We have all heard about the famous dialogue which took place between Imam Zainul Abideen (AS) and one of his companions by the name of Shibli who had just returned back from Hajj. The Imam (AS) carried on that conversation by posing a series of questions to Shibli which essentially tests his knowledge and intention behind his actions in performing each of the Hajj rituals. The Imam asked him evaluative questions at each station of Hajj whether the pilgrim reflected on his actions in the esoteric form. For example, the Imam (AS) asked Shibli, “As you stopped at Miqat, did you intend to put off the garment of disobedience (to God) and put on a garment of obedience (to Him)?”
As we enter the season of mourning in the months of Muharram and Safar, a similar dialogue begs itself with the pilgrim who visits Imam Hussain (AS). Before we embark on a Ziyarah trip to the holy shrines in Karbala, let us imagine ourselves to be “Shibli” coming back – not form Hajj – but from Ziyarah to Karbala. We can imagine Imam Hussain (AS) carrying a reflective discourse with us, asking us some of the following questions that humbles us to the core and takes us slowly from the state of heedlessness (ghaflat) to the state of enlightenment (nooraniyat):
Imam Hussain (AS) says to his Zaer (Pilgrim):
- When you applied for and obtained your visa, did you recognize that this visa was for entry into the Ship of Salvation?
- When you packed your bags, did you take with you your valuables which is your tears of A’zaa and mar’efat of Imam Husain (AS), leaving behind everything that is transient?
- When you bid your little children goodbye and saw the tears in their eyes, did you remember the plight of Fatima Sughra who was left behind in Madina due to her illness?
- When you arrived to your hotel or mawkeb and took some rest, did you remember that the caravan of captives in Sham did not have any moment of rest?
- When you performed Ghusl of Ziyarat, did you repent and wash yourself from your sins and recognize that the Imam accepts you IF you cleansed yourself with the water of repentance and walked to his door in submission like Hazrat Hurr did?
- When you took out your black clothes to wear (kurta, jilbab, or chador), did you simultaneously remove any black shade or specks of darkness that you bear in your heart towards others?
- When you walked barefoot heading to the Haram, did you remember the children who ran in despair as they fled from the burning tents their feet burning in heat of the desert?
- When you treaded the path of Baynul Haramain did you remember the procession of Lady Hajar between Safa and Marwa seeking water in the same manner when Abbas (as) vowed to fetch water to bring back to the children?
- When you entered the courtyard of the Haram, did you recognize that you were essentially entering the Grand A’rsh (throne) of Allah (swt), manifesting this verse: وَالْمَلَكُ عَلَىٰ أَرْجَائِهَا ۚ وَيَحْمِلُ عَرْشَ رَبِّكَ فَوْقَهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ ثَمَانِيَةٌ [69:17]
- When you approached the Zarih and kissed it, did you recognize that you were visiting a master of martyrs who is alive and not simply visiting a grave?
- When you stood at the position of Tille Zainabi, did you remember that not too far stands Tille Abbas who watched over Zainab as a martyr, as she gazed in anguish over her slaughtered Hussain?
- When you paid respects to the tents of Imam Hussain, did you reflect on your luxurious houses back home?
- When you raised your hands to do Ma’tam, did you remember to dedicate each strike on the chest on behalf of the severed arms of Hazrat Abbas?
- When you stood for hours in Juloos calling out Ya Husain, did you remember the orphaned daughters of Husain who stood in Juloos in the streets of Kufa and cried silently Ya Husain?
- When you felt the pain of thirst in the hot weather walking from Maqam to Maqam, did you remember the dry tongue of the thirsty Imam along with the thirsty children?
- When you returned back from Ziyarat, did you make a vow to your Imam to become a changed person and reform yourself as a believer worthy of being honored by the dust of Ziyarat beneath your shoes?
Having heard this and more, the pilgrim of Imam Hussain starts to cry because of the weight of responsibility which falls on his shoulder as he treads towards the land of Paradise where tears are its fruit and blood is its color…LABAYKA YA HUSSAIN!