After defining the term migration, the other term needing to be defined is “taa’rub(Attaa’rub).

This term is from the phrase (التعرب بعد الهجرة) Attaa’rub badul Alhijjrah, which means to return to a former, inferior state after migrating to a superior one.  The term is taken from Bedouins who live in the deserts and are away from civilization and centres of learning, is not knowledgeable about issue of religion, and in Arabic it is termed al’araab (الأعراب).  So it is a borrowed term… to indicate one who is far away from religious centres of teachings, mosques, Islamic schools, centres of worship for Muslims, centres of learning for Muslims, as though away from the city of Islamic Knowledge and surroundings and in the deserts of ignorance and bewilderment.

In its practical application, it is the return of a person that is now a Muslim to their former state of ignorance, a child who is yet to learn the basics of his religion.

It is to be indifferent to the rules of Islam before one even learns what one should have learnt with regards to these rules. It is as though this term refers to returning to the backwards and ignorant manners and etiquettes of the Bedouins who live in the deserts. 

And so, the meaning of “Attarub” is to reside and live with such Bedouins and to become amongst them living in ignorance and adopting their etiquettes and manners.

This term is used because of the apparent regression of some of the Muslims who later preferred to live away from Islamic societies and governance, perhaps following the now common term “ignorance is bliss!”, to live amongst Bedouins and disbelievers. 

But ignorance is not bliss – ignorance is misery. 

In the introductory stages of Islam it was obligatory to migrate to the land of the prophet] in order to learn the religious duties and responsibilities.  It was forbidden to remain in non-Islamic nations if that was the cause of the inability to uphold religious observations such as the prayers or fasting.[1]

In trying to explain the concepts of taa’rub after migration some scholars have answered the following in relation to the question of migration: [2]

What is meant by migration is to travel to countries in which the Muslims awareness of Islamic practices is reduced due to the distance in which one finds themselves away from centres that teach religious duties and obligations.

So, it is apparent that the meaning of the term “Al-Aarabi” Is the one who is ignorant with regards to Islamic rulings.  This is especially so because of the narration that we have that have defined this term, and so it is not specific to those Bedouins who live in deserts nor is the one who moves to live with them, but a much wider definition, in which one may fall under the category of “Al-Aarabi”.

Taa’rub in the Holy Qur’an

The Holy Quran has vilified the issue of “Taa’rub” and obligated migration as can be seen in the following verses:

وَجَاءَ الْمُعَذِّرُونَ مِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ لِيُؤْذَنَ لَهُمْ وَقَعَدَ الَّذِينَ كَذَبُوا اللَّـهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ سَيُصِيبُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

And the Bedouins came with their excuses, asking for leave; those who lied to God and His Messenger tarried; there shall befall the unbelievers of them a painful chastisement. (9:90)

There are two identifiable groups of people that Ayah 9:90 discusses[3]:

  1. A group of people who have genuine reasons as to their inability to join the struggle, such as the lack of weapons or wealth to fight[4]. “And the Bedouins came with their excuses, asking for leave”.
  • Another group that is not genuine, rather, finds excuses in order to avoid the struggle disobediently while in fact they can do so. “those who lied to God and His Messenger tarried”.

The Ayah ends with a threat to the disbelievers belonging to either of those groups: “there shall befall the unbelievers of them a painful chastisement”.[5]

الْأَعْرَابُ أَشَدُّ كُفْرًا وَنِفَاقًا وَأَجْدَرُ أَلَّا يَعْلَمُوا حُدُودَ مَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ

The Bedouins are more stubborn in unbelief and hypocrisy, and apter not to know the bounds of what God has sent down on His Messenger; and God is All-knowing, All-wise. (9:97)

وَمِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ مَن يَتَّخِذُ مَا يُنفِقُ مَغْرَمًا وَيَتَرَبَّصُ بِكُمُ الدَّوَائِرَ ۚ عَلَيْهِمْ دَائِرَةُ السَّوْءِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

Some of the Bedouins take what they expend for a fine and await the turns of fortune to go against you. Theirs shall be the evil turn; God is All-hearing, All-knowing. (9:98)

