Prospective Immigrants

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.

Adrienne Rich (reposted from Sister Baraka’s Rickshaw Diaries blog).

Ya Haqq!

Note: This lovely and poignant poem also spoke to my heart of the real immigration from one state of awareness to another, the change of perception that comes with stepping onto the Sufi path, or any mystical path. Like the door, the path promises nothing, it is only a path.


16 Responses to Prospective Immigrants

  1. Adrienne Rich’s poetry is one of a kind.

  2. Yafiah says:

    Salam Brother Irving, I clearly remember the first time I saw that door and the courage needed to open it. It is the second stanza of Adrienne Rich’s poem that speaks most to me: “If you go through there is always the risk of remembering your name” and if that happens there will, of course, be more doors …

  3. Shahrzad says:

    Very beautiful poem..

  4. Joubin Houshyar says:

    Salaam Darvish,

    This came to mind:

    Imam Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi and Nasa`i reported
    on the authority of al-‘Irbad b. Sariya, may Allah be pleased with him,

    The Prophet (saws) said:

    ~!~ ~!~ ~!~

    Allah HAS Struck a Parable:

    A Straight Path,
    on either side of which are two walls.

    Within both of the walls are open gates;
    curtains cover the doors

    At the gate of the highway is a caller who says:

    ‘O people!

    Enter the Straight Path and do not Stray away!’

    There is another caller in the depths of the highway. Whenever someone wishes to open one of those doors, he cries out:

    ‘Woe to you!

    Open it not, for if you do, you shall certainly enter it!’

    The highway is ISLAM,
    the two walls are the Limits of Allah,
    the gates are sins

    the caller at the entrance of the highway is the Book of Allah,
    and the caller from the depths of the highway is Allah’s preacher
    who resides in the heart of every Muslim.”

    Al-Tirmidhi added the verse of the Qur’an:

    !!! Allah Calls to the Abode of Salaam !!!
    !!! and Guides whom He wills to a Straight Path !!!

    ~!~ ~!~ ~!~

    The gates/doors/thresholds are “covered” — i.e. an ‘obscure’ path.
    The Straight Path is Following The Prophet (s.a.w.s.)
    The greatest potential “sin” of the mystic path is Shirk. The one and only un-Forgivable sin. (Do remember.)

    I read the other day, a noble woman had written in her book “May ALLAH and Shams forgive me”. Shams would not be pleased, for “2” reasons …

    “but much will blind you,
    much will evade you,
    at what cost who knows?”

    Hajji is sitting by his pool, and he has said his namaaz. A nymph comes to him and says ‘don’t you miss flying with me? don’t you miss the sights’ don’t you miss hearing the secrets?

    Hajji thinks to himself. Yes, he too used to ~fly~. But then he Remembers:

    “Who is blind but MY servant, Or so deaf as My messenger whom I send?
    Who is so blind as he that is at Salaam with ME Or so blind as the Servant of the LORD?”

    So Salaam and Blessings Be Upon Mohammad and His Progeny and His House Pure and Good, and Upon Isaiah. Surely ALLAH IS Worthy of All Praise, Glorious!

    /& Salaam

    ALLAH Has Made a Promise.
    And ALLAH *never* Breaks HIS Promise.

    Choose wisely.

    /& Salaam

  5. Maithri says:

    Deeply beautiful,

    Thank you for sharing this with us dear brother,

    Blessings of light and peace, M

  6. Salaam
    Beautiful poetry and excellent explanation on the parable of the door.
    However the symbol of the path is so important, there is the symbol of door as initiating place for mystical path itself in Sufism, as Khajuy Kirmani says,

    “Who is partner of Khaju except of the self-burn pole?
    There is no manifest from they who entered this door.”


  7. The Prophecy says:

    Ah! As said Don Juan: “Erase your biography.”

    There is a risk that we will remember our names. Must go through the door, though! Every moment!

  8. Amina says:

    thanks for discovering for me Adrienne Rich!!! it’s really beautiful!

  9. ned says:

    Adrienne Rich is a good writer. A good choice for this blog and a great mystical interpretation! :-)

  10. Joubin Houshyar says:


    Do you all who know these men are?

    They speak “Haqq”, do they not?

    Q remains why they are in limbo in “the Heights” … rather curious.

    Apparently ALLAH IS Giving them a little taste of Fear although, “they have an assurance” that they will get into the Garden. And they apparently can see through “veils” …

    (Hmm … Wonder who these could be! ;-)

    Lets hope the goodies in Pardees are not ‘first come first serve’ .. for the Men of The Heights ..

    AlHamduliLLAHi *RAB* Al Aalemeen. (That is quite Haqq too…)

    Follow The Messenger (s.a.w.s) for the Express EZ Pass into The Garden — and “No Fear Shall Be Upon you This Day”, you will Hear from The Angels. (“Promise”.)

    Will you not understand?

    Isn’t amazing how ALLAH Balances things so perfectly? Is HE not The Just? Glory Be To HIM! Truly there is none like unto HIM …

    /& Salaam!

  11. asqfish says:

    Subhanallah, A beautiful poem with many layers of meaning.

  12. lastlionofbr says:

    just beautiful

  13. priya says:

    beautiful poem with multiple meaning dear brother.thank you for sharing it.

  14. Ellen says:

    This is one of my favorite poems of all time, but i so wish you hadn’t changed the title. It makes my heart sick, to be honest. It’s not the intention of the poet for it to be titled “The door makes no promises.” The impact of the poem lies in the fact that it is a message (a poster on a door, signage, a warning, a welcome…) to immigrants who are poised there. Yes, immigrants of all types in all the very rich meaning of the word, but your retitling of the poem diminishes that. With all due respect to you – and your very wonderful website and words. I mean no unkindness – just speaking from my absolute adoration of Adrienne Rich and the fact that the title of the poem really is essential to the poem itself. Please change it back to the original!

    NOTE: I think Ellen is right, and I have changed the title of the poem accordingly. Thank you, dear Sister Ellen :)

  15. Murray says:

    In my opinion, this poem is your choice to accept God in your life or not to. We can all be considered immigrants on the journey to a better life. The door represents your choice to accept God into your life. If you don’t, you can still lead a fulfilling life. However, if you don’t go through the door and accept God into your life:

    but much will blind you,
    much will evade you,
    at what cost who knows?

    The stanza:

    Things look at you doubly
    and you must look back
    and let them happen.

    This means if you accept God, you have the wisdom to know that sorrow and hardship in your life has a meaning. As you do your best to overcome sorrow and hardship, you know there is a silver lining – God is teaching you a lesson – so both you and those who know (doubly) you will view your response. You and they will look back on the journey – the journey to overcome hardship and to be happy – to:

    Learn and
    Leave a legacy.

    What will your legacy be?

    Life is journey – it is the door to life everlasting!

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