The Twenty-Eighth Greater Sin: Becoming A’Arab After Hijrat

The twenty-eighth sin, which is labelled as a Greater Sin, is to become A’arab (Bedouin, gypsy etc) after Hijrat (migration).

It is recorded in Usul al-Kafi under the chapter of Greater Sins that according to the Sahih of Ibn Mahbub when he wrote a letter to Imam Musa Ibn Ja’far (‘a) he (‘a) replied and this sin was included among the Greater Sins. Moreover, Muhammad bin Muslim has quoted Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) and stated that he (‘a) has included this sin among the greater ones. The book of ‘Ali (‘a) also includes this sin in the list of Greater Sins.

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) says:

“Becoming A’arab after Hijrat and polytheism is one and the same (sin).”1

What Does ‘Becoming A’arab After Hijrat’ Mean?

A’arab refers to the nomadic Arabs or Bedouins who are absolutely ignorant of religion and rituals connected with faith. Hijrat signifies the migration of these desert Arabs to the Muslim centre, their acceptance of Islam at the hands of the Holy Prophet (S) or his rightful successor, and their consequent adherence to faith, and adherence to religious rules and regulations.

Becoming A’arab after Hijrat is the condition when a desert Bedouin before acquiring the necessary knowledge of religion turns back to his ignorant ways.

In the early period of Islam it was incumbent upon them to migrate towards the Holy Prophet (S) in order to learn whatever was necessary for being a Muslim. Similarly it was prohibited for Muslims to stay in an area populated mostly with unbelievers; where it was not possible for them to pray and fast and perform other religious duties.

‘Why Don’t You Migrate?’

It is recorded in Tafsir Minhaj us-Sadiqin that there were some people among the Muslims like Qays bin Walid, who were outwardly Muslims and had recited the confession of La ilaha illallah but inspite of this and their ability to do so, they did not accompany the Muslims in their Hijrat from Mecca to Madinah, and when the Quraish of Mecca marched to attack the Muslims in the battle of Badr these people joined them and were ultimately killed at the hands of the Muslims. A Qur’anic verse was revealed on this occasion:

“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 could have migrated therein? So these it is whose abode is Hell, and it is an evil resort.” (Surah an-Nisa’ 4:97).

The above verse makes clear the fact that it is the duty of a Muslim to leave the place where he cannot adhere to his faith and rituals. In a tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (S) says:

“One who migrates from a place to another for the sake of religion, even if it is only as far as the distance of a span (of hand), Allah makes Paradise incumbent upon him. (Wherein) his companions will be Hazrat Ibrahim (‘a) and Prophet Muhammad (S).”2

“Except the weak from among the men and the children who have not in their power the means nor can they find a way (to escape); so these, it may be, Allah will pardon them, and Allah is Pardoning, Forgiving.” (Surah an-Nisa’ 4:98-99).

It is narrated from Akrama that many of the Meccans who had embraced Islam were not capable of migrating to Madinah, but when the Qur’anic verse deploring such people was revealed and they became aware of it; one of them Junda bin Zumra told his sons:

“Even though I have become extremely old and sick, I am not among those helpless people who have been deprived of migration by Allah (S.w.T.). I have yet some strength left and I also know the way to Madinah. I fear that if I were to die suddenly, my failure to migrate would be a blemish on my perfect faith. So, you all lift up the bed on which I lie and carry me outside towards Madinah.”

Thus, his sons lifted the bed and carried him outside, but they had reached only a short distance when the signs of his death became apparent. Junda bin Zumro kept his right hand on his left hand and said: “O Allah! This hand is for You and this for Your Messenger. I pledge allegiance to You for those things that Your Messenger had pledged.”

After this his soul escaped from his body. When the news of his death reached Madinah, some companions remarked, “It would have been better if Junda bin Zumro had reached Madinah. In this way he would have derived the Tawab of Hijrat.”

The Almighty Allah revealed the following ayat on this occasion:

“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 Apostle, and then death overtakes him, his reward is indeed with Allah and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Surah an-Nisa’ 4:100).

Becoming A’arab After The Passing Of The Holy Prophet (S)

During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (S) it was incumbent upon every person to migrate towards him (S) to obtain instruction in religion and faith. In case he lived in the midst of unbelievers where he could not perform the obligatory acts of prayers and fasting, it was all the more necessary to migrate.

