This is a Persian
maa-st ke bar maa-st, meaning: What comes
from us, returns to us.
has entered the Persian language, because
of Nasir Khusraw (d. ca. 1077). He has written
poetry, esoteric material and also a Safar
Nama (a book describing his travels). This
is a curious anecdote from his book about
"I arrived at an area called Sorda, while
sitting on a camel. The inhabitants drank
the milk of camels and ate the meat of camels.
This was their normal drink and food during
all of their life. They had the idea that
everyone in the whole world took the same
food and drink... Everyone considered himself
to be a sultan. Everyone was a thief and was
waiting for a traveller to rob his money,
clothes and shoes. God helped me. I met the
thief of thieves.
This thief stole my camel and searched my
coat in order to find some money. I had no
money and my shoes were in the poorest of
states. I handed over to him my latest poem.
He had difficulties in reading this poem.
He read it again and did not understand it.
He read it a third time, smiled, returned
my camel to me and found me a pair of shoes.
He shook my hand and let me go".
Evliya Celebi’s written legacy is the
Seyahatname or Book of Travels, comprising
no less than 10 volumes. At the age of 20,
Evliya (d. ca. 1683) attests, his life of
travel began with a dream in which he met
not only the Prophet, but also his companions
and the first four caliphs of Islam, along
with a host of Islam’s lesser personalities.
Overwhelmed by their presence he became tongue-tied
and instead of asking for sefa’at (intercession)
Evliya asked for seyahat (travel) and was
he was told later in the dream: “You’ll
travel through the whole world and be a marvel
among men. Of the countries through which
you’ll pass, of their castles, strongholds,
wonderful antiquities, eatables and drinkables...
the extent of their provinces and the length
of the days there, draw up a description which
will be a monument worthy of you”.
prediction of the whole world includes cities
outside Islamic countries, like Amsterdam
and Vienna. He is very impressed when he visits
Cairo: “There is no city in the entire
world..., that is such a sea of men and with
such a productive land as this.
never seemed to be alone or to feel loneliness.
His book of travels is a celebration of new
friendships as much it is of new places. This
friend of mankind appeared to be writing from
his heart when he remarked: “I gave
thanks to God, mindful of the proverb <<First
the companion, then the road>>”.
blessing that Evliya received in his dream
at the age of 20 came true: “May he
be present at many wars, may he be a dervish,
may he fear nothing, and may he dance in the
sand and never strike his foot on a stone”.
Ibn Battuta was a Muslim traveller of the
14th century. He began his travels as a lonely
pilgrim, but he later rose to the position
of qadi (judge) in the Sultanate of Delhi
and envoy to the emperor of China. Travelling
scholar, diplomatic envoy, companion of princes
and dervishes, victim of highwaymen and pirates,
Ibn Battuta led a life of high adventure.
He tells in his “Rihla” that he
“met in Brusa the pious shaykh ‘Abdullah
al-Misri, the traveller, and a man of saintly
life. He journeyd through the earth, but he
never went to China, nor to the island of
Ceylon, nor to the Maghrib, nor al-Andalus,
nor the Negrolands, so that I have outdone
him by visiting those regions”.
Ibn Battuta met shaykh Burhanuddin, the Lame,
in the beginning of his journey in the city
of Alexandria. It was in the company of this
Sufi that he got a first inkling of his destiny.
The shaykh, perceiving that Ibn Battuta had
in his heart a passion for travel, suggested
that he’d visit three of his fellow
Sufis, two of them in India, the third in
China. Ibn Battuta recalls the incident: “I
was amazed at his prediction and the idea
of going to these countries having been cast
into my mind, my wanderings never ceased until
I had met these three that he named and conveyed
his greetings to them”.
Ibn Battuta arrived in Multan, which now is
in Pakistan, seven years later. Multan was
also known as the headquarters of the Suhrawardiyya
order. Ibn Battuta was introduced to shaykh
Ruknuddin Abu’l-Fath, the shaykh of
this tariqa, thus fulfilling the astonishing
prediction of the Egyptian Sufi. On the road
from Multan to Delhi he met the Chishti shaykh
‘Alauddin Marw-e-Darya. This Sufi was
not quite the second of the three Sufis he
would meet in India. Rather it was his grandson.
