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: […]