Faiz, a Peaceful Revolutionary

This is in continuation of the splendid translation series undertaken by Mr. Anis Zuberi and contributed by JZ for this blog. Earlier posts can be found here here and here.

Drawing on the Persian tradition, the subject of Urdu Ghazal has always been about earthly or heavenly love. With the rise in social consciousness Urdu poets started using the form of nazm to address such issues like injustice, poverty, uneven distribution of wealth, highhandedness of the privileged, tyranny of rulers, exploitation by priests, etc. However, Faiz introduced protest and dissent as a regular subject in ghazal. He did it by keeping the ghazal’s traditional format but giving the lexicon of ghazal a different meaning. This has had such a profound effect on Faiz’s poetry that at times it is hard to draw a line between his ghazal and nazm. For instance, Hum ke threy ajnabi itni madaaratuN ke baad though written in ghazal form is also a topical nazm titled Dhaka se wapsi per, reflecting his deep emotions after he visited Bangladesh (former East Pakistan) in 1974.

He also discovered that whispering is more powerful then screaming and that became his hallmark. Unlike Iqbal, Josh or many others who wrote poetry of protest like us khet ke her khoushae gandum ko jalado or kakhe-umaraa ke dar-o-dewar hila do, Faiz does not confront injustice with hostility and anger. His protest is not direct, loud, thunderous, or deafening. He faces up to his tormentor by his moral strength, power of endurance and persistence. He believes in a soft and gradual revolution. He challenges the conscience of all human beings by showing his resolve and defiance when he says, aaj bazaar meiN pa-ba-julaN chalo or jo bache haiN sang samet lo. Even in moments of extreme anguish he avoids confrontation and invokes heavenly justice when he says lazim he ke hum bhee dekheN ge.
He captivates his audience by mixing traditional love with protest; lout jati hei udher ko bhi nazar kiya kije. It is amazing how Faiz has changed the traditional meaning of idioms used in ghazal for centuries. For example, love (ishq) is synonymous with struggle for justice (tohmat-e-ishq poshida kafi nahiN); his lover (aashiq, Qais, majnouN, Farhad) is a victim of oppression who is offering sacrifices while waging a struggle for justice; His rivals (raqib and adoo) are exploiters (Agar urooj pe hei ta’lae raqib to kiya).
Keeping the above background, I will attempt to translate and explain the meaning of the ghazal.

Woh buton ne dalay hain waswasay ke dilon se khauf-e-Khuda gaya
Woh parri hain roz qayamatain, kekhayal-e-roz-e-jaza gaya

(So much) cynicism (waswasa also means confusion; uncertainty) is created by the idols that fear of God has vanished from hearts.
(Because People) have gone through Armageddon daily the thought of the Day of Judgment is gone.

Here ButoN is not a metaphor for beloved, earthly gods or goddesses, but a symbol of brute authority. The word khauf in the second line also reinforces that meaning. The meaning of butuN in the above line is same as in the following couplet:

Hum aise saada dilouN ki niaz mandi se
ButuN ne ki hain jahaN meiN khudayaN kiya kiya

These god-like figures are domineering who manipulate and wield control over the society. They are all around in the form of feudal lords, police, army, intelligence, prison guards, and mill-owners that can give and take livelihood like God.

(Here is a living example of manipulation. Just a few days back, I was watching an interview of Mumtaz Bhutto, chief of the Bhutto tribe, on BBC. Before the interview, he was shown sitting comfortably in his ancestral haveli with all trappings of a feudal aristocrat of the bye-gone days, holding court to settle disputes among his feudal subjects. During the interview he was lamenting that Pakistan Peoples Party had deviated from its original socialist manifesto that included struggle against feudalism; PasbaaN milgae kaabe ko sanam khane se)

Coming back to the explanation of the first verse, what the poet is saying is that masses are so terrified of these agents of oppression in their every day lives that they have no fear of God.

In the second line, he says that because of that tyranny the daily lives of common folks have been extremely miserable. After passing through hell in their daily existence (Woh parri hain roz qayamataiN), there is nothing left to fear on the Day of Judgment (khayal-e-roz-e-jaza gaya).

Jo nafas thaa khar-e-gulu bana, jo uthay toh haath lahu huye
Woh nishat-e-aah-e-sahar gayee, woh viqar-e-dast-e-dua gaya

My breath has turned into thorn in my throat; my raised hands are dripping with blood.
The bliss of the sigh of dawn is no more, pride in hands raised in prayer, no more.

In the first line, he is saying that his life has become so miserable that his breath is painful and hands are useless. The reason of this gloomy state is explained in the second line: his life has lost the serenity and harmony that he enjoyed once, when he was at peace with himself and his God. aah-e-sahar and dast-e-dua are manifestations of his relationship with God that he is missing now. To understand why he lost that strong bond with God that he once cherished, one has to go back to the first verse: Woh butoN ne dalay hain waswasay ke dilon se khauf-e-Khuda gaya;Woh parri haiN roz qayamatain, ke khayal-e-roz-e-jaza gaya

Na woh rang fasl-e-bahar ka, na ravish woh abr-e-bahar ki
Jis ada se yaar thay aashna, woh mizaj-e-baad-e-saba gaya

The colors of the spring season (are no more), the ways of cloud of the spring season no more.
The spirit of the early breeze with which my friends were familiar the is gone

He is just reminding himself of those good old days when he had enjoyed life and its ordinary pleasures like color of the flora, beauty of clouds and early breezes.

Knowing the temperament of Faiz, I would say he is implying without actually saying it that this painful sense of the loss of harmony and serenity in the lives the vast majority is caused by the greed and injustice meted out by a few.

