Following the season of Hajj – which signifies a time of forgiveness, mercy, sacrifice, commitment and renewed opportunities for unity among all Muslims – the new Hijri year of 1439 just started. With the new Hijri year, Canadian Muslims together with the international Muslim family (Ummah) recall the Prophet’s Hijrah (or migration) from Makkah to Madinah (Medina).

The event of the Hijrah should not be discussed only from its historic perspective, as often it is done, for Muslims have always been encouraged to contemplate Hijrah on a far deeper level, attempting to discern through its philosophy the solutions for our problems and to find ways in which to restore our dignity and integrity in the present day – here in Canada.

Thus, in both its concrete and conceptual senses, the Hijrah has provided a source of renewal and betterment for individuals and societies from early times to our current era.

One can imagine it as a running river from which true believers along the continuum of history have been able to quench their spiritual thirst, helping them to bridge the gap between past and present and guide them to make the best choices among what life offers.

With the advent of the new Hijri year, Muslims are drawn to contemplate the lessons of how that great event changed the face of the world, asking the Creator to bestow mercy and peace on our community, our society and the global village. They compare the strong and enlightened state of Muslims following the original Hijrah to this new and less-certain reality that we live in today. And they try through Hijrah to derive the impetus to work for the betterment of the global Ummah, in spite of the divisions and lost potential that mark so much of the Ummah and the entire world today.

Why is this so? The Hijrah meant a great deal to early Muslims, for it was a turning point in the history of Islam. It was not simply a flight from persecution, as is often said by those who are ignorant of its true meaning and facts, but rather a separation of believers from Jahiliyyah (ignorance), Zulm (oppression), Fahishah (immorality) etc. and their reorientation towards the new light – the Noorullah (the light of God).

It was a point in history which transformed Muslims from a state of weakness into strength, from instability into stability, from disunity and oppression to the establishment of a just system never before experienced.

Thus the Hijrah has a direct bearing on our purpose as Muslims here in Canada. As Canadian Muslims, we are obliged always to strive towards the highest ideals and values; that is, to realize our religious identity, our position in our Canadian as its faithful citizens; and to fulfill our opportunities to help ourselves, this beautiful country, and the world.

The Hijrah is thus a continuing process and we must all take part in it, for the aim of our collective Hijrah is to move towards the “new Madinah” – to a more spiritual and ethical way of life in all things. For God has given us a precious opportunity to establish ourselves in Canada so that we can live in peace, harmony, and kinship, sharing the message of our faith and values with others as did Muhammad (S) the Messenger in Madinah.

What are the messages of the Hijrah for the Contemporary Muhajir? What can we learn today from this pivotal event in Islamic history?

The Hijrah institutionalized three important aspects of life of the community of Muslims: i) the social/religious dimension, including the establishment and construction of religious identity; ii) the economic dimension, or helping one another and alleviating need in material ways); and iii) the political dimension, especially matters concerning freedom of religion and human rights.

i) Identity Construction:

It was only after the event of Hijrah that people began to see clearly that Islam is a complete way of life which pays attention to every aspect of human activity, providing direction for every moment of one’s conscious time. And it was only after the Hijrah that people could see Islam’s example of social decency and success.

ii) Helping one another:

For us living in Canada the economic aspect of the Hijrah (helping one another) is of major importance. Ansar (helpers) provided not only shelter and a peaceful home for the migrating Muslims – or Muhajirs (emigrants) — but out of love for their new brothers and sisters, helped them in all ways and by all means.

iii) Freedom of religion and respect for human rights:

The third reason why the Hijrah is so important is due to the freedom Muslims attained in Madinah. Before the Hijrah, early Muslims had no say in any matter, internal or external. The Hijrah turned those few hundred followers of Muhammad (S) into a highly successful society. Thus, the Hijrah became a new direction towards the sphere of Halal and justice for all.

While an important element of Hijrah, as explained by the Prophet (pbuh), is to “avoid and desert the unlawful things (Bukhari),” the lessons to be gained from Hijrah go far beyond that, including:

1. The assertion of a unique identity which is able to coexist with all other people in Canadian society, regardless of their religious and philosophical backgrounds within any context they find themselves.

2. The refusal to live indefinitely as a misunderstood element of the society and to correct this misunderstanding through all possible ethical and democratic means; an injustice to ourselves is also an injustice to society and in the world.

3. The mandate to live as a model of interaction and co-existence with all Canadian Muslims and other non-Muslim communities on the basis of a mutuality of interests, or the common good.

Let me state in conclusion that this is the right time to make our Hijrah to Islam; to find ourselves, our place and our position in society as its valuable citizens; to find our brothers and sisters in Islam and in humanity who need help.

It is an excellent time to find Muhajirs and Ansars, so that we can help and support each other as the first generation of Sahabah (companions) did. Then with the help of our brothers and sisters in humanity we could make Canada – our home – the world’s best role model for social and cultural health.

May NEW 1439 HIJRI YEAR be prosperous to ALL!