According to the dictum ‘seek knowledge,
even in China’, Ibn Battuta also visited
China, but I wish to share a final anecdote
taking place in Mali. He made an error, calling
the river he saw there the Nile, but made
another more dangerous error by underestimating
a certain danger:
“One day I had gone to the Nile to accomplish
a need when one of the [people] came and stood
between me and the river. I was amazed at
his ill manners and lack of modesty and mentioned
this to somebody, who said that he did that
only because of he feared for you on account
of the crocodiles, so he placed himself between
you and it”.
thus also imply their hardships: You have
to leave your beloved ones, you leave comfort
behind, it is uncertain when there is food
and there is even the possibility of becoming
is victory. In leaving home you learn about
life, yet a journey is bit of Jahannam (hell).
Let us now turn to Richard Burton, a.k.a.
Hajji ‘Abdullah (1821-1890). Burton
was a rebel, a sceptic spy, an outsider, a
non-conformist, a nomad on four continents,
he hated England, burocracy and insinserity.
He suffered from insomnia, was at times depressed
and only when travelling he was happy.
by wanderlust, the spirit of adventure and
aided by an extraordinary facility in Eastern
languages, he was one of the great traveller-explorers
of history. He was the first European to enter
the capital of Somaliland and the first European
to discover the great lakes of Central Africa.
it is his hajj, his pilgrimage to Mecca and
Medina, that Burton is best known. He has
written a detailed account of his hajj in
two volumes called “Personal Narrative
of a Pilgrimage to al-Madinah & Meccah”.
Burton was an initiate in the Qadiriyya tariqa.
He made the hajj as a wandering dervish.
is what he tells about it: “After entering
Meccah we bathed, and when the noon drew nigh
we repaired to the Harim for the purpose of
hearing the sermon. Descending to the cloisters
below the Bab al-Ziyadah, I stood wonder-struck
by the scene before me. The vast quadrangle
was crowded with worshippers sitting in long
rows, and everywhere facing the central black
seemed to move but a few Darwayshes, who,
censer in hand, sidled through the rows and
received the unsolicited alms of the Faithful.
Apparently in the midst, and raised above
the crowd by the tall, pointed pulpit, whose
gilt spire flamed in the sun, sat the preacher,
an old man with snowy beard.
style of head-dress called Taylasan covered
his turban, which was white as his robes,
and a short staff supported his left hand.
Presently he arose, took the staff in his
right hand, pronounced a few inaudible words
(in fact: Peace be on you and the mercy of
Allah and His blessings!), and sat down again
on one of the lower steps, whilst a Muézzin,
at the foot of the pulpit, recited the call
to the sermon.
the old man stood up and began to preach.
As the majestic figure began to exert itself
there was a deep silence. Presently a general
“Amin” was intoned by the crowd
at the conclusion of some long sentence. And
at last, towards the end of the sermon, every
third or fourth word was followed by the simultaneous
rise and fall of thousands of voices.
have seen the religious ceremonies of many
lands, but never – nowhere – aught
so solemn, so impressive as this.”
is considered to be a spiritual practice amongst
the Sufis. It is not for nothing that shaykh
Sohrawardi dedicates a complete chapter in
his Awarif al-Ma’arif to travel.
Mo’inuddin Chishti has made long travels
before finally settling in Ajmer, India. Dr.
Zahurul Hassan Sharib in his “Khawaja
Gharib Nawaz” gives a detailed description
of this part of the life of this important
Chishti Sufi, which is mostly hidden under
the veil of legends.
lived the life of a wandering dervish and
often stayed at lonely places. In case people
found out about him, he travelled on.
his travels he met a Sufi in Syria who advices
him: “It is necessary that you should
be devoted to the service of dervishes, so
that you may earn respect and receive blessings.”
