What is the Rihla?
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Karabas-i Veli Culture Center in Bursa, Turkey. Formerly a tekke (a place of spiritual retreat and character reformation). Rihla 2011
Alhamdulillah, we’re happy to be back with another blog piece and we’re excited to say that, God willing, the Rihla will be starting in less than two weeks in Istanbul, Turkey!
So many of you have asked the obvious question: What IS the Rihla? Well, we’re glad you asked because while the definition of the word rihla is simple, the way the it manifests in people’s lives is multifold and can be quite transformative.
Linguistically, the term rihla (الرحلة ar-Riḥlah) is a classical arabic term for journey. It may conjure up thoughts of one of the greatest travelers of all time, the noble 14th century Berber Moroccan scholar and traveler Ibn Battuta (may God have mercy on him) who traveled over 75,000 miles within the eastern hemisphere. However, a lesser known but important meaning of this term and of Ibn Battuta’s journey is that the word rihla is not just any journey. It’s a journey and voyage undertaken both physically and mentally for the sake of seeking divine knowledge and spiritual revival, and it is from this motivation that the Deen Intensive Rihla program was born.
The founders of Deen Intensive were a group of dedicated individuals who pursued Islamic studies and spiritual training abroad. They recognized the need of such an environment for American Muslims since most didn’t have these opportunities at home or the means to travel abroad for them. Deen Intensive had the first few Rihlas in the late 1990s in Morocco, Spain, and California, and continues to have it this day with over a 100 students per year. It’s still held in different parts of the world, including the beloved cities Mecca and Medina, in order to expose students to traditional Islamic studies and spiritual development from different areas.
The Rihla is three weeks long and multidimensional. There’s an educational component consisting of classes on fard al-’ayn (i.e.: area of study that covers mandatory knowledge such prayer, fasting, ablution, etc.), study groups, and testing. There’s also a cultural component consisting of historical site visits and exposure to local culture. Lastly there’s a third overwhelming component encouraging personal growth and character reformation via classes on manners and etiquette and set times for spiritual reflection and retreat. It’s also three weeks of fostering brotherhood and sisterhood as sharing this intimate religious experience together can create many strong bonds and friendships that go beyond the Rihla.
With all of these different parts, the way one experiences the Rihla and the effects it may have on the individual is a unique experience, and for many, it’s truly a life changing experience as well.
Take a look at the video below, which beautifully captures the history and spirit of the Rihla. In it Deen Intensive teachers and board memebers discuss the vision and motivation behind the Rihla, and some students give accounts of the the positive impacts the Rihla has had on their lives.
Tell us what you think. What are some of your thoughts of Rihla and what are some of your motivations to attend?
Looking forward to your responses,
Rika and Sadia
DI’s Social Media Team