((aalam aa))iinah hai jis kaa vuh mu.savvir be-mi.saal
haa))e kyaa .suurate;N parde me;N banaataa hai miyaa;N

1) the one of whom the world is a mirror-- that painter/shaper is peerless/incomparable

2a) ah-- what shapes/forms he makes within/behind the veil, sir!
2b) ah-- what shapes/forms does he make within/behind the veil, sir?



mu.savvir : 'Former, fashioner; painter, limner, drawer; sculptor'. (Platts p.1042)


haa))e : 'intj. Ah! alas! oh! —s.f. A sigh'. (Platts p.1217)


miyaa;N : 'An address expressive of kindness, or respect; Sir! good Sir! good man; master'. (Platts p.1103)

S. R. Faruqi:

Hazrat Shah Abd ul-Razzaq Sahib Jhanjhanvi writes in a [Persian] letter (translated by Tanvir Ahmad Alavi):

'Oh you who chiefly hold my heart, there is one single master shape-painter who has become hidden in the veil of these hundreds and thousands of shapes/forms, and who in a special style brings every one of them into motion.'

It's clear that Mir has taken direct advantage of this letter of Hazrat Shah Abd ul-Razzaq. But it's also true that this theme has remained common in Urdu and Persian poetry. Hafiz has a [Persian] verse:

'Arise, so that we can sacrifice our lives for the pen of that artist/designer
In the circle of whose drawing-compass are all these many strange and remarkable shapes.'

Hafiz's verse too mentions God the Most High's quality of painting. In the Qur'an, 'Painter' [mu.savvir] too is mentioned as one of God's names. Hafiz has called the Lord Most High the creator of the world and of the affairs of the world, but the theme of the divine works as flowing out into the universe is not in his verse. In his verse there's astonishment and the glow of reverence, but the divine Self himself is not directly present.

Baba Fighani gives to the theme of the 'painter of nature' a slight touch of insightfulness and says:

'From the trickiness of the shape, the pen of the writer is not seen;
Otherwise, the truth is that beneath this colorful ceiling no other painter is working except that that One.'

Mir's verse is higher in rank and more 'tumult-arousing' than either of these. In his verse is the astonishment of Hafiz's verse, and also the insightfulness of Baba Fighani's.

Then in Mir's verse, because of the ambiguity, there's also an abundance of meaning. The universe is a mirror of God the Most High, and God is a peerless painter. As a mirror, the universe has two roles. One is that in it the Divine Self is manifested and reflected. The other role is that God has made this mirror so that we would be able to see him in it. With regard to the second role, the meaning becomes that God the Most High is hidden in a veil (that is, in this mirror), and he creates various kinds of shapes/forms. One is beautiful, another is ugly, one is very large, another is very small, and so on-- all these shapes/forms are not separate from the Divine Self, and those shapes/forms are manifest in the universe. In this way the universe is that mirror in which the Divine Self is manifested and reflected.

There's also the aspect that haa))e vuh .suurate;N might have been said in praise of beautiful shapes/forms-- that here and there God the Most High created people who have beautiful and attractive shapes/forms. He himself is behind a veil, but these very shapes/forms (that hold the status of a world) are his mirror, so that in those beautiful shapes/forms we see a glimmer/reflection of his beauty. As has been mentioned above, one name of God the Most High is 'Painter'. And in the Qur'an God has said about himself that he has good/beautiful names, and there too, along with some other names, he has called himself 'Painter'.

In this way, both astonishment and insightfulness have come to be unified, with perfect eloquence, in this verse. After Mir, one of the people who took up this theme was Mus'hafi:

;zaraa to dekh kih .sannaa((-e dast-e qudrat ne
:tilism-e ;xaak se naqshe banaa))e hai;N kyaa kyaa

[just look and see-- the artifices of the hand of nature,
from an enchantment of dust, what-all shapes they have made!]

Here there's a bit of astonishment, but the words have very little affinity, and there's no depth to the meaning. Atish in his own style has composed with power and commotion, but the theme has remained very trifling, and verboseness too has lessened the pleasure of the verse:

be-mi;sl hai yaktaa hai jo ta.sviir hai is kii
khe;Nchaa hu))aa kis kaa yih muraqq((a hai jahaa;N kaa

[it is peerless, it is unique, the picture of this
by whom has this picture-album of the world been drawn?]

How can Hafiz's 'strange and remarkable shapes' be compared with Atish's flat expression, that's only verbose? Then, there's no trace anywhere of Hafiz's rapture of reverence. Baba Fighani's powerful image (the 'colorful ceiling') too is miles beyond the reach of Atish. And the layer upon layer, and the 'dramaticness', that are in Mir's verse-- not to speak of Atish, they're not to be found even in Hafiz's verse.

In Amir Mina'i's verse too there's verbosity, but his words aren't entirely useless; thus his verse has become better than Atish's:

((ajab muraqqa(( hai baa;G-e dunyaa kih jis kaa .saana(( nahii;N ho paidaa
hazaar hii .suurate;N hai;N paidaa patah nahii;N .suurat-aafirii;N kaa

[it's an extraordinary picture-album, the garden of the world, whose artificer would be uncreated
a thousand aspects/faces are created; the aspect/face of the creator is not known]

In Mir's verse, the theme of the mirror is an augmentation. Amir Mina'i's second line to a great extent carries dramaticness and astonishment. But his first line is not entirely effective.

Mir himself has also versified the theme of the world as a picture-album-- and versified it much better than Amir Mina'i did. It's in the fourth divan [{1528,3}]:

((aalam ha))iyat-e majmuu((ii se ek ((ajiib muraqqa(( hai
har .saf;he me;N varaq me;N us ke dekhe to ((aalam dekhe

[the world, taken as a whole, is an extraordinary picture-album
if you've looked into its every page, every leaf, then you've seen the age/world]

[See also {1554,3}.]



A mirror, a veil, a painter; here we have a plethora of visual metaphors, and they're not fitted together very clearly. To speak of 'the one of whom the world is a mirror' suggests that that One is reflected through the world, so that he can see his own image by means of the world. For isn't that the very nature of a mirror? And if the world is a mirror-like 'reflection' of God, then presumably it would show us exactly what He is like.

But then, that One is also a 'peerless painter' or image-maker. But a painter can and does make images of anything that he fancies-- for isn't that the very nature of painting? His paintings needn't be images of himself at all, much less accurate ones that resemble the reflections in a mirror. How can the world be imagined as both a mirror-reflection and a painting?

And if in addition that One is 'behind a veil', then it seems that the mirror would show only the veil, not the person behind or within it. For isn't that the very nature of a veil? And if the painter paints images behind a veil, then either they cannot be seen by anyone who is outside the veil, or else the painter thrusts his completed paintings out from behind the veil, to whatever extent he chooses to do so-- in which case there isn't much scope left for the idea of a 'mirror'.

The real charm of the verse is the insha'iyah second line. That haa))e can be an exclamation of sorrow ('alas!') or rueful regret, but it can also be used to express amazement. These complexities work well with the 'kya effect'. Thus the line can be an exclamation (2a) expressing sorrow or amazement at God's devastating or amazing activities (that is, at the nature of the paintings and images that he thrusts out from behind the veil for us to see). As so often, the tone and mood of the exclamation are left for us to decide for ourselves.

But the line can equally be a question (2b) that wonders (wistfully? anxiously? longingly?) what God might be making behind the veil, that he doesn't permit us to see. On this reading, one of the ways he's 'incomparable' is that he, alone among painters, carefully arranges not to show us his work.