Rediscovering a Forgotten Partition-Era Letter

In a recent trip to our family home, my mom rediscovered an old postcard addressed to my great-grandfather, Mohammad Ali Mirza. The letter was sent to him on October 17, 1947 in the aftermath of the partition of British India by his Hindu friend Diwan C. Khanna, who had to flee from Lahore to Delhi. It is a really interesting primary source that gives insight into the pain and grief that those who had to leave their lives and homes behind felt at the time. I’ve written a longer article analyzing the letter and what I think it means for Indians and Pakistanis today, which can be read both in the Indian publication The Quint and in the Pakistani publication The Express Tribune.

Below is the full text of the letter, along with scans of the front and back of the original document:

Mirza Mohd. Ali Sb.
[address removed]
Lahore

[address removed]
New Delhi
17-10-47

My dear Mirzasahib

I arrived here safely this morning. I can’t thank you sufficiently for all you so willingly & gladly did for me. The part which Begum Sahiba played was noble. You have proved what friendship is. I shall ever remain grateful. Please convey my thanks to Begum Sahiba. I am unhappy to be separated from you & other friends. I would like to die in Pakistan than to live in India shall it be possible. My wife & children have been happy to receive me. They were worrying a lot. I had a troublesome journey & that too by stages. Anyhow I reached here with some luggage, arms and one bedding. The rest of the things are at Amritsar which I shall manage to get soon.

With sincere thanks yours sly [sincerely]
Diwan C. Khanna

 

Lyrics & Translation of “Tum Ik Gorakh Dhanda Ho”

Naz Khialvi (1947-2010, real name: Muhammad Siddique) was a Pakistani poet and radio broadcaster from near the city of Faisalabad, most famous for his poem “Tum Ik Gorakh Dhanda Ho”. This philosophically and spiritually rich text explores the paradoxes of religion like the prevalence of evil and injustice, selective divine intervention, and other indecipherable aspects of God. The poem also points toward the unity of human religious experiences. At the end, after listing his grievances, the bewildered poet ultimately accepts divine incomprehensibility.

In the sense that “Tum Ik Gorakh Dhanda Ho” is a complaint to God, it is thematically similar to Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s famous “Shikwa”. Like Iqbal, Naz expresses a sense of frustration and wonder towards God. At the same time, this poem would still be considered a hamd, or praise of God. It is worth mentioning that “Tum Ik Gorakh Dhanda Ho” is full of references to prophets, Sufi saints, and Punjabi folk heros. For example, Naz references Mansoor al-Hallaj, a Persian mystic who was executed in the tenth century for saying “I am the truth!” Naz also includes the story of Joseph – referring to him with a rare title, “Maah-e-Kanaan”, meaning “The Moon of Canaan”. Another reference is to the story of Laila and Majnoon, in which Qais becomes a madman (“Majnoon”) for the rest of his life after Laila’s father refuses to let them marry.

See below for videos of Naz Khialvi reciting the poem and of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997) performing it. In my translation below, I have used the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan version. Because NFAK inserts extra lines of poetry into the qawwali, I have tried to delineate which parts are from Naz’s original work and which are asides.


Naz Khialvi
کبھی یہاں تمہیں ڈھونڈا کبھی وہاں پہنچا
kabhi yahaan tumhein dhoonda kabhi wahaan pohancha
At times I searched for you here, at times I traveled there
تمہاری دید کی خاطر کہاں کہاں پہنچا
tumhaari deed ki khaatir kahaan kahaan pohancha
For the sake of seeing You, how far I have come!
غریب مٹ گئے پامال ہو گئے لیکن
ghareeb mit gaye paamaal ho gaye lekin
Similar wanderers wiped away and ruined, but
کسی تلک نہ ترا آج تک نشاں پہنچا
kisi talak na tera aaj tak nishaan pohancha
Your sign has still not reached anyone

ہو بھی نہیں اور ہر جا ہو
ho bhi naheen aur har ja ho
You are not, yet You are everywhere
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

ہر ذرّے میں کس شان سے تو جلوہ نما ہے
har zarre mein kis shaan se tu jalwa-numa hai
With what majesty You manifest Yourself in each atom!
حیراں ہے مگر عقل کہ کیسا ہے تو کیا ہے
hairaan hai magar aqal ke kaise hai tu kya hai
But my mind is astonished by how you are, what you are
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

تجھے دیر و حرم میں میں نے ڈھونڈا تو نہیں ملتا
tujhe dair-o-haram mein maine dhoonda tu naheen milta
I looked for you in the temple and mosque, but you cannot be found
مگر تشریف فرما تجھ کو اپنے دل میں دیکھا ہے
magar tashreef farma tujhe apne dil mein dekha hai
But I have seen You gracing my heart with Your presence
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

ڈھونڈے نہیں ملے ہو نہ ڈھونڈے سے کہیں تم
dhoonde naheen mile ho na dhoonde se kaheen tum
You are not found through searching; nor through searching are You anywhere
اور پھر یہ تماشہ ہے جہاں ہم ہیں وہیں تم
aur phir ye tamaasha hai jahaan ham hain waheen tum
But then there is this spectacle that You are wherever we are
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

جب بجز تیرے کوئی دوسرا موجود نہیں
jab bajuz tere koi doosra maujood naheen
When besides you, there is no second in existence
پھر سمجھ میں نہیں آتا تیرا پردہ کرنا
phir samajh mein naheen aata tera parda karna
I do not understand why you seclude yourself
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

Aside
حرم و دیر میں ہے جلوۂ پرفن تیرا
haram-o-dair mein hai jalwa-e-pur-fan tera
In the mosque and temple your artful manifestation is present
دو گھروں کا ہے چراغ اک رخِ روشن تیرا
do gharon ka hai charaagh ik rukh-e-raushan tera
Your one face is the light of two homes [mosque and temple]
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

