jii chaahe mil kisuu se yaa sab se to judaa rah
par ho sake to pyaare ;Tuk dil kaa aashnaa rah

1) if your inner-self would wish, meet with anyone, or remain apart from all
2) but if possible, then, dear one, {a bit / please} remain a friend/acquaintance of the heart



aashnaa : 'Acquaintance; friend; associate; intimate friend, familiar; lover, sweetheart'. (Platts p.57)

S. R. Faruqi:

The rhymes are bland, and the refrain devoid of pleasure. Nevertheless, the young Mir has composed a ghazal of fourteen verses, and almost every verse is of a particularly high standard. These four verses that I have chosen are in Mir's special style, and would be a source of pride to any poet whatsoever. Mir's poetry is full of such verses; thus the reader of Mir becomes accustomed to them and doesn't fully feel their uniqueness and freshness.

In the present verse, the first thing worth noting is the addressee. The verse is no doubt addressed to the beloved, but it's also possible that the speaker might be addressing himself, or some [other] person might be speaking to some other person. A second point is that all four [half-verse] phrases in the verse are insha'iyah. In this way the advantage has been obtained that in what has been said there's no general, abstract tone of expression, but rather a tone of friendliness, of counsel on a human level. The verse's theme itself is on a human level, and is based on a special kind of human friendship.

Ghalib's poetry has such a level of egotism that in it the speaker doesn't wish to maintain a connection with anyone at all:




But here Mir has, by means of a beautiful paradox, established the possibility of both autonomy, and relationship and connection. If you wish, then meet with someone, or meet with everyone; if you wish, then remain apart from everyone. But certainly, remain familiar with the heart. That is, it's not significant whether you do, or don't, remain involved with flesh-and-blood people.

Then, dil kaa aashnaa is a phrase with many meanings: (1) Addressing the beloved, he has said, 'Remain familiar with our heart'. (2) Addressing the beloved, he has said, 'Remain familiar with your own heart'. (That is, become the possessor of a heart; keep a compassionate heart.) (3) Addressing the beloved, he has said, 'Remain familiar with the hearts of God's creatures'. (That is, become the possessor of a heart, and show regard for the hearts of others; value their wellbeing.) (4) Addressing himself, he has said, 'Keep a compassionate heart'. (5) Addressing himself, he has said, 'Understand the depths of your heart'. (6) He has said to the addressee (third-person singular), 'Become the possessor of a heart'.

According to Titus Burckhardt, for the Sufis 'heart' refers to that place where the spirit's 'general' rays are left behind on the 'horizontal' level of the breath. This is the place/station where 'wisdom' awakes, and by 'wisdom' is meant that pure light of understanding that is something beyond logical thought. Janab Shah Husain Nahri has called to my attention the Qur'an's usage in which 'heart' is described as 'wisdom'. [An example from Qur'an 22:46.] Thus dil and qalb are not one single substance.

But in Urdu and Persian the Sufis have also used dil and qalb as synonymous; thus Bedil has a verse:

jab dil ke aastaa;N par ((ishq aan kar pukaaraa
parde se yaar bola bedil kahaa;N hai ham me;N

[when to the doorsill of the heart passion came and called out,
from the veil, the friend/beloved said, 'Where is Bedil within me?']

In this verse is a glimmer of a verse of Hazrat Mansur al-Hallaj, in which he has said [in Arabic] 'I have seen my Lord with the eyes of the heart, and asked "Who is it?" -- the reply was, "You".' Martin Lings too has said that qalb is in fact a name for the capacity for direct spiritual revelation. Bedil's verse clearly tells us that for the thing that the Sufis have called qalb , he has used the word dil . Thus in Mir's verse, dil kaa aashnaa rah can also mean, 'do not neglect that power of the spirit, of which the place/station is qalb '.



The first line begins with the 'inner-self'-- the untranslatable jii -- as a choice-maker, and then proceeds to make the meeting or avoiding of physical bodies seem equal, and equally irrelevant. Thus it's no surprise that the second line asks for some sort of 'heart to heart' connection. Is that a desperate, self-deceptive fantasy of the neglected lover ('Outwardly she may not meet with me, but inwardly she thinks about me')? Or does it suggest some faint glimmer of hope for the far future ('If she has a heart and keeps in any kind of touch with it, she may eventually come around')?

The second line has a triply reinforced tone of diffidence, or even pleading: the submissive address of 'dear one'; the tentative 'if it would be possible'; and the politely minimizing ;Tuk , 'a little bit', which has the sense of 'please' (like its modern counterpart zaraa ). This makes it sound less appropriate for religious exhortation than for a tentative, cautious plea to the beloved. (Or, of course, an affectionate plea to any other cherished person whose spiritual welfare is to be encouraged.)

Note for translation fans: In Platts's day it was possible to use for aashnaa 'a familiar'-- which to me feels like the perfect word to use. But nowadays 'a familiar' would evoke (if anything) the idea of a 'familiar spirit', which is very unhelpful. It is like the way we can still say 'rakish' for rindaanah , but can hardly (alas!) use 'rake' nowadays for rind , or for anything other than a garden implement. (I am just venting.)