Mo’inuddin Chishti journed to Kirman
together with shaykh Awhaduddin Kirmani. They
met a dervish who was very absorbed and lost
reached near him, I offered my respects to
him and made a salam. He was very lean and
thin. He used to talk very little. The idea
struck me all of a sudden that I should inquire
from him as to why he was so weak and frail
could read my thoughts. Before I could inquire,
he himself said thus: “O, dervish! It
so happened one day that along with some friends,
I happened to pass a graveyard. I sat near
a grave. We were all merry-making and out
of jest and joy I laughed very loudly.
a voice came out from the grave: “O
sleeper! How can you laugh at all, when you
have to reach the grave at last, you, having
as your enemy the angel of death, you, having
serpents as your companions underneath the
hearing this, I at once stood up and kissing
the hands of my friends bade them farewell.
Coming to this cave, I stayed on till today.”
The dervish described tawba, his return to
God. During his travels Khwaja Mo’inuddin
Chishti reached Multan. He himself says this
about it: “Here in Multan I met a dervish.
The dervish, during the course of conversation,
said: The tawba of those trading in love is
of three kinds:
Firstly it is due to shame
Secondly to avoid sins
Thirdly to purify themselves from anger and
Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti was once on
the road from Baghdad to Mecca. He travelled
in the company of his spiritual guide, Khwaja
‘Usman Haruni: “We at last reached
a city where we saw some dervishes, who were
dead drunk of the wine of the love of God
and who were very much absorbed. We stayed
for days in their company, but they did not
come to consciousness”.
Mo’inuddin Chishti continues thus: “During
our journey we met in Ush a dervish named
shaykh Bahauddin Ushi. He was a great sage
and wali. Thecustom prevailed in his Sufi
centre that whoever came therein would never
be allowed to go empty-handed. In short we
enjoyed his company for some days. He presented
us with this valuable piece of advice:
dervish! Whatever you may get, spend it in
the way of God. Never hoard money. Feed the
hungry and the poor, so that you may become
a friend of God”.
advice has been followed by Khwaja Mo’inuddin
Chishti, so much so that he became known as
the Patron of the Poor, i.e. Gharib Nawaz.
reaching Bokhara during one of his travels,
Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti tells: “We
met the outstanding dervishes of the place.
They were in the higher realm of spiritualism.
No words are adequate to describe their accomplishments.
I accompanied my spiritual guide for full
ten years on this travel. Subsequently my
murshid returned to Baghdad and passed his
days in contemplaton and seclusion”.
Mo’inuddin Chishti says that “once
Khwaja ‘Usman Haruni, shaykh Awhaduddin
Kirmani and myself were proceeding towards
Medina. We broke our journey at Damascus.
In front of the mosque of Damascus there are
laid to their eternal rest some twelve thousand
prophets. Here people get their heart’s
desires. We paid homage to the tombs of the
prophets and we came into contact with a number
of awliya (friends of God)”.
having served his spiritual guide and teacher
for twenty years in travels Khwaja Mo’inuddin
Chishti was separated from him at the age
this occasion Khwaja ‘Usman Haruni made
him his spiritual successor (sajjada neshin,
lit. the one who sits on the prayer carpet)
and confided to him the holy relics of the
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), which were handed
down from one to another in the Chishti order.
Mo’inuddin Chishti describes the details
thus: “My spiritual guide and teacher
Hazrat Khwaja ‘Usman Haruni said to
me: O, Mo’inuddin! I have done all this
work for your sake. You should follow these
teachings. He indeed is the real spiritual
son and successor who is absorbed in the teachings
of his murshid, who gives them a prominent
place in his spiritual genealogy and completes
them to his utmost skill, so that he may not
feel ashamed on the Day of Judgment.
saying this my murshid gave me the stick that
was placed before him, and then honoured me
by confiding me the robe, sandals and the
praying carpet. Then he said:
holy relics are the sacred possessions of
our spiritual ancestors, which we have received
from the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and I have
given them to you. You should keep them with
you as we have done. Whomsoever you may find
a real seeker, entrust them to him. Do not
hold any hope from the people. Live far from
the people and do not demand or ask for anything
Mo’inuddin Chishti continues thus: “Having
said these words my murshid embraced me and
kissed my head and said: “I have entrusted
you to God!” Then he went into an inner
state and I departed”.