Failure to migrate and returning to nomadism is decreed to be a Greater Sin and the Almighty has promised Hell fire for such people.

After the passing away of the Holy Prophet (S) it became Wajib to turn towards the Holy Imams (‘a) and to obtain the compulsory knowledge of faith and articles of Islamic acts. Also, it was most essential to attain the Ma’refat of Imam (‘a) i.e. it was incumbent to have knowledge of one’s Imam and also to learn the matters of belief and acts. It was also prohibited to turn back to paganism after the acceptance of Islamic faith. To remain aloof from the Holy Imam (‘a) even after recognising their position is Haram. Thus, Shaykh Saduq narrates from Huzaifa bin Mansur that he has reported from Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) who said:

“To become A’arab after Hijrat is to recognise Imam (‘a) and then be aloof from him.”3

Since the present age is the age of occultation of Imam az-Zaman (‘a) the same rules apply to us.

It Is Necessary To Migrate Towards The Jurist

Hijrat is incumbent on two types of people. The first type are those who are absolutely ignorant of the rules of religion. If there is no religious scholar in the area of their residence, whom they can refer to for their religious problems, then, it is compulsory for them to shift to a place where they have access to religious scholars for the solution of their problems.

The second types are those Muslims who live in the midst of unbelievers, and due to the oppression of these infidels, they are unable to perform their religious duties. It is incumbent on these Muslims to migrate to an area where there is freedom to practice their religion. The Shi’a jurists have explained this matter clearly.

Order For Migration Is Forever

The Messenger of Allah (S) has told us:

“Hijrat is Wajib till the doors of repentance close. The doors of repentance will not close till the sun rises from the west.” (i.e. the order for migration will be in force till Qiyama).4

Amir ul-Mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a) says:

“The order for Hijrat will be in force till Allah demands obedience from the inhabitants of the earth in the same way as the order was first promulgated in the time of the Holy Prophet (S).”

It means that Hijrat will remain a compulsory duty till the time other religious duties remain obligatory on the people.

‘They Could Not Migrate From Mecca’

In the book of ‘Masalik’, the second martyr5 writes that the Holy Prophet (S) has explained the meaning of the tradition of migration saying that it is specifically concerned with the migration from Mecca. Hence when Mecca was liberated from the domination of the unbelievers there was no need for the Muslims to migrate elsewhere. The order applies to only those Muslims who are unable to perform their religious duties. According to some scholars after the conquest Mecca there was no merit in migration from Mecca; just as there was a greater merit in Jihad and struggle for Islam before the conquest.

“...not alike among you are those who spent before the victory (of Mecca) and fought (and those who did not): they are more exalted in rank than those who spent and fought afterwards...” (Surah Hadid 57:10).

In order to understand the purport of this ayat let us study the following points:

Wajib, Mustahab And Mubah Hijrat

The respected scholar Allamah Hilli writes in his book Mumtahi that there are Three kinds of Hijrat (Migration), Wajib (obligatory), Mustahab (recommended) and Mubah (permitted).

Wajib Hijrat

Hijrat is Wajib on a Muslim (not restrained by old age or disease) who lives in the midst of infidels where he can neither reveal that he is a Muslim, nor can he perform his religious duties.

Recommended Hijrat

For those Muslims who live among infidels but who have complete freedom to practice their faith, it is recommended (Mustahab) to migrate to another area, if they are capable of doing so. However, if they have some legal excuse, migration is Mubah (Permitted) for them; it is not even Mustahab.

No Migration From Areas Of Ahl Ul-Sunnat

According to Sharhe Lumah and Jameal Maqasid, the first Martyr6 is believed to have said: “It is incumbent for a Muslim to migrate if he is living in the midst of infidels and is unable to follow Islam or perform his religious duties. In the same way a Shi’a who is living among the Ahl ul-Sunnat and is not able to perform the ritual acts of Shi’as is similarly required to migrate to areas populated with Shi’a people.”

However this view which is attributed to Muhammad Ibn Makki is not compatible with the general Islamic principle. Because if a Shi’a is living among Sunnis he does not need to forgo his religious obligations. He can follow Taqiyya (dissimulation) and fulfill his ritual acts. He can perform the Islamic acts in the same manner as the Sunnis if he fears for his life or property. We do not have any tradition exhorting such people to migrate to another area. On the other hand the Holy Imams (‘a) have time and again emphasised upon the adherence to dissimulation under such circumstances.

