Muslim Pilgrimage in the Modern World

By Babak Rahimi; Peyman Eshaghi | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Pilgrimages of the Dream
On Wings of State in Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan

OMAR KASMANI

He came for me and said, “Child.” I said, “Yes, baba.” He said,
“Do you wish to do ziyara?” I said, “Yes, I wish to do so.” And what
ziyara he made me do!

— AKRAM

Every time Akram narrated his_her story of pilgrimage to Sehwan Sharif in Sindh, Pakistan, s_he would return to a richly detailed dream sequence from his_her childhood. For it was in a dream that Akram first performed ziyara, that is to say a pilgrimage or a viewing of a holy relic, place, or person. In time, this pilgrimage of the dream would turn out to be the blueprint for an eventual journey to Sehwan prompting an intersex child to abandon home and family.1 But what had first captured the imagination of the nine-yearold was a winged creature that unfailingly appeared on the sky each time Akram retired for the night. Baffled by the vision of the returning bird, Akram would share the contents of the dream with his_her mother. It was of no significance, she would say, dismissing its recurrence as an ordinary nightmare. Years later, however, having arrived in the pilgrimage town, Akram would come to the understanding that the bird in question was indeed a royal falcon (shahbaz), whose incessant appearance in the dream was in fact a premonition of a journey that s_he was to eventually undertake in pursuit of the falcon-saint of Sehwan, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (d. 1274).2

That journeys to holy sites are divinely sanctioned, that saints are found through dreams, or that believers are called to saints’ shrines in waking visions is hardly news when it comes to pilgrims’ accounts of places of pilgrimage. But not always do dreams and visions simply occur. Often they are evoked by the tactical exercise of sleeping on hallowed ground, like that of shrines and cemeteries; they are invited, also anticipated, through intimate exchanges with Sufi bodies and persons; and, in some cases, they are enabled and intervened in via processes of the state.3 To illustrate how the relationship between saints and their devotees comes to be mediated through offices of the state is particularly relevant to this discussion given that since the early

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