Secrets of the Pilgrimage

The pilgrims came with honour and reverence,
thanking God for His compassion and mercy,
having escaped the toil and trial of the Hijaz
and saved from the painful punishment of hell.

They came to Mecca from ‘Arafat proclaiming
“Labbayka! Here I am, at your service, O Lord!”
They had performed all the rites of the pilgrimage
and were now returning home, safe and healthy.

So I decided to go out and meet them, even
though it was beyond the bounds of my capacity,
because in the midst of that caravan was
a dear friend, a most sincere and noble man.

I asked him: “Tell me, how were you able
to complete such a painful and fearful journey?
Since your departure, I’ve had nothing except
penitence and sorrow for companionship.

I’m happy that you performed the pilgrimage,
and there’s none like you in our part of the world.
But tell me, my dear friend, how did you
honour the sanctity of the great sanctuary?

When you were putting on the pilgrim’s robe,
what intention did you resolve in your mind?
Did you promise yourself to make unlawful
everything other than the eternal Lord?”

He said: “No.” I asked him: “Did you say
Labbayka! with full knowledge and reverence?
Did you answer God because you heard His voice
as did Moses, the interlocutor of God?”

He said: “No.” I asked him: “When you stood
at ‘Arafat in God’s presence, did you deny
yourself and become a knower of God?
Did you feel the breeze of gnosis blow over you?”

He said: “No.” I asked him: “When you slaughtered
the sheep for the sake of captives and orphans,
did you see yourself in God’s proximity
and sacrifice to Him your carnal soul?”

He said: “No.” I asked him: “When you went into
the sanctuary like the people of the cave,
were you safe from the evil of your base self,
from the grief of parting and punishment in hell?”

He said: “No.” I asked him: “When you hurled pebbles
at Satan the accursed, did you throw out
of yourself, at once and completely,
all reprehensible habits and actions?”

He said: “No.” I asked him: “When you came to
know the station of Abraham, did you then
submit the whole of yourself to God with
absoluee honesty, conviction and certitude?”

He said: “No.” I asked him: “During the time
of circumambulation when you were trotting like
an ostrich, did you think of the circumambulation
of the angels around the Supreme Throne?”

He said: “No.” I asked him: “When you ran from
Safa to Marwa in equal measure, did you
see both the worlds in the purity of your heart,
and did it become free of hell and paradise?”

He said: “No.” I asked him: “Now that you are
separated from the Ka’ba, are you grief-stricken?
Did you bury yourself there as if you were
already a heap of putrefied flesh and bones?”

He said: “I have understood nothing of what
you have said, nor whether it is true or false.”
I said: “Then you did not perform the pilgrimage,
nor did you reach the abode of annihilation!

You went to Mecca and returned, having purchased
only the toils of the desert for your silver.
If you want to perform the pilgrimage again,
my friend, do it in accordance with my advice.”

Translated by Faquir M. Hunzai from Shimmering Light, © 1996