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mnmlist: THE REFUGEE CRISIS: LESSONS FROM THE MIGRATION OF IMAM AS-SADIQ(A) FROM MEDINA TO KUFA NOTES FROM LECTURE ON THE MARTYRDOM OF IMAM JA’FAR AS-SADIQ (A)

13th August 2015

This majalis can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAfaMwx4h7I

An easy-to-print-version is here.

According to the United Nations, the present refugee crisis is the largest since World War II [1].
Estimates suggest there are up to 60 million refugees in the world [2]. This is mainly due to war and
poverty. This figure is set to rise due to persistent war, efforts to capture cities from occupying forces
and global warming that will flood low-lying lands [3].
Of the 60 million refugees only 105,000 or less than 1% were rehoused in 2014. The country that takes
in the most refugees is Lebanon, at 232/1000 per capita and the least is Australia, at less than 2/1000
per capita [4].
This increase in war is one of the signs of the end of time. The holy Prophet (s) was asked “Are there
signs by which we may know the Hour?” amongst which he replied, “The destruction of civilisation”
[5]. What is the solution for this? Imam Ali (a) stated, “Nothing can cause the flourishing of nations
except justice” [6].
The debate over refugees is one that is prevailing in certain countries. In the States its become the
leading discourse amongst the presidential candidates; in the UK prior and post the May election and
even recently in Australia when Prime Minister was asked about welcoming refugee’s replied “Nope,
nope, nope” [7]. Much of the negative language comes from a position of hatred for ‘foreigners’,
latent racism or fear of economic decline.
In the UK the leading discourse has been regarding the refugees coming through Europe and the 2,200
at Calais, attempting to cross the Channel. In recent weeks much negative language has been used to
scaremonger British citizens and to dehumanise the refugees’ plight
a) Theresa May claimed the vast majority of migrants are Africans travelling to Europe for economic
reasons
b) The Daily Mail claimed 7/10 migrants at Calais will reach the UK
c) Prime Minister Cameron called the refugee’s a swarm
d) Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond claimed the African migrants would cause the collapse of
European civilisation [8].
Parts of Europe are responding by herding refugees into stadiums [9] or to build walls across their
entire border to keep migrants out [10]. The fact that we have such a global issue requires us to think
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about the world we live in and how we can evolve from nation states and borders that divide and
cause this global fracturing of the human society. It requires us to consider the uneven distribution of
resource and wealth and how until then migration will always be a response to war and poverty.
The state we live in today is in opposition to the natural state of freedom of movement, how God
Almighty has created us and the history of humanity. Human beings have roamed this world for 5
million years. Historically mankind followed the migratory patterns of animals. Once mankind learned
to domesticate animals they settled in places. When the last ice age occurred circa 70,000 years ago,
millions of people migrated toward the equator. Animals also migrate, be it birds or fish or elephants.
This is the natural order of creation.
All the Abrahamic faiths have a history of migration.
a) Prophet Abraham (a) migrated as the Qur’an says “And he said: Surely I travel to my lord; He will
guide me.” (37:99)
b) Prophet Moses (a) migrated from Egypt to Medyan and back to Egypt. Having freed the Children of
Israel, ten’s of thousands migrated to the Holy Lands (Qur’an 5:23-25)
c) Pope Francis recently said Prophet Jesus (a) was a refugee
d) Islam had two major migrations. The first was the group that sought protection in Ethiopia, and the
second was the major migration from Mecca to Medina heralding the Islamic calendar.
In this way any discussion between faith groups should recall their own history and religiously minded
people should be great advocates for freedom of movement, migration and humanitarian assistance
to refugees. This reminder may be a great tool for policy change.
The Imams of Ahl al-Bayt (a) were also migrants.
a) Imam’s Ali, Hassan, Hussain (a) migrated to Kufa
b) Imam’s Kadhim and Jawad (a) migrated to Iraq
c) Imam Redha (a) migrated to Khorasan
d) Imam al-Mahdi (a) reportedly grew up in Medina and returned to Iraq
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a) migrated to Kufa for two years. And so in honour of him we discuss what does
he say about migration and what did he encounter during his period of emigration? What are the
Islamic positions and what can we learn in regard to the modern crisis of refugees?