The Ayahs potentially gives the reader a warning that not only are hypocrites are those Muslims with in the cities but rather, they are also amongst the Bedouins – who are even more stringent in their hypocrisy and disbelief.  Their lifestyle in living further out from the centres of religious learning leads to a deeper level of hypocrisy and disbelief – “The Bedouins are more stubborn in unbelief and hypocrisy “ – than their peers that live with in the cities, and closer to those centres “and apter not to know the bounds of what God has sent down on His Messenger”.[6]

The Bedouins also consider what the spend in the way of Allahﷻ to be a loss, a tax, a right that has been taken away from them and expect the worst in life with the words “Some of the Bedouins take what they expend for a fine and await the turns of fortune to go against you.”  What in fact this shows is the short sightedness of such people, their stinginess and consider any spending in the way of Allahﷻ to be a waste.  They await problems and calamities to reach others, but as the Ayah says – “Theirs shall be the evil turn”.[7] 

وَمِمَّنْ حَوْلَكُم مِّنَ الْأَعْرَابِ مُنَافِقُونَ ۖ وَمِنْ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ ۖ مَرَدُوا عَلَى النِّفَاقِ لَا تَعْلَمُهُمْ ۖ نَحْنُ نَعْلَمُهُمْ ۚ سَنُعَذِّبُهُم مَّرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ عَذَابٍ عَظِيمٍ

And some of the Bedouins who dwell around you are hypocrites; and some of the people of the City are grown bold in hypocrisy. Thou knowest them not; but We know them, and We shall chastise them twice, then they will be returned to a mighty chastisement. (9:101)

سَيَقُولُ لَكَ الْمُخَلَّفُونَ مِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ شَغَلَتْنَا أَمْوَالُنَا وَأَهْلُونَا فَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَنَا ۚ يَقُولُونَ بِأَلْسِنَتِهِم مَّا لَيْسَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ ۚ قُلْ فَمَن يَمْلِكُ لَكُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ شَيْئًا إِنْ أَرَادَ بِكُمْ ضَرًّا أَوْ أَرَادَ بِكُمْ نَفْعًا ۚ بَلْ كَانَ اللَّـهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا

The Bedouins who were left behind will say to thee, ‘We were occupied by our possessions and our families; so ask forgiveness for us!’ They say with their tongues what is not in their hearts. Say: ‘Who can avail you aught against God, if He desires hurt for you, or desires profit for you? Nay, but God is ever aware of the things you do. (48:11)

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا ۖ قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَـٰكِن قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ ۖ وَإِن تُطِيعُوا اللَّـهَ وَرَسُولَهُ لَا يَلِتْكُم مِّنْ أَعْمَالِكُمْ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

The Bedouins say, ‘We believe.’ Say: ‘You do not believe; rather say, “We surrender”; for belief has not yet entered your hearts. If you obey God and His Messenger, He will not diminish you anything of your works. God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.’ (49:14)

Practical Meaning of Taa’rub

What can be determined from the above Ayahs is the vilification of “Taa’rub” is not Bedouins, but the loss of faith and ignorance with regards to the laws and litigation of the religion, and living in a situation or in a place where it is not possible to enact what has been obligated by AllahW upon his worshippers, and so we find that AllahW praises some of the Bedouins who believed and had faith and acted upon the religious rulings.  Those are the Bedouins that have earned the praise in the Holy Qur’an and the promise of Mercy:

)وَمِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ مَن يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَيَتَّخِذُ مَا يُنفِقُ قُرُبَاتٍ عِندَ اللَّـهِ وَصَلَوَاتِ الرَّسُولِ ۚ أَلَا إِنَّهَا قُرْبَةٌ لَّهُمْ ۚ سَيُدْخِلُهُمُ اللَّـهُ فِي رَحْمَتِهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

And some of the Bedouins believe in God and the Last Day, and take what they expend for offerings bringing them near to God, and the prayers of the Messenger. Surely they are an offering for them, and God will admit them into His mercy; God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. (9:99)

And the choice is given even to the Bedouins to either obey AllahW and be rewarded or to turn their backs and in turn be punished:

