4. Bedouins are closer to being good than sedentary people.
The 16 reason for it is that the soul in its first natural state of creation is ready to accept whatever good or evil may arrive and leave an imprint upon it. Muhammad said: "Every infant is born in the natural state. It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian." 17 To the degree the soul is first affected by one of the two qualities, it moves away from the other and finds it difficult to acquire it. When customs proper to goodness have been first to enter the soul of a good person and his (soul) has thus acquired the habit of (goodness, that person) moves away from evil and finds it difficult to do anything evil. The same applies to the evil person when customs (proper to evil) have been first to affect him.
Sedentary people are much concerned with all kinds of pleasures. They are accustomed to luxury and success in worldly occupations and to indulgence in worldly desires. Therefore, their souls are colored with all kinds of blameworthy and evil qualities. The more of them they possess, the more remote do the ways and means of goodness become to them. Eventually they lose all sense of restraint. Many of them are found to use improper language in their gatherings as well as in the presence of their superiors and womenfolk. They are not deterred by any sense of restraint, because the bad custom of behaving openly in an improper manner in both words and deeds has taken hold of them. Bedouins may be as concerned with worldly affairs as (sedentary people are). However, such concern would touch only the necessities of life and not luxuries or anything causing, or calling for, desires and pleasures. The customs they follow in their mutual dealings are, therefore, appropriate. As compared with those of sedentary people, their evil ways and blameworthy qualities are much less numerous. They are closer to the first natural state and more remote from the evil habits that have been impressed upon the souls (of sedentary people) through numerous and ugly, blameworthy customs. Thus, they can more easily be cured than sedentary people. This is obvious. It will later on 18 become clear that sedentary life constitutes the last stage of civilization and the point where it begins to decay. It also constitutes the last stage of evil and of remoteness from goodness. It has thus become clear that Bedouins are closer to being good than sedentary people. "God loves those who fear God." 19
This is not contradicted by the statement of al-Hajjaj to Salamah b. al-Akwa', which is included among the traditions of al-Bukhari. When al-Hajjaj learned that Salamah was going to live in the desert, he asked him, "You have turned back and become an Arab?" Salamah replied, "No, but the Messenger of God permitted me to go (back) to the desert." 20
It should be known that at the beginning of Islam, the inhabitants of Mecca were enjoined to emigrate, so as to be with the Prophet wherever he might settle, in order to help him and to aid him in his affairs and to guard him. The Arab Bedouins of the desert were not enjoined to emigrate, because the Meccans were possessed of a strong group feeling for the Prophet to aid and guard him, such as did not exist among the desert Arabs. The emigrants, therefore, used to express an aversion to "becoming Arabs," that is, (to becoming) inhabitants of the desert upon whom emigration was not obligatory. According to the tradition of Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, Muhammad said, when (Sa'd) was ill in Mecca: "O God, give success to the emigration of my companions and do not cause them to turn back." 21' That means, God should enable them to stay in Medina and not to have to leave it, so that they would not have to discontinue the emigration they had begun, and return. It is the same meaning as is implied in the expression "turning back" in connection with any enterprise.
It is (also) said that the (prohibition against "turning back") was restricted to the time before the conquest of Mecca, when there was a need for emigration because of the small number of Muslims. After the conquest, when the Muslims had become numerous and strong, and God had guaranteed His Prophet inviolability ('ismah), emigration was no longer necessary. Muhammad said: "There is no emigration after the conquest." 22 This has been interpreted as meaning that the injunction to emigrate was no longer valid for those who became Muslims after the conquest. It has also been interpreted (to mean) that emigration was no longer obligatory upon those who had become Muslims and had emigrated before the conquest. (At any rate,) all agree that emigration was no longer necessary after the Prophet's death, because the men around Muhammad had by then dispersed and spread in all directions. The only thing that remained was the merit of living in Medina, which constituted emigration.
Thus, al-Hajjaj's statement to Salamah, who went to live in the desert: "You have turned back and become an Arab?" is a reproach to Salamah for giving up his residence in Medina. It contains an allusion to the words of the aforementioned prayer of the Prophet: "Do not cause them to turn back." The words, "You have become an Arab?" are a reproach, as they imply that Salamah had become one of the Arabs who did not emigrate. In his reply, Salamah denied both insinuations. He said that the Prophet had permitted him to go to the desert. This was a special (permission) in Salamah's case, exactly as, for instance, the testimony of Khuzaymah 23 and Abu Burdah's 24 lamb were special to the cases of Khuzaymah and Abu Burdah. Or, (it may be) alHajjaj reproached Salamah only because he was giving up his residence in Medina, as he was aware that emigration was no longer necessary after the Prophet's death. Salamah's reply was that it was more proper and better to avail himself of the Prophet's permission, who had distinguished him by this special permission only because (the Prophet) had some motive known to him(self) when he gave it.
In any event, the story does not imply that censure of desert (life) is meant by the expression "to become an Arab." It is known that the legal obligation to emigrate served the purposes of aiding and guarding the Prophet. It did not have the purpose of censuring desert (life). Use of the expression "to become an Arab," to condemn non-fulfillment of the duty (of emigration), is no indication that "becoming an Arab" is something blameworthy. And God knows better.