Imam as-Sadiq (a) is narrated to have said, “There is no travel (ta’arrub) after migration (hijrah) and
there is no migration (hijrah) after victory (fat’h) [11]. According to his eminence Ayatollah Syed Ali
Seestani the word “ta’arrub” means ‘to migrate from a place that allows you to perform your religious
obligations to a place of religious deficit, that one cannot practise their religion properly’ [12]. This is
prohibited through the narration. Also if Islam established under the rule of a just Imam, migration
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from the Islamic lands is not permissible. Elsewhere Imam as-Sadiq (a) is narrated to have reiterated
this saying, “The traveller (al-Muta’arribu) after migration to turn away from this affair (of religion)
after cognisance of it (is prohibited)” [13].
This narration demonstrates when migration is prohibited, that is after positive hijrah has been
accomplished and so to move again to a place devoid of religious practise or freedom, or away from
the rule of a just Imam. The former aligns our thinking when migrating from countries, cities or even
local areas where our religious practise may be effected.
When events occur that bring about the question of needing to migrate, there may be three primary
responses
a) There is no need to migrate: This may be based on a false interpretation of the narration “The very
best of actions is to await (divine) relief.” Some believe that this waiting (intidhaar) is a placid,
unresponsive waiting. The word action (‘amal) denotes movement and activity. And so when events
occur that require migration, remaining inactive is not befitting of the human need
b) Migration for the need to save ones religion: Just as it is prohibited to migrate to a place where
one’s religion will face a deficit, it is necessary to migrate away from the place in which one’s religion
is at threat.
In Sahih al-Bukhari, the Prophet Muhammad (s) is narrated to have said, “He who intended his
immigration or God and his Messenger, then it would be deemed so. And whoever emigrated seeking
wealth or the heart of a woman his immigration would be judged by the intended end” [14].
The Qur’an has many verses explaining migration for the sake of saving ones faith. In fact at the point
of death if one has avoided migration to save his religion, the angels would be their enemy when
taking their soul. “Surely (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their
souls, they shall say: In what state were you? They shall say: We were weak in the earth. They shall
say: Was not Allah’s earth spacious, so that you should have migrated therein? And whoever flies in
Allah’s way, he will find in the earth many a place of refuge and abundant resources, and whoever
goes forth from his house flying to Allah and His Messenger, and then death overtakes him, his reward
is indeed with Allah” (4:97-100). Also, “And (as for) those who believed and fled and struggled hard
in Allah’s way, and those who gave shelter and helped, these are the believers truly; they shall have
forgiveness and honorable provision” (8:74).
Ayatollah Shaheed Mutahhari (r) states, “It becomes obligatory on the person to flee his place of
abode where they may endanger their religious life if they stayed” [15]. Imam Ali (a) in Nahj alBalaghah
is narrated to have stated “Migration is tantamount to the original goal” [16] meaning any
modern day migration that matches the values of the prophetic migration share the same reward.
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c) Migration for the sake of life and prosperity. Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (a) is narrated to
have said, “Emigrate from your native country in pursuit of loftier positions, for there are five benefits
to be had from travel: Alleviating anxiety, working for a living, acquiring knowledge, attaining moral
excellence, the companionship of distinguished people” [17].
In this way, migration is performed when circumstances emerge and conditions are met. Shaheed
Mutahhari discusses the need for migration when life and liberty are threatened saying, “Without
immigration man’s lot would be nothing other than degradation and misery. For man to be free in the
full sense of the word, he has to free himself from all the shackles of humiliation that surround him.
He should not let himself be enslaved by anything” [18].
In this way, we see that Islam encourages migration when life is threatened or when there is
opportunity to better one’s life be it economically or for moral reasoning. Muslims should encourage
and welcome migrants and not be coopted into the media scaremongering nor into the hatred of
human beings wishing to better their lives, especially those fleeing war, disease and abject poverty.