One day, when Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti
was absorbed in prayers in the Ka’aba,
he heard a voice saying: “O, Mo’inuddin!
We are greatly pleased with you. You are given
salvation. Ask for anything you may like,
so that We may grant that to you”.
submitted respectfully: “O Great God!
Give salvation to the followers and disciples
the reply: “O Mo’inuddin! You
are Our accepted one. I’ll give salvation
to your followers and disciples, and also
to those who may enter your fold till the
Day of Resurrection”.
performing the pilgrimage Khwaja Mo’inuddin
Chishti reached Medina. Here he was engaged
in prayers in the Quba mosque. It is the oldest
mosque in the world. Its first stones were
positioned by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)
on his emigration from Mecca to Medina and
the mosque was completed by his companions.
Muhammad used to go there, riding or on foot,
every Saturday and offer a two rak'ah prayer.
He advised others to do the same, saying,
"Whoever makes ablutions at home and
then goes and prays in the Mosque of Quba,
he will have a reward like that of an 'Umrah."
This hadith is reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal,
an-Nasaí and Hakim an-Nishapuri.
Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti received these
directions from the court of the prophet Muhammad
Mo’inuddin! You are a helper (Mo’in)
of my religion (din). I entrust to you the
country of India. Proceed to Ajmer and spread
there the Gospel of Truth”.
this mandate he was immensely pleased, but
wondered as to where Ajmer was situated. In
the meanwhile he felt drowsiness. He was blessed
by seeing the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) in
a dream, who showed him the city, the fort
and the situation of Ajmer. He was bidden
farewell by giving him a pomegranate from
Chishti pir attributes the following teaching
about travel to Khwaja Mo'inuddin Chishti:
is of four kinds. It may be travelling which
is good and proper for the time being. It
may be contented travelling. It may be customary
travelling and it may be real and just travelling.
which is good and proper for the time being
is to go out for your own work and business.
travelling is to undertake travelling for
the pleasure of Allah. This type of travelling
is undertaken by the qalanders, the dervishes,
the faqirs and the contented.
travelling is that undertaken for the pilgrimage
to the Kaaba. But the sincere travellers do
not find any smell of the gnosis of Allah
travel is not possible without the training
and direction of the perfect spiritual guide.
It is acquired by following rhe prophet Muhammad
(s.a.w.) and by living ever in the vigilance
of the nearness of Allah.
is said that shaykh Sa’di (d. 1292)
spent his first twenty-five years or so in
gaining an education and establishing himself
in Shiraz and elsewhere, the next thirty-odd
years in far-ranging travels, and the last
thirty or more, in saintly retirement and
lierary production in Shiraz.
us concentrate on shaykh Sa’di’s
travels and pilgrimages by recounting one
anecdote he himself describes in his “Gulistan”:
become tired of my friends in Damascus, I
went into the desert of Jerusalem and associated
with animals till the time when I became a
prisoner of the Franks, who put me to work
with infidels digging the earth of a moat
in Tripoli, when one of the chiefs of Aleppo,
with whom I had formerly been acquainted,
recognized me and said: ‘What state
is this?’ I recited:
fled from men to mountain and desert,
Wishing to attend upun no one but God.
Imagine what my state at present is,
When I must be satisfied in a stable of wretches.
The feet in chains with friends
Is better than to be with strangers in a garden.
took pity on my state and randsomed me for
ten dinars from the captivity of the Franks,
taking me to Aleppo where he had a daughter
and married me to her with a dowry of one
hundred dinars. After some time had elapsed,
she turned out to be ill-humoured, quarrelsome,
disobedient, abusive in her tongue and embittering
for a bad consort, alas!
