Tablighi change in many ways when they travel. However, there is one transformation that is given a special status and importance: it relates to the correction of a traveler’s yakyn (belief or conviction). The main purpose of traveling is to correct our yakyn (conviction), which is to develop full conviction in our heart that everything that happens, happens by the will of Allah.
Tablighi travels are very far from luxurious or safe. There is a big unknown waiting for them in every city, village or neighborhood they travel to. Stories, which I heard describe extreme situations, such as sleeping in the open on the snow with temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius, crossing a large mountain on foot to reach herders in their pastureland and having to crawl in mud on their way back, or having no food for several days, so much so that they had to eat grass to survive. Stories like these describe conditions when supposedly nobody can help, but God and as the story goes: when such help comes, people’s beliefs change. As it has been explained by one Indian sheikh in his bayan (talk):
This world is the world of azbabs (means), while in the next world people will be free from them. They won’t need a cow to produce milk, the wish would be sufficient. In their daily life, people often develop wrong beliefs: they think that it is pill that kills the pain and car that delivers them to work; and they do not see the main power behind the means. But in numerous extreme situations during journeys, God shows that when there are no means, only He can help. Sometimes, God can push the situation to the utmost limits to test people’s patience and only then show his help. After people witness who is in the control of all things, their beliefs are corrected and they return home with proper yakyn and new understanding of the world.
Regular travel, which becomes a part of one’s spiritual nomadic lifestyle, helps him to maintain and strengthen this conviction. If travel is not regular, singular experiences quickly give way to more prominent sedentary perspectives. That is why maintaining the spiritual nomadic practices is so crucial for the long-term effect of traveling.
Five themes considered in this section and the extent to which they were discussed could not possibly cover all dimensions of spiritual travel and its importance for spiritual growth. Rather, they can be taken as cases for understanding the link between travel and spirituality – the link that in this research is blended into a specific worldview or narrative – that of a traveling Tablighi. Just like a medieval Sufi, the 21-st century Tablighi travels without a library in his bag. He is fairly unlikely to have proper religious education and he is almost certain to share his vision of the world with people who also have very little religious knowledge. To deliver and to be understood, this Tablighi is quite likely to use various allegories in his stories. I personally find such allegories extremely beautiful and deserving a space of at least a separate paper. The range of allegories by topics is very broad and the idea of travel is one of them.
One allegory very frequently used by dawatchis compares traveling with water: Dawah [invitation] is like a running water. If water stays in one place it starts stinking and all kinds of bacteria grow there; it becomes useless and unhealthy. Similarly, when people stop traveling, their iman weakens. In the path of Allah we renew and refresh our iman.
Another allegory compares traveling to swimming: Imagine a swimming person. He is in the middle of the lake in his journey and suddenly he stops swimming. What will happen? He will drown.
The third allegory emphasizes movement as the main principle of existence: When the blood stops circulating – the person dies. When the sun and earth will stop rotating – the Day of Judgement will begin.
Finally, an interesting allegory, which also makes connection between travel and relation to duniya compares people’s life to traveling on a ship: Imagine a ship that stands in the harbor. If the captain is afraid of traveling, it will never leave the harbor and it will never reach its destination. So, we shouldn’t be attached to our possessions. If we travel, but the ship is overloaded with merchandise, it might easily drown in the journey. That is why we shouldn’t be afraid of traveling and engaging with worldly life, however, we need to travel light. This way our journey will be easy and fast and we will reach our destination successfully.
And so, the dawatchi’s story goes, this life is a journey, which, if a person is successful, will bring him home – to Paradise. Few metaphors introduced portray some of the main elements of the spiritual nomadic narrative in all of its seeming simplicity, yet deep meanings and multiple possibilities for interpretation and play of nomadic imagination. We can draw parallels here with the role of metaphors in the folklore of many traditionally nomadic people and their cultures.