aa))iinah ho kih .suurat ma((nii se hai labaalab
raaz-e nihaan ;haq me;N kyaa ;xvud-numaa))iyaa;N hai;N

1a) whether there would be a mirror or an appearance, it is brimful of meaning
1b) it might/would/should be a mirror, for the appearance is brimful of meaning
1c) be a mirror, for the appearance is brimful of meaning

2a) how self-displaying the hidden secrets are, in truth/reality!
2) are the hidden secrets are, in truth/reality, self-displaying?
2) as if the hidden secrets are, in truth/reality, self-displaying!



.suurat : 'Form, fashion, figure, shape, semblance, guise; appearance, aspect; face, countenance; prospect, probability; sign, indication; external state (of a thing); state, condition (of a thing), case, predicament, circumstance; effigy, image, statue, picture, portrait; plan, sketch; mental image, idea; —species; specific character, essence'. (Platts p.747)


ma((nii : 'Meaning, intended sense, intent, signification; indication, import, drift, acceptation; intrinsic quality;—spirituality;—substance, essence; reality; the interior or hidden part (of anything)'. (Platts p.1050)


;haq : 'Justness, propriety, rightness, correctness, truth; reality, fact; —justice; rectitude; —equity; —right, title, privilege, claim, due, lot, portion, share, proprietorship; —duty, obligation; —behalf, benefit, interest; —the Truth, the true God'. (Platts p.479)

S. R. Faruqi:

The dialogue between 'meaning' and 'appearance' we have already seen. Another aspect of this theme comes to the fore in


The secret/mystery of the nature of reality/truth is hidden, but the nature of reality has such an ardor for self-display that the mirror (reflection) and the appearance are both brimful of reality. The mirror is brimful because it's a mirror of the heart, and in it the divine beauty is reflected. And the appearance is full of meaning because God the Most High created mankind in his own appearance/image.

Since the mirror is given the simile of a river/sea, and 'appearance' can mean 'unreality', can mean a mirage, and in a mirage too there's a semblance of water, 'brimful' is a very fine word. In this connection, see also:


Janab Shah Husain Nahri has called to my attention, and rightly so, that I hadn't said anything about an all;ah ;xalq aadam ((al;aa .suuratah . This saying I have seen in saying-collections [malfuu:zaat] of the Sufis. Long ago I used it in another context, in something that I wrote. That writing had passed before the eyes of my father Janab Muhammad Khalil ul-Rahman Faruqi of blessed memory, but he didn't make any objection to it. My late father had obtained initiation from Hazrat Shah Ashraf Ali Thanavi, and then from Hazrat Shah Vasi-ullah Sahib, and was an extremely circumspect elder.

In any case, I'm grateful to Janab Nahri Sahib for the information that Maulana Abd ul-Rashid Nu'mani has declared this saying to be a hadith. But he hasn't given any warrant [sanad]. Also important is Janab Nahri's information that in the Qur'an, in various places it's mentioned that God made mankind's appearance: [a few examples]. In any case, these ideas are helpful in understanding Mir's verse.

[See also {944,1}.]



In the first line, there's also the elegantly ambiguous use of kih . It might be a substitute for 'or', as in (1a). Alternatively, it could introduce a separate clause-- in this case, an explanation for the identification of the mirror, as in (1b). And then there's the third possibility, of reading the beginning of the line as an imperative-- 'be a mirror!', as in (1c).

And what a lot of shifting mutual point-counterpoint relationships! 'Hidden secrets' are somehow (how? why?), paradoxically, 'self-displaying'. But above all there's the protean, multivalent word .suurat (see the definition above), which can mean 'face, form' (so that it is in a sense the opposite of a 'mirror'), but can also mean 'semblance, image' (so that it might be similar to a mirror). Then, .suurat can mean 'appearance, aspect' (so that it is in a sense the opposite of 'meaning'), but can also refer to 'specific character, essence' (so that it comes very close to some of the senses of ma((nii ).

Our Urdu poetry group also liked (Sept. 2022) the insertion of an izafat in the second line, to make raaz-e nihaan-e ;haq me;N , 'in the hidden secrets of truth/reality'. This makes the line sound more 'flowing', but sacrifices the extra layer of complexity provided by the phrase ;haq me;N .

Then of course we are still left to figure out for ourselves how the two abstraction-filled lines are related to each other. If we multiply all these possibilities together, think of all the permutations that can arise, when combined with the 'kya effect' in the second line. But here it's also kind of a 'cheap thrills' tactic-- take a short-meter verse, fill it ('brimful'!) with cryptic, paradoxically juxtaposed abstractions, and how could you not have a kind of 'meaning-machine'? But the best verses of this kind also have the jolt of something specific, some kind of a punch, at their heart. This verse notably lacks any such 'hook'.