Preserve us, O Lord, from the punishment of
she lengthened her tongue of reproach and
said: “Are you not the man whom my father
purchased from the Franks for ten dinars?”.
replied: “Yes, he bought me for ten
dinars and sold me into your hands for one
heard that a sheep had by a great man
Been rescued from the jaws and the power of
In the evening he stroked her troat with a
Whereupon the soul of the sheep complained
‘You have snatched me away from the
claws of a wolf,
But at last I see you are yourself a wolf’.
journey means going from a residence or place
towards a goal by traversing and crossing
different phases and stages. It is either
outward, which needs no explanation, or spiritual.
Mulla Sadruddin Shirazi has described the
spiritual journey. It is of four kinds:
The journey from the creature (khalq) to the
Truth (Haqq), through the tearing of the veils
and darkness and light that exists between
the traveller and his spiritual reality.
Another way to describe the first of the four
journeys is to say it is an ascent from:
The station of the ego (nafs) to
The station of the heart (qalb) to
The station of the spirit (ruh) to
The outermost goal (al-maqsad al-aqsaa) and
the supreme splendour (al-bahjat al-kubraa).
If the traveller reaches the goal the veils
are lifted, the Divine Beauty is contemplated
and (s)he is annihilated in Him. For this
reason it is often called the station of annihilation
in the Essence (al-fanaa’fi’l-dhaat)
and therein are contained the innermost consciousness
(serr), the hidden (khafiy) and the most hidden
Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi refers to this in
shahr-e-‘eshq raa ‘Attaar gasht
Maa honuz andar kham-e-yak kusha ayim
'Attar has passed in his travel the seven
cities of love,
We are still at the corner of the first street.
the traveller becomes annihilated in the Divine,
the first journey comes to an end and his
being becomes a true being.
Upon ending the first journey the traveller
begins the second journey, which is the journey
from the Truth to the Truth by the Truth.
This journey takes place by the Truth because
the traveller has become a friend of God (wali)
and his/her being has become real being.
begins this journey from the station of the
Essence and goes to the Perfections one after
the other until (s)he contemplates all the
Divine Perfections and knows all the Divine
Names except over which (s)he has no dominance.
friendship with God becomes perfect and his/her
essence, actions and qualities become annihilated
in the Divine Essence, Actions and Qualities.
(S)he hears through His Hearing, sees through
His Sight, walks by His Aid and strikes through
serr (innermost consciousness) is the annihilation
of his/her essence, the khefaa’ or hiddenness
the annihilation of his/her qualities and
actions, and the ekhtefaa’ or disappearance
the annihilation of these two annihilations.
Or you could say that the serr is annihilation
in the Essence, which is the end of the first
journey and the beginning of the second journey.
Khefaa’ is the annihilation in the Divinity
(al-oluhiyyah) and the akhfaa’ is the
annihilation of these two annihilations and
therein ends the cycle of friendship with
God (daa’erat al-welaayah) and the second
journey. His/her annihilation is terminated
and the third journey begins.
The third journey is the journey from the
Truth to the creature with the Truth.
The traveller journeys at this stage through
the states of actions. His/her annihilation
comes to an end and (s)he attains complete
sobriety. (S)he subsists through the subsistence
(baqaa’) of God. (S)he journeys through
the worlds of jabarut, malakut and naasut
and sees all these worlds in their essence
gains a taste of prophecy and gains knowledge
of the Divine sciences from the Divine Essence,
Attributes and Actions. But (s)he does not
possess the prophetic function in the sense
of bringing a sacred law. (S)he only brings
tidings concerning God, His Attributes and
Actions. (S)he is not called a prophet; rather
(s)he follows the injunctions and laws of
the absolute prophet and is obedient to him.
Here ends the third journey and begins the
The fourth journey is the journey from the
creature to the creature with the Truth.
The traveller observes creatures and their
effects and exigencies. The traveller knows
their benefits and their evils, temporally
and spiritually, that is in this world and
the next. The traveller knows of their return
to God, the manner of their return... The
traveller brings knowledge of the subsistence
of creatures, their harms, their benefits,
what causes them to possess felicity and what
brings them misery. In all this the traveller
is with the Truth, because his/her being has
become veridical and the attention paid by
him to the creature does not distract his
concentration upon the Divine.