The Virtues of Walking in Islam
The Ahl al-Bayt (a) have looked at walking in two different perspectives. There are some traditions which portray walking as a mere physical activity and then discuss the mannerisms that a Muslim should have while walking. There are also some traditions where walking towards a religious venue becomes an act of worship.
Walking is known to be one of the best forms of exercise available to mankind. For instance, walking is known to strengthen the heart, lower disease risk, regulate weight, prevent dementia, prevent osteoporosis, boost vitamin D levels, increase energy, and increase overall happiness. But, there are no traditions which point directly to the health benefits of walking. The most probable reason for this is that in the age of revelation people walked as a daily routine before the advent of transportation vehicles. Thus, general traditions regarding health include walking, but do not directly mention it.
The Ahl al-Bayt encouraged sports such as swimming, horseback riding, and archery. They also recommended keeping a fit and strong body. Imam Sajjad (a), in the Dua of Abu Hamza, supplicates: “Allah, provide me with a healthy and able body.” (Misbah al-Muhjtahid wa Silah al-Mu’tabid, v.2, p.595) The Prophet of Islam (s) said: “Allah has rights over you, your body has rights over you, and your family has rights over you.” (Majmu’ah Warram, v.1, p.2)
There are manners to walking as well. One of the manners is to refrain from walking arrogantly on the earth. That would mean not to walk around sticking out one’s chest and pointing their nose in the sky. The arrogant are rebuked in the Quran and in traditions, so one must do whatever they can to refrain from taking on their qualities. There are even traditions which state that the ground curses the arrogant, such as the following from Imam Sadiq (a): “The ground will curse whoever walks on it with arrogance.” (Thawab al-A’mmal wa ‘Iqab al-A’mmal, p.587)
Rather, one should walk dignified with humility. Hence, one’s humility should not take away from his dignity. Dignity is an important quality of the believer. It has been narrated that the Prophet (s) would walk with such energy that nobody would state that he had any form of disability. (Makarem al-Akhlaq, p.22) Imam Sadiq (a) described the walk of his grandfather Imam Sajjad (a) as having so much dignity that he could balance anything on his head. (Wasa’il al-Shia, v.15, p.382)
There are also many traditions about walking to holy places. For instance, Imam Sadiq (a) has mentioned that walking to ziyarat and other religious obligations is difficult and considered to be worship. (Wasa’il al-Shia, v.11, p.78) Imam Hussayn (a) walked twenty times from Medina to Mecca in order to perform Hajj. (Tahdhib al-Ahkam, v.5, p.11)
There is also virtue in walking towards the shrine of Imam Hussayn (a) in Karbala. For instance, there is a tradition which states that one who walks from his house with the intention of performing ziyarat of the grave of Imam Hussayn (a), Allah will write good deeds for each step and will forgive a sin with each step until he reaches Karbala.” (Thawab al-A’mmal wa ‘Iqab al-A’mmal, p.194)
Therefore, walking is good both as exercise and walking towards religious venues. May Allah reward all of those who walked to Imam Hussayn (a)’s shrine on Arba’een, and all those who will this year! Please keep us in your duas.