Naz Khialvi
جو الفت میں تمہاری کھو گیا ہے
jo ulfat mein tumhaari kho gaya hai
The individual who has lost himself in your affection
اسی کھوئے ہوئے کو کچھ ملا ہے
usi khoye hue ko kuchh mila hai
It is that lost one who has actually found something
نہ بت خانے نہ کعبے میں ملا ہے
na but-khane na kaabe mein mila hai
He found You in neither the idol house nor in the Kaaba
مگر ٹوٹے ہوئے دل میں ملا ہے
magar toote hue dil mein mila hai
Rather he found You in a broken heart
عدم بن کر کہیں تو چھپ گیا ہے
adam ban kar kaheen tu chhup gaya hai
You have hidden somewhere as nothingness
کہیں تو ہست بن کر آ گیا ہے
kaheen tu hast ban kar aa gaya hai
While elsewhere You have come as existence
نہیں ہے تو تو پھر انکار کیسا
naheen hai tu to phir inkaar kaisa
If You are not, then why deny it?
نفی بھی تیرے ہونے کا پتہ ہے
nafi bhi tere hone ka pata hai
Even negation reveals Your existence
میں جس کو کہہ رہا ہوں اپنی ہستی
main jis ko keh raha hoon apni hasti
That which I am calling my own existence –
اگر وہ تو نہیں تو اور کیا ہے
agar wo tu naheen to aur kya hai
If not You, what else could it be?
نہیں آیا خیالوں میں اگر تو
naheen aaya khayaalon mein agar tu
If You did not come into my thoughts,
تو پھر میں کیسے سمجھا تو خدا ہے
to phir main kaise samjha tu Khuda hai
Then how did I recognize You as God?
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

حیران ہوں اس بات پہ تم کون ہو کیا ہو
hairaan hoon is baat pe tum kaun ho kya ho
I am astonished thinking about who You are, what You are
ہاتھ آؤ تو بت ہاتھ نہ آؤ تو خدا ہو
haath aao to but haath na aao to Khuda ho
If I can grasp you, you are an idol, but if not then you are God
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

عقل میں جو گھر گیا لا انتہا کیونکر ہوا
aqal mein jo ghir gaya la-intiha kyoonkar hua
How can one who is enclosed in our comprehension be boundless?
جو سمجھ میں آ گیا پھر وہ خدا کیونکر ہوا
jo samajh mein aa gaya phir wo Khuda kyoonkar hua
How can one we understand then be God?
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle
فلسفی کو بحث کے اندر خدا ملتا نہیں

falsafi ko behes ke andar Khuda milta naheen
The philosopher does not find God in his arguments
ڈور کو سلجھا رہا ہے اور سرا ملتا نہیں
dor ko suljha raha hai aur sira milta naheen
He is untangling the cord but cannot ever find its end
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

پتہ یوں تو بتا دیتے ہو سب کو لا مکاں اپنا
pata yoon to bata dete ho sab ko la-makaan apna
Thus you tell everyone that your address is “nowhere”
تعجب ہے مگر رہتے ہو تم ٹوٹے ہوئے دل میں
ta’ajjub hai magar rehte ho tum toote hue dil mein
How amazing it is, though, that you live in a broken heart
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

Aside
جب کہ تجھ بن نہیں کوئی موجود
jab ke tujh bin naheen koi maujood
When there is none except you in existence,
پھر یہ ہنگامہ اے خدا کیا ہے
phir ye hangama ae Khuda kya hai
Then what, O God, is all this commotion about?
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

Naz Khialvi
چھپتے نہیں ہو سامنے آتے نہیں ہو تم
chhupte naheen ho saamne aate naheen ho tum
You neither hide nor come forth
جلوہ دکھا کے جلوہ دکھاتے نہیں ہو تم
jalwa dikha ke jalwa dikhaate naheen ho tum
Even when showing Yourself, You do not show Yourself
دیر و حرم کے جھگڑے مٹاتے نہیں ہو تم
dair-o-haram ke jhagre mitaate naheen ho tum
You do not wipe out quarrels between religions [the temple and mosque]
جو اصل بات ہے وہ بتاتے نہیں ہو تم
jo asal baat hai wo bataate naheen ho tum
You do not say what the actual truth is
حیراں ہوں میرے دل میں سمائے ہو کس طرح
hairaan hoon mere dil mein samaaye ho kis tarah
I am surprised at how You have occupied my heart
حالانکہ دو جہاں میں سماتے نہیں ہو تم
haalaanke do jahaan mein samaate naheen ho tum
Though even the two worlds cannot accommodate You
یہ معبد و حرم یہ کلیسا و دیر کیوں
ye maabad-o-haram ye kaleesa-o-dair kyoon
Why this shrine and mosque, this church and temple?
ہرجائی ہو جبھی تو بتاتے نہیں ہو تم
harjaaii ho jabhi to bataate naheen ho tum
Whenever there is disloyalty, You do not tell us
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

دل پہ حیرت نہیں عجب رنگ جما رکھا ہے
dil pe hairat naheen ajab rang jama rakha hai
It is not astonishment, but a wondrous color that has formed on my heart
اک الجھی ہوئی تصویر بنا رکھا ہے
ek uljhi hui tasveer bana rakha hai
You have drawn up a confused picture
کچھ سمجھ میں نہیں آتا کہ یہ چکّر کیا ہے
kuchh samajh mein naheen aata ke ye chakkar kya hai
I do not understand what this whole matter is
کھیل کیا تم نے ازل سے یہ رچا رکھا ہے
khel kya tum ne azal se ye racha rakha hai
What is this game you have fabricated since eternity?
روح کو جسم کے پنجرے کا بنا کر قیدی
rooh ko jism ke pinjre ka bana kar qaidi
Having made the soul a prisoner to the body,
اس پہ پھر موت کا پہرا بھی بٹھا رکھا ہے
us pe phir maut ka pehra bhi bitha rakha hai
You have then placed it in the custody of death
دے کے تدبیر کے پنچھی کو اڑانیں تم نے
de ke tadbeer ke panchhi ko uraanen tum ne
Having given the bird of Your plan flights
دامِ تقدیر میں ہر سمت بچھا رکھا ہے
daam-e-taqdeer mein har samt bichha rakha hai
You have placed the trap of destiny for it on each side
کر کے آرائشیں کونین کی برسوں تم نے
kar ke aaraaishen kaunain ki barson tum ne
Having decorated the two worlds for eons
ختم کرنے کا بھی منصوبہ بنا رکھا ہے
khatam karne ka bhi mansooba bana rakha hai
You have also established a plan for destruction
لا مکانی کا بہرحال ہے دعوہ بھی تمہیں
la-makaani ka bahar-haal hai daawa bhi tumhein
Though in any case you claim to be without a home
نَحْنُ اَقْرَب کا بھی پیغام سنا رکھا ہے
nahnu aqrab ka bhi paighaam suna rakha hai
You have also told us the message of “We are nearer…” [Qur’an 50:16]
یہ برائی وہ بھلائی یہ جہنم وہ بہشت
ye buraai wo bhalai ye jahannum wo bahisht
This badness, that goodness, this hell, that heaven
اس الٹ پھیر میں فرماؤ تو کیا رکھا ہے
is ulat pher mein farmaao to kya rakha hai
Do explain to me, what is the point of this jumbled mess?
جرم آدم نے کیا اور سزا بیٹوں کو
jurm Aadam ne kiya aur saza beton ko
Adam sinned, yet his children were given the punishment
عدل و انصاف کا معیار بھی کیا رکھا ہے
adal-o-insaaf ka meyaar bhi kya rakha hai
What kind of standard of equity and justice have You kept?
دے کے انسان کو دنیا میں خلافت اپنی
de ke insaan ko dunya mein khilaafat apni
By giving mankind Your viceregency on Earth,
اک تماشہ سا زمانے میں بنا رکھا ہے
ik tamaasha sa zamaane mein bana rakha hai
You have created a spectacle in the world
اپنی پہچان کی خاطر ہے بنایا سب کو
apni pehchaan ki khaatir hai banaaya sab ko
You made everyone for the sake of recognizing You
سب کی نظروں سے مگر خود کو چھپا رکھا ہے
sab ki nazron se magar khud ko chhupa rakha hai
But You have hidden Yourself from everyone’s vision
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

