Muhammad Maroof Shah
27 Jun 2019
The Master on Life and Afterlife.
Ghalib is a sad angel,
Who from the intoxication of nearness
Has brought divine revelation
In the form of his Ghazals.
translations here are from the same work Persian Ghazals of Ghalib)
Indeed Ghalib has bought a “revelation”
that has been such a healing and joy and a fount of beauty. One must be
thankful for the privilege of being born in a land and with a language of
Islam as an “Answer” to Difficult Questions
Muslim in the subcontinent who can read poetry but is disturbed over routine
disharmonies or complains about this or that issue in life would be required to
answer one question on the Day of Judgment: Have you read Ghalib? Ghalib
“answers” all our complaints we might conceive or imagine against Fate or
providence or people or God. Since God created Ghalib, He has been largely
relieved of entertaining many a question on wonder, love, beauty, betrayal,
poverty, faith and infidelity. Let us read the Master on certain key questions
of life that trouble us. What Ghalib said as an artist, as “the most intellectual
poet”, as someone who sought to approximate a sage or Sufi metaphysician is
Ghalib’s chief strategy against key
anxieties that trouble ordinary mortals is invitation to Islam understood as
submission to Truth/Beauty through sacrificing the devil called ego. Few know
about the depth of Ghalib’s commitment to essential tenets of Islam, to Sufism,
to Muhammad (SAW). All great poetry is a product of vision. As an artist one
can only be a Muslim – muslim/submitter to truth, the other, the given, that
which is, that which lifts us up or transports to another dimension or depth
dimension that constitutes the experiential referent of the concept of
Islam: We have been fondly reared
In the merciful tavern of submission;
The raised head of our pride
Is laid low at thy feet.
Ghalib has put his faith in the
Mystery/Wonder and the Question and thus dissolved all rationcinatory queries.
He invites us to see how all answers supplied by ideologies and exotericists
are not for the wise and one better celebrates God as Mystery (Gayyib) and life
opens up its beauties. Ghalib is overawed by everything and loves to be drunk
with the joy that is life lived at the plane of selflessnesss (bay-khudi) and
has no time for debates and questions that wreck lesser minds.
Religion: Faith of a Mystic
great art has something to do with the mystical (understood, in Goethe’s terms,
as dialogue with God/Reality) and mystics don’t argue about God but witness
something of what is called God in the depths of their own being/life/
experience the question regarding belief in God/higher world/otherworld needn’t
be asked. About Ghalib we know that one of the towering Sufi scholars would
treasure his company for illuminating difficult questions of Sufi metaphysics
and we find arguably one of the most succinct and irrefutable explications of
Wahdat-ul-Wujud doctrine in Ghalib’s prose. Though he didn’t live the life of a
Sufi, Ghalib was, nevertheless, the Master of Masters in explicating intellectual
content of Sufism.
Ghalib was not indifferent to the call of
religion or terrors of hell. His biographer, Hali, narrates ample evidence to
the effect that he reminds us of passionately religious poets (such as Donne
and Iqbal) when it comes to the question of facing God’s Judgment in the higher
world. Though often perceived as proud man highly conscious of his stature, he
considered himself too sinful and lowly to face God. People read a verse or two
from him and attribute to him this or that belief regarding higher or deeper
things. All great poetry is premised on faith in immortality, wrote Yeats. Such
works as Last Things in Shakespeare and Shakespeare in the Light of Sacred Art
explain how immortality has central place in the work of the greatest of
English poet-playwrights. In fact great art is born in the fount of higher
spiritual life or vision.
metaphysically understood by Ghalib called for humility though this isn’t
incompatible with the sense of human dignity of which he was highly conscious.
Prof. G R Malik, one of our very few Ghalib experts in Kashmir, often quotes “Dhampa
Kafan Ne Daag-E-Ayob-E Barhangi/Main, Warna Her Libas Mein Nang-E- Wujood Tha.”
Hali lists his extreme sense of failure – a
mark of humility – as informing his conviction that he deserves worse
than ordinary hell.
Sense of Life
born when Adam is expelled and mourns his separation for Eve and lost paradise.
(This happens, on mystical and existentialist theological readings, daily, to
each one of us.) Poetry is nostalgia.
Nietzsche also noted that the essential pain of Homeric men was “separation
from that sunlight” that gods embody. Man announces his birth with a cry of
grief and we are told in traditions that a child is really mourning the warmth
of heavenly angelic presence he/she was bathed in in the womb – and
psychoanalysis, in its own secularized way, has affirmed this. Birth is given
“astride of a grave.” Schopenhaur had proposed a universal greeting “O! fellow
sufferer.” There is no greater sin than that of your existence or your very
existence is a sin, is a point that Maari and many Sufis have reiterated and
some even claim it to be traceable to the Holy Prophet (SAW). “Sarvum Dukkham,”
the first noble truth of the Awakened one, finds expression in Ghalib in scores
of verses: Here is one example:
In the composition of man,
The original element is anguish of the heart;
The root of every hair in every living being
Is smeared with blood.