قُل لِّلْمُخَلَّفِينَ مِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ سَتُدْعَوْنَ إِلَىٰ قَوْمٍ أُولِي بَأْسٍ شَدِيدٍ تُقَاتِلُونَهُمْ أَوْ يُسْلِمُونَ ۖ فَإِن تُطِيعُوا يُؤْتِكُمُ اللَّـهُ أَجْرًا حَسَنًا ۖ وَإِن تَتَوَلَّوْا كَمَا تَوَلَّيْتُم مِّن قَبْلُ يُعَذِّبْكُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا

Say to the Bedouins who were left behind: ‘You shall be called against a people possessed of great might’ to fight them, or they surrender. If you obey, God will give you a goodly wage; but if you turn your backs, as you turned your backs before, He will chastise you with a painful chastisement.’ (48:16)

The reality of “Taa’rub” is the opposite of migration.  It is to regress in your pursuit of perfection, were perfection requires progression towards that goal, a migration from one level to a higher one.  Taa’rub is to remain in the deserts of ignorance, rather than move towards the city of knowledge.  It is contentment with what one has in this world, without considering what they will be missing in the hereafter.  It can also be to leave a good habit out of spite and disobedience.

A narration through Jaaber Al Jaafy, who is said to have heard Attarub badul Alhijjrah Abd-Allahﷻ peace be upon him, saying “I love to continue doing good actions until it becomes habitual.  And if it was missed at night it would be made up for during the day, and if it was missed in the day it would be made up for at night.  Verily, the most loved of actions to Allahﷻ are those that are done consistently, for deeds are presented every Thursday and beginning of each month, and the deeds of the year are presented in the middle of the Month of Sha’baan.  So, if you become accustomed to a good action, continue to do it for a year.”[1]

Imam Al-Kadhim@ is said to have said the following:

ليس منا من لم يحاسب نفسه في كل يوم فإن عمل حسنا استزاد الله وإن عمل سيئا استغفر الله منه وتاب إليه.[2]

Not from us is the one that does not take account of their actions everyday, and if they have done good they seek more of the same from Allahﷻ, and if they have done evil they seek forgiveness from Allahﷻ and repent back to Him.

And many more similar narrations all pointing to the need to progress and not regress, and once progress is made, it is to continue.  And where regression is made, it must come to an end and an obligation is upon us to move forwards once again.

The opposite of this becomes taar’tub.

Not learning religious science is forbidden where it is an obligation upon a person to gain such knowledge. 

Some of the greats have considered the leaving of gaining religious sciences after spending time pursuing them a form of Taa’rub.

Syed Sistani in his first chapter of “Minhaj Al-Saliheen”, states that:

It is obligatory to learn the jurisprudential issues that one encounters regularly, such as that of doubts and oversight in prayers, so that when one faces a situation in which there is an obligation upon them, they are aware of their obligations at the time in which they face it.[3]

Thus, it is an obligation upon the Muslim to learn and understand the issue of migration and taa’rub, of the obligation to remain, or move, from a location in which they live in – depending on the circumstances in which they face, and where the obligation is to move, to know where one must move to.  

These circumstances are dynamic and not static.  They change with time.  A right decision at one point in time does not mean it continues to be the right decision for eternity.  Times change.  Opportunities present themselves and choices need to be made.     

And finally, an important practicality of migration and taa’rub in the modern world is to know the Imam of your time. After the demise of the Prophet], migration became obligatory towards the Imams@ and the most important of those today is knowing today’s Imam.[4]  To die without knowing your Imam is to die a death of the ignorant, the ignorance of disbelief, hypocrisy and misguidance. [5],[6]

[1] (Bihar Al Anwar بحار الأنوار‎) V48 P37

[2] (Usool Al Kafi – اصول الكافي) V2 P453

[3] (منهاج الصاحين Minhaj Al-Saliheen – Syed Sistani) V1 P10

[4] (التعرب بعد الهجرة – العتبةالعلوية المقدسة)

[5] (Usool Al Kafi – اصول الكافي) V1 P377

[6] أحمد بن إدريس، عن محمد بن عبد الجبار، عن صفوان، عن الفضيل، عن الحارث بن المغيرة قال: قلت لأبي عبد الله عليه السلام: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله: من مات لا يعرف إمامه مات ميتة جاهلية؟ قال: نعم، قلت: جاهلية جهلاء أو جاهلية لا يعرف إمامه؟ قال جاهلية كفر ونفاق وضلال