نت نئے نقش بناتے ہو مٹا دیتے ہو
nit naye naqsh banaate ho mita dete ho
Continuously you make and erase new designs
جانے کس جرمِ تمنّا کی سزا دیتے ہو
jaane kis jurm-e-tamanna ki saza dete ho
Who knows which crime of desire You punish us for
کبھی کنکر کو بنا دیتے ہو ہیرے کی کنی
kabhi kankar ko bana dete ho heere ki kani
At times you turn pebbles into a mine of diamonds
کبھی ہیروں کو بھی مٹّی میں ملا دیتے ہو
kabhi heeron ko bhi mitti mein mila dete ho
At times you merge even diamonds back into the soil
زندگی کتنے ہی مردوں کو عطا کی جس نے
zindagi kitne hi murdon ko ata ki jis ne
He who gave life to so many corpses
وہ مسیحا بھی صلیبوں پہ سجا دیتے ہو
wo maseeha bhi saleebon pe saja dete ho
Even that Messiah You adorn on crucifixes
خواہشِ دید جو کر بیٹھے سرِ طور کوئی
khwaahish-e-deed jo kar baithe sar-e-toor koi
If someone sits on Mount Sinai with the wish of seeing You
طور ہی برقِ تجلّی سے جلا دیتے ہو
toor hi barq-e-tajalli se jala dete ho
You burn Mount Sinai down with a bolt of brightness
نارِ نمرود میں ڈلواتے ہو خود اپنا خلیل
naar-e-Namrood mein dalwaate khud apna khaleel
You Yourself get Your friend [Abraham] thrown into the fire of Nimrod
خود ہی پھر نار کو گلزار بنا دیتے ہو
khud hi phir naar ko gulzaar bana dete ho
But then You Yourself turn the fire into a bed of roses
چاہِ کنعان میں پھینکو کبھی ماہِ کنعاں
chaah-e-kanaan mein phenko kabhi maah-e-kanaan
You throw the Moon of Canaan [Joseph] into the well of Canaan
نور یعقوب کی آنکھوں کا بجھا دیتے ہو
noor Yaaqoob ki aankhon ka bujha dete ho
You thereby extinguish the light from Jacob’s eyes [making him blind]
بیچو یوسف کو کبھی مصر کے بازاروں میں
becho Yoosuf ko kabhi misr ke baazaaron mein
Sometimes you sell Joseph in the bazaars of Egypt
آخر کار شہِ مصر بنا دیتے ہو
aakhir-kaar shah-e-misr bana dete ho
But ultimately you make him the king of Egypt
جذب و مستی کی جو منزل پہ پہنچتا ہے کوئی
jazb-o-masti ki jo manzil pe pohanchta hai koi
When one reaches the height of divine absorption and intoxication
بیٹھ کر دل میں انا الحق کی صدا دیتے ہو
baith kar dil mein ana-al haqq ki sada dete ho
Sitting in his heart, you give voice to the words “I am the truth!”
خود ہی لگواتے ہو پھر کفر کے فتوے اس پر
khud hi lagwaate ho phir kufr ke fatwe us par
Then You Yourself place charges of blasphemy on him
خود ہی منصور کو سولی پہ چڑھا دیتے ہو
khud hi Mansoor ko sooli pe charha dete ho
You Yourself make Mansoor hang by the noose
اپنی ہستی بھی وہ اک روز گنوا بیٹھتا ہے
apni hasti bhi wo ik roz ganwa baithta hai
One day he too loses his life
اپنے درشن کی لگن جس کو لگا دیتے ہو
apne darshan ki lagan jis ko laga dete ho
Whomever you give the desire of Your sight
کوئی رانجھا جو کبھی کھوج میں نکلے تیری
koi Raanjha jo kabhi khoj mein nikle teri
If some Ranjha departs on a search for You
تم اسے جھنگ کے بیلے میں رلا دیتے ہو
tum use Jhang ke bele mein rula dete ho
You torment him in the forests of Jhang
جستجو لے کے تمہاری جو چلے قیس کوئی
justajoo le ke tumhaari jo chale Qais koi
If some Qais embarks on a quest for You,
اس کو مجنوں کسی لیلیٰ کا بنا دیتے ہو
us ko Majnoon kisi Laila ka bana dete ho
You turn him into a madman for some Laila
جوت سسّی کے اگر من میں تمہاری جاگے
jot Sassi ke agar man mein tumhaari jaage
If love for You awakens in Sassi’s heart
تم اسے تپتے ہوئے تھل میں جلا دیتے ہو
tum use tapte hue thal mein jala dete ho
You burn her in the scorching desert
سوہنی گر تم کو مہینوال تصوّر کر لے
Sohni gar tum ko Maheenwaal tasawwur kar le
If Sohni imagines You as Mahiwal
اس کو بکھری ہوئی لہروں میں بہا دیتے ہو
us ko bikhri hui lehron mein baha dete ho
You drown her in the frenzied waves
خود جو چاہو تو سرِ عرش بلا کر محبوب
khud jo chaho to sar-e-arsh bula kar mehboob
If You desire then You can summon Your beloved to the highest heavens
ایک ہی رات میں معراج کرا دیتے ہو
ek hi raat mein mairaaj kara dete ho
In just one night, you complete the Nightly Journey to Heaven [of Muhammad]
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

آپ ہی اپنا پردہ ہو
aap hi apna parda ho
You are Your own veil
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