Heaven and Hell
Heaven/God is really a state of love or attachment to the Absolute as
manifested in Beauty/Joy:
In our drunkenness we were searching
The flower-garden of paradise;
Our surmise found its way through the dust
Raised by thy graceful walking.
Anyone who has really loved the graceful
gestures and coquetry of children or spouses or friends (and blessed are those
who, as Ibn Taymiyyah points out on his Uboodiyyah, can love all things in God
or love God above everything or love everything for the sake of God the Beauty,
the Most Loving or, with Abu Yazid Bistami, see God first and beloved object
later in every encounter with anything) can understand Ghalib’s point.
By melting down our whole existence
We have drunk our morning draught;
The sun of Doomsday’s morning
Is our brimful goblet
In paradise there is a stream of wine
And a stream of honey,
But thy ruby lips are for me
Both the one and the other
Those who have been blessed with a loving
heart have entered paradise of a sort here and now and since there is a stamp
of eternity on every experience of love it reverberates in every new world.
In this world one should not be absorbed
By the relishing of pleasure;
Our fly sits on sugar-candy,
And not on honey.
Thy loving beauty, in the ways
Of heart-ravishing, has as its attributes
The waving ringlets and hair-thin waist
Of the phenomenal world.
Ghalib has called the divine displeasure
a stream of honey with the quality of wine. Since “the taste of wine is bitter
to non-drunkards and sweet and agreeable [this , incidentally is the literal
meaning of azb, the root word for Azab, as especially emphasized in Ibn Arabi]
to drunkards so is the beloved’s anger, disagreeable to non-lovers and
agreeable to lovers.”
If any Muslim living in the subcontinent
has a choice to read only one book of poetry it should be Deewan e Ghalib.
Ghalib’s Deewan is a Wazeefa that comes handy on almost every sweet and
Most Muslims can’t fail to taunt or pity
Ghalib for his addiction to drinking. Let us see what Ghalib has to say:
Wine may be prohibited, but witty speech
Is not against the Divine Law;
If thou dost not appreciate the good in us,
At least don’t taunt us for the bad.
He who drinks wine with the friend, in privacy,
Knows full well what is the houri,
What Kousar and what Darsssalam
Our heart bears the wounds of affliction,
And wine is the only cure;
For those who are wounded, what is this talk
Of lawful and unlawful?
Who, amongst us lesser mortals, has not
some limitations and has not committed some sins and isn’t it best to leave the
judgment to God as we all want to be spared the gaze or taunt of others? When
we examine the case of humans we find they are mostly drunk with some idea or thing
– love, beauty, wonder, music, art, ideology, smoking, alcohol. Along with
Ghalib, “We are devoid of wisdom and good deeds” but could perhaps claim “But
yet are filled with Thy love;/Our intoxication is perpetual/Since we break our
fast with wine.” I know of none who isn’t afflicted with the affliction of love
we are all yearning, longing for Home/the Beloved who is Repose.
One needs to note that God creates each
one of us with an eye on what good could come out of us and as Tagore and
others have noted, the fact that new children are born daily means God has not
been disappointed from human race. See what great good has flown from the pen
of Ghalib – if there were some law necessitating paying homage or royalty to
the poet for every verse we chant, Ghalib’s posthumous estate would be the
biggest in the subcontinent and almost every day we would need to pay something
as Ghalib comes handy on almost every occasion.
Reading Ghalib is not easy as it is not
easy to read scripture or generality of great works because life itself is not
easy read or adventure and poets present life at its most intense, sublime,
profound and elusive plane.
The secret that is hidden in our breast
Is not an exhortation;
It can be told on the gallows,
But not proclaimed from the pulpit.
What is this secret exposing which costs
gallows? The poet belongs to the tribe of Mansoor and Socrates. The charge
against Mansoor was he spoke truth and nothing but truth stripping all the
guises that it has traditionally worn to help lesser mortals gaze at it that
otherwise consumes one. The charge against Socrates is charge of the naïve,
cocksure closed minds/fundamentalists against ironists. For Ghalib life throws
questions and challenges too big for oftenly rehearsed theories or constructs
that explain away the essential mystery or transcendence. In fact life/man is a
Question. Our life remains worth living as long as we stand open to the
unknown, to the unknowable (Al-Gayyib). Faith is commitment to guarding this
porosity to the other, to let love dictate terms to the ego.
Source: Greater Kashmir