chashm ho to aa))inah-;xaanah hai dahr
mu;Nh na:zar aataa hai diivaaro;N ke biich

1a) if an eye would exist, then the universe is a mirror-house
1b) if an eye would exist, then a mirror-house is the universe

2) a face comes into view amidst/between the walls



ke biich : 'In the midst (of), in, into; between, among; during; meanwhile'. (Platts p.207)

S. R. Faruqi:

Usually this verse is read with a mystical-knowledge approach, and this approach is not incorrect. But the question arises, what is meant by being seen amidst/between the walls? One meaning can be that because of purity of heart, even a wall serves as a mirror-- that is, when the reflection of purity of heart falls on a wall, then the wall too, like a mirror, becomes reflective.

Another meaning can be that for the seeing eye, instead of a wall, those faces are visible that have turned to dust, and that now have had their dust used in the making of the wall.

Another meaning can be that in the wall very distant things can be seen; that is, the wall does the work of the 'world-showing cup' [jaam-e jahaa;N-numaa ; this magic cup was owned by Jamshed].

Another meaning can be that when there would be a seeing eye, then not to mention other things, even in a wall forms can be seen; or else that a wall too seems to have a spirit and a form.

There can also be a suggestion that ordinary people consider that a wall has only ears, but for the mystical-knower, in the wall a whole face can be seen.

All these possibilities arise from supposing the verse to be one about mystical knowledge [((aarifaanah].

But there's also another aspect: that in this verse there might be mention not of mystical knowledge, but of madness. The speaker is in a state of madness, and one effect of this madness is that he sees shapes graven on the walls; but because of his madness he considers this hallucination to be mystical knowledge. Or it's possible that he might not be in a state of madness, but rather only hallucinating, and the cause of it might some intoxicating drug.

A verse of Adil Mansuri's-- one that makes the hair stand on end-- seems to have been borrowed directly from Mir:

jo chup-chaap rahtii thii diivaar par
vuh ta.sviir baate;N banaane lagii

[the one that used to remain silently on the wall--
that picture began to boast and talk too much]

In a story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (translated by Bilqis Zafir ul-Hasan as piilaa diivaarii kaa;Ga;z in Shabkhun 274), the central character is a mad woman who believes that the pictures on the wallpaper speak to her, and come down onto her bed. It's clear that she believes that people who don't credit this are blind and foolish. She believes that in the whole house she's the only wise one, and the rest are all mad. The present verse too can be construed in this way.

Nisar Ahmad Faruqi's view is that in this verse of Mir's, the reference is to the common experience that on the wall whitewash or plaster become cracked and take on the form of shapes; and if one looks attentively, then sometimes there even seems to be the face of some individual or some particular thing. This view is absolutely correct, but this view is everybody's experience. For it there's no need of any mystical or poetic or mad 'eye', and in Mir's verse it's been especially said that 'if there would be an eye, then the universe is a mirror-house'. Thus in Mir's verse, those visions that are mentioned are not common or commonplace.



==Here's a calligraphy piece showing vs. 3-4, by *Muhammad Ahrar 'Hindi'*, presented to me by SRF, 2002.

To SRF's array of possibilities let me just add a few more.

=The traditional aa))iinah-;xaanah , or shiish-mahal , in Mughal and Rajput palaces was a windowless room tiled with very small tiles of shiny mirrored glass (on this see G{10,5}), so that when lit by a candle or two it glittered unforgettably. A close (or crazed) observer might well imagine that she could see her own, or a friend's, face reflected in a few of those tiny mirrors.

=The rule of 'symmetry' in Urdu grammar makes it as possible to read (1b) as (1a): instead of seeing the universe as a mirror-house, we might equally be seeing a mirror-house as the universe.

=SRF thinks of us as seeing the face 'in the midst of' the walls; but 'in between the walls' works just as well (see the definition above). Perhaps the universe is assembled from pre-fabricated panels, which come together with little cracks or gaps at the meeting-points. Through those tiny slivers of space Someone is observing our behavior, and contemplating our struggles to see beyond the confines of our 'mirror-house'.

=The real key to the verse is chashm ho , 'if an eye would exist' or 'if there would be an eye'. It's easy to construe that as referring to an appropriate or suitable eye. An eye sufficiently mystically-knowledgeable? An eye sufficiently crazy? An eye sufficiently sane and determined? If we postulate the appropriate kind of eye, any sort of result can be generated. And as usual, the choice is left to us.