vaa us se sar-e ;harf to ho go kih yih sar jaa))e
ham ;halq-e buriidah hii se taqriir kare;Nge

1) words/conversation would be opened with her, although this head might/would go
2) we will speak from only/emphatically our cut/slashed throat



;harf : 'A letter of the alphabet; (in Gram.) an indeclinable word, a particle; —a word (so used in lexicons, &c.); —blame, censure, reproach'. (Platts p.476)

S. R. Faruqi:

About the martyrdom of Imam Husain there's a story that when his auspicious head was lifted on a spear and made into a standard, then from his tongue, miraculously, a verse from the Surah of Kahf (18:9) emerged: 'Do you think that the Cave-dwellers and the Mountain-dwellers are any cause for surprise among Our extraordinary creations?' (translation: Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanavi). Among the stories there's also this one: that when his auspicious head was brought into the darbar of Yazid, then at that time too his truth-speaking tongue recited verses from the Qur'an.

In analyzing the present verse, these stories inevitably come to mind. Thus Gopi Chand Narang has written that in this verse 'on the imagery fall the shadows of history'. He has also written, in connection with this verse, that it's related to a story 'from after the martyrdom (of Husain)', and that 'stories are the domain of folklore'. If we overlook the fact that a story based on 'the shadows of history' and 'folklore' is, because of the conflation, a bit self-contradictory, the basic point is entirely correct: that in the present verse is an echo of those stories that I have mentioned above.

But Narang too, like Sardar Ja'fri (see {558,5}), has ignored the principle of 'theme-creation' and is limiting the meaning of the verse. Undoubtedly the verse has those meanings that come down to us through the stories of Karbala, but it also has additional meanings. And if these additional meanings would not be there, then the verse would fall from the lofty rank with which we see it to be endowed.

First of all, let's attend to the verbal excellences, since excellencies of meaning are created from them too. The meaning of sar-e ;harf vaa honaa is 'for a conversation to be initiated'. But the meaning of sar vaa honaa is 'for a head to be split', because 'to open' also means 'to be split'. Thus between sar jaanaa and sar-e ;harf vaa ho jaanaa there's an enjoyable affinity. Then, it's also a fine paradox that if the head would fly off, then we would converse. The implication is also fine that to converse is more important, to lose one's life not so much so. (In fact, it is remaining silent that is death-- see


Here there's the additional subtlety that the possible qualities of a ;harf include being 'soundless' or being 'tumult-arousing'. Thus the sound that emerges from the cut throat will be both 'soundless' and 'tumult-arousing'. (Both ;harf-e be-.saut and ;harf-e shor-angez are found in the [dictionaries] bahaar-e ((ajam and aanand raaj . )

Let's move on still further. When the sword or dagger would slash the throat, then in the throat there would be a burning pain. But the meaning of 'throat-burning word' [;harf-e guluu-soz] is 'sharp/violent word' ( aanand raaj ). Thus Ashraf Mazindarani's [Persian] verse,

'The throat-burning word of your dagger is well-tempered
So to speak, its tongue is absorbed in reproaching the wound.'

In Ashraf's verse are many subtleties; this is not the occasion for discussing them. But from its theme there emerges the idea that the dagger that has slashed the murdered one's throat has given a 'throat-burning' wound. But because 'throat-burning' means 'sharp/violent', the point has emerged that the murdered one has a 'throat-burning word'-- that is, he is sarcastically taunting his murderer.

Now let's consider the image of the cut throat, and the theme of the conversation of the cut throat. Perhaps Rumi was the first to use this theme with this image. In the 'Masnavi' (section three), the Maulana says [in Persian],

'The cut throat jumps up from its own place,
And seeks from its own murderer, its own blood-price.'

The intensity and movement of the image, and the uniqueness of the theme, are worthy of a hundredfold praise. It's also clear that Mir has benefitted from this verse. Then, Sauda and Mus'hafi have each used the image of the cut throat in a ghazal in a 'pattern' of Dard's, and have versified it in their own styles. Sauda:

;Gaafil hai kyuu;N tiraa mirii fur.sat se gosh-e dil
ay be-;xabar mai;N naalah-e ;halq-e buriidah huu;N

[why is the ear of your heart heedless of my occasion?
oh ignorant one, I am the lament of a cut throat]

Sauda has more or less maintained Mir's theme. But his first line is very convoluted, and his verse is also verbose. But Mus'hafi couldn't make even this much of a theme:

ne za;xm-e ;xuu;N-chakaa;N huu;N nah ;halq-e buriidah huu;N
((aashiq huu;N mai;N kisii kaa aur aafat-rasiidah huu;N

[I am neither a blood-dripping wound, nor am I a cut throat
I am a lover of someone, and I am afflicted with disasters]

It's clearly apparent that the metaphorical control necessary to bring into action the possibilities of the theme, has not been able to be used in Sauda's and Mus'hafi's verses. Ghalib composed three [unpublished] ghazals in this 'ground' [of iidah huu;N], two in his youth and one when he was old [{321x}, {322x}, {323x}]. But in all three ghazals he avoided ;halq-e buriidah . Apparently he felt that in the presence of Rumi and Mir, this theme could not be made to flourish. Ghalib did, in {321x}, make good use of zabaan-e buriidah , and here his special abstract/stripped style too shows forth:


Mir has versified the theme of conversing through a cut throat/tongue in one more place as well. From the third divan [{1072,4}]:

kyaa kyaa su;xan zabaa;N pah mire aa))e ho ke qatl
maanind-e ;xaamah go kih miraa sar qalam kiyaa

[what-all speech has come to my tongue, having been murdered
although, like a pen, [someone] cut off my head]

Here, because of the artificialness of the simile, and in the second line the omission of the agent, the verse has become very flabby. But Ghalib took up this theme, and raised it to the skies:


[See also {1501,1}.]



In this verse the hii works to particularly enjoyable effect. If we take it as meaning 'emphatically', then it simply adds force to the speaker's claim that he will (continue to) speak through his cut throat. But if we take it to mean 'only', then his words become a hauntingly paradoxical pledge: 'we will speak only through a cut throat'.

On this latter reading, the verse recalls Ghalib's


in which one can speak with the beloved only through 'the mouth of a wound'.