Support Of The Martyr’s View

Some scholars have supported the view of Muhammad Ibn Makki who stated the following tradition from Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) as quoted by Muhammad Ibn Muslim requested to explain the Islamic order for a person who during travel reaches a place where there aren’t any stones or sand; all the area is covered with snow and the person becomes “mujnib” (semen has been discharged from him and he has to perform the Wajib Ghusl for prayers). How can he do tayammum (substitute of Ghusl) in absence of mud or stone? Imam (‘a) replied,

“Let him do tayammum with this very snow and pray. I do not consider it proper for him to again go to such a place where he might lose his faith.”

According to those who support the view, since Imam (‘a) has prohibited his followers to go to a place where it is impossible to perform ghusl and wuzu, the prohibition also applies to a place where it is not possible to perform wuzu and ghusl according to Shi’a procedures.

However, this is not a sufficient argument because the tradition prohibits going to a place where one is sure to be unable to perform some obligatory acts. On the other hand it is only a possibility that in areas of Ahl ul-Sunnat a Shi’a will be compelled to practise Taqiyya. Besides, even if a Shi’a practices Taqiyya and performs the obligatory acts like the Ahl ul-Sunnat, his acts are considered correct. Moreover, if there is no constraint it may be recommended for him to migrate from the area of Ahl ul-Sunnat. However, if he is unable to express his love for Ahl ul-Bayt (.a.s.) it will certainly be Mustahab for him to migrate.

Propagating Wilayat In Areas Of Kuffar

Samad says that he told Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a), that he was travelling to an area populated by polytheists and that he would have to stay there for some time. Some of the Mu’minin had told him that it was not advisable to travel there because if he were to die in that place he would be counted among the polytheists. Imam (‘a) asked him if he would be able to propagate the Wilayat of Ahl ul-Bayt and invite people towards truth in that place? Samad said, “Yes, master, there is total freedom of expression and religion. The people there, are receptive of truth.” Then Imam (‘a) asked whether such a freedom was possible in an Islamic area. Samad said, “No! On the contrary we have to practise extreme Taqiyya, and none of us can even dare to utter the names of one of you (Imams).” Imam (‘a) told him,

“If death overcomes you in such a place you would be counted as a monotheist community.” [i.e. he will be equal to a whole community of monotheists; like Hazrat Ibrahim (‘a)]. The light of belief will emanate from your face.”7

Allamah Majlisi (r.a.) writes in the Sharh of al-Kafi that it is possible that A’arab means to become a nomad again or to forgo Hijrat after the order of Hijrat has been revealed. Like the prohibition of interest, which came into force only after the Divine command was revealed. Nevertheless, since the early period, failure to migrate without a valid reason or to migrate and then revert to nomadism, both of these are Greater Sin and promised the fire of Hell by the Almighty Allah.

Qur’anic View Of Nomadism And Apostasy

We have already mentioned at the beginning of our discussion that nomad specifically applies to the desert Arabs who were away from the centre of Islam and could not learn the Islamic rules and regulations, nor could they remember and follow the articles of faith. In this connection the following verse was revealed in the Qur’an:

“The dwellers of the desert are very hard in unbelief and hypocrisy, and more disposed not to know the limits of what Allah has revealed to His Apostles; and Allah is Knowing, Wise.” (Surah at-Tawba 9:97).

The Almighty also says:

“And of the dwellers of the desert are those who take what they spend to be a fine, and they wait (the befalling of) calamities to you; on them (will be) the evil calamity; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” (Surah at-Tawba 9:98).


“And of the dwellers of the desert are those who believe in Allah and the latter day and take what they spend to be (means of) the nearness of Allah and the Apostle’s prayers; surely it shall be means of nearness for them; Allah will make them enter into His mercy; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Surah at-Tawba 9:99).

Ignorance Of Islamic Acts Is A Kind Of Nomadism

The above two verses which flay the infidel Bedouins are clear regarding the fact that the nomads were deserving of criticism not because of their being dwellers of desert. It was because of their ignorance of articles of Islamic acts and belief. For those Bedouins who followed the Islamic religion, the Holy book has praised them in the third verse. They have been promised Divine Mercy.

