Manifestations of Light

مظاہر نور، المعروف بہ سفرنامہ نور برائےحج و زیارت حضور Translated by: Daniel Majchrowicz. Original language: Panjabi

Nur Begum

Kandhvala, Punjab, India
Early 20th c.
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Arrival in Jeddah
[Getting off the boat,] there was chaos and confusion all around
As everyone searched through the luggage looking for their name.
As soon as we got off the boat and set our feet on the dock
God granted us our first sight of the Arabs.
There was a stone kiosk beside the dock
With a few Arabs sitting on chairs – God! what a beautiful sight!
They were wearing jubbas with wondrous turbans on their heads.
“Ya Hajji!” they called to us respectfully, “from which country do you hail?”
“Ya sheikh! We come from Punjab,” and that was all we said;
Then the Hindis, Sindhis and Bengalis spoke – there was no end!…

First visit to the Kaaba in Mecca
The mu’allim told us to offer our evening prayers quickly,
“Then I will guide through the tawaaf [circumambulation] of the house of God;”
So we offered our evening prayers with eagerness and excitement.
Wah! Subhan Allah! Soon we were ready for the tawaaf.
He led us through the Bab al-Salam gate and we began the tawaaf;
We began from the Black Stone, by the great grace of God.
The mu’allim lead the prayer in a clear voice
Subhan Allah! it is God’s blessing, He has heard our prayers!
The mu’allim would speak first, and we would recite after him.
It felt then as though the lights of heaven were falling to the earth.
This poor, lowly creature began to circumambulate the Kaaba
With calmness in my heart, my eyes brimming with riches;
I embraced the Kaaba and kissed it again and again with reverence;
With great humility, this humble one cried and poured out her heart;
With every round I kissed the Kaaba over and over again;
With every embrace, I felt God’s grace and forgiveness.
When we had completed seven rounds, the mu’allim announced
That we should perform two prayers at the Maqam Ibrahim. …

The Journey to Medina
The order came for us to begin our journey to Medina.
The Bedouins led out their long lines of camels, loaded with litters.
Our Bedouin’s name was Muhammad. He quickly brought our camels;
He had a companion with him, his name was Muhammad too…
The entire caravan collected together, by the grace of God
Al-hamdu lillah, we are now ready to depart for the city of Medina! …
Nuri, you were happily appointed to compose poetry,
But there are few who lend your verses an eye or an ear.
But those who are faithful to God will never tire of listening to them!
Perform the Hajj and visit the Prophet’s tomb, wash the stains of infidelity away.
Go, enter the gates of Medina! Why are you standing there in wonder?
If even a few to listen today, that is enough…

Pilgrimage to the grave of the Prophet
Should I join my hands or join my feet? Should I put a palla around my neck?
Tell me, friends! How do I send my greetings to this Beautiful One?
Whatever my appeal is, today the hearing will certainly be in my favor.
All my sins, hidden or manifest, will certainly be forgiven.
Today I will at last be near the One for whom I long day and night.
Come my friends, today Nuri will say all that weighs on her heart.
I will speak, I will speak! Quick, place your hands on the railing!
My dear fate, may you always be happy and blessed. …
I cannot raise my eyes, they are held tight by humbleness.
This tomb is so radiant and luminous that my eyes cannot bear it
I do not have the strength to open my eyes before it.
I will make my appeal slowly, without ever raising my voice…
When I went to stand by the railing, I saw soldiers waiting there;
They wouldn’t let anyone touch it, what a misfortune is this!
Al-hamdu lillah! Today this beautiful railing is resplendent;
The humble seeker reaches out, but the soldiers give them a shove.
Should the seeker manage to place a hand on it
And the Najdi soldiers catch them, they will quickly push them away.
Inside the heart the storm of separation rages in the heart, outside the soldiers attack you
Humble visitors stand here in awe. God! how wonderful is Your omnipotence…

Returning home by Train via Delhi
For the next three days the babu drove the train well,
And on the morning of the third day, the Lord brought Delhi into view.
By the time we disembarked from the train it was already daytime.
We went to see the shrine of Khwaja Nizamuddin,
And saw the Fatehpuri and Badshahi Mosques as well
Oh God! You have granted this poor, crazy one’s every wish.
People say that Delhi is the heart of the world: as for that,
I promise you, the city hardly impressed me at all.
This humble one has just come from seeing the sight of the Kaaba itself –
What, then, are Delhi, Lahore, Multan? I’d give them all way for this!
Then we went by train to Bathinda, where we arrived in the afternoon.
Before we got there, my father had come and planted a flag [to welcome us]
My father, my uncles, brothers and cousins all came to the station
And, gathered there together, they all began to cry.
God finally reunited those who were separated three months ago.
Everyone began to hug one another, and to cry Allahu akbar!
In the morning, we took the train from Bathinda
And by nine o’clock the babus had brought us to Abohar Mandi.
When we disembarked, everyone was waiting there to meet us.
It felt as though all of Kandhvala was there on the platform!
Thanks be to God, who has given us this kindness
After such a long time, God has brought us all back together again.
We came in four cars, and seven camels and horses,
Safely and peacefully, God brought an end to their separation.
Hearing their voices, the women and sisters of Abohar also came out,
And, saying salam ‘alaikum, they respectfully shook our hands.
Then we sat in the car and made our way to Kandhvala.

Performing the Tawaaf at Mecca
The time for Hajj was near and everyone had gathered together
There were so many people performing tawaaf that it was hard to get a turn
There were countless hajjis performing tawaaf in the House of God
And thousands and thousands more sitting and lying there too.
All of these people were going ‘round and ‘round the Kaaba,
Its greatness and majesty was on clear display.
There was not even enough space to step a foot inside the Haram.
The people of Islam went constantly around the house of the True Beloved.
Some were clinging to the doors, crying and sobbing,
Others were sitting in the Hateem, completing their prayers.
Some would hold the covering of the Kaaba and press it to their chest;
Others would cry out, seeking forgiveness for their sins.
Some people, burnt by the fire of love, called out with such intensity
That it seemed as though their cries would shake the very throne of God…
Everyone was busy indulging in their love for the Kaaba;
None spoke foolishly; all were in constant remembrance of God;
He was remembered with such intensity that all were bathed in heavenly light.
Subhan Allah! What a blessing, my heart has found peace at last!

My father gave many charitable gifts [for my safe return], so many that I cannot describe them
May God, who is great, accept his offerings.
Then my friends, hearing I had returned, came from far and near congratulate me.
Some scholars, some hajjis, they all came together in embrace.
There were so many that I could not possible record all of their names;
I have countless friends here, may God have mercy on them all.
[Nuri!], God has granted every single one of your desires
And for this, all of your friends have come to congratulate you.
All of them came with affection, and were brought by their love for the Prophet.
May the blessings of God, the Creator, be upon them all.
Oh God, how can I sufficiently praise your mercy and kindness?
How many blessings have you bestowed upon this crazy, weak Nuri!
You have granted every wish that happened to enter my heart.
I am incapable of thanking you enough for this;
Millions and millions of thanks are due to You
Who has opened the treasure of the Unseen for me.
The riches of Your grace and kindness have no end;
Countless praises are due You; Your grace is beyond description.

*With many thanks to Mavra Ahmad Azeemi, without whose tireless assistance this translation would not have been possible. I also thank the Jhander Library for giving me a copy of this rare work.

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Further Reading

Nur Begum, Mazahir al-Nur, al-ma’ruf bih, Safarnamah-yi Nur Bara’e Hajj o Ziyarat-i Huzur. (Lahore, Rahmani Press, 3rd. ed. 1933, [1952?])