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Iqbal Bano sings Nizami Ganjavi (Persian Sufi poet, 1141-1209)

Iqbal Bano sings Nizami Ganjavi-Mara ba ghamza… by razarumi1

Mara ba ghamza kusht o qaza ra bahana sakht
Khud sooy e ma na deed o haya ra bahana sakht […]

March 20th, 2010|Arts & Culture, Music, Sufi poetry, video, World Artists|7 Comments

A new book on the Partition saga

Changing mindsets by SYED ALI NAQVI

titleOne might cry out, humanity is dead if there was any, in disgust and disbelief after going through the events of the partition of the subcontinent. It is hard to believe that hatred and instinctual savagery can derive men to the edge of morality. Politics, religious bias and ethnicity do have the poison to make men so vulnerable that they get ready to put everything at stake.
Partition of the Indian subcontinent is seen as one of the most brutal and unfortunate events in the world history. There are incidents of mass murder by every religious and ethnic community of each other as well as rapes and abductions of women, looting and separation of families during the […]

December 14th, 2008|books, History, India-Pakistan History|13 Comments

Ode to Benaras – Ghalib’s grand vision

A Brahmin resident of Benaras


Benaras: “forever spring”

It is incredible that a Muslim poet who prided himself on his Turkic ancestry and invoked the “warrior” past in his day-to-day conversation (through his letters) could compare the divine light at Mount Sinai to the lamps at Benaras

The cancer of communalism and bigotry in South Asia continues to haunt us. These days, the Muslims are once again a subject of intense, though not always fair, scrutiny in India: their loyalties are being questioned and many are potential terrorists if not already abettors of violence. The post 9/11 world has contributed to the demonising of the Muslim identity and history to surreal heights.

The recent bomb blasts in Delhi have placed the communal discourse on the front pages. The invaders and violent Muslims have done it again. A friend called me from Delhi and narrated the profiling that takes place at marketplaces and how the gulf between different communities is widening.

There was a time, not in the ancient past, when in Delhi the greatest of Urdu poets Mirza Ghalib (1796-1869) lived in an age when Hindus and Muslims shared common saints, dargahs and even popular gods and goddesses. Written accounts of this age – the mid to late 19th century – relate how intimate co-exitence of “Mussalmans” and “Hindoos” had led to a relative amalgamation of customs among the common people. And poets like Ghalib could see the commonalities of spiritual streams:

I n the Kaaba I will play the shankh (conch shell)

In the temple I have draped the ahraam (Muslim robe)

The verse above delineates the Sufi concept of fana (or dissolution of the self in divine reality) and the unity articulated by the ancient Indian texts such as the Vedanta. Sufis were to elaborate this as the wahdat-al-wajood (Unity of Being) philosophy. […]

The Veil – Attar

by Farid al-Din ‘Attar (1142-1220)

We are the Magians of old,
Islam is not the faith we hold;
In irreligion is our fame,
And we have made our creed a shame.

Now to the tavern we repair
To gamble all our substance there,
Now in the monastery cell
We worship with the infidel.

When Satan chances us to see
He doffs his cap respectfully,
For we […]

July 31st, 2008|Poetry, Sufi poetry, Sufism, World Literature|4 Comments

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: […]

April 17th, 2008|Poetry, Translations, Urdu|9 Comments