جو کہتا ہوں مانا تمہیں لگتا ہے برا سا
jo kehta hoon maana tumhein lagta hai bura sa
Granted, what I say seems bad to You
پھر بھی ہے مجھے تم سے بہرحال گلا سا
phir bhi hai mujhe tum se bahar-haal gila sa
But still, I have a complaint to you in any case
چپ چاپ رہے دیکھتے تم عرشِ بریں پر
chup-chaap rahe dekhte tum arsh-e-bareen par
You remained quiet, looking from the Sublime Throne at
تپتے ہوئے کربل میں محمد کا نواسہ
tapte hue Karbal mein Muhammad ka nawaasa
Muhammad’s grandson [Hussein] in burning Karbala
کس طرح پلاتا تھا لہو اپنا وفا کا
kis tarah pilaata tha lahoo apna wafa ko
How he let his blood become a drink of loyalty
خود تین دنوں سے وہ اگرچہ تھا پیاسہ
khud teen dinon se wo agarche tha pyaasa
Even though he had been thirsty for three days
دشمن تو بہرحال تھے دشمن مگر افسوس
dushman to bahar-haal the dushman magar afsos
The enemy was, after all, the enemy – but how sad it is
تم نے بھی فراہم نہ کیا پانی ذرا سا
tum ne bhi faraaham na kiya paani zara sa
That You did not provide even a little bit of water
ہر ظلم کی توفیق ہے ظالم کی وراثت
har zulm ki taufeeq hai zaalim ki viraasat
The bounty for every cruelty is the inheritance of the oppressor
مظلوم کے حصّے میں تسلّی نہ دلاسہ
mazloom ke hisse mein tasalli na dilaasa
But the oppressed is given neither consolation nor comfort
کل تاج سجا دیکھا تھا جس شخص کے سر پر
kal taaj saja dekha tha jis shakhs ke sar par
Yesterday, the individual who had a crown adorning his head
ہے آج اسی شخص کے ہاتھوں میں ہکاسہ
hai aaj usi shakhs ke haathon mein hikaasa
Today I see a beggar’s bowl in the same individual’s hands
یہ کیا ہے اگر پوچھوں تو کہتے ہو جوابًا
ye kya hai agar poochhoon to kehte ho jawaaban
If I ask what all this is, You say in response:
اس راز سے ہو سکتا نہیں کوئی شناسا
is raaz se ho sakta naheen koi shanaasa
“No one can be acquainted with this secret!”
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

حیرت کی اک دنیا ہو
hairat ki ik dunya ho
You are a world of bewilderment
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

Aside
ہر ایک جا پہ ہو لیکن پتہ نہیں معلوم
har ek ja pe ho lekin pata naheen maaloom
You are in each and every place but I do not know your whereabouts
تمہارا نام سنا ہی نشاں نہیں معلوم
tumhaara naam suna hai nishaan naheen maaloom
I have heard your name, but your mark I do not know
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

Naz Khialvi
دل سے ارمان جو نکل جائے تو جگنو ہو جائے
dil se armaan jo nikal jaaye to jugnoo ho jaaye
If a wish emerges from the heart it glows like a firefly
اور آنکھوں میں سمٹ آئے تو آنسو ہو جائے
aur aankhon mein simat aaye to aansoo ho jaaye
And if it condenses in the eyes it becomes tears [of joy]
جاپ یا ہو کا جو بیہو کرے ہو میں کھو کر
jaap ya hoo ka jo behoo kare hoo mein kho kar
By getting lost in Him [God] through the repeated chant of“Ya Hoo”
اس کو سلطانیاں مل جائیں وہ باہو ہو جائے
us ko sultaaniyaan mil jaaein wo Baahoo ho jaaye
One receives lordships and becomes like Sultan Bahoo
بال بیکا نہ کسی کا ہو چھری کے نیچے
baal bika na kisi ka ho chhuri ke neeche
Some receive not the slightest of injury under a knife
حلقِ اصغر میں کبھی تیر ترازو ہو جائے
halq-e-asghar mein kabhi teer taraazoo ho jaaye
But at times an arrow in Asghar’s throat becomes the scale [of justice]
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

کس قدر بےنیاز ہو تم بھی
kis qadar be-niyaaz ho tum bhi
How carefree You are, too!
داستانِ دراز ہو تم بھی
daastaan-e-daraaz ho tum bhi
A lengthy saga You are, too!
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

راہِ تحقیق میں ہر گام پہ الجھن دیکھوں
raah-e-tehqeeq mein har gaam pe uljhan dekhoon
On the path of inquiry, I see confusion at every footstep
وہی حالات و خیالات میں انبن دیکھوں
wahi haalaat-o-khayaalaat mein anban dekhoon
I see that discord between circumstances and ideas
بن کے رہ جاتا ہوں تصویر پریشانی کی
ban ke reh jaata hoon tasveer pareshaani ki
I become a picture of distress
غور سے جب بھی کبھی دنیا کے درپن دیکھوں
ghaur se jab bhi kabhi dunya ke darpan dekhoon
Whenever I closely look at the world’s mirror
ایک ہی خاک پہ فطرت کے تضادات اتنے
ek hi khaak pe fitrat ke tazaadaat itne
On one earth, there are so many conflicts of nature
اتنے حصّوں میں بنٹا ایک ہی آنگن دیکھوں
itne hisson mein banta ek hi aangan dekhoon
I see one courtyard divided into so many parts
کہیں زحمت کی سلگتی ہوئی پتجھڑ کا سما
kaheen zehmat ki sulagti hui patjhar ka sama
Somewhere there is the season of the burning autumn of hardship
کہیں رحمت کے برستے ہوئے ساون دیکھوں
kaheen rehmat ke baraste hue saawan dekhoon
Somewhere I see the descending monsoons of mercy
کہیں پھنکارتے دریا کہیں خاموش پہاڑ
kaheen phunkaarte darya kaheen khaamosh pahaar
Somewhere hissing rivers, somewhere silent mountains
کہیں جنگل کہیں صحرا کہیں گلشن دیکھوں
kaheen jangal kaheen sehra kaheen gulshan dekhoon
Somewhere jungle, somewhere desert, somewhere rose gardens I see
خون رلاتا ہے یہ تقسیم کا انداز مجھے
khoon rulaata hai ye taqseem ka andaaz mujhe
This manner of division makes me weep tears of blood
کوئی دھنوان یہاں پر کوئی نردھن دیکھوں
koi dhanwaan yahaan par koi nirdhan dekhoon
Here I see some rich, some poor
دن کے ہاتھوں میں فقط ایک سلگتا سورج
din ke haathon mein faqat ek sulagta sooraj
In day’s hands, there is only one smoldering sun
رات کی مانگ ستراوں سے مزیّن دیکھوں
raat ki maang sitaaron se muzayyan dekhoon
But I see that night’s part is bejeweled with many stars
کہیں مرجھائے ہوئے پھول ہیں سچّائی کے
kaheen murjhaaye hue phool hain sachaai ke
Somewhere there are the withered flowers of truth
اور کہیں جھوٹ کے کانٹوں پہ بھی جوبن دیکھوں
aur kaheen jhoot ke kaanton pe bhi joban dekhoon
And elsewhere I see the thorns of deceit flourishing
شمس کی کھال کہیں کھنچتی نظر آتی ہے
Shams ki khaal kaheen khinchti nazar aati hai
I see Shams’s skin being peeled off somewhere
کہیں سرمد کی اترتی ہوئی گردن دیکھوں
kaheen Sarmad ki utarti hui gardan dekhoon
Somewhere I see Sarmad’s head coming off

