Embarking on a Spiritual Hijrah

by Ustaz Vincent Souleymane

Muslims around the world have just celebrated the Islamic New Year on 1st Muharram. Starting from the hijrah or migration of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ from Mecca to Medina, hijrah has a profound meaning for every Muslim. The word hijra الهجرة means “emigration”, it is derived from the verb هجر which means “to forsake”.

Spiritual Hijrah

Hijrah nowadays has no longer to be interpreted literally as a physical migration. Hijrah can be interpreted as a change of behavior from negative things to positive ones or better aspects. Inner hijrah is a spiritual emigration, and consists first of all of getting rid of the bad beliefs and actions that one is used to committing.

A Muslim person may have beliefs that are forbidden and contrary to the beliefs of Islam, such as superstition, or beliefs about the dead. He may also have bad habits, practices that are harmful to himself that Allah does not like. By abandoning these beliefs and actions, this person is making a spiritual emigration, moving away from the forbidden and directing his or her heart and attention to what Allah loves and accepts.

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Imam Al Bukhârî reports in his Sahih that the Messenger of Allah said:

Believers should also pay attention to the places they frequent and the atmosphere they find themselves in. For these have an effect on the heart, and by being in the presence of blameworthy behavior, the heart becomes accustomed to it and the sin becomes commonplace in the mind of the believer.

It is possible that acts that used to shock him no longer shock him, even if he persists in not adhering to them, this is because the mind knows that it is blameworthy but the heart has become used to it.

There is a big difference between a person who commits a sin in private, out of sight, and one who commits the same sin in full view of everyone. The former has committed a forbidden act that concerns only him and his Creator, while the latter has spread his sin and contributed to its normalization.

Allah tells us in the Quran, verse 140 of Surah 4:

وَقَدْ نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِى ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ أَنْ إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ ءَايَـٰتِ ٱللهِ يُكْفَرُ بِهَا وَيُسْتَهْزَأُ بِهَا فَلَا تَقْعُدُوا۟ مَعَهُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَخُوضُوا۟ فِى حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِۦٓ ۚ إِنَّكُمْ إِذًۭا مِّثْلُهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللهَ جَامِعُ ٱلْمُنَـٰفِقِينَ وَٱلْكَـٰفِرِينَ فِى جَهَنَّمَ جَمِيعًا ١٤٠

[An-Nisa’ 4:140]

And in the Quran verse 68 of Surah 6:

وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ ٱلَّذِينَ يَخُوضُونَ فِىٓ ءَايَـٰتِنَا فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَخُوضُوا۟ فِى حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِۦ ۚ وَإِمَّا يُنسِيَنَّكَ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ فَلَا تَقْعُدْ بَعْدَ ٱلذِّكْرَىٰ مَعَ ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ ٦٨

“And when you see those who engage in [offensive] discourse concerning Our verses, then turn away from them until they enter into another conversation. And if Satan should cause you to forget, then do not remain after the reminder with the wrongdoing people.” 

[The Cattles 6:68]

Allah tells us not to stay in the presence of people who mock the verses of Allah. This is an extremely serious act, a believer cannot get used to listening to this kind of speech.

The Prophet also said in a hadith reported by Tirmidhi and others:

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him not sit at a table where alcohol is being drunk.”

Again, a believing person should not sit at a table where such a sin is committed. This is the basic rule, although there are special cases that can be taken into account.

So we see that hijrah also has a spiritual meaning, deeper than just changing the place of residence. It is the hijrah of the heart that disavows the blamable.

May Allah help us to forsake what He dislikes and turn completely to Him, on the way of His Messenger.


Contributed by Vincent Souleymane

Vincent Souleymane, French Imam and Shari’a referent at Muslim Pro, has dedicated his time to studying and enriching others with the knowledge of Islamic sciences since his conversion to this religion in 1999. During his studies at the Oussoul Eddine Institute in Saint-Denis, he became aware of the importance of devotion to Allah and decided to continue his religious studies at Darou El-ouloum achrafiya of Reunion Island and at the IESH of Château Chinon. Since then, Vincent Souleymane has devoted himself to the Almighty by teaching Islam at the Oussoul Eddine Institute, as well as being imam at the Mosque of Fontenay sous Bois.