Islam greatly encourages the help of the weak and downtrodden. In the Qur’an there is great praise
for the Ahl al-Bayt (a) for their assisting “the poor and the orphan and the captive” (76:8). Imam asSadiq
(a) narrates that the Prophet (s) said, “Oh Ali, the one who performs four things, Allah will build
for him a great house in paradise: He who shelters an orphan; has mercy upon the weak;
compassionate to his parents; takes care of his possessions” [19]. Migrants such as those is Calais or
Kos can easily be assisted by collection and distribution of materials needed. Many professional
organisations are involved in assisting the refugees now in Europe and can be joined or donated to.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a) thus migrated for two years from Medina to Kufa. According to Allama Baqir
Qarashi “the greatest possibility was that this movement was not the result of political pressure or a
house arresting from the government, but it could be considered as his interest in being with the
people of al-Kufah.” This reiterates that migration can be for positive reasons as well as those forced
upon an individual and that Islam encourages freedom of movement. Imam as-Sadiq (a) had great
impact in his time in Kufa including
a) Training of 900 scholars in all fields of religion and science, “with each one managing a group of
learners”
b) Informing people of the burial site of Imam Ali (a)
c) Motivating and teaching the rituals of visiting the burial site of Imam al-Hussain (a)
d) The transmission and collection of tens of thousands of narrations [20]
And so the conclusions of such a discourse invoke the reality of the migrant and refugee community.
It is nothing to be ashamed of but rather their fleeing persecution and desperation is an act sanctified
by religion. It is upon the people of all faiths to remember their history and realise the role migration
played in establishing their own faiths and our responsibility toward refugees today. It has become
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necessary that the world begins to discuss a new world order that does not boast patriotism and
borders that labels human being illegal or unwelcome for the world belongs to all humanity. There is
also much practical work we can do to assist. A major aspect of the life of Imam as-Sadiq (a) included
migration and he demonstrated the benefit for himself and humanity when a person is allowed to
express himself in different places, exposing him to new cultures, environments and people. It is this
approach we must adopt with the migrant crisis and be involved in shaping the discourse toward this
same end.
Was-Salaam Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakaatu
Endnotes
[1] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/15/worst-refugee-crisis-since-second-world-warreport-middle-east-africa-syria
[2] http://www.unhcr.org/558193896.html
[3] http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/briefingpapers/refugees/nextsteps.html
[4] http://unhcr.org/556725e69.html
[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8JQqXf-Jv8
ال عدل ب م ثل ال ب لدان عمرت ما [6]
[7] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/21/nope-nope-nope-tony-abbott-says-australiawill-take-no-rohingya-refugees
[8] http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/aug/10/10-truths-about-europes-refugee-crisis
[9] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/kos-migrants-beaten-locked-inside-stadiumand-sprayed-with-fire-extinguishers-by-police-10452168.html
[10] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/22/migrants-hungary-border-fence-wall-serbia
ال ف تح ب عد هجرة ال و ، الهجرة ب عد ت عرب ال [11]
[12] http://www.sistani.org/arabic/qa/0396/
معرف ته ب عد االمر لهذا ال تارك الهجرة ب عد ال م تعرب [13]
[14] http://islam.ru/en/content/story/actions-and-intentions
[15] Immigration and Jihad, Dar al-Hadi Publications, 2003 pg 66
Sermon 187 االو ل حده ع لى ق ائ مة الهجرة [16]
[17] Immigration and Jihad, Dar al-Hadi Publications, 2003 pg 43
[18] Ibid pg 40
ع لى ا ش فق و ، ال ض ع يف رحم و ، ال ي ت يم آوى من ، ال ج نة ف ي ب ي تا ل ه هللا ب نى ف يه ك ن من ارب ع ع لي ي ا [19]
ب مم لوكه رف ق و ، وال دي ه
[20] The life of Imam al-Sadiq, Ansariyan 2007, pg 690-693