ameen.

  2. Yasmin says:

    Mashallah, beautiful article and I loved the analogy of the traveler!

  3. Nazreen says:

    Jazakallah for such a wonderful article! May Allah reward you for this effort and grant you a place in Jannah.

    I can totally relate to what you wrote about. Even I moved out of home last year when I Uni. I moved to another country and even though at first everything was alien at first I slowly came to like my new surroundings. Now what I am scared of is forming bonds with this place!

    It is so true that the heart can be truly at peace only when it obeys it’s owner obeys it’s creator. Otherwise how much ever you are happy with your friends and family and job, there is always this guilt lurking somewhere which pounces on you when you least expect causing depression, sadness, anxiety and what not. The only way to get over that is through the remembrance of our Lord.

    May this realization be a part of our being always.

  4. Maryam says:

    That was really good. And really motivating. I think a lot of us forget how to keep a balance, esp when feeling overwhelmed in life that we let the bond btwn us and Allah let loose. These type of reminders always refresh the brain and set our goals on the right path again. JazakAllah Khair. :)

  5. Abdullah says:

    MashaAllah very good read. Btw, is this the same Ammar thats the imam of Maryam Islamic Center?

  6. Shazia says:

    A good article.. Very much what i felt.

  7. Sumaya says:

    SubhanAllah, I really need to hear such a words..jazakallah khair

  8. tim says:

    mashaAllah! Mawlana saab!

  9. Sarah says:

    MashaAllah that was truly beautiful brother, definitely opened up my eyes. May Allah (SWT) increase you in His blessings.

  10. Haroon says:

    Yes, It is.^ Masha Allah, very deep and beautiful article. Come back to Houston Ammar, we all miss praying our salah behind you!

  11. Fred says:

    I attached my heart to too many things and felt like a an earth’nd anchor sunken in a deep sea abyss, darkness all around, voices vanished n gone like a reflection passed, her face was so sweet i remember , I remember, it was a cold dark December, when I was lost in a trance of love and heartach chasing sweet shadows like a shadow that fades like when i was trying to throw my arms around the dunia, she vanished away, no love can stay except the love of Ar Rahman, but my devotion is blurred between black and gray anchored in the abyss of memories, sensations, sounds and faces of the past. Someday we will find a way out

  12. muslimah says:

    jazakAllah khair for such a beautiful article. mashaAllah.

  13. Omer says:

    mA ammar that was really really good. i miss you bro

  14. sumayyah says:

    Subahannallah this was very much needed brother, and Allah (swt) has blessed you with an ability to write. jazakumullahu khairan.

  15. Reham says:

    Lovely piece! I can relate to it so much! May Allah bless you the highest level of heaven. Janit Alferdous.

  16. Khadhija says:

    Wow, the last para was truly hair raising.. masha Allah

  17. Nira says:

    Masha Allah. I can relate so much with this article. Indeed, traveling opens up ur view and horizon….u get to know ur innerself better. shielding it within u in an alien surroundings. this world is just a transit. we will go home, oneday. May Allah grants us all jannah, ameen.

  18. AZZA says:

    Subhan Allah, I really was in need to remember such great words..jazakom Allah khair

  19. Fatha says:

    This is so true and I am so proud of you Ammar it is amazing that you realize this at such a young age AlhamdulLila, and I will hold those words close to my heart.

  20. Sairah says:

    jazakAllah! This is exactly what the doctor ordered!

  21. Mujahid says:

    Sheikh, was an amazing piece subhanAllah. Now please come back to Sugar Land, we need to hear your voice at the masjid. This last Ramadan I missed you so much.

  22. Sana says:

    ^ we all did.

  23. Safia says:

    Mashallah, I really need this piece at this time. I just recently moved from a state I’ve lived in with my family for over a decade to another state for school purposes. Br. Ammar expresses and helps put into perspective many of the same emotions I’ve been experiencing in this journey. What a coincidence that I stumbled upon such a piece now – its all by Allah’s design. Jazakallahi Khair!

  24. Ahmed says:

    Beautifully written. I can relate to the experience of the author – I left my home in the State of Oregon, to Europe for medical school – for 6 years and have recently returned home Alhamdulillah. Though I would return home for the summer and winter holidays during those six years, I realized that life changes, circumstances change – this change defines the life of this world. We all get caught up in being attached to people and places – places change (even home), people, as was pointed out, come and go, yet the one constant, no matter where this short journey takes us, is Him – so our only true attachment, should thus, be to the One who is Always Present and unchanging. Even now, back at home, many things are no longer as they were when I left that September day in 2005.

    One thing that I was reminded of by this article, is that “Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face.” (Qur’an 28:88)

    Jazak’Allahu Khairan for this great reminder and insha’allah, let’s hope it resonates with us for the remainder of our lives. Ameen.

    • emanne says:

      SubhanAllah, I was reminded of the same verse in the Quran.. it is so beautiful. This was a very wonderful article mashaAllah.

  25. Amazed says:

    I probaly read through this article atleast five times. It is true and sad, but we will have to learn to move on. Funny enough Im having to move on from someone I love and am attached to dearly, this article came in the right time, because I realised I was get attached to an extend it would only destroy me, and we humans are not meant to be attached in such a way that is makes us forget Allah.. whatever it maybe..

  26. Zee says:

    SubhanaAllah Amazing!

  27. emanne says:

    MashaAllah, this was wonderful. It really hit me deep. It was so refreshing and a great reminder of the reality of how temporary this life is. JazakAllah khair

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