Abhi baadban ko teh rakho, abhi muztarib hai rukh-e-hawa
Kisi raastay main hai muntazir, woh sukoon jo aakay chala gaya

Keep the sail (baadban) furled; the winds are blowing in (muztarib) varied directions
Waiting in some path is the tranquility that came and went

He is saying the uncertainty is temporary as the tranquility (that once he enjoyed) and has vanished is waiting to come back. In his usual style in the last lines, he keeps his hope alive that serenity and calmness has not disappeared forever; it is waiting somewhere to come back. His advice is to be optimistic and look forward to the essence of life that is (sukooN) peace and harmony.






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9 Comments to “Faiz, a Peaceful Revolutionary”

  1. I thought nazm is a poem so ghazal is also a nazm, guide me Raza

  2. manpreet, ghazal & nazam have distinct pre-reqs. in a ghazal, there is rhyming of the first verse/couplet (first two lines/misra). from this point onwards every alternate line/misra ryhmes with the first couple.

    So if a ghazal has 10 lines/misras (5 couplets) then line 1,2, 4,6,8 and 10 would rhyme.

    the first line of the final verse (line 9), the poets often use their his nom de plum (takhalus) and ofcourse the last line of the ghazal has the same metre and ryhme as dominant in the entire ghazal

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghazal is a good link

    nazm need not follow this but can have music and magic of its own like the infamous mujh say pehli see mohabat mairay mehboon na maang or several others that are part of our national conscience on account of their political message like “hum daikhain gay” or “bol kay lab aazaad hain tairay” or the unabashedly brave “rabba sacheya”

    i got hooked onto this genre when my father played Begum Akhtar in our car stereo when we were still very young. the world sort of changed for me after this.

    so you need the best ghazals covered by any artiste? listen to Begum Akhar and let me know what you think.

  3. No ghazal is different in its structure and rhymes – radeef and qafiya, two terms are of importance. For instance in the above, the ending indicates the rhyme: khauf-e-Khuda gaya AND roz-e-jaza gaya.

    A poem can be rhymed on semi rhymed or in free verse.
    I will ask others here to contribute as well
    cheers
    Raza

  4. Interesting and informative!

  5. Amazingly informative and wonderful. Whenever I turn to your blog, your posts do not disappoint.

  6. [...] 18 04 2008 This wonderfully informative explanation by Raza Rumi about one of Faiz’s ghazals should be read by any lover of [...]

  7. Thanks Naveed and Raza.
    Naveed, I would re-listen Beghum Akhtar and would like to discuss too.

  8. Manpreet, thanks for that. begum akhtar has mostly covered classical urdu poetry which would otherwise seem dry but it is her kamal-e-fun (pinnacle of her art) that she makes it so appealing especially ghalib, zouk, meer, momin. She has also covered Faiz and Shakeel Badayuni

    personal recommendations

    ghalib (1) : ibne-mareeyum hoya karay koee, maray dukh kee dava karay kooee
    ghalib (2) : zikr us pareevash ka or phir bayan apna

    meer (1) :
    ultee ho gaeen sabh tadbeerain, kuch na dava nay, kaam keeya
    daikha iss beemaaree-e-dil nay, aakhir kaam tamaam keeya

    ayhad-e-javaanee ro ro kaata, peeree main leen aakhain moond
    yaanee raat buhat thay jagay, subh hoee, aaraam keeya

    yaan kay sapaid-e-sayyah main hum ko dakhl jo hay so itna hay
    raat ko ro ro subh keyaa aur din ko joon toon shaam keeya

    meer kay deen-o-mazhab ko pochtay kya ho, un nay to
    kaskha kaincha, dair main baitha, kabh ka tark islam keeya
    (in modern day pakistan he would have been lynched :) for uttering this but he sure seems like a cool guy for his day and age)

    [radeef kaafeeya of this meer ghazal is brilliant]

    zouk : laee hayat aayaay, kaza lay chalee chalay
    shakeel badayuni : mairay hum nafas mairay hum nava [Tina Sani does this tribute to begum akhtar in the same style but the original has no equivalent]
    [this by the way is a ghazal from which president musharaf borrowed a couplet when he made his speech after 9-11 & is said to be his favorite]

    and my all time favorite

    momin:
    vo jo hum main tum main qaraar tha, tumaihn yaad ho kay no yaad ho
    vohee yanee vaadaa nibaah ka, tumain yaad ho kay no yaad ho

  9. yuun sajaa chaand ki jhalakaa tere andaaz kaa rang
    yuun fazaa mahakii ki badalaa mere hamaraaz kaa rang

    saayaa-e-chashm mein hairanN ruKh-e-raushan kaa jamaal
    surKhii-e-lab pe pareshaan terii aavaaz kaa rang

    be piye hoon ki agar lutf karo aaKhir-e-shab
    shiishaa-e-may mein Dhale subah ke aaGaaz kaa rang

    chango-nay rang pe the apane lahuu ke dam se
    dil ne lay badalii to madham huaa har saaz kaa rang

    [chang= flute]

    ik suKhan aur ki phir rang-e-takallum teraa
    harf-e-saadaa ko inaayat kare ejaaz kaa rang

    (takallum=conversation)
    (ejaaz=miracle)

    Faiz was the first Asian poet to be awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, the Soviet Union’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize in 1963.Faiz was charged with the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in 1951.In spite of his Marxist beliefs, Faiz did not burden his poems with ideological rhetoric.His love poems are as appealing as his political poems.
    can we have a photo of the tshirt=”Sab taj uchhalay jayeinge, sab takht giraye jayein gehum dekhenge”

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