رات کیا شے ہے سویرا کیا ہے
raat kya shai hai savera kya hai
What is this thing called night, what is dawn?
یہ اجالا یہ اندھیرا کیا ہے
ye ujaala ye andhera kya hai
What is this light, what is this darkness?
میں بھی نائب ہوں تمہارا آخر
main bhi naaib hoon tumhaara aakhir
After all, I too am Your deputy
کیوں یہ کہتے ہو کہ تیرا کیا ہے
kyoon ye kehte ho ke tera kya hai
Why then do you say, “What is yours?”?
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

Aside
دیکھنے والا تجھے کیا دیکھتا
dekhne waala tujhe kya dekhta
What could someone looking for You see?
تو نے ہر رنگ سے پردہ کیا
tu ne har rang se parda kya
You have veiled Yourself in every manner!
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

مسجد مندر یہ مے خانے
masjid mandir ye mai-khaane
Mosque, temple, these taverns
کوئی یہ مانے کوئی وہ مانے
koi ye maane koi wo maane
Some believe in this, some believe in that
سب تیرے ہیں جانا کاشانے
sab tere hain jaana kaashaane
All of them are Your home, Dear
کوئی یہ مانے کوئی وہ مانے
koi ye maane koi wo maane
Some believe in this, some believe in that
اک ہونے کا تیرا قائل ہے
ik hone ka tera qaail hai
One is persuaded of Your existence
انکار پہ کوئی مائل ہے
inkaar pe koi maail hai
Another is inclined towards denial
اصلیت لیکن تو جانے
asliyat lekin tu jaane
But You alone know the reality
کوئی یہ مانے کوئی وہ مانے
koi ye maane koi wo maane
Some believe in this, some believe in that
اک خلق میں شامل کرتا ہے
ik khalq mein shaamil karta hai
One includes You within creation
اک سب سے اکیلا رہتا ہے
ik sab se akela rehta hai
Another stays aloof from the rest
ہیں دونوں تیرے مستانے
hain donon tere mastaane
Both are Your drunken devotees
کوئی یہ مانے کوئی وہ مانے
koi ye maane koi wo maane
Some believe in this, some believe in that
سب ہیں جب عاشق تمہارے نام کے
sab hain jab aashiq tumhaare naam ke
When all are lovers of Your name,
کیوں یہ جھگڑے ہیں رحیم و رام کے
kyoon ye jhagre hain Raheem-o-Raam ke
Why are there quarrels between Rahim and Ram [Muslims and Hindus]?
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

دیر میں تو حرم میں تو عرش پہ تو زمیں پہ تو
dair mein tu haram mein tu arsh pe tu zameen pe tu
You are in the temple, in the mosque, in the heavens, on the ground
جس کی پہنچ جہاں تلک اس کے لیے وہیں پہ تو
jis ki pohanch jahaan talak us ke liye waheen pe tu
However far one’s reach goes, You are there for him
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

ہر اک رنگ میں یکتا ہو
har ik rang mein yakta ho
In every possible aspect, You are unique
تم اک گورکھ دھندا ہو
tum ik gorakh dhanda ho
You are a baffling puzzle

Naz Khialvi
مرکزِ جستجو عالمِ رنگ و بو
markaz-e-justajoo aalam-e-rang-o-boo
The center of our quest, the world of color and scent
دم بدم جلوہ گر تو ہی تو چار سو
dam-ba-dam jalwa-gar tu hi tu chaar soo
In every breath You are manifest, You are on all four sides
ہو کے ماحول میں کچھ نہیں الا ہو
Hoo ke maahaul mein kuchh naheen illa hoo
In God’s surroundings there is nothing but Him
تم بہت دلربا تم بہت خوبرو
tum bohat dilruba tum bohat khoobaroo
You are very enchanting, You are very beautiful
عرش کی عظمتیں فرش کی آبرو
arsh ki azmatein farsh ki aabroo
Glories of heaven, honor of earth
تم ہو کونین کا حاصلِ آرزو
tum ho kaunain ka haasil-e-aarzoo
You are the attainment of the desires of the two worlds
آنکھ نے کر لیا آنسوؤں سے وضو
aankh ne kar liya aansoo’on se wazoo
My eye has performed ablutions with tears
اب تو کر دو عـطا دید کا اک سبو
ab to kar do ata deed ka ik suboo
Now at least grant me a small proof of Your presence
آؤ پردے سے تم آنکھ کے روبرو
aao parde se tum aankh ke roo-ba-roo
Come out from Your veil, face-to-face with my eye
چند لمحے ملن دو گھڑی گفتگو
chand lamhe milan do ghari guftagoo
For a few moments of union, two hours of discussion
نازؔ جپتا پھرے جابجا کوبکو
Naaz japta phire ja-ba-ja koo-ba-koo
Naz will mutter in devotion, in every place and every alley,
وَحْدَہُ وَحْدَہُ لا شَریكَ لَهُ
wahdahoo wahdahoo la shareeka lahoo
“He is one, He is one, He has no partner!

اللہ هو اللہ هو اللہ هو اللہ هو
Allah hoo Allah hoo Allah hoo Allah hoo
God is, God is, God is, God is!”

Top 5 Versions of “Tajdar-e-Haram”

In no particular order, here is my list of the top five versions of the qawwali “Tajdar-e-Haram”. You can find my full translation of the poetry here. The original by the Sabri Brothers is obviously very hard to match, but I think others have also done justice to it. Post any more versions of “Tajdar-e-Haram” that you enjoy in the comments!

1. The Timeless Original by the Sabri Brothers

Highlights: The original is always the original, and here the Sabri Brothers are at their best. The two brothers’ voices are very distinct and complementary. They show their musical mastery in this qawwali by repeatedly varying the pace and volume, taking listeners on a journey.

2. The Second Generation by Amjad Sabri & Shahi Hasan

Highlights: Amjad Sabri ventures out of traditional qawwali in this soulful collaboration with Shahi Hasan. It’s an amazing composition in its own right, with lots of overlapping vocal tracks, and the female background vocals at the beginning are really mesmerizing.