On the basis of this, people who avoid learning Islamic rules and regulations and those who keep away from the centres of religious knowledge are in fact, nomads, and the verse denouncing the desert Arabs also applies to them even though they are living in cities.

The respected Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) remarked:

“Learn the rules of religion. Those of you who do not learn about religion are nomads. As the Almighty Allah says in His book,

Why does not a company from you goes to learn about religion so that when they come back they can warn their people in order they may become fearful (of disobeying Allah).’” (Surah at-Tawba 9:122)8.

Thus one who does not try to learn about religion and articles of faith is a desert dweller. The Imam (‘a) also told his followers:

“Knowledge of the Divine religion is incumbent on you. And do not become a nomad. Because if you fail to understand a religious act, Allah will not look upon it with Mercy on the Day of Qiyama and He will not purify that deed.”9

One Who Learns But Does Not Act Upon It Is Also A Nomad

Muhaddith Faiz writes in Wafi that it is possible that the above pronouncement may also apply to those who learn about the Islamic rituals and practices but fail to act upon them. He also quotes a tradition from Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) to prove this point. Allamah Majlisi (r.a.) states in the Sharh of al-Kafi that some scholars are of the opinion that being a nomad in the present time applies to those who after acquiring religious instructions, do not act upon them and remain aloof from Islamic knowledge.

Amir ul-Mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a) says:

“A man says that he has migrated, though in fact he has not. Because a migrant is the one who abandons sins and does not even go near them. And a person says that he has fought in the way of Allah but in reality he has not, because Jihad is the leaving of sinful acts and a war against enemy inside our own self. Whereas many people go out to fight not for the obedience and satisfaction of the Lord. Their motive is only to gain fame so that people may praise their bravery and fearlessness.”10

Desert Of Ignorance And Negligence

From the Qur’anic verses, the traditions and writings of the Islamic scholars we can conclude that nomadism implies the condition of a person who is ignorant and unaware of Allah Almighty’s Nobility of which human beings are capable and the eternal bliss which one can achieve, and instead he is totally immersed in the desires of this transient world. He is oblivious to righteousness and does not refrain from committing any sin or evil. He does not care to acquire knowledge (Ma’refat), nor does he pay attention to good deeds, that would fetch him eternal rewards in the Hereafter. It would surely deprive a person of salvation and eternal bliss.

Hijrat (migration) is the exact opposite of Nomadism. Nomadism after Hijrat (migration) implies that a person migrates to Islam and obtains knowledge of religion and then reverts to his former ways. It can be said that performing some good actions for some time and then leaving them is also a kind of reverting to nomadism. The denouncement is valid only if the person does this due to laziness and sloth and not due to some real hindrance or helplessness. It is necessary to continue to perform good actions once we have begun them. As far as possible we should not discontinue them.

Jabir Johfi quotes Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) to have said:

“I like to continue good actions so that I become habitual in them. If I could not perform a particular deed in the day I make up for it during the night and if I do not perform an action during the night I make up the following day. Certainly the best of the deeds near Allah are those which one continues. Hence all the deeds of the week are presented to Imam (‘a) every Thursday and the deeds of the month at the end of the month and all the deeds of the year at the middle of Shaban. So if you begin a good ritual, keep at it for the whole year.” (i.e. continue it for at least a year).11

Neglecting Religious Knowledge

If a person begins to acquire religious knowledge but later discontinues the same it is considered reverting to nomandism by some. However, it is Haram only if his religious education is obligatory (i.e. if he leaves it, he will go astray). However, it is incumbent to continue acquiring knowledge till the end of one’s life so that one can continue to perform good deeds with sincerity and purity of intention. In this way a person becomes righteous and deserving of the rewards of his good deeds, both in this world and the hereafter.

As the Holy Prophet (S) has said:

“Acquire knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”

  • 1. Usul al-Kafi chapter of Greater sins.
  • 2. Minhaj us-Sadiqin.
  • 3. Mani al-Akhbar.
  • 4. Masalik.
  • 5. Zainuddin Jebel Amili.
  • 6. Muhammad Ibn Makki.
  • 7. Wasa’il ul-Shi’a.
  • 8. Bihar al-Anwar, Book of Aql.
  • 9. Shahid al-Thani.
  • 10. Bihar al-Anwar vol.15.
  • 11. Bihar al-Anwar.