3. The Coke Studio Rendition by Atif Aslam (2015)

Highlights: Atif’s Coke Studio version is also not traditional qawwali, but it includes a wider array of instruments that enhance the song. At times, the emotion in his unique voice really comes through.

4. The Indian Masters’ Version by Sonu Nigam & Sukhwinder Singh (1992)

Highlights: This is a really cool (and rare) rendition by two of Bollywood’s most famous singers, Sonu Nigam and Sukhwinder Singh. While not focusing on the raw and spontaneous nature of traditional qawwali, this version lets their amazing, highly-trained voices shine.

5. The Thunderous Tribute by Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad (2016)

Highlights: Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad paid tribute to the Sabri Brothers and Amjad Sabri through a more traditional performance. This version is loud and powerful, with excellent percussion (check out the vocals at 0:49 and the change in beat at 17:58).

Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation of “Balaghal-Ula Bi-Kamalihi”

“Balaghal-Ula Bi-Kamalihi” is a popular qawwali most famously performed by the late Sabri Brothers, Ghulam Farid Sabri (1930-1994) and Maqbool Ahmed Sabri (1945-2011), from Pakistan. It is a multilingual naat (praise of the prophet Muhammad) that centers around a famous Arabic quatrain (rubai) written by the Persian poet Saadi Shirazi (1210-1292) in his Gulistan (The Rose Garden). The four-line poem is dispersed between several verses of Urdu and Persian poetry, primarily from the contemporary scholar and poet Ambar Shah Warsi (1906-1993). Warsi employs Saadi’s lines as a tazmeen, or insertion, in his own Urdu poem which elaborates upon the original.

The main poem is: “Balaghal-ula bi-kamaalihi / Kashafad-duja bi-jamaalihi / Hasunat jamee’u khisaalihi / Sallu alaihi wa aalihi”. (This is in Arabic, but in the translation I do not repeatedly identify it as such because of how spread out it is.) Much of the rest of the qawwali focuses on the story of the “miraj” (“ascension”), an event in Muhammad’s lifetime during which he is said to have ascended to heaven and beyond (to the Placeless Origin to visit the throne of God) on a winged creature named Buraq. The entire trip is said to have occurred in one night. According to some scholars of literature, this story partially inspired the Italian poet Dante’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy.

In the Urdu verses of this qawwali, we see how the monumental meeting between God and Muhammad is metaphorically framed as a meeting between lovers. For example, God summons Muhammad because “He longed to see him”. This metaphor is used to elucidate the common Sufi themes of separation and union, in which the separation of every being from God is a burden, whereas the ultimate goal is union and becoming one with God.

Farsi
اے ختمِ رسل کعبۂ مقصود تویی
ae khatm-e-rusul kaaba-e-maqsood tuyi
O Last of the Prophets, you are the Kaaba [we] seek
در صورتِ ہر چہ ہست موجود تویی
dar soorat-e-har che hast maujood tuyi
Within the form of everything that exists, you are present
آیاتِ کمالِ حق عیان است بتو
aayaat-e-kamaal-e-haq ayaan ast ba-to
The signs of the perfection of the Truth [God] are made clear in you
آن ذات کہ در پردہ نہان بود تویی
aan zaat ke dar parda nihaan bood tuyi
That essence which was hidden behind the veil was you

Urdu
سہانی رات تھی اور پر سکون زمانہ تھا
suhaani raat thi aur pur-sukoon zamaana tha
It was a beautiful night and the age was full of tranquility
اثر میں ڈوبا ہوا جذبِ عاشقانہ تھا
asar mein dooba hua jazb-e-aashiqana tha
The loving attraction was fully engulfed in effect
اُنہیں تو عرش پہ محبوب کو بلانا تھا
unhein to arsh pe mehboob ko bulaana tha
He [God] had to call His beloved to the heavenly throne
ہوس تھی دید کی معراج کا بہانہ تھا
hawas thi deed ki meraaj ka bahaana tha
He longed to see him – the ‘ascension’ was just an excuse!

Urdu – Ambar Warsi
سرِ لا مکاں سے طلب ہوئی
sar-e-la-makaan se talab hui
A command came from the Placeless Origin
سوئے منتہیٰ وہ چلے نبی
soo-e-muntaha wo chale nabi
Towards the final boundary [of the universe], the prophet went

Urdu
یہ کمالِ حسن کا معجزہ
ye kamaal-e-husn ka moajza
This is the miracle of the perfection of beauty
کہ فراق حق بھی نہ سہ سکا
ke firaaq haq bhi na seh saka
That even the Truth [God] could not bear separation
شبِ معراج لیا عرشِ بریں پر بلوائے
shab-e-meraaj liya arsh-e-bareen par bulvaaye
On the night of ascension, He called Muhammad to the Sublime Throne
صدمۂ حجر خدا سے بھی گوارہ نہ ہوا
sadma-e-hijr Khuda se bhi gavaara na hua
The pain of separation was intolerable even for God

Urdu – Ambar Warsi
سرِ لا مکاں سے طلب ہوئی
sar-e-la-makaan se talab hui
A command came from the Placeless Origin
سوئے منتہیٰ وہ چلے نبی
soo-e-muntaha wo chale nabi
Towards the final boundary [of the universe], the prophet went
کوئی حد ہے اُن کے عروج کی
koi had hai un ke urooj ki
Is there any limit to his ascent?
بَلَغَ الْعُلیٰ بِكَمالِهِ
balaghal-ula bi-kamaalihi
He reached the highest place through his perfection

Arabic
خیر الوریٰ صدر التُقیٰ نجم الهُدیٰ نور العُلیٰ
khair-ul-wara sadr-ut-tuqa najm-ul-huda noor-ul-ula
“Best of creation, heart of piety, star of guidance, light of the highest place
شمس الضُحىٰ بدر الدُجیٰ یعني محمد مصطفیٰ
shams-ud-duha badr-ud-duja yaani Muhammad Mustafa
Sun of morning, moon of night” – as in, Muhammad Mustafa

Urdu – Ambar Warsi
کوئی حد ہے اُن کے عروج کی
koi had hai un ke urooj ki
Is there any limit to his ascent?

Farsi
آقا روا سالارِ دین
aaqa rawa saalaar-e-deen
O lord and lawful chief of the religion
یَا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِین
ya rehmatal-lil-aalameen
O mercy for the worlds
آ مقتدیٰ ئے مرسلین
aa muqtada-e-mursaleen
O prevailing leader of the messengers
آ پیشوا ئے انبیا
aa peshwa-e-ambiya
O premier of the prophets
جنّت نشانِ کوئے تو
jannat nishaan-e-koo-e-to
Heaven is a sign of your street
والشمسِ ایمان روئے تو
wash-shams-e-eemaan roo-e-to
And the sun of faith is your face
واللیل وصفِ روئے تو
wal-lail wasf-e-roo-e-to
And the night praises your face
خوبی ئے رویت والضحىٰ
khoobi ye rooyat wad-duha
The morning is the goodness of your face
اسمِ تو اسمِ اعظمی
ism-e-to ism-e-aazami
Your name is the greatest name
جسمِ تو جانِ عالمی
jism-e-to jaan-e-aalami
Your form is the spirit of the cosmos
ذاتِ تو فخرِ آدمی
zaat-e-to fakhr-e-aadmi
Your rank is the pride of mankind
شانِ تو شانِ کبریا
shaan-e-to shaan-e-kibriya
Your glory is the glory of the Almighty

Urdu – Ambar Warsi
کوئی حد ہے اُن کے عروج کی
koi had hai un ke urooj ki
Is there any limit to his ascent?

Urdu
جو گیا ہے فرش سے عرش تک
jo gaya hai farsh se arsh tak
He who went from the ground to God’s Throne
وہ براق لے گیا بےدھڑک
wo Buraaq le gaya be-dharak
He took up Buraq fearlessly [beyond the]
طبقِ زمین ورقِ فلک
tabaq-e-zameen waraq-e-falak
Surface of the earth and page of the heavens
گئے نیچے پاؤں سے پل سڑک
gaye neeche paaun se pul sarak
Streets and bridges went out from under his feet
لٹیں زلف کی جو گئیں لٹک
laten zulf ki jo gaeen latak
As the locks of [his] hair dangled
تو جہان سارا گیا مہک
to jahaan saara gaya mehek
The entire world became fragrant
ہوئیں مست بلبلیں اس قدر
hueen mast bulbulen is qadar
The nightingales were intoxicated to such an extent
تو یہ غنچے بولے چٹک ِچٹک
to ye ghunche bole chatak chatak
That the rosebuds broke open and bloomed

Urdu – Ambar Warsi
کوئی حد ہے اُن کے عروج کی
koi had hai un ke urooj ki
Is there any limit to his ascent?

Urdu
گئے گھر سے چڑھ کے براق پر
gaye ghar se char ke Buraaq par
He left home having mounted Buraq
شبِ وصل رخ سے ہوئی سحر
shab-e-vasl rukh se hui seher
On the night of union, his face brought about dawn
یہ سفر تھا خوب کا خوبتر
ye safar tha khoob ka khoobtar
This journey was better than the best
یہی تھا ہر ایک کی زبان پر
yahi tha har ek ki zubaan par
This is what was on everyone’s tongues

Urdu – Ambar Warsi
کوئی حد ہے اُن کے عروج کی
koi had hai un ke urooj ki
Is there any limit to his ascent?
بَلَغَ الْعُلیٰ بِكَمالِهِ
balaghal-ula bi-kamaalihi
He reached the highest place through his perfection

یہی ابتدا یہی انتہا
yahi ibtida yahi intiha
This is the beginning, and this is the end
یہ فروغِ جلوۂ حق نما
ye farogh-e-jalwa-e-haqq-numa
This is the brightness of the manifestation of the truth-revealer
کہ جہان سارا چمک اٹھا
ke jahaan saara chamak utha
Such that the entire world rose shining
كَشَفَ الْدُّجىٰ بِجَمالِهِ
kashafad-duja bi-jamaalihi
He drove out the darkness through his beauty

رخِ مصطفیٰ کی یہ روشنی
rukh-e-Mustafa ki ye raushni
This is the illumination of Mustafa’s face
یہ تجلّیوں کی ہماہمی
ye tajalliyon ki hamaahami
This is the boastfulness of divine manifestations
کہ ہر ایک چیز چمک اٹھی
ke har ek cheez chamak uthi
Such that every single thing rose shining
كَشَفَ الْدُّجىٰ بِجَمالِهِ
kashafad-duja bi-jamaalihi
He drove out the darkness through his beauty

Urdu
نہ فلک نہ چاند تارے نہ سحر نہ رات ہوتی
na falak na chaand taare na seher na raat hoti
Neither sky nor moon, nor stars, nor daybreak would have existed
نہ تیرا جمال ہوتا نہ یہ کائنات ہوتی
na tera jamaal hota na ye kaainaat hoti
If not for your beauty, this universe would not have existed

Urdu – Ambar Warsi
کہ ہر ایک چیز چمک اٹھی
ke har ek cheez chamak uthi
Such that every single thing rose shining
كَشَفَ الْدُّجىٰ بِجَمالِهِ
kashafad-duja bi-jamaalihi
He drove out the darkness through his beauty

وہ سراپا رحمتِ کبریا
wo saraapa rehmat-e-kibriya
That incarnation of the Almighty’s mercy
کہ ہر اک پہ جس کا کرم ہوا
ke har ik pe jis ka karam hua
He whose generosity reached everyone
یہ قرآنِ پاک ہے برملا
ye Quraan-e-Paak hai barmaala
He [Muhammad] is the open Qur’an in front of all
حَسُنَتْ جَميعُ خِصالِهِ
hasunat jameeu khisaalihi
Beautified were all his characteristics

یہ کمالِ حقِ محمدی
ye kamaal-e-haqq-e-Muhammadi
This is the perfection of Muhammad’s reality
کہ ہر اک پہ چشمِ کرم رہی
ke har ik pe chashm-e-karam rahi
That the eye of mercy remains on everyone
سرِ حشر نعرۂ اُمّتی
sar-e-hashar naara-e-ummati
On Judgment Day, the chant of his followers [will be]
حَسُنَتْ جَميعُ خِصالِهِ
hasunat jameeu khisaalihi
“Beautified were all his characteristics”

وہی حق نگر وہی حق نما
wohi haqq-nigar wohi haqq-numa
It alone is the truth-guarder and truth-revealer;
رخِ مصطفیٰ ہے وہ آئینہ
rukh-e-Mustafa hai woh aaeena
The face of Mustafa is that mirror
کہ خدا ئے پاک نے خود کہا
ke Khuda-e-Paak ne khud kaha
Such that Holy God said Himself,
صَلّوا عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ
sallu alaihi wa aalihi
“Send blessings upon him and his family”

مرا دین عنبرِؔ وارثی
mira deen ambar-e-warsi
O Anbar Warsi, my faith
بخدا ہے عشقِ محمدی
ba-Khuda hai ishq-e-Muhammadi
By God, is the love of Muhammad
مرا ذکر و فکر ہے بس یہی
mira zikr-o-fikr hai bas yahi
My only utterance and thought is,
صَلّوا عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ
sallu alaihi wa aalihi
“Send blessings upon him and his family”

Farsi and Arabic – Fard Phulwarwi
چہ کنم بیانِ کمالِ او
che kunam bayaan-e-kamaal-e-oo
What can I say about his perfection!
بَلَغَ الْعُلیٰ بِكَمالِهِ
balaghal-ula bi-kamaalihi
He reached the highest place through his perfection
چہ فروغ کردہ جمالِ او
che farogh karda jamaal-e-oo
What brightness his beauty has created!
كَشَفَ الْدُّجىٰ بِجَمالِهِ
kashafad-duja bi-jamaalihi
He drove out the darkness through his beauty
من حیرتم زخصالِ او
man hairatam za-khisaal-e-oo
I am amazed by his characteristics!
حَسُنَتْ جَميعُ خِصالِهِ
hasunat jameeu khisaalihi
Beautified were all his characteristics
دل و جانِ ما باخیالِ او
dil-o-jaan-e-ma baa-khayaal-e-oo
Our hearts and lives are occupied by thoughts of him!
صَلّوا عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ
sallu alaihi wa aalihi
Send blessings upon him and his family

Urdu/Farsi and Arabic
اے مظہرِ نورِ خدا
ae mazhar-e-noor-e-Khuda
O manifestation of the divine light of God
بَلَغَ الْعُلیٰ بِكَمالِهِ
balaghal-ula bi-kamaalihi
He reached the highest place through his perfection
مولا علی مشکل کشا
maula Ali muskhil-kusha
Master Ali, resolver of troubles
كَشَفَ الْدُّجىٰ بِجَمالِهِ
kashafad-duja bi-jamaalihi
He drove out the darkness through his beauty
حسنین جانِ فاطمہ
Hasnain jaan-e-Faatima
Hassan and Hussein, the two dearest of Fatima
حَسُنَتْ جَميعُ خِصالِهِ
hasunat jameeu khisaalihi
Beautified were all his characteristics
یعنی محمد مصطفیٰ
yaani Muhammad Mustafa
Meaning, Muhammad Mustafa
صَلّوا عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ
sallu alaihi wa aalihi
Send blessings upon him and his family

A Refreshing Ghazal: “Dil Mein Ik Leher”

One example of an excellent contemporary Urdu ghazal is “Dil Mein Ik Leher Si Uthi Hai Abhi” by Nasir Kazmi, a Pakistani poet. Kazmi (1925-72) was born in Ambala in East Punjab during the British Raj, and moved to Lahore during the partition of India. His ghazals are often written in short meter (چھوٹی بحر / chhoti beher) and primarily deal with themes of hope, love, and melancholy. Written in simple language, this ghazal inspires hope and calls upon the reader to be proactive through its uplifting imagery. It’s great to listen to when you are searching for some positivity: a wave is rising, a fresh breeze is blowing, and a wall is being torn down…

Scholars have sometimes criticized the Urdu ghazal for being atomistic, i.e. being composed of several unrelated couplets. I think “Dil Mein Ik Leher” is a strong example to the contrary. The first two verses indicate that some kind of positive change is taking place, although we are not sure what. The third couplet hints that something has been missing (or someone, as we find out). In the next two couplets, it appears that the fresh change is that memories of the poet’s beloved are coming back to him – or perhaps she herself is on her way. In the next three couplets, the poet has sprung to take action himself, searching through the city, looking for open opportunities, and calling his friends to rise up as well. Finally, the last verse leaves us with optimism for what the future holds. Metaphorically, the central message of the poem could be seen as to stay optimistic and take action to pursue your goals, even though they may seem distant.

This ghazal has famously been sung by two Pakistan artists, Ghulam Ali (1940-present) and Tassawar Khanum (1950-present). Pay close attention to the many different ways in which Ghulam Ali sings the word “leher”. By fluctuating the tone, pitch, and length of the word, he evokes the image of different kinds of waves in the ocean.

دل میں اک لہر سی اٹھی ہے ابھی
dil mein ik leher si uthi hai abhi
A kind of wave has risen in my heart right now
کوئی تازہ ہوا چلی ہے ابھی
koi taaza hava chali hai abhi
Some fresh breeze has blown by right now

شور برپا ہے خانۂ دل میں
shor barpa hai khaana-e-dil mein
An uproar is rising in the cockles of my heart;
کوئی دیوار سی گری ہے ابھی
koi deevaar si giri hai abhi
Some kind of wall has fallen right now

بھری دنیا میں جی نہیں لگتا
bhari dunya mein ji naheen lagta
My heart is not satisfied in this crowded world;
جانے کس چیز کی کمی ہے ابھی
jaane kis cheez ki kami hai abhi
I wonder what is lacking right now

و شریکِ سخن نہیں ہے تو کیا
tu shareek-e-sukhan naheen hai to kya
So what if you are not joining me in conversation?
ہم سخن تیری خامشی ہے ابھی
ham-sukhan teri khaamushi hai abhi
Your silence is conversing with me right now

یاد کہ بے نشاں جزیروں سے
yaad ke be-nishaan jazeeron se
Is it my memory, or is it from traceless islands that
تیری آواز آ راہی ہے ابھی
teri aavaaz aa rahi hai abhi
Your voice is reaching me right now?

شہر کی بے چراغ گلیوں میں
sheher ki be-charaagh galiyon mein
Through the unlit streets of the city,
زندگی تجھ کو ڈھونڈتی ہے ابھی
zindagi tujh ko dhoondti hai abhi
Life is searching for you right now

سو گئے لوگ اُس حویلی کے
so gaye log us haveli ke
The people of that house have fallen asleep,
ایک کھڑکی مگر کھلی ہے ابھی
ek khirki magar khuli hai abhi
But one window remains open right now

تم تو یارو ابھی سے اٹھ بیٹھے
tum to yaaro abhi se uth baithe
Friends, you have already risen and sat down,
شہر میں رات جاگتی ہے ابھی
sheher mein raat jaagti hai abhi
But in the city, the night remains awake right now

وقت اچھا بھی آئے گا ناصرؔ
waqt achcha bhi aaye ga Naasir
Good times, too, will come O Nasir!
غم نہ کر زندگی پڑی ہے ابھی
gham na kar zindagi pari hai abhi
Don’t grieve, your whole life is ahead of you right now!


The following line does not appear in Kazmi’s original ghazal, but has been added in the musical renditions:

کچھ تو نازک مزاج ہیں ہم بھی
kuchh to naazuk mizaaj hain ham bhi
Part of the issue is that I’m of sensitive temperament,
اور یہ چوٹ بھی نئی ہے ابھی
aur yeh chot bhi naii hai abhi
But it’s also partly that this wound is fresh right now!